I was still too full of snot to go fencing last night, so sloped off to our wonderful independent cinema (The Light House) instead. I was quite torn between Never Let Me Go (great book, but Keira Knightley) and Inside Job, which was only on for one night. Because I am a nerd, I chose Inside Job: it's a documentary asking the hard questions about how banking managed to crash the global economy.
Wow. It turns out that you only need a small group of multimillionaires and billionaires to do it. They invent insane financial instruments which turn bad investments (like thousands of extra-expensive mortgages given to poor people) into AAA-rated investments, then they persuade the politicians to abandon all regulation. Then they sell this rubbish to pension funds while betting with their own money that these things will go bust. While all this is going on, they take jobs in all the government regulatory departments, and sack everybody - not because they weren't needed, but because unregulated free markets had assumed the status of a religion. And everybody knows that only priests get fat from religion.
All the people now being asked by the American and UK governments to fix the system are the people who caused the crash in the first place: Paulson, Summers and many more.
One of the fascinating aspects of the film was the incredible self-assurance of the interviewees. I've never seen so many 'X declined to be interviewed' titles, but quite a few of the guilty parties did grant audiences - and despite crashing the entire global economy, having to be rescued by the government and not having to suffer in any way, they were still convinced that they and the system were completely right on every detail. Remorse? Forget it. Reassessment of their ideology? No chance.
And the universities? They're providing the bullshit justification for all this, while secretly being paid to produce research 'proving' what a brilliant idea it is. One very senior academic sat on the boards of several of the stupidest banks, designed the anti-regulation environment for George Bush, and took money to write papers like 'Financial Stability in Iceland', which he now lists on his CV as 'Financial Instability in Iceland'. Meanwhile, they don't declare any of the payments for churning this stuff out: imagine a pharmaceuticals research paper not mentioning getting funding from the makers.
I literally cannot explain how moronic these people were, nor how deliberately selfish. At times during the film I laughed, at others I wanted to cry or punch things. Do see it. (More here).