The human mind cannot grasp the causes of phenomena in the aggregate. But the need to find these causes is inherent in man's soul. And the human intellect, without investigating the multiplicity and complexity of the conditions of phenomena, any one of which taken separately may seem to be the cause, snatches at the first, the most intelligible approximation to a cause, and says: "This is the cause!"
|--Leo Tolstoy War and Peace Book IV, Part 2, Chapter 1, first paragraph|
Now we come to what should be the most satisfying part of our exercise: assessing blame and assigning responsibility to all of the ne'er-do-wells who got us into this mess.
Fans of schadenfreude, brace yourselves: There are so many players responsible for the housing boom and bust, the credit crisis, and the financial collapse that it is difficult to blame any one person—it is a broadly shared culpability.
There are many who were rooting for the blame to be assessed to a given political party, a particular player, or a specific act of malfeasance. In reality, the situation is far more complex. The responsibility is widespread, and there is plenty of shared blame. Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize–winning professor of economics at Columbia University, called it a "system failure"—not merely one bad decision, but a cascade of many decisions that produced tragic results.
The recklessness and incompetence seemed to be a team effort. With no single villain and so much blame to go around, I ...