Fear, Greed, and the Financial Crisis—an American Expat's View From Abroad

An expat of Wall Street and the United States reflects on the economic crisis.

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I am no nihilist. I fear poverty and decline as much as the next person. I have lived roughly half my life span and can see old age somewhere in the middle distance. Like most people past a certain age, I have become more cautious. My one radical life change—moving from New York to Slovenia, tossing out one career and having no idea what the next would be—is behind me, and I doubt I would have the courage for another one. I have children who can see their adulthood in the middle distance, and I want them to have a happy and prosperous future. So though logic and equilibrium would dictate that the twin towers of greed and fear must both be obliterated in order for a truly new system to emerge—that, as the economist Joseph Stiglitz suggested, Wall Street's meltdown is to capitalism what the fall of the Berlin Wall was to communism—I still hope for a reprieve. I hope that the measures taken by the very visible (and very clumsy) hands of Bush and his team of panicked free marketeers will stem the final collapse. Because at least when communism went under, all those jumping ship had another ship to jump to: a lifeboat, an economic and political system that many had viewed as their salvation for years.

Now we have nowhere to jump.

Just the void.

Erica Johnson Debeljak is the author of the memoir Forbidden Bread, forthcoming in April 2009.