Did Asperger’s help cause the crisis?

February 4, 2010

Did the financial system blow up because it was built and largely operated by people with many of the characteristics of a mild form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome?

As explanations for the crisis go, it’s on the extreme side but forms an interesting counterpoint to the “blame the looting bankers” story line.

People with Asperger’s, a mild form of autism, are characterized by, among other things, a deficit of “theory of mind,” essentially the ability to understand that other people have different beliefs or knowledge than themselves. Nicholas Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan, has written that a lack of theory of mind left many in positions of responsibility without the ability to conceive of and guard against black swans, which are rare, high-impact and hard to predict events.

There were, after all, a remarkable number of people blaming “hundred-year storms” for the crisis, which was at least in substantial part caused by an over-reliance on risk management controls and models that proved to be far too narrow.

There was a love of data and a refusal to conceive of the data being not wrong, but incomplete, which led many to cling to their models of how the world was working even as it fell around them. Remember all of those reassurances that problems in subprime were “contained”?

“Note that the very same people who attack me, on grounds of political correctness, for discussing Asperger as a condition not compatible with risk-bearing, and its dangers to society, would be opposed to using a person with highly impaired eyesight as the driver of a school bus,” Taleb writes in his typically provocative style.

“All I am saying is that just as I read Milton, Homer, Taha Husain, and Borges (who were blind) but would prefer to not have them drive me on the A-4 motorway, I elect to use tools made by engineers but prefer to have society’s risks managed by someone who is not affected with risk-blindness.”

As someone with a family member with Asperger’s, I think there is a lot of truth to what Taleb says, though perhaps he expresses himself too gruffly. A love of data and models and an unwillingness to engage with ambiguity that can often mean missing the big picture are characteristic of both Asperger’s and of the global financial system circa 2007. This is a far different thing from blaming the crisis on people with Asperger’s, which Taleb does not.

Actually, and here I am fishing in shallower waters than Taleb, there are elements of a typical Asperger’s personality which are extremely useful in guarding against manias and bubbles.

THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES

People with Asperger’s Syndrome are largely immune to social pressures; they often do not recognize them, or if they do, dismiss them as silly. They can be, in many ways, like the child in the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” In the story the emperor is sold a new suit made of a fabric that supposedly will be invisible to anyone who is not fit for the position they hold. The suit is a fraud, but the emperor, afraid of being one himself, pretends to be able to see it. Everyone else plays along until the emperor meets a child who calls it as he sees it and pierces the illusion.

Typical people, in order to make the numberless decisions they are forced to make with only limited data, rely heavily on taking their clues from what other people are doing — following the herd. This has a certain efficiency but, as people place a heavy weight on what others are doing, leaves them open to be swept up in manias or bubbles.

This is true for individuals buying houses in 2005 because “everyone knows they will only go up” and it is true for fund managers making “momentum” investments in dotcom stocks. Fashion, for most people, is a powerful faculty-numbing force; just leaf through some old magazines and check out what people were wearing round about 1971.

For people on the Asperger’s spectrum this is far less true; regardless of what people are talking about at cocktail parties, they won’t believe that we can all grow rich by buying up one another’s houses, nor will they take assurances from “authorities” as the final word. Having less fear of looking stupid than the rest of us, they will stand by what they perceive. They are also, at least in my experience, far less likely than the average person to hold a position cynically; because it benefits them rather than because they believe it.

That might not be the only type of person you want in a financial system, but those are some pretty valuable characteristics for a fund manger or banking regulator.

44 comments

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Great piece, James! And how about economists who, following the beating they endured as a result of the Malthus theory, absolutely refuse to consider the ramifications of population growth? If they did, they might come to understand the role of population density disparities in driving global trade imbalances, one of the key factors in the global economic collapse.

Posted by Pete_Murphy | Report as abusive

How about a more simple explanation, one that at least from a scientific standpoint could have a stronger explanatory value:
Most managers and other decision makers in the financial system are not as smart as one would think they are, but rather average, or just slightly above average as far as their cognitive capacity is concerned.
Such people found that doing what others do can yield good results, and in case it doesn’t – they would still have a good excuse for having done it: -”Who would have though it possible??”
It’s a heuristic commonly applied in large systems, both by individuals as well as by entire organizations.

Posted by yr2009 | Report as abusive

The whole globalization economic system was based upon 18th century economic and trade theories that remain nothing more than theories and have never been proven as fact. Yet economists adamantly refuse to consider the possibility that they may be wrong.

Posted by Pete_Murphy | Report as abusive

“Did the financial system blow up because it was built and largely operated by people with many of the characteristics of a mild form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome?”

Lets use Occam’s Razor and go with a simple explanation. Greed

Posted by spmcol2007 | Report as abusive

Then again, we older Aspergers don’t march to the media drum. We’ve seen they lie. The advertising technology is all focused on neurotypicals, not us. They are based on selling lies.

We can be objective about all the lemmings heading for the ocean, reassuring each other. We are up on the hill, watching. When I opened my mouth about what was going to happen seven years ago, I was dismissed as a crank or a fool. When Bear Stearns died I suddenly got some respect. Then I told them what economic collapse would look like. Instantly back in crank status.

Posted by Timuchin | Report as abusive

Agreed, anyone who spoke up about risks in these deals ended up outside of the system [i.e., without a job]. The senior managers only understood that the models were making money. The numbers guys were just believing their own numbers, without taking into consideration the realities of the world behind their models. I believe those realities are called ‘externalities,’ and there were plenty of them.

Perhaps we aren’t ‘older Aspies,’ we’re just intelligent people who actually understand what’s going on. High intelligence with real analytical abilities doesn’t need to be given a medical diagnosis. It should be respected and valued in society and in the world of finance.

Posted by Laocoon | Report as abusive

Refering to handicapped minority to explain your point of views, did not sound
apropiate, it hurts.

Posted by jeb | Report as abusive

We are all handicapped especially on the golf course. Using the analogy creates an emphathy with a mental tendency that is informative not meant to be exploitive. We know greedy people, because we all have experienced it within. Life hurts!

Posted by chinggutchuk | Report as abusive

Having Aspergers is not a crime – deliberately rigging domestic and global economies would be. However, the few remaining investigators of this and other similar white-collar felonies must have all gotten something in the mail, because they’ve never been the same since Nine One One.

Lest we forget.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

This is what we get for defining such things as success and prosperity by such narrow criteria as GDP and “consumer confidence”

Posted by Benny_Acosta | Report as abusive

Usually, asperger individuals insist on following the rules-they are too honest. White collar criminals are pirates just like the local stick-up guy, their behavior is due to type DA personality traits caused by drugs or alcohol. The drugs, and especially alcohol fuel abusive behavior and prevent them from caring about the consequences of their behavior on those around them. Blaming the economic crisis on Aspergers is contrived and convoluted. The crisis was created by pirates with MBAs and banking credentials, pure and simple.

Posted by PatChicago | Report as abusive

if you have not read the book. the peter principle. you should. it posits the theory that individuals rise in position to their level of incompetence. i have seen this time after time in various levels of industry and commerce. i am sure if you think about the people you work with, you will understand the concept readily.

Posted by akbozo | Report as abusive

The prime symptoms of Asperger Syndrome are lack of social and communication skills.
Aspies therefore rarely occupy influential managerial positions.

They are also less (not more) risk-prone than others, for the reasons given in the second part of the article.

So, Did Asperger’s help cause the crisis?

No.

Posted by andyphillips12 | Report as abusive

Yes, there is nothing more dangerous than a mammal that is stupid and greedy at the same time, and we all are. There are no more economic models, they finally collapsed on Nine One One, it is survival of the fittest at a given standard of living, which no one on Earth will lower, so it is up to Natural Selection, because Artifial Selection is sure not working.

Posted by Ghandiolfini | Report as abusive

I’d certainly agree with you that people somewhere on the ASD spectrum are more likely to be useful than problematic in avoiding bubbles and crashes.

One need only think back a few years to when ASD was associated with people who produced software, and consider the old adage that “a good programmer is someone who looks both ways before crossing a one way street.” Perhaps because they have an impaired theory of mind, they may tend to see everything that goes wrong as an outside, random event (as opposed to an obvious but ignored consequence of human nature), perhaps this makes them more prone to ask (and keep on asking) “what is the worst thing that can possibly go wrong?” Perhaps their love of detail helps them to better ferret out the answers to that question.

On the other hand, a refusal to bow to fashion might also mean that, like Bertrand Russell, they see no reason to change their entire world view the first time they see a black swan, instead preferring to gather data on a dozen or so black swans before coming up with a new theory on the colour of birds. In that case, they will today be acting no less riskily (and no more riskily) than they were in 2007.

Posted by Ian_Kemmish | Report as abusive

May I suggest that this suggestion, as well as the Black Swan analogy, is just so much 20/20 explanatory hindsight? And what really happened was a fascination with probability theory that took a cloak of respectability because it was scientific.

At work was base cupidity. The ability for too few to earn far too much doing, in fact, too little forethought or even effort. It was very like the Printing Money ethos that had overcome stock-market investors luring them from their secure but dull savings accounts.

Please, let’s not get too sophisticated about what actually happened. It was all too base to be draped in some trite theory.

We’ve become a greedy people; it is as simple as that. Our greed has led us to excessiveness and, as usually happens when financial manipulations become both lucrative and excessive, we are now all paying the price. Those who triggered this fraud, in fact, are a comparative few who where in the wrong place at the right time.

Charles Ponzi must be rollicking in his grave from what was a variation on his own rather more simple scheming that seduced the greedy in the 1920s.

History repeats itself, but always in different ways. Worse yet, fools who refuse to understand history are condemned to repeat it. (George Santayana)

Posted by deLafayette | Report as abusive

Every time someone blames a financial crisis on economists I just have to shake my head and laugh. It is like blaming medical doctors for the diseases they study, or assuming dentists have the same opinions as psychologists because they took some of the same courses at university.

Many economists worried about global financial imbalances. They worry about where the USA will get the money to pay for their debts, deficits and unfunded future liabilities. They worry about where emerging economies like China will get the natural resources to grow economically while not trigger resource wars. They worry about the financial impacts of climate change whether it is manmade or not and the cost of mitigating such change. Of course, they worry about the coming generational storm as fewer workers support more pensioners in an aging population.

Many articles were written by economists talking about asset price bubbles such as the housing market in 2007 or Chinese real-estate in 2010. But for the simpletons in the crowd we are all clinging to outdated models from the 18th century and cannot admit that our data may be wrong.

What matters gets measured. Even if no economist ever made a prediction about the future the simple act of gathering reliable statistics and economic data helps tell us where we are and how we got here. That is 80-percent of the battle. You cannot read a map if you do not know where you are.

If you have an opinion about the economy, how it is run, whether it is run well, or not, then it is only because someone, somewhere gathered the data on which you can now base your opinion. Whether it is an educated or uneducated opinion is not the economist’s fault.

Posted by MrBill | Report as abusive

James it is not just bankers that are blindly in love with empirical data. The spread of fast computers has changed economics, finance & banking due to the ability to quickly analyze stacks of data looking for patterns, correlations and anomalies. But the same is true of academia, research and science.

Number crunching has replaced good, sound theory. In many cases, it has also replaced old-fashioned common sense. It is as if we cannot confidently state that parachutes work because we do not have enough statistically valid samples of people jumping out of airplanes without one to draw any reliable conclusions.

The hundreds of billions and trillions of dollars – or accumulated wealth – that will be spent to combat global climate change – manmade or not – and the economic consequences of that wealth transfer will be largely based on imperfect empiral models. And the creators of those numbers will believe they are telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Some of those researchers and scientists will not even understand basic economics or finance, which can be expressed as follows:

Physical Reality > Economic Consequences > Social Reaction > Political Response > Feedback Loop > New Reality > Etcetera

Posted by MrBill | Report as abusive

Really find it quite insulting to suggest that it is the geeks who are to blame. This crisis, like all other financial crises, is the product of greed, plain and simple.

The tulip bubble of a century past developed without the aid of instantaneous cross-continental communication, or mathematical modelling, and this suggests that while the increasingly technical nature of the market places will no doubt make situations more dynamic and fast-moving, this crisis has nothing to do with smart people with social dysfunction.

Posted by 5ilent3cho | Report as abusive

Excellent article, food for thought.
I have an opinion, hinted at by other commenters here, and not unrelated to Mr. Safts thinking. Here are my thoughts, from 70 years of observation and experience, and years of study of advanced psychology.
Most of the people managing our various institutions, both public and private, and whom are often considered to be high achievers, are actually of no more than average intelligence. People of high intellectual capacity typically have broad and varied interests, develop a variety of skills, and are quite knowledgeable in diverse fields, seldom devoting enough of their energy to any one field to excel in one above all others.
Those of lesser ability tend to specialize and concentrate on one narrow interest, devoting all their ability to excel in that particular activity where their limited talent leads them. These are the people who rise to the top in their chosen field. They are unavoidably more machine- or robot-like, without the ability to recognize or adapt to the many external, unanticipated factors that can and do disrupt their neat models.

Meanwhile the more intelligent thinkers see the looming dangers, and try to warn anyone who will listen. Unfortunately, they are ignored and derided. They are brushed off as know-nothings by the “experts” with the one-track minds who are incapable of understanding the vast complex world outside their narrow, isolated capsules.

We have seen this played out over and over in the financial debacle of the last several years, and have seen the same weakness in both the people who caused the crisis and those who propose to solve it. Most of the solution has been, and still is, to simply do more of the same, in the belief that it was not their failure that created the crisis, but was instead an unavoidable hundred year cycle or an act of God. Those in power have neither the desire nor the ability to see past their noses, analyze the complex causes and devise remedies.

Does Asperger’s have a role in this? Possibly. But I’m inclined to believe it is more a simple matter of the less intelligent individuals pouring all their energy into their only narrow talent, combined with the old well-known principle of getting the non-producers out of the way by promoting them.

Posted by Trouble | Report as abusive

James,
I thought you had the crisis in the US because ordinary people spent the last 10 years living beyond their means, incurring too much debt to buy things they didn’t need.

You see we have the same bankers (or very similar) here in Asia who presumably would have been inflicted with the very same Asperger’s. But no financial crisis — because (generally) people didn’t take on debt to buy things they shouldn’t have.

Then again, maybe regular consumers in the US had Asperger’s too; and if they didn’t, we bankers obviously forced people to use their credit cards and take mortgages out against their will. We bankers must have deliberately focused on countries like the US, but for some reason decided not force those in Hong Kong, Singapore and other countries to take on debt (despite low interest rates there as well).

Posted by BarryLyndon | Report as abusive

{5ilent: The tulip bubble of a century past }

The Dutch Tulip Bubble happened in the 17th century. The South Sea Bubble happened in 1723. They’ve been around for quite some time … and no level-headed person should think they are going away. They are a VERY human phenomenon.

Charles P. Kindleberger (cited from the Economist’s review of his book, reprinted in 2003) “: {In “Manias, Panics and Crashes”, Mr Kindleberger provided a comprehensive history of financial crises, stretching back to before the South Sea bubble. He argued, not wholly originally, that several common threads linked these different disasters over the centuries in almost all corners of the financial world. Manias, or bubbles, have typically occurred in the markets following unexpected good news, and so reflect progress of sorts. “New opportunities for profit are seized, and overdone.” When this eventually dawns on investors, the financial system may experience distress and often panic.}

What we can try to do is make the “fail-safe”, which is an engineering term meaning limit the personal damage from a mechanical failure of a device involving humans. That can only come about by means of regulatory controls THAT ARE ENFORCED, regardless of the political winds of the day.

“Bad for business”? Oh, really? Business can be bad for humans too ….

Posted by deLafayette | Report as abusive

{BL: Then again, maybe regular consumers in the US had Asperger’s too; and if they didn’t, we bankers obviously forced people to use their credit cards and take mortgages out against their will. We bankers must have deliberately focused on countries like the US, but for some reason decided not force those in Hong Kong, Singapore and other countries to take on debt (despite low interest rates there as well).}

Piffle and nonsense. Nonsense and piffle.

Banksters know full well their complicity in the SubPrime Mess. Who convinced Fannie & Freddie that securitizing Toxic Waste was profitable? Who convinced the Credit Rating agencies to give TW triple-A ratings? Who sold on the TW to investors around the world? Who loaded up banks on CDs to cover insurance loses on TW?

And then who refused over-night lending that provoked the Credit Seizure of 2008, which plunged the world into a deep recession?

Who practiced predatory lending upon a gullible public? Who introduced ballooning of interest-rates beyond levels that people could afford. Who totally disregarded the protections within the Truth In Lending Act?

Your remarks are callous and demonstrate that today’s banksters are greedy fools who should certainly not be in the public’s trust.

What goes around, comes around. Banksters deserve what they get. Let’s all hope it’s perp-walks to purify the stench.

Posted by deLafayette | Report as abusive

deLafayette,

Many of those practices you site occurred in other markets, yet they did not have a financial crisis. Why was that?

The crisis is largely self-inflicted and is part of broader, and unfortunately painful, realignment in perceived GDP per capita. There is no reason why GDP per capita in the US and UK should be so astronomically higher than here in Asia, given the relative education levels and other factors.

Over here, if a consumer wants to buy a fancy flat screen TV but can’t afford it, they don’t buy it. They don’t whip out the credit cards, bring on the home equity loans.

I agree some bankers (not all) were indeed at fault. So were consumers. The complicity between the two was present in some markets (the US), but not others for the reasons I mentioned.

Posted by BarryLyndon | Report as abusive

deLafayette forgets that banks are, and always will be, financial intermediaries between savers and borrowers, and investors and the securities or assets in which they invest.

A bank is only a bank because they have been given this right by the government by meeting certain standards. And they are regulated by the government and their agents. Namely the central bank who is also lender of last resort. I do not know what people do not understand by ‘regulator’ and ‘lender of last resort’, but they mean that the government and its agents tell banks what they can and cannot do, and as lender of last resort make sure the financial system is always liquid.

But beyond this, governments control fiscal policy, and central banks, in general, control either the cost of money or the supply of money to the economy. Again, banks are intermediaries. They do not set the cost of money, but rather borrow it, and re-lend it with a spread. They also do not determine whether a country runs a balanced budget, a surplus or a deficit.

So to take the simplistic view that banks are omni-potent, that they run public policy, and that they force consumers to borrow is naive at best and ignorance at worst. Not only are such viewpoints disingenius, but they are dangerous because then public policy will ignore the lessons about this financial crisis and global recession that we should be learning.

Namely that the failure of government intervention in the market is not the same as a market failure. This crisis was caused by global financial imbalances, and those imbalances are still with us. And now governments the world over are trying to keep asset prices from falling to their true economic value.

Posted by MrBill | Report as abusive

Barry Lyndon, I do not know which part of Asia you live in, but in HK, Singapore, KL and other cities I have been the consumer culture is alive and well. And Japan is a lesson in what not to do.

Meanwhile, Shanghai and other Chinese cities are suffering from asset price bubbles, especially in real estate. This is a direct result of money supply growth, and the rapid expansion of credit, due to low interet rates and currency manipulation to remain export competitive.

If you think Asians are immune to credit abuse then please look at consumer credit problems in S. Korea. When we talk about hubris, and not learning from past crises, you seem to fit the bill perfectly with your holier than thou attitude.

It has only been a dozen years since the Asian crisis in 1997, and Vietnam was one of the first victims of the financial crisis that started in 2008. I think you should climb down off your high horse.

Posted by MrBill | Report as abusive

Mr. Bill,

I think you are exactly correct on those points; perhaps we have learned from the painful lesson of 1997. Also, there is without doubt an unattractive materialism here (although of a different form).

But this story is about bankers.

There is a common themes amongst countries currently exhibiting financial crises. It isn’t bankers. It is debt and consumption.

The US has had the distinction of having perhaps the highest contribution of consumption to GDP of any country in the world (>70%). Why? Because people saw fit to take on debt, have zero saving rates, and fund purchases of consumption goods they shouldn’t have bought and probably didn’t need in many cases.

I’m sure there are pockets of unsustainable activity and asset inflation here in Asia. And the consumer culture is extremely strong, as you say. But they have not translated into the magnitude of financial crisis in the US.

I’m sure it is easier to rant and rave at bankers than accept some responsibility and that the financial crisis in the US was, if only in part, self inflicted.

Posted by BarryLyndon | Report as abusive

Barry, I do not defend bankers. I do not defend consumers. I do not defend regulators. And I do not defend the government’s role in the financial crisis and global recession. I try to see things how they are, and from where I sit there is enough blame to go around. Cheers.

Posted by MrBill | Report as abusive

Why does the latest bubble bear the mark of a classic tragedy?
It’s a story of mental and social blindness – everybody could feel that something wasn’t right, or didn’t make much sense, but too few were willing to open their eyes and see. People got addicted top the illusion of wealth.

Because so many people were in fact compelled by tax laws to invest in the housing sector, I.E. buy homes when they could have rented, buy big homes when they could have used smaller ones, and buy multiple residences when fewer would have sufficed.
The government subsidy to the housing sector diverted a huge, steady flow of funds to it.
BTW, it still does that.
Instead of being collected as taxes, saved and invested in other assets, or simply spent, an excess capital inflated the price of residential property, a process that in its turn was leveraged to create hyper-inflation in a certain class of mortgage based financial assets.

This has been going on for years, and eventually created the blinding illusion that it would go on forever.

Both smart and dumb people contributed to this bubble, as did both innocent and ill-intentioned ones.
Some were simply contented with the price of their home going up, and others traded with mortgage derivatives – The illusion principle is quite similar, only the scale, sophistication and degree of activity differ.

And now, can anyone see the next bubble? …

Posted by yr2009 | Report as abusive

To answer the question posed by yr2009. Here is a stab at what to look for in where is the next bubble.

1. Look for a country that has a passion for keeping up with the neighbors and then see if it is accomplished on credit.

2. In the same country is the consumer maxed out, is there any credit left or is all of the disposable income taken up by debt service.

3 As above in the same country, are the bankers educated at the same school or at schools that have the same economic school of thought, as in “the Chicago school or the Some other school”.

4. Are the lenders holding the debt or are they selling or treading the debt so as not to be a long term investor in their country or their creation.

5. Are the Bankers collecting the deposits in a centeral location and using these funds to provide the leverage for shadow banking firms to use borrowed funds for more leverage in enterprises that rise the price of consumer goods without a rise in productive or goods output.

6. Has the general feeling of the consumer reached a point that draws a conclusion that says “if I am to be better off that my parents or if my kids are to be better off that I am, I must stop what I am doing”.

This is econ 101, what tasts better that first scoop of Ice Cream or the last. For the supply sidder out there, it does not matter how much you make or how cheep you make it, if a person does not have money all he can do is shout “ain’t that cheep”. At some point we have all had enough ice cream, enought bass boats, and houses. When that point is reached and credit granted equals debt consumed look out as something has to give.

The next step is intervention to stop the addiction and a 12 step process of getting ones house in order. Then all of that over production stops with the resulting distruction.

For yr2009′s question several places meet my suggestions for evaluation. Island has already happined, the PIIG countries are all worth looking at as they are in the addiction and intervention range. The places to look that have been in the news are the Persan Gulf states not just Dubi, they are the not just keep up but pass your neighbors, and eastern europe. Eastern Europe is trying to keep up with their neighbors, and we educated their economics leaders at some of our schools that all preach the same thoughts about economics and behavior. Their banks lent, packaged and sold and are keeping the addiction fed.

Posted by NMSU96 | Report as abusive

Did Asperger’s help cause the crisis?

NO. The financial/economic model our world is based on is seriously floored. A system built on debt is time limited, providing massive profits quickly, but leading only to the inevitable collapse.
The scary thing is, everyone seems to think that the best fix to it all, is more debt !
Remember, an asset of any kind is ultimately only worth what people can afford to pay.

Posted by kawasakiman | Report as abusive

{BL: Many of those practices you site occurred in other markets, yet they did not have a financial crisis. Why was that?}

Because they were not financial calamities. What happened in Finance has been magnified enormously because of the Toxic Waste produced Credit Seizure that threw a great many economies around the world into a recession.

Which market failures, that you can indicate, had that same profound consequence?

{Over here, if a consumer wants to buy a fancy flat screen TV but can’t afford it, they don’t buy it. They don’t whip out the credit cards, bring on the home equity loans.}

I can’t imagine were your “here” is but at my “here in France” there was no Toxic Waste. If a prospective mortgagor cannot meet the basic requirements, all which are substantiated in some way (for instance copies of pay-slips for the preceding six months), then you do not get the loan.

In fact, the hurt in most of Europe was due to the fact that investors (both public and private) bought the triple-A rated Structured Investment Vehicles because they believed the rating agencies were bona fide agents. This is where the fraud occurred … but I’ve seen no perp-walks at Dun & Bradstreet or Moody’s, have you?

{I agree some bankers (not all) were indeed at fault. So were consumers. The complicity between the two was present in some markets (the US), but not others for the reasons I mentioned.}

It does not take all bankers for some banksters to create the collapse in confidence that prompted the Credit Seizure of 2008.

It does take lax regulatory oversight – which is what occurred during an administration that was quite possibly the worst (given its many other lapses) in American history.

Next time we want to elect a Republican lead-head, we should think twice. But, let’s note a painfully obvious fact. Forty-seven percent of Americans DID NOT VOTE for Obama. Meaning this: Despite the calamitous shortcomings of a Republican administration, dedicated to the dogma that government intervention in markets of any kind is a Great No-No, almost half the voting population was blind to the consequences of mismanaged industrial policy enforcement — despite what was happening all around them in 2008.

Half of Americans were prepared to put yet another administration of the same kind into place, with just the faces changed. As I said above, “Fools who cannot learn from history are condemned to repeat it”. And repeat it, and repeat it …

Repeat mistakes often enough and the economy becomes consigned to the dustbin of history. Is that what we want of America? To become a Banana Republic?

God help us …

Posted by deLafayette | Report as abusive

If you think things are bad where you live, come and live in the UK. Already in debt to the tune of £850 Billion, this noisome collection of buffoons we have as a “Government” is set to borrow another £175 billion. And as elsewhere, this money is being poured into the Banks and institutions that brought about this Depression.

Posted by JimM | Report as abusive

At the 50th Anniversity of the VE Day, a German soldier was asked, “Why did you kill so many people?” His answer was, “I just follow orders.” Then a German General was asked, “Why did you order the killing?” His response was, “I just signed on a piece of paper, I did not kill anyone myself.” In the latest interview, Henry Paulson was asked,”Did you know about Housing?” His answer was, “No, I did not know about Housing when I accept the job.” “Then why did you accept the job.” Paulson responded,”I did not know it was in such a mess.”

Posted by LeeSiuHoi | Report as abusive

Perhaps not just bankers, but James Saft himself was also suffering from Asperger’s syndrome?

Looking at articles from James Saft back in late 2007 and early 2008, the US$ was predicted to decline, emerging markets were to outperform developed markets. The exact opposite happened. UK house prices were to fall by as much as 35-40%. They appear to have fallen by single digits and since stabilized.

I think this is an inane piece. There is no more “Asperger’s” now than there always has been and will be. Bankers and economists missed their own charlatanism. Journalists hyped up whatever was the consensus panic of the time, had no better insight than the prevailing popular opinion of the moment.

Posted by BarryLyndon | Report as abusive

What we are seeing now is essentially pressure being released from a faulty system which could never be fixed. It is not a problem with the economy the problem is the economy it’s enherent to the system.

The Capitalist economy and banking system require infinitely expanding resources to be sustainable the math is stupidly simple if you know how it works (or doesn’t as is the case long term).

You shouldn’t blame the person who released the valve, regardless of if they intended to do so, or if they have Aspergers. The problem was there since the buildup of pressure, and it’s still there now and will remain there after the recession.

That is even when we are out of the recession another recession afterwards is inevitable and they will become worse, longer and more frequent until technology (people with Aspergers LOL) comes to the rescue by expanding the resources we can draw from our environment, or by giving us access to new environments from which to draw resources (IE space).

Or alternatively the problems could be staved off for an extremely long time through a mass culling of the worlds populatation.

Also you can’t blame those who created contributed to the system because at certain times in history (when available resources were expanding fast enough) it worked really really well. So really it was an overall failure to proactively alter or replace the system that already makes it enevitable before bankers actions prevented us from burrying our heads in the sand any longer.

Posted by Acerimmer1 | Report as abusive

Plus in banking i would expect just elite number crunchers mainly to have Aspergers. I think the decision makers would still have good people skills, else how do they end up in such high status jobs without doing some brown nosing on the way?

Posted by Acerimmer1 | Report as abusive

I love the amount of “stereotypes” bandied about. Not just here in this piece of drivel but, most other places that speak of Asperger’s Syndrome in a manner as if the writer knows what they’re talking about!

Not all folk’s with Asperger’s/High Functioning Autism are completely devoid of understanding for others. I’d say there are just as many folk’s per capita. That could be considered “Neurotypical” as those with “Asperger’s” that, are insencetive as hell to other’s needs. There’s been quite a lot of research done in the field of Asperger’s by “actual Psychiatrist’s” and not mindless businessmen blogging as in this article. Who will tell you that those of “US” with “Asperger’s” are known to be a lot more caring to other’s needs and highly empathetic. Than what “psydo-head-in-rear” types like the above blogger claims.

And how would I know this besides doing a whole hell of a lot of reading. I would know it from personal experiance as, I do indeed have “Asperger’s Syndrome” myself.

On the matter of Banking and Investment Strategies. You can thank both “Ronald Reagan” and “Bill Clinton” BOTH for taking apart the necessary rules and regulation’s. That “FDR’s Administration” labored so hard on so, to assure the avoidance another Great Depression/Recession. Don’t get me wrong FDR had his own screw-up’s. But, those regs & rules would’ve most likely of protected us from what’s happened so far.

Posted by shikamaru | Report as abusive

As a person WITH Asperger’s I find your article (especially the title) misleading. You imply that only autistics are to blame for the crisis & so relieve of responsibility all of these social lemmings. I dont know why you even thought to squish autism into this meandering & pointless article anyway, except possibly to create controversy & up your rating & get paid for more advertising page-views.
As a person with an aspergian family member (supposedly) you should know better & be more irresponsible. Thanks a LOT for contributing yet more ignorance & stereotypes about the autistic community, we reeeally appreciate it! (sarcasm, which I’m supposedly incapable of.)

Posted by msinglynx | Report as abusive

This story was not uplifting for those with Asperger’s. In one of the posts it was stated that many of those with AS are sticklers for following the rules, yet I believe I have many of the characteristics of the condition and am a rebel who wants to bend the rules as much as possible in most cases. I believe we have become much too “politically correct” to the point where it is almost obscene. I can’t say for sure about those with AS contributing to this crisis, but have my doubts that it is really true. I do know, however, that today you almost have to be a saint in order to land a decent job.

Posted by beechnut79 | Report as abusive

Great theory, but how about coming back to reality for a second. If your article were to hold any water you would need to test everyone purchasing items on credit and the banking systems etc to see if they were on the spectrum. The truth of the matter is, that everyone on the spectrum is unique and not necessarily as you would assume. Secondly such a crisis comes about by lack of responsibility on the part of consumers and banking systems. In both cases, the expenditure was greater than the income. Basic accounting when I last had a look. Before you start pointing fingers about who could be responsible, why don’t you take a look at yourself and see where your shortfall is. Do you overspend? Do you take responsibility for financial decisions etc. Just a question… Maybe you need to rethink the focus of your article.

Posted by Candida_ZA | Report as abusive

Disrespectful to the amazing individuals currently labelled with the title of Aspergers, in a world where neurotypicals such as the author can show a remarkable lack of courtesy or theory of mind themselves

Posted by Didrichs | Report as abusive

You’re a goose.

As an Aspie, it was very easy for me to ignore the social convention of “It’s AAA so it’s riskless.” I evaluated how severe an event a AAA-level shock is, concluded that such an event had indeed occurred and therefore that AAA CMOs are at very least severely impaired.

It was also very easy to ignore criticism from NTs who couldn’t accept it. And to understand the models’ failings – something that NT managers clearly couldn’t.

Have a think about how many Aspies were skeptical / critical of rating models relative to the population and then try and tell me it’s our fault.

Posted by The_Wog | Report as abusive

I’m sorry, but you make me angry. As a reuters reporter, you should have a little more sense. To say that people with Asperger’s are the reason things are bad? You must not be very intelligent to actually believe that. I have Asperger’s, so what? I don’t run the economy, and if I did, I’d be willing to bet my life that I’d do a better job than the fools who do. Maybe you should look at the history of currency, understand the Brenton Wooods agreement.

An intelligent person would know that you use a poorly constructed post hoc fallacy to try and convince people that: Asperger’s is the reason that the economy isn’t doing well. Wow, I cannot believe that is your opinion. I found this page by searching: Asperger’s help, and this is what I find on the first page? Yes, you write well. But I can only conclude that you’re an idiot or have alterior motives against people on the autism spectrum.

Please, there are a lot of people out there that believe this stuff, which I see written everywhere. Still you persist, and you have no idea the consequences. Or maybe you do. Tell me, what else should I say. I should sue you for libel. Do I see a class action lawsuite. I think I’m going to go to the wrongplanet forums, a place where aspies chat, and advocate for that, and then contact a lawyer. I’m that pissed off. Defamation of character based on disability is no better than saying: Black people, are they the cause of all the crime in the world? I want to make it clear to the author of this article that he is the scum of the world in my opinion.

Posted by SayWhatNow | Report as abusive