The 2008 Financial Crisis as Seen From the Top

Paul Krugman in the New York Times:

For a few months in 2008 and 2009 many people feared that the world economy was on the verge of collapse…

“Firefighting” is a brief account of that crucial moment by three of the most important actors. Ben S. Bernanke was the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, then and now the most influential economic position in the world. Henry M. Paulson Jr. was George W. Bush’s Treasury secretary. Timothy F. Geithner was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — another key position in the Fed system — then became Paulson’s successor under Barack Obama.

There are a number of forms a book by central players in a historic episode can take. “Firefighting” could have been a juicy tell-all; it could have been an exercise in boasting about how its authors saved the world; it could have been a litany of excuses, explaining why none of what went wrong was the authors’ fault. And the truth is that there’s a little bit of each of these elements — but not much, considering.

What Bernanke et al. — I’m going to call them BGP for short — have given us, instead, is a primer on why the crisis was possible (and why, even so, almost nobody saw it coming); a ticktock on how the crisis and the financial rescue unfolded; and a very scary warning about the future.

More here.