Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On returning to the 1970s in 2008 and beyond

Nick Paumgarten on the possible implications of the Wall Street meltdown (under the heading in The New Yorker this week of Dept. of Magical Thinking):

For example: let’s postulate that the collapse of the financial-services industry spells catastrophe for New York City, a return to the nineteen-seventies. Lost tax revenues, budgetary shortfalls, unemployment (not only of those in finance but of the hordes who rely on them), plunging property values, vanished retirement accounts. Let’s cut this up, like a pile of bad debt, into various strips, and, as the rating agencies did to various slices of subprime-mortgage debt, take the top layer and, abracadabra, rate it triple A. Throw out the other strips, the grim probabilities—the crime, the decaying infrastructure, the hardship all around, the heroin and the syphilis. What do we have left? The bright side: maybe Manhattan will become affordable again, and cool, and dangerous. Dangerous in theory, but not to you or your family and friends. Dirty, but in a good way. Night clubs where anything goes. Art, music, Billy Martin.

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