There are those who see our financial problem as a moral failure. In one sense it is, but not in the sense those who wish to frame it in moral tones believe.
To blame greed for the meltdown is simplistic and irrelevant. Greed has been with us forever. Why would it appear in its ugliness now?
I would say that our economic collapse was the fault of a moral supremacy that ignored sound economic principles and common sense. In an effort to encourage home ownership for the poor, the government demanded that prudent lending standards be forced out of the system. To assure a market the government through Fannie Mae guaranteed mortgages and ridiculous financial instruments to feed the market.
When alarms were being sounded the regulators and legislators were being hounded with political pressure from lobbyists for the very firms they were regulating. Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama were among the largest recipients of campaign funds from Fannie Mae. Barney Frank and many others loudly protested those who warned of a problem, insisting that these programs providing housing for the lower income were somewhat sacrosanct.
It was the unwillingness to understand the limits of government to fulfill our moral wishes that fed this mania. It was our pursuit of moral justice through government force that led taxpayer funded ACORN to pressure banks to make high risk loans to those who otherwise would not have qualified.
It was not greed or the absence of morality that caused this disaster; it was the ignorance of basic economic principles and the belief that the government can create wealth by making promises it can’t fulfill and that it can erase risk by ignoring it. In its malfeasance it made the poor worse off and destroyed equity value for millions of the middle class.
If there is a moral failure it is that the government refused to accept its limitations, and that the voters wanted a government that will promise them everything.
The greed of those who wanted a modest house they could not afford caused us more damage than the titans on Wall Street who found a way to get rich delivering the voters their delusion.