The financial crisis is not unique in America’s history, it just appears that way because of its size, one expert told a lecture gathering Tuesday night.
“Globalization makes these crises very large,” said Dlynn Armstrong-Williams, director of the Center for Global Engagement at North Georgia College & State University.
Response to the financial crisis was the topic of the fourth of eight lectures in the ongoing "Great Decisions" series sponsored by the Dahlonega-based school.
The talk, held at the Forsyth County Public Library's Sharon Forks branch, drew about 50 people, including former professor Philip Kosky.
He had been to two of the three previous lectures, but said Armstrong-Williams was “easily the best talker I’ve heard.”
“The others have been OK, but this has been excellent,” he said. “She was engaging, she had facts at her fingertips and she expressed them clearly.”
Armstrong-Williams covered a broad scope, including indicators leading to the crisis, possible options to improve and the status of the U.S. dollar.
She also detailed how the country continues to not learn from its own history, and fielded questions on topics from the U.S-China relationship and the impact of immigration to the housing crisis.
The nation’s financial situation was caused by a number of factors, from lending money to high-risk borrowers to a free market approach with little regulation.
“With this liberalization, it doesn’t matter what country you’re in or what the scenario is, they tend to lead a banking crisis,” Armstrong-Williams said.
The moral hazard in the market is also a key player in the collapse. With no regulations, there was little incentive for financial institutions to act morally, she said.
If they make a winning investment, they win, but if they lose big enough, the losses will be picked up by the government, and eventually taxpayers.
Armstrong-Williams said Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman who led the free market charge, was “viewed as the bad guy.”
“But Greenspan said, ‘Listen, I didn’t expect people to act in a way to destroy their own companies. That’s illogical,’” she said.
“It might not be illogical if you can guarantee the loss will be social, meaning you can guarantee the loss will be spread out across the entire society.”
She said there are three ways out -- cut, print and default.
While the government tends to solve problems by printing more money and sometimes defaulting or negotiating on some of the debt owed to troubled nations, it’s the cutting that never seems to be taken seriously, she said.
“Cutters are few and far between because the public goes crazy,” she said. “When you cut, you harm people, particularly some of the weakest in your system.”
But it’s a necessary evil, and currently there are potential spending cuts "on the plate that were untouchable that probably will have to be touchable.”
Armstrong-Williams said America has been politically weak in its inability to cut excess expenditures. But at the same time, residents have irrational exuberance in the nation, holding onto the concept of “it can’t happen here.”
She touched on European countries like Spain and England that are facing similar financial setbacks. She also talked about the growth of industry and innovation in countries like India and China.
America, she said, needs to do a better job educating it’s youth with the skills needed to compete globally.
“The U.S. is not producing, I would argue, competitive workers,” she said, noting it’s something she works on with her students.
But James McCoy, who attended the lecture, said he has a much more optimistic view of the nation’s future, as well as the state and county. The president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce said the state and county will continue to expand as a global marketplace.
“Forsyth County is not just competing for business and innovation with our neighbors, we are competing with our counterparts in China, India and Europe,” he said. “We have a global strategy and we are seeing that pay critical dividends."
The lecture series continues at 6:30 p.m. Monday with "Germany Ascendant" in the Sharon Forks Library.