This course examines the 384-year history of financial crises through the great meltdown of 2008 and its aftermath culminating in the COVID-19 pandemic catastrophe. It investigates recurring historical patterns of financial bubbles from tulips to bitcoins without overlooking critical differences. If history repeats itself why is it so difficult to avoid making the same mistakes? The 2008 financial crisis happened at a time when mainstream macroeconomists (including the former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke) were emphasizing the great moderation that is that business cycles have vanished for all practical purposes. These economists were wrong because they disregarded warning signs and used inadequate economic models to gauge the situation. Similarly the Trump recession occurred just at the time when pundits were boasting of a roaring economy. We also assess our current economic situation including the bailout of Wall Street that failed to pay adequate attention to the economic problems faced by ordinary people and the ways in which those problems contributed to the rise of populism. We conclude with the analysis of the COVID-19 recession and the financial problems created in its wake.
Harvard Division of Continuing Education