Welcome to The 92ers
First, a few words on the origin of the term “the 92ers.” In what may come as a huge shock to people who never attended an Ivy League college, Ivy League schools no longer maintain a Dean’s List. While Ivy League faculty, students and alumni almost universally look back on the past with complete and utter contempt, it was not self-righteous disdain for the past or a passing contemporary fad that led the Ivy League schools to discard their Dean’s Lists. Instead the Ivy League schools – led as they always are by Harvard – realized Dean’s Lists were meaningless because nearly all students were on them! In fact, when Harvard’s Dean of the College, Harry R. Lewis, proposed eliminating the Dean’s List in October 2002, fully 92% of Harvard’s upperclassmen earned a place on the Dean’s List.1 What a joke!
1 “The End of the Dean’s List,” The Harvard Crimson, October 28, 2002
Perhaps the best evidence of the completely farcical nature of the Ivy League Dean’s Lists and the contemptuous ease which students earned a place on the Dean’s List is the “Confederacy of Dunces” list compiled here. In this list of individuals – which is festooned with Ivy League graduates – the fifty people most responsible for causing the financial crisis are discussed. To be sure, a variety of causes coalesced and contributed to the financial crisis being as large as it was and to occur when it did.
Among these various causes, three warrant special mention:
- President Clinton’s strategy (read “central plan”) to increase homeownership to 67.5%.
- Wall Street’s mistaken belief – which was fueled by academia - that highly leveraged investments could be managed with computer models of the economy.
- The completely emboldened Federal Reserve of the Greenspan-Bernanke era.
The human factor and the “Confederacy of Dunces”
As important as the three causes listed above were to causing the crisis, none of these rises to the level of being a true root cause. Instead, each of these causes was merely a manifestation of the crisis’ true root cause – which was a purely human factor.
This human factor is the completely false sense of omnipotence, self-importance and entitlement among the country’s elite, as well as the nurturing of these beliefs at Ivy League colleges and other elite universities.
It was only because so many of the individuals working in the Clinton White House, on Wall Street and at the Fed were equal parts confident in their own supposedly supreme abilities and contemptuous of the notion that other people were just as important as they were, that these organizations acted the way they did.
Uncovering the Ivy Leagues role in the financial crisis
For anyone who doubts the Ivy League’s role in the financial crisis, two things are worth considering. First, the most popular major at Ivy League colleges is almost certainly economics, and lousy economic theory was at the core of the financial crisis. Moreover, the most popular career destination for these Ivy League graduates is almost certainly Wall Street. Furthermore, many of the economics majors who don’t work on Wall Street go on to careers in academia or at the Federal Reserve. As either professors or central bankers, these Ivy League economics graduates are then in a position to cause even more damage than all their fellow Ivy League economics majors did working on Wall Street!
Second – and the primary objective here - note the sheer number of Ivy League and elite university degrees awarded to the Confederacy of Dunces. The individuals with Ivy League and other elite universities degrees include central bankers, congressmen, senators, Wall Street executives, cabinet secretaries, columnists, professors and even a president. Is it really to be believed that the enormous number of Ivy League and elite university degrees awarded to all these members in good standing of the Confederacy of Dunces is a mere coincidence and not a more fundamental causal agent of the crisis?
Why I made the list
Any analysis of the financial crisis that doesn’t recognize the purely human factor among the nation’s elite and the nurturing of this human factor at elite universities as the root cause of the crisis is doomed to failure. More importantly, until this purely human factor is addressed, the U.S. will be doomed to suffer other future calamities, every bit the equal of the financial crisis. These future calamities – whatever they are - will be exactly like the financial crisis in one aspect; they will be caused by some other small cadre of “elites in name only” who arrogantly believe that their elite university education makes them completely capable of inerrantly planning, managing and controlling the country.