Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Unstable Disequilibrium

A plane was flying from Warsaw to Paris. As they approached their landing the pilot said: On the right you can see the Eiffel Tower. Everyone rushed to the right side, the plane was destabilized, and crashed.

The report of the accident investigation board: Crash due to instability. Too many poles in the right half plane.
...........Old control theory joke. If you got that one, you might be a control theorist, or at least an engineer.


The story of the attempt to stabilize the market: every fix seems to provoke a worse crisis. When Lehman Brothers was left to rot, the fallout started a run on money market funds, so the government intervened to gurantee money market deposits. Banks quickly panicked because customers could get a better deal from from now insured mmfs. Every adjustment seems to provoke another crisis.

So what about the 700 Giga $? Will it be equally futile - except for saving some Wall Street butts? Is the instability just in the toxic waste or is it more fundamental? I think it's more fundamental, originating in our entrenched habit of living on borrowed money. Since we plan to borrow the money to buy the toxic waste, what's the risk that the country's credit gets eroded?