From Your Far-Flung Correspondents, at MIT

I spent most of the last two days teaching some special sessions on the global crisis at MIT and doing final preparations for a couple of courses that will start next week.

Three relevant points strike me from interacting with students, faculty and other members of the MIT community, which – as you might guess – is a very international set of people.

First, everyone now understands this is a truly global crisis.  The ramifications are already apparent in places that, even a month ago, you would have thought quite distant from the US financial sector, such as small business in India or Australian real estate (the link is of course credit).  There is very little that can, in some sense, shock any more: Chinese growth could stall, credit may tighten further, European medium-term prospects are already being be called into question, and so on.

Second, very few people yet see the complete picture.  We all have some pieces clear in our minds, but it’s only when we talk – particularly in a free-wheeling classroom discussion – that we begin to see how it all fits together.  It’s only when you engage with someone from Iceland, or a person with money in a UK bank, or a student whose income is in a depreciating currency, that you really begin to realize the scale and interconnectedness of the problem.

Third, I’m struck and encouraged by the calmness that follows a really open discussion.  People are worried, but talking about the problems helps them get perspective and start thinking about strategies.  How exactly are they going to cope, what should they do differently, and where will they see the impact on this or that business?

All of this makes me think that we can usefully contribute to each other’s understanding by talking (and arguing) through more dimensions of the crisis and its impact.  In that spirit, we will open up our classroom over the next two months, to bring your views and questions to MIT and vice versa.  We’re still working on the exact details of how best to do this (and we’re very open to suggestions), but as much as possible it will be through this website.  Tell me if it helps.

One thought on “From Your Far-Flung Correspondents, at MIT

  1. Simon, what a great plan. I just become aware of your blog through Planet Money. It’s already proved to be a big help in understanding the complexities of this crisis. I look forward to participating in the MIT discussion.

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