I just finished reading The Big Short by Michael Lewis. It chronicles the madness of the housing bubble and subprime crisis that precipitated the shakeup on Wall Street. It is told from the points of view of some investors who were shorting the various banks and companies who were leveraging themselves into oblivion.
It is a good book. I can't pretend to understand the arcana of CDS's, synthetic CDO's and tranching strategems. I don't think I was supposed to. A group of greedy fools lent borrowed money to other fools who had no chance of paying it back.
Behind it all is architecture. There were real buildings in there that people put together with the anticipation of using them someday. They were being valued in ways that defied common sense but they are real in a way that all the machinations of the bankers cannot overcome. That matters little now, it seems. The reality of architecture is merely a perception on the part of the beholder. The labor that put it together is lost to all time, and the sun and rain beat down as always. The men on Wall Street perhaps saw themselves as sorcerors, men of power, wielding a magic of financial instruments by which they could extract wealth from thin air. Faustus played with magic because he dreamt that it had power, but he never had power, it was ever a "dumb show" put on by Mephistopheles, biding his time until the payment on the contract came due.