That’s the judgment of the esteemed Richard Posner, whose forthcoming book, to be published in May, is called A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of ’08 and the Descent Into Depression. Here are a few excerpts from the preface:
The world’s banking system collapsed last fall, was placed on life support at a cost of some trillions of dollars, and remains comatose. We may be too close to the event to grasp its enormity. A vocabulary rich only in euphemisms calls what has happened to the economy a “recession.” We are well beyond that. We are in the midst of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930′s. It began as a recession — that is true — in December 2007, though it was not so gentle a downturn that it should have taken almost a year for economists to agree that a recession had begun then. (Economists have become a lagging indicator of our economic troubles.)
That last line about economists is pretty biting, and not very arguable.
Here’s a bit more on Posner’s decision to call the current crisis a depression:
The word itself is taboo in respectable circles, reflecting a kind of magical thinking: if we don’t call the economic crisis a “depression,” it can’t be one. But no one who has lived through the modest downturns in the American economy of recent decades could think them comparable to the present situation. … It is the gravity of the economic downturn, the radicalism of the government’s responses, and the pervading sense of crisis that mark what the economy is going through as a depression.
This looks to be a good and important book. We will likely post something more substantial on it later.