Opinion: (Mark Buchanan, from Bloomberg): “The European nations are linked in a network of debts, as Bill Marsh recently illustrated in the New York Times with a beautiful piece of graphic art. Greece and Italy are prominent; Ireland, Portugal and Spain lurk ominously nearby. France and Germany seem exposed, too, as does the U.S.
“The image is like a complex wiring diagram for a ticking debt bomb. Yet what it shows may be less important than what it leaves out: a largely invisible network of ties among institutions around the world, which could ultimately cause global financial chaos.
“But these undisclosed ties matter a lot. They were the primary reason the U.S. government needed to intervene in 2008 to prevent the collapse of insurance giant American International Group Inc.
“The AIG case illustrates an important paradox that looms again in today’s European debt crisis.
“…when the connectivity is relatively low, if one bank suddenly goes bankrupt, the repercussions aren’t so serious; the failure causes problems for a few other institutions but doesn’t generally propagate too far.
“However, with rising connectivity… things change dramatically. Beyond a certain connectivity threshold, attempts to share risk actually increase the likelihood that a bank will go under.
“So many pathways are created along which trouble can spread that system-wide collapse becomes more likely. The web of risk-sharing connections within which an institution operates only gives an illusion of security.
“What reduces risk for individual institutions in small quantities spells trouble for the larger banking system when pushed too far. This is especially worrying when you consider that the number of CDS contracts outstanding on European sovereign debt has doubled in only the past three years, even after the AIG catastrophe.
“The explosion of unregulated and largely hidden CDS contracts was made possible by financial deregulation in 2000, and it has made the financial system more risky. Their unrestrained use – especially with little knowledge of who is doing what – looks like a recipe for disaster.”
My Comment: The Angel of Death appears before a person with a drop of poison on the tip of the knife blade. He offers it to the person—and it appears so sweet that the person can think of nothing else and is forced to open his mouth. He swallows the drop of poison and dies, not being able to resist illusory pleasure.…