New York University economics professor Nouriel Roubini famously predicted the most recent global financial crisis well before most of his peers did. He says he did this simply by looking at the data and considering it in the context of past bubbles. Roubini recently spoke with Big Think about how to see what’s really happening—even when most people don't agree with you.
Roubini says he started predicting the bust around June of 2006 after looking impartially at the information at hand: "When you were looking at the US data you were seeing that the quantities both in terms of housing starts and demand were starting to fall.” This was the trigger he knew to look for ahead of time that would signal the start of the downturn.
The economic bubble (and burst) can be a lesson in avoiding group think, explains Roubini. “The issue is not why myself or a few others got them, but why most the people, not just economists, don’t see them coming,” he says of the data of a looming economic collapse that should have set off more alarms. The key problem, he says, is when there is a an economic bubble, “everybody lives in a bubble ... They don’t live in reality and they delude themselves.”
To see a bubble from the inside, Roubini adds, it’s important not to get blinded by your own incentive. "It’s very hard to be independent and speak the truth, even if you can be very smart," he says, if your pay is tied to the results you are expected to produce. Independence from the results provides a clearer picture, he notes.
Roubini also spoke with Big Think about the future of China, and why its growth might mean the country will face its own financial crisis. “There are asset bubbles in commercial, residential real estate and there is a risk that if these things are not controlled eventually … those imbalances can lead also to a financial crisis in China,” he says. “It’s not your typical kind of Anglo-Saxon kind of style of financial crisis,” he says, noting that the pressures and potential bubbles in China will take on a different form because of the state of the Chinese currency.