One way to lose a war is to focus on preparing to fight the last war. Preparing to fight the last war is a characteristic of losing generals, militaries and nations. The same is true of finance and economies.
General Grant’s difficulties in breaking the trench warfare around Petersburg, VA in the last year of the American Civil War (1864 to early 1865) telegraphed the future of trench warfare to astute observers. Few took heed of the lessons of the “first modern war,” and many of the same strategies of 1864 (digging a tunnel under enemy lines and filling the tunnel with explosives to blow a hole through their defenses, for example) were repeated in the Great War of 1914-1918 fifty years later.
When a weapon system capable of breaking the stalemate emerged–the tank–its potential for massed attack escaped planners on both sides, and the new weapon was squandered in piecemeal assaults.
“The last war” in 2008-09 was a battle to save heavily leveraged centralized financial institutions from default and liquidation–commercial and investment banks, insurance companies, etc. The concentration of capital, leverage and risk in these behemoths rendered the entire system vulnerable to their collapse (or so we were told).
Saving imploding private-sector banks was no problem for central banks that could create $1 trillion in new money with the push of a button and offer essentially unlimited lines of credit to banks facing a liquidity crunch.
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