On a recent train trip I met an Argentine musician who now lives and works in Barcelona, Spain. We talked about music and his work.

He asked what I do and I said mostly write on the economy. I said what used to be in the back of the papers has over the last year been front page news. I added that this new fame is already waning and I am resigned to returning to competing with entertainment and recipes for readers.

He asked what caused the economic mess of the last year. I replied in short terms that we created a whole new system for providing credit that no one fully understood, either it size or nature. When some warning signs popped up we replied with panic and in our panic damn near destroyed the economy.

He then offered, prefacing his remarks with, “this is only the idea of a musicial who lacks any real understanding of our economy,” that the problem lay in people consuming more than their incomes could support.

I believe this is how most people would summarize the mess. But since the invention of credit we have always consumed more than we can pay at the time of consumption. No, the problem is not overconsumption, but coming to terms with the major source of credit in today’s world, securitized debt.

But I simply nodded my head to the musician.