As we lurch from one high-stakes political drama to another, it is natural to wonder why societies aren’t better at avoiding self-inflicted crises. Here in the U.S. earlier this month, the government barely dodged default, even though economists reached consensus months ago on when the debt limit would need to be raised.
Meanwhile in Europe, one inadequate government response after another has all but assured that anxiety over the solvency of Greece and the creditworthiness of Italy and Spain will continue to fester, roiling global markets and pushing the European Union to the brink of ruin.
Pundits have been referring to these spectacles as “train wrecks,” as if they happen at high speed. Hardly. These trains are moving at inches an hour; for years, we’ve seen the potential accident ahead. So why do we end up with the tangled mess?