Professors Discuss "Inside Job" and the Financial Meltdown

Linda Hou '13

Professors Discuss Inside Job and
the Financial Meltdown

by Linda Hou '13
3/4/2011

Inside Job
Inside Job won the Academy Award for
best documentary.

When Rick Valelly '75, Claude C. Smith '14 Professor of Political Science, saw Inside Job, the Academy Award-winning documentary on the recent financial crisis, he knew he had to show it at Swarthmore.

"Our financial sector got a little out of control, and in doing that, they created a risk for the economy as a whole that eventually caused the huge crisis, and [the film] raises the question of whether we've put policy in place since the wake of the crisis to prevent another financial crisis," Valelly said. "My hope was that the film would get people thinking about the political environment and and how it could be changed so that we don't face another serious financial crisis in the future."

Valelly then contacted the film's distributor Representational Pictures and organized a showing of the film at Swarthmore. The film screening was followed by a panel discussion in which several professors shared their reactions to the film from their respective scholarly perspectives.

In addition to Valelly, the panelists included economics professors Mark Kuperberg and John Caskey, Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action Barry Schwartz from the Psychology Department, and Lang Visiting Professor for Issues of Social Change Louis Massiah, a documentary filmmaker.

"When bad things happen, economists don't blame human frailty for the problem," Kuperberg said in criticism of the movie, "When there's a problem, we don't blame the people, we blame the conditions in which they operated."

A question and answer session followed, with faculty, staff, and students asking questions about the film and the financial crisis.

"It was an interesting movie, and the panel discussion was really great," said Seth Rubinstein '14, who attended the event, "Professors Caskey and Kuperberg helped clarify some of the finance details the film didn't cover in depth. And since the panelists represented four different departments, they brought a variety of perspectives to the discussion, which ranged from political implications of the crisis to the way the film's interviews were conducted. The panel discussion showed how many different implications there are to the financial crisis, not just economic."

The event was sponsored by the economics and political science departments as well as the William J. Cooper Foundation.