World Has “Bigger Problem” Than in 2008, Taleb Says

World Faces “Bigger Problem” Now Than in 2008, Taleb Says
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of "The Black Swan," speaks during the second annual 2010 Buttonwood Gathering sponsored by The Economist magazine in New York. Photographer: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the best-selling book “The Black Swan,” said the current global market turmoil is worse than it was in 2008 because countries such as the U.S. have larger sovereign-debt loads.

“Definitely, we face a bigger problem now and we will pay a higher price,” Taleb, who is also a professor at New York University, said today at a news conference in Kiev, referring to the turmoil during the last global financial crisis. “The structure of the problem has still not been understood. We haven’t done anything constructive in three and a half years. Nobody wants to do anything drastic now.”

Concerns over the global situation have intensified as Europe’s debt crisis deepened and the U.S. economy showed signs of slowing. Standard & Poor’s lowered the U.S.’s credit rating for the first time in August, criticizing lawmakers for failing to cut spending or raise revenue enough to reduce record budget shortfalls.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke signaled yesterday he’ll push forward with further expansion of monetary stimulus if needed.

Taleb urged countries to keep their budgets balanced, criticizing President Barack Obama of “loading the U.S. with debt that our children will have to pay” and said that growth fuelled by government debt isn’t really growth.

“Someone made a mistake lending and someone made a mistake borrowing,” said Taleb. “It is a mistake to transform private problems into public debt.”

The U.S should “be aware of the importance of fiscal wisdom,” he said at the news conference, organized by investment bank Investment Capital Ukraine.

Taleb popularized the term black swan, which derives from the once widespread Western belief that all swans were white -- until explorers discovered the black variety in Australia in 1697. He argued that unforeseen events with a large impact on markets occur more frequently than statistical analysis predicts, thereby justifying the high cost of hedging against disasters.

(Corrects spelling of Taleb in fifth paragraph.)
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