Duke professor visits Wheeling

by John O'Brien |
Mar. 4, 2010, 4:00am


WHEELING - Duke University professor Michael Munger always thought he'd like to live in a place where he could enjoy a hearty share of snowfall.

After his short stay in Wheeling, he had a bit of a change of heart.

"Now it's more like I'd like to visit a place where it snows more," he said.

Regardless, Munger said he enjoyed his time in the northern part of the state, where he spoke at Monday's meeting of the West Liberty University Economics Club. Munger feels the federal government should direct much of the blame for the current financial crisis at itself.

Munger, who ran for governor in North Carolina in 2008, said he spoke before a crowd of about 40 people at the Fort Henry Club, calling it a "grand old building."

In addition to his speech, Munger appeared on Howard Monroe's radio show in Wheeling, as well as Hoppy Kercheval's statewide "Talkline." Also, he was interviewed on West Liberty's television and radio stations.

"Who knows if I was their first choice, but it was certainly a very fun day," he said.

"It's nice when you go somewhere and they have something for you to do."

Munger holds a master's in economics and is the head of the political science at Duke. He received 3 percent of the vote in the gubernatorial election as a Libertarian.

"The talk that I gave is what I think are the real causes of the financial crisis," he said. "In order to find the roots, you have to go back a little farther in time."

He points at the creation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have operated as government-sponsored entities since 1968.

"They were supposed to securitize debt, but the problem with mortgages is that they are highly illiquid," he said.

"Once they are securitized, you can trade them like a bond. How it started was correct, but it took a couple more steps that led us down a bad road."

While speaking, Munger said he felt "the weight of history," noting that former U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy began the era of McCarthyism in Wheeling when, during a speech, he claimed to have a list of Communist traitors in the U.S. State Department.

"It was a sheet of blank paper," Munger said. "But trust me, this won't launch the Munger Era."

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