Greed on Wall Street, malfeasance among mortgage lenders, ineffective regulators, profligate American home buyers, overregulation, underregulation — the list of potential causes of the 2008 financial crisis is both exhaustive and contradictory.

Rather than home in on one aspect of the crisis, taking a longer view of events suggests that the Great Recession, although severe in magnitude, exhibits many of the same characteristics of financial crises since the 1970s: An initial frenzy of lending across borders followed by a sudden stop.

Since the crash of Lehman Brothers a decade ago, the churn of debt across the globe continues to expand, driven in part by the Tokyo-based megabanks which have extended credit to businesses and governments overseas.