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NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The widespread failure of economists to forecast the financial crisis that erupted in 2008 has much to do with faulty models, which meant that economic policymakers and central bankers got no warning of what was to come.

As George Akerlof and I argue in our recent book “Animal Spirits,” the current financial crisis was driven by speculative bubbles in the housing market, the stock market, and energy and other commodities markets. Bubbles are caused by feedback loops: rising speculative prices encourage optimism, which encourages more buying, and hence further speculative price increases — until the crash comes.

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