“For a While Liquidity Led to Stupidity”

Robert Shiller, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Economics.

Photo by Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images

In case you thought that economics was all about numbers, one professor has given it a poetic turn. On Friday, Wellesley College economist Karl Case—who together with Nobel laureate Robert Shiller created the famous S&P/Case-Shiller Home Prices indices—honored his longtime colleague with an original poem on real estate bubbles and the financial crisis.

“Reflection on the Housing Market: Seven Years After the Fall,” which was reprinted in full with Case’s permission on the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog, spans 21 stanzas and takes its readers from the beginning of the real estate boom to the lingering fallout of the recession. The poem appears to have been first published in 2010, but Case has updated some stanzas and added others to reflect the passage of time. For example, there’s now a bit about people living with their parents:

In the longer run a lot depends
On the rate of household formation
That depends in part of course
On the rate of immigration
It also matters what kids do
Like living with Mom and Dad
Or doubling up till they get a job
To pay for their very own pad

Case has some fun turns of phrase in his poem (“For a while liquidity led to stupidity”) and some genuine commentary on economic policy (“The guys at the Fed have repeatedly said/That their mandate includes employment/But with rates at zero no one’s a hero/No weapons left for deployment”). And at least one thing hasn’t changed in Case’s poem since the original: his opinion of politicians. The updated version of “Reflection on the Housing Market,” like its predecessor, ends with this zinger to Capitol Hill: “Politicians, of course, are starting to shout/That they want more retribution/It’s better, I think, if they used their time/Helping to find a solution.”