In 2008, the housing market collapsed. The whole world was affected. People lost their jobs, people lost their lives, and many people did not understand what was happening. The 2015 film, “The Big Short”, explains what happened, the history of what led up to the collapse, and all of the economic terms that most laymen do not understand.
The story follows several people who saw the collapse of the housing market coming and the challenges they faced. It follows Dr. Michael Burry and Mark Baum among others. Before the collapse of the housing market, they decided to bet against the housing market so that when it collapsed, they would make money from it.
This film is funny, thoughtful, and intense at times. It also has a bit of the truth. It not only accurately depicts the events, and that is truthful, but, it also supplies insight into three moral truths.
The first truth is that sin has temporal consequences.
Towards the end, Mark Baum gives a speech. He says that he is not against fraud because it is mean or morally wrong. He is against fraud because, throughout all of human history, it has never worked in the long term. Situations go sideways people get caught, and people go to prison.
Listening to that speech, it occurred to me that the same argument could be made for every sin. There are temporal consequences for all sins. There are all types of health issues that can be caused by gluttony. For lust, there are broken relationships, HIV, and STDs. For sloth, there are studies that show that sitting too much can shorten a person’s life. That is not good news to me as a writer, but it is the truth.
“The Big Short” depicts the nationwide fraud that America was dealing with and still is to this day. And, just as Mark Baum said, it did not work in the long term. The housing market collapsed, a shot around the world that we are still hearing to this day. The banks had lied and one could make the argument that they got away with it, proving that fraud does work sometimes. Only one banker was arrested.
This argument does not work, though, because the banks were on the brink of destruction, only to be bailed out by the government. And, in the midst of the disaster, many of them probably felt the disaster too.
The second truth is that the culture of an entire industry, in this case the banking industry, can systematically dehumanize people.
One of the characters said that what he hated about banking was that it turned people into numbers. He mentioned that for every one percent rise in unemployment, 40,000 people die. To see other people as purely utilitarian widgets – a means to an end – is a sin.
Burry remarked that after the collapse, all of his closest friends and colleagues would only speak to him through lawyers and that making money is not all that it was said to be.
The third truth is that simple honesty is a virtue that adds value to our lives.
This relates back to the first point about fraud. But it is more of a regular, day-to-day honesty rather than a lack of using others for your own ends.
Towards the end, Burry speaks of how he met his wife on a dating site. He wrote in his bio that he had a glass eye, thousands of dollars of student-loan debt, and an awkward social manner. His wife-to-be wrote back, saying that he was exactly what she was looking for. “She meant honest,” he said.
These three truths are important. They are truths that relate to the way in which people have a personal, spiritual, and professional life. The first is important primarily related to professional fraud, though there are other applications. The second is important for all aspects of life, as it is important to see people as individual people, made in the image of God. The third is important for all aspects of life as personal relationships are built on honesty and trust, professional relationships are built on good reputations, and the immortal soul is protected from sin.
Keep in mind that this film is rated R and so is for mature audiences only. Image Source: Flickr | Bago Games