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Past, becomes present. Lessons not learned.

It was the year the neo-liberal economic orthodoxy that ran the world for 30 years suffered a heart attack of epic proportions. Not since 1929 has the financial community witnessed 12 months like it. Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. Merrill Lynch, AIG, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, HBOS, Royal Bank of Scotland, Bradford & Bingley, Fortis, Hypo and Alliance & Leicester all came within a whisker of doing so and had to be rescued.

Western leaders, who for years boasted about the self-evident benefits of light-touch regulation, had to sink trillions of dollars to prevent the world bank system collapsing.

The ramifications of the Banking Collapse of 2008 will be felt for years if not decades to come. Here, Observer writers pick out the three pivotal weeks that shaped a year of unforgettable and remarkable events.

Week one: 9-15 March

For the first two months of the year, there was an eerie calm. By the end of February, all was quiet save for global banks routinely updating queasy investors over the tens of billions of dollars they had lost by fuelling the madness we now know as the debt catastrophe.

At the start of the year, a global economic meltdown still seemed unimaginable to many. Even Rupert Murdoch's economic brain Irwin Stelzer refused to countenance that the financial world was spinning off its axis, suspending judgment until a $150bn tax rebate by George Bush announced in January - equivalent to $1,000 for every American household - worked its way through the system. If by May that didn't stem a freefall in US consumer confidence, rising unemployment and plunging house prices, then he argued, perhaps we were in trouble.

But, during the first two months of the year, a lingering belief remained that perhaps the vicious economic hurricane might blow itself out before it hit the real world. That changed during the week beginning 9 March, seven days in which the real storm broke and swept away some of the biggest and m...

Continue on theguardian.com
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