Newsweek has posted a very good article on the potentially good benefits we may reap from the current financial crisis. The bottom-line is that living beyond our means has put us in this financial predicament. Fareed Zakaria writes:

The whole country has been complicit in a great fraud…If there is a lesson to be taken from this crisis, it’s a simple and old rule of economics: there is no free lunch. If you want something, you have to pay for it. Debt is not a bad thing. Used responsibly, it is at the heart of modern capitalism. But hiding mountains of debt in complex instruments is a way to disguise costs, an invitation to irresponsible behavior.

At some point, the magical accounting had to stop. At some point, consumers had to stop using their homes as banks and spending money that they didn’t have. At some point, the government had to confront its indebtedness. The United States—and other overleveraged societies—have now gotten the wake-up call from hell. If we can respond and change our behavior markedly, this might actually be a blessing in disguise. (Though, as Winston Churchill said when he lost the election of 1945, “at the moment it appears rather effectively disguised.”)