It's one of those unified theories of the universe now being used to explain the economic, long-departed bubble and its current collapse.
It might easily be extended not only to the collapse of investment banks but also to the historic losses of the Detroit Lions and, perhaps, the failure of the Detroit auto companies.
A whisper of voices, now rising, lays blame on an entire gender. Specifically, the gender that makes most of the stock market trades, runs the largest investment banks and reaps the highest salaries in the financial sector.
Men more prone to risk
"All of the recent perpetrators of the greatest economic mess in eight decades are, well, men," writes Deborah Spar in the Washington Post.
The aptly named Spar, president of Barnard College, deploys a variety of arguments to back up this broad claim, including male hormonal imbalance (testosterone has been scientifically linked with risky stock trading) and evidence that women tend to be more risk-averse than men, especially when high-stake finances are concerned. Add to that the grim facts of female employment in finance, where no women held chief executive positions as recently as last year, and the evidence against men becomes circumstantially compelling.
Whether because of biology or social pressure, "women may be less inclined than men to place the kind of bets that can get them in real trouble," argues Spar, a former economics professor at the Harvard Business School.
In a Nov. 16 New York Times online piece ("Maybe the Meltdown's a Guy Thing"), Judith Dobrzynski led the hormonal charge. She cited researchers John M. Coates and Joseph Herbert at the University of Cambridge in England, who in September 2008 published a study linking high risk tolerance among traders to high testosterone.
"Raging hormones might explain why the men who rule the global markets send them rocketing up when they're on a roll and swooping down when they get scared," Dobrzynski summarized.
Gender students may also note that men commit most murders and declare virtually all wars. The Detroit Lions and the city of Detroit have been run by men, to disastrous effect.
Female myths pervasive
Alas, while there's a revengeful thrill to this broadest of arguments, the thrill ebbs when your gender is taking the brunt. Myths, and sometimes facts, about female hormones have been deployed for centuries to keep women out of voting booths, battlefields and White House.
Yes, sure, a woman blew the whistle on Enron. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Mary Schapiro headed an agency that extensively investigated Bernard Madoff, but failed to uncover his vast Ponzi scheme.
Thus far, her hormone levels have not been analyzed.