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One way to look at what you describe is that during the depths of the crisis banks lost about 1/2 their capital. Without capital, they fail and take us with them (as happened during the Great Depression). One quick way to recapitalize them is to do exactly what you decry. Does it seem unfair? Yes. But, it also aids the economy by keeping the financial system afloat.
In a better world we'd have smaller institutions that individually don't pose as much risk. Not so easy to do that today given the funding that Wall Street provides to Washington.
Rather, it is a "central bank" and every country has one. Ours was established by the Federal Reserve Act of nearly a century ago and periodically their mandate has changed with the passage of new laws. Also, its leaders are nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. While hardly perfect, it has helped reduce instability in the economy. Check out http://www.nber.org/cycles/cyclesmain.html and you'll see that compared to the period before the establishment of the Fed, the last century has been much more stable. While they can indeed make a profit, it goes to the U.S. Treasury.
On the Fed's relative independence being a good or bad thing, the weight of the professional research literature suggests that countries with independent central banks have lower inflation. The reason is pretty obvious -- increases in the money supply is a pretty tempting thing for politicians to do.
It isn't widely recognized how severe the crisis was in the Fall of 2008 -- at one point U.S. banks had lost half their capital and interbank lending, a lifeblood to the system, was drying up. The U.S. financial system all but collapsed and if not for the intervention of the Fed it would have certainly dragged the economy down with it. Many claim that we should have let banks fail -- I understand the sentiment, but we tried that once -- it's widely known as the Great Depression. Back then 1/3 of U.S. banks shut their doors and this was in the days before deposit insurance.
Yes, the rescue was ugly and there is a lot to the point about socializing risk. But, back in 2008 that wasn't at the front of the Fed's mind. I'd be in favor of reducing the size of institutions so that we no longer have "systematically important institutions," but that doesn't carry much weight these days given Wall Street's influence in Washington.
Not that appeals to authority carry much weight, but among professional economists (I'm one) appeals to eliminate the Fed are seen as nutty. Also, much of this is covered in various college economics courses.
The current Scientific American has an interesting article on the path that manned exploration out of the Earth-Moon system might take. It employs aspects of the unmanned program to cut cots and to have a more flexible program. One interesting aspect is that the main spacecraft is parked in high earth orbit and human crews fly to it in a small craft. Once on the main craft, it does a swing by the Earth to get a speed boost. Its main engine is electric-power (off of solar arrays). While only part of the Scientific American article ("This Way to Mars," 12/2011 issue) is free, they do kindly provide links to its references at the bottom of the page. See http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=this-way-to-mars
Apparently, you need about 100 tons in low Earth orbit for such a craft. That would be two launches of SpaceX's proposed Falcon Heavy. It seems way more likely to fly than NASA's proposed Space Launch System (SLS).
Projects like Modeling, http://modeling.asu.edu/ , are designed to ferret out misconceptions. They're typically deeply entrenched and you really have to address them head-on in really thoughtful ways. When you do, deep learning may then occur. Watching videos, not designed to ferret our misconceptions, isn't nearly as likely to do this.
This is totally anecdotal, but I've heard of reports of modeling instructors getting pressured to use Khan's videos. The former has sound pedagogy and tons of research behind it demonstrating improved student understanding and the latter has neither. Sigh.
To really assess you learning (if you're doing Newtonian Mechanics), see if your instructors will give you the "Force Concept Inventory." It's a standard in physics education research. For more on it, see http://modeling.asu.edu/r%26e/fci.pdf . As they put it, "(1) commonsense beliefs about motion and force are incompatible with Newtonian concepts in most respects, (2) conventional physics instruction produces little change in these beliefs, and (3) this result is independent of the instructor and the mode of instruction." At last count, Google Scholar reports 1,400 citations to this paper. It's that important. With Khan's videos as taped lectures, this research implies that they don't produce much deep learning.
At least in physics there is a HUGE body of evidence that telling is basically not teaching, be it lectures or videos. That is, one must confront student misconceptions and more generally understand how people learn. We don't learn deeply by watching. Seriously, what elite athlete learned by watching and listening?
Try out these links:
"Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos" https://fnoschese.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/khan-academy-and-the-effectiveness-of-science-videos/
"Improved Learning in a Large Enrollment Physics Class" http://www.cwsei.ubc.ca/SEI_research/index.html
"Why Not Try a Scientific Approach to Science Education?" http://www.cwsei.ubc.ca/resources/files/Wieman-Change_Sept-Oct_2007.pdf (the author is both a Nobel Laureate and a U.S. University Professor of the Year; he's currently Deputy Science Adviser to the President for science education)
It is a sad commentary that methods that have rigorously been shown to work, like http://modeling.asu.edu/ , could really use more funding when Khan gets such funding on just the publicity.
The site Software Carpentry aims to teach scientists and engineers key programming tools and approaches to write better code. There are many, many resources to help non-programmers write better code. The fellow who runs it, Greg Wilson, has done yeoman work in this regard. I was so impressed that I invited him to an academic conference and we were really pleased.
My entry into this problem is "Where's the Real Bottleneck in Scientific Computing?" (from the American Scientist). It says everything that the article here does and much more. Highly recommended.
There is even evidence that watching Khan videos leads to a false sense of learning. See Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos" It basically shows that while students think they're learning a lot by watching videos, their actual learning is minimal.
A great into to all this is Wieman's Why Not Try a Scientific Approach to Science Education?" As he puts it, to increase learning, we need to use
- Practices and conclusions based on objective data rather than—as is frequently the case in education—anecdote or tradition. This includes using the results of prior research, such as work on how people learn.
- Disseminating results in a scholarly manner and copying and building upon what works. Too often in education, particularly at the postsecondary level, everything is reinvented, often in a highly flawed form, every time a different instructor teaches a course. (I call this problem “reinventing the square wheel.”)
- Fully utilizing modern technology. Just as we are always looking for ways to use technology to advance scientific research, we need to do the same in education.
At best, Khan Academy only does the third of these.