After this sustained period of willful ignorance, it is no wonder that, when the crisis did finally break out, as more than one observer put it, “No one really knew what to do.” The reason being that expectations are part of the game: how the market will react depends not only on how much people trust this or that intervention but even more on how much they think others trust them—one cannot take into account the effects of one’s own choices. Long ago, John Maynard Keynes rendered this self-referentiality nicely when he compared the stock market to a silly competition in which the participants have to pick several pretty girls from a hundred photographs, the winner being the one who chooses girls closest to the average opinion: “It is not a case of choosing those which, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be.” So we must choose without the knowledge that would enable a qualified choice, or, as John Gray put it: “We are forced to live as if we were free.“

Slavoj Zižek, “To Each According to His Greed”