There's any number of lessons that we might take from the past few years. Fragile banking systems aren't a good idea perhaps. We seem to have shown that monetary policy is still effective at the zero lower bound, therefore fiscal policy isn't the only thing we can turn to in recession. The eurozone is giving a useful empirical lesson in optimal currency areas. There's all sorts of things we can and should learn from recent times. But then it's also possibly to be hoplessly naive about all of this:
The biggest surprise for me, and perhaps it shouldn't have been, is the degree to which politicians are willing to put political interests ahead of helping people in need. Watching the political/policy reaction to the Great Recession was both disappointing and eye opening.
Well, no, it shouldn't have been. Ourselves we waver between thinking that public choice theory is the right way to think of this (politicans and bureaucrats are subject to the same incentives of self-interest as everyone else) and the pronouncements of Mancur Olson (all governments are bandits exploiting the population and about the best we can hope for is a stationary bandit, not a roving one) dependent upon the crust of our liver on any particular day. But either insists that we cannot look to the political class as being interested in either what we want or what we need: not unless it's going to directly impact upon our propensity to vote for them so that they get to stay part of that political class.
The idea that a professional economist should believe that politicians would ever put helping people in need above political interests strikes us as simply hopelessy naive. However, this is still a good outcome: the next politician promising that we're going to run the world off kisses and unicorn parps is less likely to be believed now, eh?