A real estate crisis exploded in America and engulfed mortgages, rendering debtors unable to pay their loans. Major banks and financial corporations either collapsed, or are collapsing. Enticed by attractive subsidy packages and public announcements of anticipated heavy profits, international banks and investment funds had rushed headlong into this sector. Now they have hit the hard pavement. With the collapse of American banks and financial institutions, this globalised menace has now spread to the whole world. It is as if America sneezed and the rest of the world caught cold. Some financial sector sources have estimated the losses incurred to be to the tune of $300 billions in US alone, and another $550 billions outside America. Therefore, the affected nations, particularly the wealthy ones, intervened by pumping in billions of dollars into their financial markets to restore public confidence and provide some liquidity for stimulation of economic activity. The so-called free market economy, or the laissez faire economics, was demolished in the process. -ABDUL WAHEED JUTT, Lahore, via e-mail, October 21.