September 15 is a week away, so here come the Lehman Brothers retrospectives.

First out of the gate is Bloomberg, which goes long—as in 4,091 words long, and this is just the first of four parts—on how and why Lehman failed, the consequences of that failure, and the implications for the current financial system, jury-rigged together as it is with trillions of dollars in government backing.

Here’s the key lesson: Not much has really changed. And some of what has is for the worse:

Rather than break up institutions such as Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc., or limit their expansion, the U.S. has given them billions of dollars in tax incentives and loan guarantees that enabled them to grow even bigger. To protect against a bank collapse touching off another freefall, President Barack Obama has proposed regulatory changes that rely on the wisdom of bankers and government overseers — the same people who created the conditions that led to Lehman’s bankruptcy and were unable to foresee its consequences.

“Designating certain institutions as too big to fail, and not having a thorough regulatory process to match, practically invites another catastrophe,” Bernstein said.

It sure does and hooray for Bloomberg for spotlighting the critical importance of Too Big to Fail, and its corollary Too Interconnected to Fail. Now, the gigantism encouraged by Paulson and Geithner, et al., is a temporary thing meant to stabilize the system with massive structural reforms put off until calm returns for good. Maybe Geithner’s proposed higher capital requirements for giant banks will effectively make it not worth being giant in the first place. Don’t bet on it.

And here’s a key point as to why the current system is rotten:

Lehman was different because the government let it declare bankruptcy, meaning the company’s creditors were wiped out as well as its stockholders.

The government can’t let big banks go bust without crippling their creditors and in turn freezing up the whole system. To put it more simply: Big financial institutions can’t go bankrupt. The markets knew this to a certain extent before the events of last year else credit wouldn’t have been so cheap and easily gotten. If anything it’s even more obvious now.

If a company can’t go bankrupt, it is not part of any free market. This is at the root of the “heads I win/tails you lose” phenomenon that bankers foisted on us as they looted their companies to line their own pockets. It’s why it’s explosive that they’re on the verge of reverting to 2007 level of pay.

This is all before Bloomberg even gets to the tick-tock of what happened with Lehman, a lot of which is already known.

What Bloomberg clearly details in this story is that the people trying to save Lehman that fateful weekend didn’t even think about the commercial-paper markets, which seized up and sent shock waves through money-market funds, until then supposedly as safe as a savings account, which triggered further panic in the financial system.

“We did not expect how the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy would transmit through the commercial-paper market and cause all the stress in the money funds,” said David Nason, a former assistant Treasury secretary for financial institutions under Paulson and now a managing director at Washington-based Promontory Financial Group…

One bank CEO, assigned to a group of executives asked by Geithner to consider what would happen in the event of a Lehman bankruptcy, said he couldn’t recall any conversations that weekend about commercial paper or money markets. The banker declined to be identified.

Bloomberg takes a shot at regulatory capture here:

One bank CEO, assigned to a group of executives asked by Geithner to consider what would happen in the event of a Lehman bankruptcy, said he couldn’t recall any conversations that weekend about commercial paper or money markets. The banker declined to be identified.

That may have had something to do with who was in the room, said Joshua H. Rosner, managing director at New York investment research company Graham Fisher & Co. They were all bankers. There were no corporate treasurers, academics, consumer advocates or labor representatives.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.