Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to discuss the financial turmoil of 2008 that followed the collapse of the housing bubble in the USA which was the starting point of a global economic crisis. Huge costs are borne by every part of society. Much wealth has been destroyed. Millions of jobs have been lost. The crisis has tarnished faith in free enterprise, in the financial system, and in financial theory. Likely, the era of laissez-faire capitalism that started during the Reagan-Thatcher years is ending. We are entering a period of profound uncertainty. It is imperative that the moral dimension of capitalism be restored. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on a review of theory and historical evidence relating to financial bubbles and financial regulation. Findings – The author offers suggestions on how to rebuild the global financial system. We need: a systemic risk regulator, independent from business and political influence; higher capital requirements for all systemically significant financial service firms; restrictions on proprietary trading in commercial banks; transparency in derivatives; new ways to compensate bankers that reduce the incentive to take excessive risks; consumer protection against defective financial products; and the re-establishment of the principle of fiduciary duty. Practical implications – The paper lists practical suggestions on how to reform the global financial system. Social implications – Economic success is based on trust. After the 2008 crisis, regulatory reform is the best way to rebuild trust in the financial system. Originality/value – The paper offers a unique perspective based in part on insights drawn from behavioral finance.