Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World
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“Lewis shows again why he is the leading journalist of his generation.”―Kyle Smith, Forbes
The tsunami of cheap credit that rolled across the planet between 2002 and 2008 was more than a simple financial phenomenon: it was temptation, offering entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge.
Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers. The Greeks wanted to turn their country into a pinata stuffed with cash and allow as many citizens as possible to take a whack at it. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish.
Michael Lewis's investigation of bubbles beyond our shores is so brilliantly, sadly hilarious that it leads the American reader to a comfortable complacency: oh, those foolish foreigners. But when he turns a merciless eye on California and Washington, DC, we see that the narrative is a trap baited with humor, and we understand the reckoning that awaits the greatest and greediest of debtor nations.
hire private tutors to make sure they actually learn something. There are three government-owned defense companies: together they have billions of euros in debts, and mounting losses. The retirement age for Greek jobs classified as “arduous” is as early as fifty-five for men and fifty for women. As this is also the moment when the state begins to shovel out generous pensions, more than six hundred Greek professions somehow managed to get themselves classified as arduous: hairdressers, radio
more important. I made my excuses, and took my leave of Dallas, and more or less dismissed him. When I wrote the book, I left Kyle Bass on the cutting-room floor. Then the financial world began to change again—and very much as Kyle Bass had imagined it might. Entire countries started to go bust. What appeared at first to be a story chiefly about Wall Street became a story that involved every country that came into meaningful contact with Wall Street. I wrote the book about the U.S. subprime
government nationalized Anglo Irish and its losses of 34 billion euros (and mounting). In late 2009 they created the National Asset Management Agency, the Irish version of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), but, unlike the U.S. government, actually followed through, and bought 80 billion euros’ worth of crappy assets from the Irish banks. A SINGLE DECISION sank Ireland, but when I ask Lenihan about it he becomes impatient, as if it isn’t a fit topic for conversation. It wasn’t much of a
would be to give German money to the German banks and let the Irish banks fail.” Why they don’t simply do this is a question worth trying to answer. THE TWENTY-MINUTE WALK from the German Finance Ministry to the office of the chairman of Commerzbank, one of Germany’s two giant private banks, is punctuated by officially sanctioned memories: the new Holocaust Memorial, two and a half times the acreage occupied by the U.S. Embassy; the new street beside it, called Hannah Arendt Street; the signs
characters involved are so shady and furtive that I can hardly believe it. I stop to ask what’s going on, but the bidders don’t want to talk. “Why would I tell you anything?” says a guy sitting in a Coleman folding chair. He obviously thinks he’s shrewd, and perhaps he is. The lobby of city hall is completely empty. There’s a receptionist’s desk but no receptionist. Instead, there’s a sign: TO FORECLOSURE AUCTIONEERS AND FORECLOSURE BIDDERS: PLEASE DO NOT CONDUCT BUSINESS IN THE CITY HALL LOBBY.