Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Boomerang by Michael Lewis & Matt Taibbi on Occupy Wall Street

Have come across some excellent writing lately on money and markets. Form of the works have been in a quote, a magazine piece and the Michael Lewis book Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World.

If Lewis's 2010 book The Big Short (which I reviewed here) looked at the recent financial meltdown at a corporate level in relation to things like Credit Default Swaps and CDOs, this new effort looks at financial train wrecks with a much larger country level. It's a riveting and fast read and separated into five sections (with my thoughts on each)...

Iceland - "Hey, let's all become heavily leveraged investment bankers assuming the markets will rise forever. What could go wrong?"

Greece - "I want services provided by the government, but see no reason to do things like pay my taxes since the government doesn't seem to mind me not paying."

Ireland - A bit like Iceland, but financial insanity through real estate development.

Germany - The adult in the room... needing to decide how much pain to take on themselves to try to rescue the irresponsible kids (or PIGS).

United States - Perhaps the most interesting simply because it's local (including Lewis writing on Vallejo and San Jose here in the Bay Area). Covers the concept of country level financial problems (like underfunded pension obligations) simply getting pushed down to the cities. Ramifications of this... bad.

Lewis has quite the talent for creating easy reading on complex topics and with Boomerang, writes an excellent (and frightening) book on bad money decisions run amok.


On the same subject of money, greed and decisions made at a high level impacting the common folk was a piece for Rolling Stone by Matt Taibbi. "Wall Street Isn't Winning – It's Cheating" is a look at Occupy Wall Street and offers a harsh indictment of the financial system and how it's structurally set up to reward the bankers who run it. Very well written and thoughtful story.

Finally, it's only a quote, but in the same vein as the Lewis book and Taibbi article was that below from Businessweek by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (author of The Black Swan about outside of normal financial events)...

"We're not living in capitalism. We're not living in Socialism. We're living in some wierd economic situation with the banks controlling more than their share. It's like we're serving them rather than them serving us."