The New York Times: Touring the Ruins of the Old Economy

September 26th, 2011

New York Times – Books of The Times

Touring the Ruins of the Old Economy


By Michiko Kakutani

Published: September 26, 2011


Michael Lewis possesses the rare storyteller’s ability to make virtually any subject both lucid and compelling. In his new book, “Boomerang,” he actually makes topics like European sovereign debt, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank not only comprehensible but also fascinating — even, or especially, to readers who rarely open the business pages or watch CNBC. The book could not be more timely given the worries about Europe’s deepening debt crisis and the recent warning issued by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the I.M.F, that “the current economic situation is entering a dangerous phase.”

Combining his easy familiarity with finance and the talents of a travel writer, Mr. Lewis sets off in these pages to give the reader a guided tour through some of the disparate places hard hit by the fiscal tsunami of 2008, like Greece, Iceland and Ireland, tracing how very different people for very different reasons gorged on the cheap credit available in the prelude to that disaster. The book — based on articles Mr. Lewis wrote for Vanity Fair magazine — is a companion piece of sorts to “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine,” his bestselling 2010 book about the fiscal crisis. Like that earlier book its focus is narrow. It doesn’t aspire to provide a broad overview of the debt crisis but instead hands the reader a small but sparkling prism by which to view the problem, this time from a global perspective.

Mr. Lewis explains why the world is so worried that Greece could default: “If Greece walks away from $400 billion in debt, then the European banks that lent the money will go down, and other countries now flirting with bankruptcy” might easily follow, destabilizing regional and world economies further. He also explains why taxpayers in Germany — the euro zone’s largest economy, with resources critical to a rescue plan — are reluctant to keep bailing out other countries they regard as profligate, indolent and irresponsible. Read More…