Sep 272012

After a wave of unprecedented cheap credit swept the western world in the mid 2000s, Michael Lewis traveled to Europe, Iceland, and California to ask a simple question.  What would a nation do if left alone in a room with a large pile of cash.  The responses he extracted not only serve as clear explanation for how the credit crisis affected each country, but his macroeconomic analyses of each country’s culture are downright fascinating.  The Greeks spent money they didn’t have on themselves because they expected to be paid a lot for things they weren’t actually working on and additionally have no culture of ever paying their taxes.  Overnight, Icelanders went from being a country of fishermen to investment bankers, without really having a clue, guided only by the machismo it takes to be a man on the open sea.  Germans expected the rest of the world to follow the rules as explicitly as they do.  Californians paid their union laborers big pensions even as it meant bankrupting cities and eventually the whole state.  Lewis’s ability to intertwine brilliant storytelling and sobering economic statistics give him the unique ability to write a great book about a topic not normally considered inherently suspenseful.

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