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Dermot's Review of Boomerang: The Meltdown Tour

Page history last edited by Jonathan Chambers 10 years ago

Boomerang: The Meltdown Tour*

By Michael Lewis

 

Brief Comments

 

Boomerang is a departure from Lewis’s 10 earlier books in being more populist. In places it reads like a tabloid in referring to lazy and corrupt Greek workers, rule-following, anally-obsessed Germans, greedy police and fire-fighters of San Jose, California and all public employees of Vallejo (in negotiating generous pensions).

Such sweeping and misleading stereotypes serve only to promote the fallacy that we must all share the blame for the crisis. John Lanchester falls into the same trap with the subtitle of his 2010 book, Whoops: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay. This is a shame because there is excellent material in both books.

 

In other places in Boomerang, Lewis does acknowledge that some people are more to blame than others. For example, with respect to the Vallejo public sector workers, he finally acknowledges (on the third to last page) that they had been misled in negotiations with the employers and also by their own union leadership. In Greece, not everyone was involved in the financial shenanigans. Big businesses and banks, corrupt politicians and, not least, the foreign lending banks themselves were the main sources of the public debt problem.

 

The above mentioned flaws notwithstanding, Lewis’s book reports many candid interviews with key players in what amounts to an economic travelogue through five key countries in the financial crisis – Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Germany and California. He finishes with a rather bizarre encounter with the outgoing state boss of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger who, sadly, left office having improved California’s finances not one jot.

 

Overall? A good read but not as revealing as the two of his earlier books I’ve read (Liar’s Poker and The Big Short).

 

* Allen Lane, 2011; Hardback; 213pp

 

Dermot Smyth

21 May 2012

 

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