10 Economic Lessons From Michael Lewis' Boomerang


4. Band-aids don't help.

Lewis makes other comparisons between the U.S. financial crisis and that of Iceland, the latter which economics professor Bob Aliber of the University of Chicago calls "the perfect bubble."

Ever since Iceland's three major banks, and thus its economic system, crashed in 2008, the country's massive debt has skyrocketed. The debt of Icelanders is 850 percent of GDP in a country the size of Kentucky, compared to the U.S., which reached 350 percent.

After the IMF agreed to loan over $2 billion to Iceland in addition to loans from other countries in 2008, Lewis wrote that one argument of defense was reminiscent of statements from Lehman Brothers and Citigroup during the U.S. financial crisis.

Lewis writes that those two banks said "if only you'd give us the money to tide us over, we'll survive this little hiccup."

Citigroup received over $25 billion from the U.S. government while Lehman Brothers filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2008.

5. "Not everything in Iceland is different from other places"

Lewis describes an anecdote in which an Icelandic television show producer invites him to be a guest and explain the country's financial crisis, after being in the country for three days.

He finds her response shocking yet vaguely familiar.

"It doesn't matter, she says, as no one in Iceland understands what's happened. They'd enjoy hearing someone try to explain it, even if that person didn't have any idea what he was talking about…" he wrote.

Lewis also compared the desolate atmosphere in Reykjavik, Iceland's capital, to that of Manhattan just as the financial crisis began in the U.S.

He wrote: "Walking around just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, you saw empty stores, empty streets, and, even when it was raining, empty taxis; the people had fled before the bomb exploded. Reykjavik had the same feel of incipient doom…"

After an interview with Iceland's former Prime Minister Geir Haarde, Lewis summarizes Haarde's version of his country's collapse.

"Foreigners entrusted their capital to Iceland, and Iceland put it to good use, but then, on September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers failed and foreigners panicked and demanded their capital back."

6. Countries borrow not only the best practices, but the worst.

Lewis writes that the biggest American financial lesson the Icelanders "took to heart" was the "importance of buying as many assets as possible with borrowed money, as asset prices only rose."

Lewis takes another jab at financial architects when he writes that Icelanders "bought stakes in businesses they knew nothing about and told the people running them what to do – just like real American investment bankers!"

Lewis is brutal in his criticism of Icelanders' role in the country's financial collapse, writing "almost certainly Iceland will adopt the euro as its currency, and the krona will cease to exist."

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