10 Economic Lessons From Michael Lewis' Boomerang


"When you borrow a lot of money to create a false prosperity, you import the future into the present," he writes. "It isn't the actual future so much as some grotesque silicone version of it. Leverage buys you a glimpse of a prosperity you haven't really earned."

7. The messenger always gets attacked.

As countries in the European Union try to intervene with indebted countries in the Eurozone, Lewis said the warning signs were apparent in countries like Iceland, but no one listened.

"Here is yet another way in which Iceland echoed the American model: all sorts of people, none of them Icelandic, tried to tell them they had a problem."

Lewis does not dwell in the book on Standard & Poor's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating on Aug. 5, nor the political controversy of credit rating agencies' high marks of credit default swaps before the financial crash. You can find that in his previous book, The Big Short.

Lewis does write that "one of the causes of the current global financial crisis is that the people who saw it coming had more to gain from it by taking short positions than they did by trying to publicize the problem. Plus, most of the people who could credibly charge Iceland – or, for that matter, Lehman Brothers – with financial crimes could be dismissed as crass profiteers, talking their own book."

8. Remember the ladies.

Lewis writes "one of the distinctive traits about Iceland's disaster, and Wall Street's, is how little women had to do with it." Lewis describes his observations of the male-dominated fishing and finance industry, the latter which has changed its tide since the crash.

Now Iceland has the world's first openly gay head of state, and the country's first female prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir. Previous prime minister Geir Haarde went on trial earlier this month for "failures of ministerial responsibility."

Lewis also compares Ireland's financial disaster with that of Iceland's:

"It was created by the sort of men who ignore their wives' suggestions that maybe they should stop and ask for directions, for instance."

9. Nothing lasts forever, even real estate.

Lewis writes that "while the Icelandic male used foreign money to conquer foreign places - trophy companies in Britain, chunks of Scandinavia - the Irish male used foreign money to conquer Ireland. Left alone in a dark room with a pile of money, the Irish decided what they really wanted to do with it was buy Ireland. From each other."

He describes the start of Ireland's collapse as a real estate boom that evolved into a frenzy which caused the a 500 percent increase in the average price of a house in Dublin before the collapse.

"Their real estate boom had the flavor of a family lie: it was sustainable so long as it went unquestioned and it went unquestioned so long as it appeared sustainable."

By 2007, Lewis wrote that "Irish banks were lending 40 percent more to property developers alone than they had to the entire Irish population."

Lewis writes that Irish banks had avoided lending to American subprime borrowers but "all of Ireland had become subprime."

"Otherwise sound Irish borrowers had been rendered unsound by the size of the loans they had taken out to buy inflated Irish property," Lewis wrote.

The debts of Irish banks were private, "owed by them to investors around the world – and still the Irish people have undertaken to repay them as if they were under obligations of the state."

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