So, this is the follow-up to the Big Short – the one that kind of makes it look like the prequel*.
At the end of the Big Short, we are left in awe of the contrarian fund managers that foresaw the Subprime Mortgage Crash and went on a giant acquisition of CDSs** spree.
Frankly – I was also a little in awe of the self-attribution bias in some of said managers. I mean – I’m all for self-credit. But leaping on the bandwagon years after the first guy started calling it*** is hardly the time to self-proclaim prophet-hood.
In “Boomerang”, the fund investors have moved onto bigger and better sources of chaos: the countries whose governments have failed to control their spending, and now face imminent default on their public debt.
It starts with Iceland going bankrupt.
Then he covers Greece: in an unbelievable**** account of a bloated public sector, crazed corruption, and the involvement of monasteries, abbots, and bizarre backdoor deals.
On to Ireland, and their crazy property development schemes, which led Ireland to request a bailout. And led a former member of Westlife to declare bankruptcy.
In the chapter on Germany, a lot of time was dedicated to the discussion of the German obsession with “scheisse*****”. Which, I gather, is a euphemism for anal retentiveness. I’ll be honest, I got totally distracted by the fecal imagery. But the German view of the Greek situation, as well as the German bank-bailouts after the subprime crisis, were well-interesting.
And then finally, Lewis brings it back (boomerang-style) to California and the USA. This final chapter “Too Fat to Fly” involves a cycle with the Governator and an exposé on California’s impending bankruptcy.
My only criticism: this book is far too short at the price. I realise that ML had to get it out while it was still relevant (the markets had begun imploding while he was writing – and there’s no dramatic effect if you’re not the first person on the scene). But paying $15 for such a short book – it hurt.
*The only exception being length. This book feels extraordinarily short (excuse the pun).
**Credit-Default Swaps. For what these are, read this.
***Loudly, publicly, to much disclaim.
****And I really do mean “unbelievable” – because you read some of the public spending stories, going “you CANNOT be serious”.