The global sovereign debt crisis has impacted our world economically almost like a 3rd world war. And because money was thrown out with rabid fury, it is boomeranging back with a vengeance. In his quintessential narrative-style nonfiction book, Boomerang, Michael Lewis presents to the reader four case studies: Iceland, Greece, Ireland, and Germany. Lewis travels the world examining how each of these countries dealt with the collective problem of debt and how their cultural characteristics impacted the citizens.
It begins in Iceland, where Lewis conducts a brutal character assassination of the nation’s historically risk-seeking citizens, most of whom made their money fishing on the high seas before taking a shot at investment banking. We then move to Greece, apparently a nation in “complete moral collapse.” Here public workers and tax-dodging citizens refuse to do their civic duty, concluding that they refuse to reinforce a corrupt government. Moving westward to Ireland next, where the government (along with several banks) borrowed money from abroad, only to invest in themselves. You could say that it was the ultimate move of self-interest, but I, personally, view it as an attempt to compensate for centuries of diaspora. Germany has a history of bad investments in the past ten years (Icelandic and Irish banks, Greek government bonds, US sub-prime mortgage bonds). The government chose to protect their banks by bailing-out the rest of Europe, quite a dilemma.
As the book moves along, Lewis poses the question of whether cultural evolution must happen for the citizens of each nation to dig their respective country out of an abyss: egomania, laziness, Catholic guilt, or filth fetishes. But was Lewis fair in assigning national character so publicly after just a few interviews with a handful of citizens? More food for thought, can sustainable economic development be a global truth, cultural differences aside? When will bankers stop taking the value of the currency and when will they not be too distracted to notice or too ignorant to care?
The book, which I flew through in two to three days, was an enlightening read on international business history over the past eight years. The vicious cycle of leveraging national debt is brought to light and I would encourage anyone who wants to start learning about this topic to begin here. Michael Lewis introduces the issue without over-simplifying or overwhelming.
And thus concludes our globalEDGE book series, be sure to check out other international business related books written about in this past week!