I have read a mountain
of economics books that purport to explain the great econopocalypse in which we find ourselves, but none can hold a candle to John Lanchester's Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay
, a British book that explains the macro- and microeconomic phenomena with a novelist's sense of plot and clarity (Lanchester being a novelist) that nevertheless refuses to sacrifice accuracy for accessibility.
Lanchester explains the econopocalypse thus: a climate (the fall of the Soviet Union and the triumphal do-no-wrong belief in unfettered capitalism that ensued), a problem (using derivatives to expand risk, rather than limit it, which led to reckless lending in the housing market), a mistake (bankers assuming that they had laid off the risk using complex derivatives) and a failure (regulators refusing to look the financial gift-horse in the mouth). This provides an excellent framework for explaining the ways in which history, greed, and hubris conspired to create the worst financial crisis in memory.
What's more, Lanchester is funny, and he has a gift for making you revisit your assumptions about the world (your house is a highly leveraged asset that appreciates at the same rate as the overall economy, is difficult to liquidate, and if you manage it, you need to buy another house that has appreciated right alongside of it or find yourself homeless). He even manages to make Alan Greenspan and Maggie Thatcher funny, which is really saying something.
Alas, Lanchester is also a downer. At the risk of giving away the ending, he concludes with a compelling argument that the UK economy is likely to be roadkill for a very long time as a result of the financialization of the economy and the capture of the regulators who were supposed to keep an eye on it (he's also bearish on the US economy). Yeah, it's depressing. It's also probably true. And at least he made me laugh while he broke me the news.
Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay
The UK is one of the easiest places in the world to set up a shady company, which is why accused Mafia money-launderer Antonio “Tonino the Blond” Righi set up his shell company Magnolia Fundaction UK with Britain’s Companies House, giving an address in Soho.
Before being convicted of felony securities fraud, smirking cartoon villain pharma-douche-bro Martin Shkreli had to be tried in front of a jury and this presented a unique problem because everyone hates Martin Shkreli, and thus more than 100 jurors were dismissed from the pool during pre-trial questioning. Here are some of the statements that led […]
Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes released this study in 2015, comparing the outcomes for students enrolled in online charter schools with comparable students (controlled for grade level, gender, race/ethnicity, free lunch eligibility, English language status, special ed status and historical state achievement test scores) in brick-and-mortar classrooms.
The Pry.Me Bottle Opener holds tens of thousands of times its own weight, and you can pick one up now from the Boing Boing Store.This remarkable keychain is considerably smaller than any of your keys, but don’t let that fool you: it can easily open any bottle, and could even tow a trailer full of […]
Guaranteeing your privacy online goes way beyond checking the “Do Not Track” option in your browser’s settings. To ensure that your internet activity is totally hidden from Internet Service Providers, advertisers, and other prying eyes, take a look at Windscribe’s VPN protection. It usually costs $7.50 per month, but you can get a 3-year subscription […]
This project management bundle will help you get organized and learn how to lead a team to success. You can pay what you want for these five courses when you pick them up from the Boing Boing Store.To help you become an invaluable asset for your company, this bundle includes a curated collection of professional […]