Terrific book review for Bailout Nation in Asia Times:
“For the past three decades, finance replaced doctor or lawyer as the smart career choice. The cleverest people gravitated to business schools and then to Wall Street, some detouring to Silicon Valley during the dot-com boom. So how did these masters of the universe create the worst global economic misery in 80 years?
It was stupidity and arrogance, pure and simple, fund manager and TheStreet.com columnist Barry Ritholtz contends in Bailout Nation, the same traits that led a previous generation of America’s best and brightest to the tragedy of Vietnam (and a group of more recent, less illustrious ideologues to the debacle in Iraq). At least Camelot’s villains thought they were doing good for the world. The modern bankers and traders and quants and arbs who acted so irresponsibly, almost exclusively with other people’s money, were simply trying to make themselves obscenely wealthy.
These “idiots”, as Ritholtz often calls them, richly deserve every ounce of approbation he musters. He repeatedly contends that rather than being bailed out, they deserve to have been bankrupted, exposed as charlatans, hooted out of their professions, tarred, feathered, and in some cases jailed. . .
In his very readable book that will delight general readers as well as finance buffs, Ritholtz traces the history of US bailouts.
When things fell apart in September last year, Ritholtz says, the government should have nationalized AIG, separating the giant’s solvent insurance business from its loopy financial funhouse. Instead, US taxpayers have doled out $173 billion and counting to repay not widows and orphans holding policies on dear departed dads, but a coterie of Wall Street tycoons and overseas banks escaping the consequences of their foolish risks. That’s not capitalism but socialism for the wealthy at taxpayer expense.
Bailout Nation’s straightforward, compelling account puts the crisis in context, explains why the US government responded so stupidly, offers solutions, and advises how to prevent a repeat. Ritholtz’s indictment of the financial and political establishment isn’t terribly unique, but it’s devastatingly accurate.”
Named and shamed
Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy by Barry Ritholtz with Aaron Task
Reviewed by Muhammad Cohen