John Lanchester’s review of Michael Lewis’s Boomerang in NYRB is worth a read today, as markets head south. A few trenchant quotes:
A writer making society-wide generalizations is picking up a big and very full bag by a single handle; in that position, it’s easy to end up writing about the handle, because it’s the thing on which you have a secure grip…
…“There was no credit boom in Germany,” an official told Lewis. “Real estate prices were completely flat. There was no borrowing for consumption. Because this behavior is totally unacceptable in Germany.”…
This one is ostensibly about Greece and Greek monetary delusions, but is uncomfortably relevant to contemporary American civic culture:
But the place does not behave as a collective…. It behaves as a collection of atomized particles, each of which has grown accustomed to pursuing its own interest at the expense of the common good. There’s no question that the government is resolved to at least try to re-create Greek civic life. The only question is: Can such a thing, once lost, ever be re-created?
And here’s another passage (the Envoi) with Goose over Grave frisson, in which one just might try substituting ‘politics’ for ‘economics’ and perhaps ‘truth’ for ‘money’:
The collective momentum of a culture is, for more or less everybody more or less all of the time, overwhelming. This is especially true for anything to do with economics. The evidence is clear: it is easy to mislead people about money, and easy to lead members of the public astray both individually and en masse, because when it comes to money, most of us, most of the time, don’t know what we’re doing. The corollary is also clear: the whole Western world misled itself over debt, and the road back from where we are goes only uphill.