Back in the mid 1980s, Michael Lewis came to Wall Street fresh out of college. He left a few years later, much wealthier but shocked at what he saw. He wrote the book Liar's Poker based on his experiences, and it started him on a new career as a non-fiction writer. He was young and idealistic back then, and he thought Liar's Poker might be the death knell of the excesses he saw in the financial markets. He soon saw the error of his ways, most notably when he got letters from college students who saw his jeremiad as a how to get rich quick self-help book.
Now, nearly twenty years later, Lewis returns to Wall Street to write an article about the new panic. Though the battlefield changed drastically, Lewis sees all the old problems of unchecked greed from every corner and the obliviousness of the people at the top still there, with the people who are doing his old job now armed with financial weapons he could not have dreamed of two decades ago. He gives a great blow by blow account of the collapse of the financial world from the perspective of some bright people who saw the trouble coming and both warned against it and profited from it. They were shorting the financials using clever methods, knowing something bad was coming, not knowing exactly when or how big.
It's a good read, informative and exciting and terrifying, like a well paced thriller about the outbreak of a disease. Unlike bird flu or the flesh eating bacteria, the reader is actually likely to be personally effected by the disaster that is chronicled here, which adds to the article's morbid fascination.
Thanks to my long-time friend and occasional freelance fact checker Ken Rose for supplying me with the link.
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