By Brian Rosenfeld
What would you do in a dark room with an infinite supply of money? Buy a baseball team? Invest in Wall Street? How about make a cash-filled piñata and allow all your friends to take a hack at it? According to Michael Lewis, that’s exactly what the Greeks did.
When most students think of author Michael Lewis, the sports movies Moneyball and The Blind Side come to mind. Maybe a handful, myself included, are familiar with his first work, Liar’s Poker, and its sequel, The Big Short, which discuss Wall Street. The book everyone should become familiar with, however, is Lewis’s recently published Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World.
In Boomerang, Lewis takes the style he used to describe the Oakland A’s in Moneyball and uses it to explain the global financial crisis. Starting in Iceland, Lewis travels the “new third world,” covering Greece, Ireland, and Germany before returning to the United States. Humorously explaining a serious, abstruse topic, Lewis makes the inaccessible accessible. His summary of the situation (a dark room with an infinite supply of credit) is a perfect example of Lewis’s distinct, witty style: “Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers. The Greeks wanted to turn their country into a piñata stuffed with cash and allow as many citizens as possible to take a whack at it. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish.”
Lewis’s modestly long work (224 pages) presents a painless way to understand what’s been happening in the world and its effect on America, yet unfortunately we’re not much better off—Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a guest appearance as he explains California’s financial situation to Lewis. Lewis’s book provides plenty of laughs as he pokes fun at the U.S.’s European neighbors (apparently the Germans are fascinated by sh*t).
In Boomerang, Lewis does to the global economy what he did to the inner workings of baseball—he makes it a spectator sport. Get your ticket at your local bookstore.