Monday, September 16, 2013

Five books on the causes of the 2008 financial crisis

One of my favorite sites is Five Books a web site with book recommendations, interviews and discussions of books that range widely over a variety of subjects and topics. I love to read mystery novels and have found wonderful authors that I otherwise might not have encountered. The site has an active set of recommendations of books dealing with social science, economics and current events.

This posting, by Barry Ritholtz a Wall Street money manager and Washington Post columnist who writes a popular investment-focused blog, The Big Picture, includes his comments on the crisis, recommendations for 5 books and a thoughtful and provocative set of assertions about the market. His blog is more widely ranging than merely an investment focus and I follow that blog as well.

This excerpt from the Five Book interview really reminds me of my friend and colleague Bill Boyes:

The Wall Street money manager diagnoses the ills of America’s political and economic system in a fizzing, irreverent analysis (with promised f-bombs thrown in)

I originally thought we were going to be talking about Wall Street today. But I got the sense from some of your book choices that one of the biggest offenders wasn’t based on Wall Street at all, but on Constitution Avenue in Washington DC.

When you get bit by a dog, you don’t just look at the dog, you have to look at the owner who is holding the leash. To me, a lot of the regulatory changes, and a lot of what the Federal Reserve did, stand on their own as a major factor. But if you’ve read David Hume, if you’ve studied the philosophy of causation, you have to look at what motivated those changes. I have these debates with friends. One group blames everything on big government; the other group blames everything on big corporations. The sad news is that there’s really no difference between the two: Big government and big corporations work hand-in-hand. If you want to know who is the puppet and who is the puppet master, it sure looks like Wall Street has been pulling the strings of Congress for many, many, many years. I remember the Dick Durbin quote, right in the middle of the crisis. He was astonished at all the bankers and bank lobbyists running around the halls of Congress, and said, “I can’t believe these guys – they act as if they own the place.” The fact is, it’s not an act – they do own the place.

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