As soon as the financial crisis erupted, the finger-pointing began. Should the blame fall on Wall Street, Main Street, or Pennsylvania Avenue? On greedy traders, misguided regulators, sleazy subprime companies, cowardly legislators, or clueless home buyers?
According to Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera, two of America's most acclaimed business journalists, the real answer is all of the above-and more. Many devils helped bring hell to the economy. And the full story, in all of its complexity and detail, is like the legend of the blind men and the elephant. Almost everyone has missed the big picture. Almost no one has put all the pieces together.
All the Devils Are Here goes back several decades to weave the hidden history of the financial crisis in a way no previous book has done. It explores the motivations of everyone from famous CEOs, cabinet secretaries, and politicians to anonymous lenders, borrowers, analysts, and Wall Street traders. It delves into the powerful American mythology of homeownership. And it proves that the crisis ultimately wasn't about finance at all; it was about human nature.
©2010 Bethany McLean (P)2010 Penguin Audio
I would recommend everyone to read this book. It explores the iceberg that that caused the financial crisis. I was skeptical about the title but now I see that it couldn't be more fitting. It is very rich in quotes and anecdotes. Critic reviews are accurate, I just have to add that it is a very heavy reading. It was hard to it listen while working, if you get distracted a few seconds you completely loose track of what they are saying; otherwise I enjoyed it a lot.
To understand the financial and economic events in the US (& throughout the developed world) of the last couple of years, one book will not suffice. One book cannot tell you, analytically and with convincing evidence, the root causes, the immediate causes, the action of the crisis, the evaluation of the policy response. A number of good books are in the Audible collection on this subject. But this book by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera is among the best yet.
The authors do a good job digging back into the 1950-1980 period to find the institutional and policy roots of the current malaise (plenty of government policy to blame, over the decades), they are especially good in showing the constellation of actions (and inactions) in the 1990s and 2000s brought us to what now appears to be a perfect storm (of course, it was not, a perfect storm presupposes no human causes). The book is well-written, breezy, grabs you with lots of human stories and anecdotes. It can be read and understood quickly without a grounding in economics or quantitative methods.
It is shallow in parts. It could be more analytical in parts. But that is why reading more than one book is necessary (a good sweeping complement to this book is "This Time is Different"). Anyway, highly recommended work.
I agree with the earlier reviewer -- this isn't a light read and you have to focus. But the book offers unique insights on how decisions that were made decades ago, when mortgage-backed securities were first created, ultimately led to the recent financial meltdown. As much as I enjoyed The Big Short, I found this book much more informative and interesting. I also thought the narrator was perfect for the content.
This was a very thorough and detailed book. However, I must admit it was a bit above my ability to follow every tentacle of the data (and I have a Masters Degree in Finance!). I think this might be one that would be better READ and notated in order to gain the fullest benefit from the extremely detailed and thorough examination of the factors leading to the current financial crisis.
Having worked in the NYC area, and exposure to mortgage backed securities, I got a clearer picture of the true race to the bottom. I'm not sure if bailing out homeowners instead of the lenders would have been better for the country, but morally it should have been what was done. The book timelines the events in a "Frontline" fashion but requires a bit of foreknowledge into financial knowledge to really appreciated the events. It documents the path from Wall Street to the White House. Presuming the parties involved weren't duped, and they weren't, one has to worry about what the real underlying horror would have been realized had the bailouts not occurred. If we could turn back the clock and chosen the moral choice, that might have resulted in a longer recovery but our country would have been better for it. Time will tell.
This is a really well done work. I would have liked to have had a cheat sheet so I could keep up with all the financial lingo that would be easy to follow on the written page. Regardless, McLean and Nocera weave a story of greed and more greed. Enough was never enough. The sad part is that the poeple who got hurt the most -- those who lost their homes and their investments -- can't put their finger on any one person. McLean and Nocera make that clear.
What is clear is that there was no adult supervision from the regulators during the Bush Era. Yes, it started at the end of the Clinton years but it simply accelerated out of control. Nonetheless, had the government NOT stepped in '08, it's also pretty plain the financial nightmare that we've lived through would have been deeper and incredibly more painful. The big question is: did we as Americans truly learn anything from the mess? Look how long it has taken for the government to clean up the mess that was Fannie and Freddie. So how do we avoid a replay? Paraphrasing Adm Hyman Rickover who said, responding to a 1950s Congressional question about what he'd recommend to keep the military industrial complex in check, "Gentlemen, every other year put one of their presidents in jail -- regardless if he's done anything. It will keep the others in check."
That approach 50-plus-years-on certainly would chasten Wall Street's enthusiasm to run wild.
World Champion Parallel Parker
This book is an explanation of how our recent economic crisis evolved. It's extremely complex, but it does seem to be comprehensive. I appreciate that the authors do not randomly blame any one party.
This is a terrific book. It is an abosute must for anybody even remotely interested in the causes of the financial meltdown of 2008-2009. Joe Nocera and Bethany McLean have done an amazing job of economic detective work. They've located all the clues (or at least what seems like all), connected the dots, and shown the full tapestry of economic dysfunction that had become an integral part of the United States' financial system. And, they describe how corporate and personal greed and arrogance made it even worse. The book is very lucidly written. I thought I understood securitized mortage instuments and credit default swaps. I was wrong. This book explained those instruments, and other convoluted financial products, in a manner that was surprisingly comprehensive and easy to follow. The reader is excellent. Highly, highly recommended.
I like books that have interesting characters and easy to follow plots. For example, Cormoran Strike, is a great character for me.
Tracing the history of the 2008 financial crisis to its roots is a terrifying process. The authors fully explore the politics, greed and plain stupidity of all the parties involved. After reading this book, I came to realize that we are all little pawns in the terrible game of global politics. It was a great book but at times hard going.
I enjoyed the book in audio form. Each chapter seems to have its own uniqueness. So, it was easy to listen to one or two chapters in each sitting. Good content.
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