Review of “Boomerang” by Michael Lewis

This book contains a short introduction followed by five of Lewis’ recent articles (mostly from Vanity Fair, I believe) on the sovereign portion of the current financial crisis.

There are articles on Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany, and the US (the US portion is devoted mostly to California). I had read most of the articles before, and I believe they’re available online.

The introduction was the most interesting part, since I think I had read all the other parts. The introduction sets up the rest of the book through a chat with Kyle Bass. The Daily Mail sums up Bass in the following headline: "Meet the Texan investor who made millions from the credit crunch…and now he stands to make 65,000% profit if Europe goes down the drain."

Lewis describes Bass’ views by quoting him as follows:

“We’ve never had this kind of accumulation of debt in world history,” said Bass. Critically, the big banks that had extended much of this credit were no longer treated as private enterprises but as extensions of their local governments, sure to be bailed out in a crisis. The public debt of rich countries already stood at what appeared to be dangerously high levels and, in response to the crisis, was rapidly growing. But the public debt of these countries was no longer the official public debt. As a practical matter it included the debts inside each country’s banking system, which, in another crisis, would be transferred to the government.

So he shorted a bunch of European sovereigns before doing so was cool. Lewis embarks on these trips to see what Bass has shorted, and the results aren’t pretty.

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