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As a fan of Lowenstein's earlier book about LTCM implosion, I snatched this up the minute it was available. Unlike the LTCM story, however, most of us have lived through the recent crisis in real-time and have probably read quite a bit of what was happening ad nauseum. Although Lowenstien has done in homework, as usual, and supplies us with "fly-on-the-wall" tidbits, such as conversations that took palce inside boardroom meetings.
What the book does mainly is to paint a more nuanced and complete picture of the crisis, tracing it back to its early origin. The media has tried to pin the blame on specific persons (such as Greenspan or the greedy bank CEOs) or institutions (such as Goldman), but the truth is much more murky. We get a better glimpse on the CEOs, who acted on both peer pressure and their own ignorance about the actual complexity of the products. The political landscape is also an important factor, which has to do with Democrats that pushed homeownership and its unintended consequences.
For me, the book answers (though not definitely), some lingering questions, such as why the Fed decided not to bail out Lehman, and whether Henry Paulson was only the banks' interest.
Compared to Michael Lewis's "The Big Short," which cuts a narrow swath by focusing on several fringe players who profited from their prescience, "The End of Wall Street" is more like the definitive recounting that covers all the bases. I would strongly recommend reading both books to get the full picture.
As for the narration, I personally find it amateurish and annoying. He sounds like a college kid doing a bad impression of an old-time PSA (he hits the last word of each sentence hard and quick). I find the voice not only lacks gravitas but worse yet, sounds as if he's just "reading" without real comprehension. Check out the sample before making your decision.
25 of 25 people found this review helpful
The book is a chronicle of events before and around the financial crisis of 2008. It is attempting to tell the story of the financial crisis in a similar fashion to the author’s best book, "When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management ". Unfortunately, this book does not come close. If you’re looking for a book similar to the story of LTCM, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The span of the coverage is so vast that inevitably leads to a shallow coverage of the events. Unlike the LTCM book, this book lacks characters and the real people. The reader never gets to know anybody beyond the media headlines.
Throughout the book, the author, perhaps intentionally, avoids passing a definitive judgment on any government official or most of Wall Street Execs. It appears, however, that he is more willing to blame free markets for the crisis. He does point out that government was partly responsible for the meltdown by forcing Fannie and Freddie to lend freely in pursuit of universal home ownership (as if credit worthiness can somehow be legislated). In many ways the book is balanced, perhaps too balanced, to the point that it feels like the author did not want to make enemies.
At the end, like many other books written about the financial crisis of 2008, it declares the end of capitalism as we know it. I’ll just remind the readers that this claim has been made many times in the past. To blame free markers for crises is to blame free will for human crimes. It’s only an excuse to avoid accepting responsibility for risky/culpable behavior.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful