My review of Michael Lewis’ new book The Big Short appears in the Christian Science Monitor this morning. If you’ve read Lewis before (Moneyball, Liar’s Poker), you know he can spin a good tale. The Big Short is no exception. The most rewarding aspect of the book, though, is that it provides a clear but comprehensive primer on the factors that caused the 2008 financial crash:
CDOs took the worst pieces of each subprime bond and recombined them into a new product that was meant to appear less risky than the sum of its parts. The gambit was like a meatpacker grinding together bits of bone and gristle and calling it top sirloin, and it worked because Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s – the meat inspectors of the financial world – were either asleep at the wheel or on the take, depending on your level of cynicism. Regardless, CDOs opened the possibility of an infinite regress of wagers – a bet on a bet on a bet – and enabled speculation in subprime mortgage bonds to reach the economy-destroying heights that it did.