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The big short : inside the doomsday machine…

The big short : inside the doomsday machine (original 2010; udgave 2011)

af Michael Lewis

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
4,1561502,122 (4.18)136
The author examines the causes of the U.S. stock market crash of 2008 and its relation to overpriced real estate, bad mortgages, shareholder demand for excessive profits, and the growth of toxic derivatives.
Titel:The big short : inside the doomsday machine
Forfattere:Michael Lewis
Info:London : Penguin, 2011.
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek

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The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine af Michael Lewis (2010)


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Viser 1-5 af 150 (næste | vis alle)
I am of two minds about this book. Either:

* Everyone in the world should read this book

... or ...

* No one should /ever/ read this book.

When The Big Short first came out, I heard about it on NPR, listened to a review on Planet Money, listened to an interview with Michael Lewis on Planet Money, heard several more people talk about this book, and then decided not to read it for 'rage management' reasons. Planet Money recently released their recommended books about the crash and the economy and, this time around, I felt enough time passed between the crash and now that the rage would be a lesser rage, that I would not throw my Kindle into the wall, and the teeth grinding would be lessened.

The Big Short is a concise history of Wall Street from 2003-2008. By following the lives, and trades, of several sets of investors who saw the crash coming from miles away, the book delves deeply into the world of mortgage backed securities. As well as anyone can, it explains bond trading, tranches, credit default swaps (CDS), collatoralized debt obligations (CDOs), and synthesized CDOs which are CDOs made, bewilderingly, of other CDOs. Then the book goes on to talk about the crazy trader at Deutsche Bank who ran around selling CDSes on everything, the bond trader group -- who used to be equity traders -- who went short on everything they could find, the doctor come hedge fund manager who fought endlessly to tell his investors that these no-doc, negative amortizing adjustable rate mortgages with 2 year teaser rates were going to blow up and they did not listen, the kids from Berkeley who tried to make a killing and the people who actually went long on these things.

The pinnacle of the book is the "Wing Chau" scene, where the equity trader met someone on the other side of his trades who, in 2006, when bonds were already going bad, was convinced of the status quo forever and ever. Then the equity trader went home going "oh my god..."

The game was rigged. In theory Americans would refinance every two years from one terrible mortgage to the next to generate endless fees to dump into endless bonds that pretended to be "riskless." In the end, the mortgage deals blew up and the huge bundles of bonds were not riskless. Housing did not increase in value forever.

And yes, the few people who saw it coming made hundreds of millions off the crash, but at what cost to society as a whole? Most of them left, never to return to the game. They made their money but the cost to themselves was so high it wasn't worth it anymore.

It's a story of massive collective delusion, of outright greed, of fraud, of lies, of gamed rating agencies, of banks shifting massive untold risk on to their shareholders, of normal banking becoming too 'boring', of an industry who sucked up trillions of dollars and produced nothing, and of people who were playing with things they had no hope of understanding. A story of a giant game played with people's homes and people's ignorance on a mass scale and turning the American homeowner into just one dot in a giant Ponzi Scheme that was bailed out, no questions asked, by the US Government with even more of the American homeowner's money.

The book has an incredibly hooky style. It's clear. It's concise. It's sarcastic. It's entertaining. It's compulsive. It reads quickly. It's also a drive by on a twenty car accident on a freeway. I want desperately to recommend it but I feel everyone who reads this book will promptly sell their house, pull their money out of the banks, and go live on a compound somewhere in Western Michigan.

Seriously two thumbs up but now, when I read the economics blogs -- all which recommend the Big Short -- I am always going to think about one bond trader screaming at another one: "I'M SHORTING YOUR HOUSE!"
( )
  multiplexer | Jun 20, 2021 |
Fantastic book. This author did an excellent job in character studies as well as explaining what the hell a credit default swap is. I would recommend this book if read in conjuction with another book, Sowell's, The Housing Boom and Bust, which explains the political decisions that were made to facilitate the creation of this market niche. ( )
  ABQcat | Jun 19, 2021 |
I'm actually a little bit angry that this was such a fun read, because I think that the view it presents of the crisis is fundamentally misleading - namely that it treats the financial crisis as a poker game, a bunch of bad beats, rather than what was, which was a series of major crimes that helped plunge the entire world into a catastrophic recession. This book is an account of the subprime mortgage bond meltdown on Wall Street in the years leading up to the latest recession we're still basically treading water in, 2005 to 2008. It centers on a handful of plucky underdog traders whose antisocial, anti consensus, anti-mainstream views helped them see through the miasma of manic speculation around them and eventually reap vast profits when everyone slowly realized that the products they had been frantically trading to each other were based on optimistic assumptions that they didn't understand or didn't care about.

It's an excellent tale ably told, with compelling characters, a strong narrative, plenty of clear exposition of notoriously abstruse financial products like credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations, and even a suspenseful plot arc as the clock on the Doomsday Machine of the subtitle ticks down to zero and people start losing billions of dollars. This would make for an excellent thriller novel, even if only people who actually worked on Wall Street would read it. Unfortunately, this is nonfiction targeted at a general audience, meaning it's supposed to be an accurate account of How Shit Went Down in the days before the financial crisis became everyone's crisis, and it's really lacking when you compare it to other accounts. Lewis' primary mistake is limiting his scope, and although the humanization admittedly improves the read, it completely leaves out the key lesson of the whole thing. He tells the story like it's a bunch of individual oddball traders bucking conventional wisdom through their superior research and what amounts to better math skills (one of the erstwhile heroes has Aspergers, which we're told helps him focus on his work better than the normies) in order to pursue essentially individual grudges in the small world of bond trading. It actually reads oddly like those parts of James Bond novels where he wins big in baccarat because he's a badass.

There are pages and pages of backstory on these traders operating in this world where ridiculous deals that no one understands are almost a given, and it's not until the end that you realize that some major questions don't get answered, like: are Our Heroes actually smarter than all these other traders? The book is certainly written that way, and there are several scenes where the opponents are shown to be idiots who don't reads prospectuses or question the flaws in their pricing models or consider what exactly it means to create all these nifty new types of securities. But does that imply that the crisis could have been avoided if everyone had bothered to do their research? I think the answer is clearly no, because multi-trillion dollar assets bubbles don't come about because someone's valuation formula can't handle negative numbers (as Lewis alleges), they come about because everyone is investing in garbage and simply looking for the next sucker, hoping to cash out their bonuses before the music stops. Lewis acts like there are somehow good guys in this story, those canny few who placed the right bets on the right financial products, but they aren't good at all when you look at the story from the outside, because what they're doing is indistinguishable from what Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank were doing.

It's easy to lose sight of that fact in the blizzard of financial terminology (which Lewis does a great job of explaining, probably thanks to his background as exactly this kind of trader), but as an ordinary citizen who doesn't think that bond traders do anything especially noble or interesting or beneficial to society, all I see is that a couple of rich people happened to be slightly better than some other rich people at keeping track of which insane bets they were making. The ultimate reason why we had a housing bubble, and why Lewis is writing about these people in the first place, is that traders exactly like the ones we're supposed to be rooting for got greedy when they thought they could make limitless amounts of money from nothing, and eventually they made a few bets too many. The key factor here isn't the stupidity of the traders, though there's certainly plenty of that; it's greed, because a lot of what this boils down to is fraud, plain and simple. That there haven't been more prosecutions speaks to both the timidity of the government and the incomprehension of the public (check out what happens in the trial that Lewis relegates to the last footnote).

I'm positive you could write equally interesting stories about previous crises like the South Sea bubble, tulipomania, the Mississippi Company, the dotcom era, and so forth (Lewis has also written about the S&L crisis, in a previous book I haven't read, and he has a forthcoming book about the fallout from this crisis), because as works like Reinhart & Rogoff's This Time Is Different show, asset bubbles all follow eerily similar scripts. The solution is not to simply make more clever trades and do better math (if someone like Isaac Newton can lose money on a speculative bubble, normal people haven't a prayer), the solution is to think carefully about what this kind of unregulated speculation really means in terms of the human lives out there who are somewhere out there beneath the ethereal whispers of CDSs and CDOs. The kind of gambling that all of these people are doing is corrosive and fundamentally different than what average commodity speculators are doing and should be doing, which is pricing risk and allocating capital.

In the foreword to the book Lewis tries to claim that he's always surprised that people seem to take his financial journalism in the same spirit as all those people who pump their fists to the "greed is good" speech from the movie Wall Street, but he's probably lying: the moral he presents isn't that piling derivatives on top of each other is retarded and bound to blow up in your face to the tune of many millions of dollars, it's that if you're a particular type of prickly savant you can tell rich people to fuck off whenever you feel like it and make zillions thanks to your misunderstood genius. Be a maverick! Fuck the suits! He's unquestionably glorifying the life of a bond trader, and while that's of course his prerogative, he can't claim to be totally unaware of the effect on the reader as he lovingly describes each clever deal and outsized return. The way he tells it, the only crimes committed here all involved not making enough money.

Meanwhile the actual fallout of all of this excitement - i.e. trillions of dollars of real money gone, economies around the world in ruins, widespread riots, and unknown but probably horrible political shifts as society's elites smoothly escape any real consequences for their actions and consolidate their power - gets relegated to the epilogue. This is the anti-Griftopia, a book that takes the insane world of high finance on its own terms almost without reference to the real world. He wants you to root for the main characters, even though they're betting against the housing market! Would you high-five a guy who won $50 betting that his next-door neighbor couldn't pay his mortgage? This was a good read, but a terrible way to understand the financial crisis, and it sucks that people who have never seen Inside Job or read Naked Capitalism will take this to heart without getting into the larger, and more important story beyond these "genius" traders. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Remember that lady in NYC that was mugged and almost beaten to death while the people in the surrounding buildings watched but didn't call the police? This book describes the recent financial crisis from the point of view of those watching and TAKING BETS on how badly she would be beaten. Difficult to read because the author seems to think they were really swell and smart to figure out there was a mugging going on. Other than that it was a nice book. ( )
  frfeni | Jan 31, 2021 |
I don't have any complaints. Maybe some extra background info would be nice but I can use wikipedia for that. ( )
  Paul_S | Dec 23, 2020 |
Viser 1-5 af 150 (næste | vis alle)
Thinking about the subprime crisis with the benefit of da Vinci’s distance, it struck me anew how Darwinian and predatory the whole system is. One constantly has to ask, Cui Bono: “Who benefits?” And Ubi Est Mea: “Where’s mine?” One of Eisman’s traders was constantly obsessed with how the party on the other side might screw him (though “screw” was not the word used). That is probably a good attitude to have on Wall Street.
By focusing so precisely on the particular, Lewis makes the objects of his scrutiny stand for the whole of the financial world: its obscurantism, under-regulation and wildly short-termist institutional profiteering; the bank bosses’ reluctance to scrutinise the mechanics and risks of their most profitable divisions; and the general refusal to understand the connection between the profits made and the dangerous actuality they were based on: in this case, the deliberately over-complicated financial “instruments” and the poor Americans who were about to default on their mortgages.
tilføjet af mercure | RedigerThe Telegraph, David Flusfeder (Apr 10, 2010)
In his new book, Lewis is neither obnoxious nor charming. The skies have fallen. The market Wall Street created in the housing debt of the very poorest Americans, so-called "sub-prime" mortgage bonds and various derivative securities, which fell to bits in 2007 and all but engulfed the world in 2008, is the greatest financial fraud since the 18th century. Men and women who once made us laugh now make us shudder. In other words, The Big Short is not half the fun of Liar's Poker, but it is more important.
tilføjet af mikeg2 | RedigerThe guardian, James Buchan (Mar 27, 2010)
Lewis is a gifted chronicler and debunker and demystifier of the world of finance.
tilføjet af r.orrison | RedigerBoing Boing, Cory Doctorow (Mar 18, 2010)
No one writes with more narrative panache about money and finance than Mr. Lewis, the author of “Liar’s Poker,” that now classic portrait of 1980s Wall Street. His entertaining new book does not attempt a macro view of the financial crisis, but instead proposes to open a small window on the calamities by recounting the stories of some savvy renegades who cashed in on their conviction that the system was rotten.

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The author examines the causes of the U.S. stock market crash of 2008 and its relation to overpriced real estate, bad mortgages, shareholder demand for excessive profits, and the growth of toxic derivatives.

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