Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World (英語) ハードカバー – 2011/10/3
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Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers. The Greeks wanted to turn their country into a pinata stuffed with cash and allow as many citizens as possible to take a whack at it. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish Michael Lewis's investigation of bubbles beyond our shores is so brilliantly, sadly hilarious that it leads the American reader to a comfortable complacency: oh, those foolish foreigners. But when he turns a merciless eye on California and Washington, DC, we see that the narrative is a trap baited with humor, and we understand the reckoning that awaits the greatest and greediest of debtor nations.
Michael Lewis possesses the rare storyteller 's ability to make virtually any subject both lucid and compelling. In his new book, Boomerang, he actually makes topics like European sovereign debt, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank not only comprehensible but also fascinating The book could not be more timely given the worries about Europe 's deepening debt crisis and the recent warning issued by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the I.M.F., that 'the current economic situation is entering a dangerous phase.' Combining his easy familiarity with finance and the talents of a travel writer, Mr. Lewis sets off in these pages to give the reader a guided tour through some of the disparate places hard hit by the fiscal tsunami of 2008, like Greece, Iceland and Ireland, tracing how very different people for very different reasons gorged on the cheap credit available in the prelude to that disaster. The book based on articles Mr. Lewis wrote for Vanity Fair magazine is a companion piece of sorts to The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, his bestselling 2010 book about the fiscal crisis. Like that earlier book its focus is narrow. It doesn t aspire to provide a broad overview of the debt crisis but instead hands the reader a small but sparkling prism by which to view the problem, this time from a global perspective. At times Mr. Lewis can sound a lot like Evelyn Waugh: shrewd, observant and savagely judgmental, dispensing crude generalizations about other countries, even as he pokes fun at himself as a disaster tourist. Mr. Lewis 's ability to find people who can see what is obvious to others only in retrospect or who somehow embody something larger going on in the financial world is uncanny. And in this book he weaves their stories into a sharp-edged narrative that leaves readers with a visceral understanding of the fiscal recklessness that lies behind today 's headlines about Europe 's growing debt problems and the risk of contagion they
Michael Lewis possesses the rare storyteller s ability to make virtually any subject both lucid and compelling. In his new book, Boomerang, he actually makes topics like European sovereign debt, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank not only comprehensible but also fascinating The book could not be more timely given the worries about Europe s deepening debt crisis and the recent warning issued by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the I.M.F., that 'the current economic situation is entering a dangerous phase.' Combining his easy familiarity with finance and the talents of a travel writer, Mr. Lewis sets off in these pages to give the reader a guided tour through some of the disparate places hard hit by the fiscal tsunami of 2008, like Greece, Iceland and Ireland, tracing how very different people for very different reasons gorged on the cheap credit available in the prelude to that disaster. The book based on articles Mr. Lewis wrote for Vanity Fair magazine is a companion piece of sorts to The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, his bestselling 2010 book about the fiscal crisis. Like that earlier book its focus is narrow. It doesn t aspire to provide a broad overview of the debt crisis but instead hands the reader a small but sparkling prism by which to view the problem, this time from a global perspective. At times Mr. Lewis can sound a lot like Evelyn Waugh: shrewd, observant and savagely judgmental, dispensing crude generalizations about other countries, even as he pokes fun at himself as a disaster tourist. Mr. Lewis s ability to find people who can see what is obvious to others only in retrospect or who somehow embody something larger going on in the financial world is uncanny. And in this book he weaves their stories into a sharp-edged narrative that leaves readers with a visceral understanding of the fiscal recklessness that lies behind today s headlines about Europe s growing debt problems and the risk of contagion they now pose to the world. "
Michael Lewis著ではライアーズ・ポーカー(Liar's Poker)以来の洋書に挑戦。マネーボール、世紀の空売りなどと変わらないユーモアのある展開がとても読みやすかった。冒頭で借金大国の日本についても少し触れているが、日本が題材になるときも近いのか、、、？そうならないことを願いたい。
In Lewis' latest book, "Boomerang," the subtitle is, "Travels in the New Third World." Lewis is not referring to Asian or Latin American countries here. He's talking about European countries that drank the elixir of seemingly endless and cheap credit prior to the bursting of the recent financial bubble. To say that cheap credit transformed the economies in Greece, Ireland and Iceland, for example, is to understate the impact of the financial bubble on these countries. Talk about a timely book--I am writing this during September 2011, and yet this book refers to the recent downgrade of U.S. debt, which occured only last month, beginning on page 171.
As in many of Lewis' books, there's a new person who you probably never heard of before to meet. In "Moneyball" it was Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, and in "The Big Short" it was Steve Eisman, Michael Burry and others. This time it's Kyle Bass, the manager of a Dallas-based hedge fund, who Lewis makes sound both very insightful and eccentric. What would you call a man who owns a 40,000 square foot ranch located on thousands of acres in the middle of nowhere with its own water supply and an arsenal of automatic weapons? Or someone who would recommend "guns and gold" for his mother? Anyway, the gist of Bass' financial analysis is that mountains of shaky debt (arising from borrowings during 2002 - 2006 by people who couldn't repay) was essentially transferred from private institutions (like banks, etc.) to various governments, to the point that eventually markets would question the credibility of these governments. Put differently, the public debt of certain countries wasn't just the official public debt, but also that which came from supporting various private institutions.
Bass, Lewis tells us, visited Harvard professor Ken Rogoff (coauthor of "This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly," which I recommend), and found even Rogoff to be surprised by the magnitude of the public debt problems. Just as Bass bought credit default swaps on subprime mortgages prior to the financial crisis, Bass later bought credit default swaps on Greek government bonds, because he was convinced that Greece would be one of the first countries to experience real problems. Bass expected the swaps he purchased for 1,100 per year per million to eventually be worth 700,000.
Anyway, Lewis interviewed Bass years ago in preparation for writing "The Big Short," but he "left Kyle Bass on the cutting room floor." Lewis returned to Dallas two and a half years later, this time to find that Bass was betting most heavily against Japan and France at the time. Bass also had literally bought 20 million U.S. nickels (don't ask how), because he said the value of the metals in each nickel was worth 6.8 cents. The majority of this book is devoted to Lewis' travels in Iceland, Greece, Ireland and Germany, and to his discoveries during his travels. To get a flavor for the book and Lewis' writing style, here are some of Lewis' passages, in his own words:
Iceland: "Iceland instantly became the only nation on earth that Americans could point to and say, `Well, at least we didn't do that!'"
Greece: "As it turned out, what the Greeks wanted to do, once the lights went out and they were alone in the dark with a pile of borrowed money, was to turn their government into a pinata stuffed with fantastic sums and give as many citizens as possible a whack at it."
Ireland: "But while the Icelandic male used foreign money to conquer foreign places--trophy companies in Britain, chunks of Scandinavia--the Irish male used foreign money to conquer Ireland. Left alone in a dark room with a pile of money, the Irish decided what they really wanted to do was buy Ireland. From each other."
Germany: "Either Germans must agree to integrate Europe fiscally, so that Germany and Greece bear the same relationship to each other as, say, Indiana and Mississippi (the tax dollars of ordinary Germans would go into a common coffer and be used to pay for the lifestyles of ordinary Greeks) or the Greeks (and probably, eventually, every non-German) must introduce `structural reforms,' a euphemism for magically and radically transforming themselves into a people as efficient and productive as the Germans."
Quoting Lewis quote UCLA neuroscientist Peter Whybrow in the book's last chapter (on California's financial problems, not European countries), Lewis writes, "'Human beings are wandering around with brains that are fabulously limited. We've got the core of the average lizard.' Wrapped around this reptilian core is a mammalian layer (associated with maternal concern and social interaction), and around that is wrapped a third layer, which enables feats of memory and the capacity for abstract thought. 'The only problem is our passions are still driven by the lizard core.' Even a person on a diet who sensibly avoids coming face-to-face with a piece of chocolate cake will find it hard to control himself if the chocolate cake somehow finds him. Every pastry chef in America understands this, and now nueroscience does, too. 'In that moment the value of eating the chocolate cake exceeds the value of the diet. We cannot think down the road when we are faced with the chocolate cake.' ... Everywhere you turn you see Americans sacrifice their long-term interests for a short-term reward."
Love him or not, Michael Lewis is a talented writer, and I truly believe that most readers will have a hard time putting this book down. If you have enjoyed his earlier books, the decision to purchase this one seems to be a no-brainer. If you haven't read one of his earlier books, this one is worthy of your consideration.
1- "The subprime mortgage crisis was more symptom than cause. The deeper social and economic problems that gave rise to it remained. The moment that investors woke up to this reality, they would cease to think of big Western governments as essentially risk-free and demand higher interest to lend to them. When the interest rates on their borrowing rose, these governments would plunge further into debt, leading to further rises in the interest rates they were charged to borrow. In a few especially alarming cases - Greece, Ireland, Japan - it wouldn't take much of a rise in interest rates for budgets to be consumed entirely by interest payments on debt...The moment the financial markets realized this, investor sentiment would shift. The moment investor sentiment shifted, these governments would default. And then what? The financial crisis of 2008 was suspended only because investors believed that governments could borrow whatever they needed to rescue their banks. What happened when the governments themselves ceased to be credible. There was another, bigger, financial crisis waiting to happen - the only question in Kyle Bass's mind was when."
2- "When you borrow a lot of money to create a false prosperity, you import the future into the present. It isn't the actual future so much as some grotesque silicone version of it. Leverage buys a glimpse of a prosperity you haven't really earned. The striking thing about the future the Icelandic male briefly imported was how much it resembled the past that he celebrates. I'm betting now they've seen their false future the Icelandic female will have a great deal more o say about the actual one."
3- "The costs of running the Greek government are only half the failed equation: there's also the matter of government revenues."
4- "The structure of the Greek economy is collectivist, but the country, in spirit, is the opposite of a collective. Its real structure is every man for himself. Into this system investors had poured hundreds of billions of dollars. And the credit boom had pushed the country over the edge, into total moral collapse."
5- "The Irish real estate bubble was different from the American version in may ways. It wasn't disguised, for a start. It didn't require a lot of complicated financial engineering beyond the understanding of mere mortals. It also wasn't as cynical. There aren't a lot Irish financiers, or real estate people, who have emerged with a future. In America the banks went down but the big shots in them still got rich; in Ireland the big shots went down with the banks."
6- "The Greeks not only have massive debts but are still running big deficits. Trapped by an artificially strong currency, they cannot turn deficits into surpluses, even if they do everything outsiders want them to do. Their exports, priced in euros, remain expensive. The German government wants the Greeks to slash the size of their government, but that will also slow economic growth and reduce tax revenues. And so one of two things must happen. Either the Germans must agree to integrate Europe fiscally, so that Germany and Greece bear the same relationship to each other as, say, Indiana and Mississippi - the tax dollars of ordinary Germans would go into the coffer and be used to pay for the lifestyle of ordinary Greeks - or the Greeks (and probably, eventually, every non-German) must introduce "structural reform," a euphemism for magically and radically transforming themselves into a people as efficient and productive as the Germans. The first solution is pleasant for Greeks but painful for Germans. The second solution is pleasant for the Germans but painful, possibly even suicidal, for Greeks."
7- "The curious thing about the eruption of cheap and indiscriminate lending of money between 2002 and 2008 was the different effects it had from country to country. Every developed country was subjected to more or less the same temptation, but no two countries responded in precisely the same way. Much of Europe had borrowed money cheaply to buy stuff it couldn't honestly afford. In effect, lots of non-Germans had used Germany's credit rating to indulge their material desires. The Germans were the exception. Given the chance to take something for nothing the German people simply ignored the offer. "There was no credit boom in Germany," says Asmussen. "Real estate prices were completely flat. There was no borrowing for consumption. Because this behavior is totally unacceptable in Germany. This is what the German people are. This is deeply in German genes. It is perhaps a leftover of the collective memory of the Great Depression and the hyperinflation of the 1920s." The German government was equally prudent because, he went on, "there is a consensus among the different parties about this: if you're not adhering to fiscal responsibility you have no chance in elections, because the people are that way."
8- "When people pile up debts they will find difficult and perhaps even impossible to repay, they are saying several things at once. They are obviously saying that they want more than they can immediately afford. They are saying, less obviously, that their present wants are so important that, to satisfy them, it is worth some future difficulty. But in making that bargain they are implying that when the future difficulty arrives, they'll figure it out. They don't always do that. But you can never rule out the possibility that they will. As idiotic as optimism can sometimes seem, it has a weird habit of paying off."
Lewis again talks to people hither and yon and makes interesting, if wholly unscientific, observations about national/racial psychological types and how these predilections lead the various groups to screw their clients or screw themselves in their efforts to earn easy income from investments that they don't understand. And of course, the root of all evil is the inability of
our species in general to forego instant gratification and act as if we were all members of one community and to see our own long term self interest as indiscernible from that of each and every other member of our community.
Eventually, when the haves find themselves vastly outnumbered by the have nots, there is a period of upheaval and the haves find out too late that their moats and drawbridges are not going to keep them or their stuff safe. I still don't understand why everyone doesn't follow Iceland's example.....
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