Michael Lewis: The Financial Crisis is a Moral Crisis

Iceland; Ireland; Greece; California.  They are all in trouble – deep, serious trouble.  The debts are massive.  The way out looks…  well, there doesn’t seem to be a very workable way out.

And the financial situation in other corners of the globe have ripple effects in every corner of the globe like never before.  What happens here does not stay here, not in the financial arena.

This is the disturbing message of the new Michael Lewis book, Boomerang:  Travels in the New Third World.  I’m reading this book, and preparing a synopsis for a client group.  It is Michael Lewis at his best – great storytelling, with plenty of “this is really important, and genuinely enlightening” insights.  I have read, and presented three other books by Lewis:  The New, New Thing; Moneyball; The Big Short.  They are all still worth reading.  This new one, Boomerang, just adds to my appreciation of Lewis as a writer and thinker, even as it adds to my understanding of the current fiscal crisis.

But it is more than a financial crisis alone.  It is a moral crisis.  Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Lewis conducted by Fareed Zakaria.

Lewis:
“I think we get the democracy we deserve, and in California it’s very hard to argue otherwise.  We have essentially direct democracy – all big fiscal decisions are made by the people by plebiscite.  And the idea that somehow in essence the people are not getting what they want – they are getting what they want.  That’s the problem.
They (the people in California) are getting what they want.  They want public services, and they don’t want to pay for them.  They want to cheat the future for the present.  And that’s not just a financial problem.  That’s a cultural/moral problem.”  (emphasis added).

A moral crisis.  And a moral crisis requires a moral solution.  And, so far, I’m not reading much in the solution department.

We live in a troubling time.

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Here’s the interview with Lewis.  The excert above is just after 3:30 in the video.

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