This is an energy drink book. It is all the testosterone genres in one. A comparable experience would be cramming all of Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire into one weekend, except Roger Lowenstein has written a history The End Of Wall Street that is not to be forgotten.
The subject is the 2008 financial collapse of banking and finance but he begins the history with the Reagan era of deregulation and the misidentified ghosts of the Great Depression. Neither politics nor banking are given a pass. A rogues’ gallery opens the book. One of the people to emerge with reputation enhanced is mutual-fund manager Bob Rodriguez, CEO of First Pacific Advisors. Exhausted by the battle against the stampeding herd, he began a one-year sabbatical in 2010. Another who rose above the herd was Sheila C. Bair, chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
The two high profile government men still in town are Ben Bernanke, chairman of Federal Reserve, and Timothy Geithner who has moved from president of Federal Reserve Bank of New York to succeed Hank Paulson as Secretary of Treasury. Should you feel protected? Only if you think two bungling Boy Scouts can overcome the ignorance and incompetence of their past. The author spends no time in name calling or vindictiveness. He has no need. He describes their learning as they go so well one is tempted to call it internships.
How did things go so wrong when these politicians and bankers were the elite of America? From vastly different backgrounds they were nevertheless privileged by education and employment. They were more than well compensated. It is as though they became converts to an earlier hedonist religion of hubris, greed, and risk. It was worship, feast, dance, indulge, again and again.
Have enough of us learned that we were duped by these sunshine boys and that we must demand public and private leaders with a better grounding in history and economics? Have we learned that politicians who appeal to economic and social fears and use Tea Party rants are not qualified to serve? Have we learned to pay our debts and prepare for times when crop yields are low?
Your answer to those questions is probably no better or worse than mine so I leave them unanswered. A useful preparatory step to being a responsible citizen and investor would be to read this masterful history. Charles Marlin