Maybe I should just make this site a Michael Lewis fan page and be done with, but I can’t help but point to his new Vanity Fair piece on the Greek financial crisis. As usual he deftly explains what most every other journalist glossed over, assuming that I, as the reader, already understood (which maybe I should have).
My favorite bit probably comes at the beginning of the whole piece:
The tsunami of cheap credit that rolled across the planet between 2002 and 2007 has just now created a new opportunity for travel: financial-disaster tourism. The credit wasn’t just money, it was temptation. It offered entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge. Entire countries were told, “The lights are out, you can do whatever you want to do and no one will ever know.” What they wanted to do with money in the dark varied. Americans wanted to own homes far larger than they could afford, and to allow the strong to exploit the weak. Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers, and to allow their alpha males to reveal a theretofore suppressed megalomania. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish. All these different societies were touched by the same event, but each responded to it in its own peculiar way.
A few paragraphs later he pays it off by explaining the Greek approach: “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 turn their government into a piñata stuffed with fantastic sums and give as many citizens as possible a whack at it.”
As a side note, while I was on my honeymoon I met a Greek man who had left the country a while ago, first living in the US and now in Switzerland. He explained to me that no one in Greece paid taxes. Like no one. Ever. Which I didn’t quite believe until I read this and saw the some quotes that were almost word for word conversations he and I had in France in June.