The Rapacious Blur

Green means money, dough, skin, ball, quid, of course. The financial meltdown that hit the news last fall and slowly bled over most of the entire planet is recounted in two new books, which are in turn reviewed by MK in the NYT. Fool’s Gold by Gillian Tett and Dumb Money by Daniel Gross both look like decent post-mortems that gnaw on some of my favorite bones like the corruption of business schools and suburban real estate speculation. Looking at them, both also paint gobs of parallel context onto what has become the Eco Hustle that we know so well.

It was also a disaster, he [Gross] notes, with “plenty of blame to go around,” including “poor regulation, eight years of a failed Republican economic philosophy, Wall Street-friendly Democrats who helped stymie reform, misguided bipartisan efforts to promote home ownership, Wall Street greed, corrupt C.E.O.’s, a botched rescue effort” and poor judgment calls on the part of the Fed, and top bankers who in many cases did not even understand the derivatives their firms were trading in.

In short the current global financial crisis is a story about people who thought they were the smartest guys in the room and who turned out to be remarkably naïve, reckless or, in some cases, downright stupid. It’s a story — novelistic in its narrative and moral arc — about hubris and greed and heedlessness, about people, as Fitzgerald wrote in “The Great Gatsby,” who “smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness” and “let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Sometimes you don’t even have to substitute any words to have the stories turn out so strikingly similar. So maybe we can chalk it up to getting knowing-er about the what when the next when comes. It’s good that competent experts like these can find publishers, and I usually enjoy Kakutani’s slightly-more-than-just-the-facts style.