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Writing Wall Street's Collapse - Michael Lewis and James Kwak

From: Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon
Length: 59:00

Christopher Lydon in two conversations on the Wall Street collapse. In the first part of the hour Chris is with Michael Lewis, author of "The Big Short." Lewis describes the atmosphere of anxiety that created catastrophe through the stories of the few who got it right. In the second segment, Chris is talking with James Kwak, who says we live in a "Bank - o - cracy" where the financial elite has captured state power. Read the full description.

Michael-lewis_small

Christopher Lydon is in conversation with Michael Lewis in the first part of this hour on Wall Street's collapse:

Michael Lewis
 is the non-fiction novelist of our apocalyptic American mindset in 2010. The heroes of The Big Short, as he puts it in conversation “were betting on the end of the world… The only characters you can really trust are the people who are delivering a very, very dark message.”

Michael Lewis, remember, was never really a sportswriter, despiteMoneyballCoach and The Blind Side. Nor was he ever a finance guy, despite the prescience of Liar’s Poker and his sure touch now with the Wall Street collapse of 2007-2008. Michael Lewis’s real business and his genius instinct is for resonant social fables that just happen to play out on ballfields and bond markets.

The Big Short is a high literary feat, complete with a real-life “unreliable narrator,” a particularly despised contrarian bond dealer, Greg Lippmann, who was betting brazenly against his own market. “The guy selling the best ideas is a completely untrustworthy character,” the author remarks. The true center of The Big Short is an atmosphere of anxiety that has developed a taste for the catastrophic. Lewis’s short-selling characters resonate because they’re acting out our common sense of “the probability of extreme change” in financial markets and in real life. It’s an anxiety that envelops Tea Baggers and Greenpeaceniks in the same cloud of anger.


In the second part of the show, Chris talks with James Kwak:

James Kwak extends Michael Lewis’s point and feeds our fascination with apocalyptic hysteria and helpless torpor as the twin markers of American politics these days. He makes it believable that the angry Tea Party wackitude in the far countryside and the smug sleepiness inside the Beltway and the media mainstream are both symptoms of the same “quiet coup” that James Kwak and his writing partner Simon Johnson diagnosed in The Atlantic last Spring.

To Simon Johnson, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and now professor of entrepreneurship at MIT, the deeper condition of the American republic looks all too familiar. The essential problem — easily recognizable if we were looking at, say, Thailand or Korea or Russia — is known in the trade as “state capture,” meaning the accretion of overwhelming political power by a financial elite, an oligarchy, known in our case as Wall Street, or in the title of the riveting analysis by Johnson and Kwak, Thirteen Bankers. The idea of “capture” extends by now past the political parties, Congress and the controlling agencies of the executive branch. James Kwak, in conversation, quips that “capture” encompasses “media capture,” too, and “ideology capture.” And the same oligarchy seems to be working its will in foreign as well as domestic misadventures.

 

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Piece Description

Christopher Lydon is in conversation with Michael Lewis in the first part of this hour on Wall Street's collapse:

Michael Lewis
 is the non-fiction novelist of our apocalyptic American mindset in 2010. The heroes of The Big Short, as he puts it in conversation “were betting on the end of the world… The only characters you can really trust are the people who are delivering a very, very dark message.”

Michael Lewis, remember, was never really a sportswriter, despiteMoneyballCoach and The Blind Side. Nor was he ever a finance guy, despite the prescience of Liar’s Poker and his sure touch now with the Wall Street collapse of 2007-2008. Michael Lewis’s real business and his genius instinct is for resonant social fables that just happen to play out on ballfields and bond markets.

The Big Short is a high literary feat, complete with a real-life “unreliable narrator,” a particularly despised contrarian bond dealer, Greg Lippmann, who was betting brazenly against his own market. “The guy selling the best ideas is a completely untrustworthy character,” the author remarks. The true center of The Big Short is an atmosphere of anxiety that has developed a taste for the catastrophic. Lewis’s short-selling characters resonate because they’re acting out our common sense of “the probability of extreme change” in financial markets and in real life. It’s an anxiety that envelops Tea Baggers and Greenpeaceniks in the same cloud of anger.


In the second part of the show, Chris talks with James Kwak:

James Kwak extends Michael Lewis’s point and feeds our fascination with apocalyptic hysteria and helpless torpor as the twin markers of American politics these days. He makes it believable that the angry Tea Party wackitude in the far countryside and the smug sleepiness inside the Beltway and the media mainstream are both symptoms of the same “quiet coup” that James Kwak and his writing partner Simon Johnson diagnosed in The Atlantic last Spring.

To Simon Johnson, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and now professor of entrepreneurship at MIT, the deeper condition of the American republic looks all too familiar. The essential problem — easily recognizable if we were looking at, say, Thailand or Korea or Russia — is known in the trade as “state capture,” meaning the accretion of overwhelming political power by a financial elite, an oligarchy, known in our case as Wall Street, or in the title of the riveting analysis by Johnson and Kwak, Thirteen Bankers. The idea of “capture” extends by now past the political parties, Congress and the controlling agencies of the executive branch. James Kwak, in conversation, quips that “capture” encompasses “media capture,” too, and “ideology capture.” And the same oligarchy seems to be working its will in foreign as well as domestic misadventures.

 

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