Greed 101

The Trillion Dollar Meltdown
Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash
Charles R. Morris
PublicAffairs Books, $22.95, 224 pp.

If you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t understand why the economy is such a mess. What you do know is that gas costs almost $4 a gallon, every trip to the grocery store is a shock, your neighbor’s house is in foreclosure, your 401(k) is shrinking, and you didn’t go to Europe this summer because the dollar plummeted. You may have heard that something called Bear Stearns collapsed, and that heads are rolling on Wall Street, but you don’t know a hedge fund from a privet hedge or a credit default swap from a parish swap meet. The cascade of bad economic news feels both overwhelming and mystifying.

If that’s you, then Charles R. Morris’s The Trillion Dollar Meltdown is a book you need to read. A lawyer and former banker, as well as a distinguished writer on business and finance (and Commonweal contributor), Morris cuts through the bafflements of modern finance to explain why the credit markets crashed in October 2007. In the process, he demystifies financial terms and jargon, linking them in an overarching narrative that extends from the Nixon administration to today and offering a brilliant analysis of how the ideological paradigm of free markets and deregulation contained the seeds of its own destruction.

The Trillion Dollar Meltdown is objective, but not dispassionate....

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