This is a collection of essays on the financial state of several countries – I believe most of them have been published in some form previously, but this is the first time they’ve been collected like this. He starts with Iceland, which he profiled in Vanity Fair a while back, and goes through how they became a massively overleveraged nation several years ago before collapsing. Then goes through the recent histories and situations in Greece, Ireland, Germany and the United State.

I enjoyed the book, like all books by Lewis. I had some trouble with the overarching generalizations about each culture – I found them to be caricatures and borderline offensive – more useful for telling an interesting story than for real help in understanding what’s going on.

But understanding the basics of the financial situations in each country, in a comparative way, really helped me think about what’s happening in Europe overall right now, and to think about the implications in the United States as our state and local governments run out of money. (Lewis’ analysis, or at least implication, is that sooner or later, in spite of our Federal laws and the Fed itself, that we will start to see the sort of fiduciary divergence that Europe is seeing between Northern and Southern Europe – where California is our Greece and the other, more fiscally conservative states get tired of bailing it out.)

I don’t totally buy that point of view, but very useful in thinking through why it’s reasonable, why things here hold the way they do, and why one path for Europe is a more united polity. Nothing is ever apples-to-apples in something like this, but definitely worth reading and thinking about, and an enjoyable read like everything Lewis writes.

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