Trillion Dollar Meltdown

I’ve been reading A Trillion Dollar Meltdown by Charles R Morris. The author is clearly a committed capitalist, but also one who has read Adam Smith and gets the need for transparency, honesty, and ethics if capitalism is to begin to  live up to the promises made to the majority who labor under it. I’m not a fan of capitalism and am skeptical of its claim to being the only system that works, yet I appreciate those capitalists who accept that ethics are important, regulation is required, and the good of society as a whole must be remembered.

Morris gives a quick, clear overview of what created the currenrt economic mess. Republicans and Deomcrats are equally to blame, tho both will continue to distract us by pointing fingers at “them.” More fundamental is the willingness to let greedy people run the country — business, government, media, academics — and even to be insopired by them. While better leadership is called for, it won’t be enough to counteract the moral vapidness 0f consumerism. We require a more Dhammic culture.

A review in The New York Review of Books, by Jeff Madrick, begins:

Charles Morris’s informed and unusual book, The Trillion Dollar Meltdown, provides a decisive rebuttal to all such excuse-making and blame of “government.” Morris makes it clear that it was an unquenchable thirst for easy profits that led commercial and investment banks in the US and around the world—as well as hedge funds, insurance companies, private equity firms, and other financial institutions—to take unjustifiable risks for their own gain, and in so doing jeopardize the future of the nation’s credit system and now the economy itself. In fact, government-sponsored entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, did have a part in the crisis, but not because they were principally trying to help the poor buy homes. Rather, they were also trying to maximize their profits and justify large salaries and bonuses for their executives. They had been made into publicly traded companies in 1989.

If you would like a clear, quick overview of what happened and why the old hands off approach of the last 20 years won’t work, read this book. Btw, I’m grateful for our local library system providing quality reads, good service, and friendly conversation.

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