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Book Review by Simon Basketter, May 2009
Paul Mason, Verso; £7.99
Hedge fund manager Andrew Lahde is quoted in Meltdown: "I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, ie idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people...rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman...making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America."
Lahde and other like him litter the pages of Mason's fast paced account of the financial crisis. As a narrative of how the crisis unwound the book is excellent. But it also attempts to explain what happened with popular and understandable explanations of just what hedge funds and credit default swaps actually are.
Mason argues the crisis marks the death of neoliberalism and carries a useful attack on the ideology that underpinned the decades of privatisation and deregulation.
Less convincing are the explanations of the underlying causes and the solutions offered to the crisis. Mason uses the economist Hyman Minsky as the basis of his proposed solution of "socialising the banks" and some wealth redistribution as the way out. However, all his own evidence suggests far more fundamental change is necessary. Nonetheless, the book provides a clear exposition of how the bankers got us into the mess that they now want us to pay for.
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