Review: Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

I enjoyed Michael Lewis’s The Big Short so much that when I saw this bit of gonzo economics writing, I jumped in.  Boomerang has the feel of those P. J. O’Rourke books where P.J. travels to some hell-hole where history is happening and writes about it with panache.  I don’t think Lewis is as funny as O’Rourke, but I think he can be more insightful.

These are basically a set of well researched and well written essays about current economic hotspots.  Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany, and the US all take a turn in the hot seat.  Lewis knows what he’s talking about and knows how to pick a telling story to support his points.  He’s constructing an interesting view of the global mess we’re in the middle of.  Boomerang is interesting and thought provoking.

If there’s anything I disagree with about the book, it’s how much of the crisis he puts down to national character.  While it is difficult to argue that nations don’t have character, those characters don’t change much over time.  It is a fun idea that Icelanders believe they can be investment bankers because their fishing economy rewards self-assurance.  If he’s right, though, Icelanders have been that way for a long time. I would rather know what unique opportunity presented itself to magnify the effect of those traits so much.

Even if you don’t fully believe it, Boomerang puts many interesting facts and theories on the table in a very entertaining way.


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