I was pleasantly surprised this morning when I woke up to find the first review of Bailout Nation was written, by Eddy Elfenbein of Crossing Wall Street.

It is very long and thoughtful and I am thrilled with it.


In Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy, Barry Ritholtz takes on that question with gusto and the result is a wonderfully engaging book. Bailout Nation describes not only what happened and what went wrong, but also why. Don’t worry, you don’t need an advanced degree in economics to follow the story. Bailout Nation manages to be both comprehensive and easy to read.

Ritholtz is already known to countless investors through his invaluable blog, The Big Picture. (Full disclose: He’s been a supporter of CWS from its earliest days.) I have to confess to having some initial reservations about Ritholtz’s book. What makes him a great blogger, I feared, might not transfer well to a 300-page sustained argument. Let’s just say that Ritholtz isn’t exactly a “shades of gray” kind of guy. When a rapier is needed, Ritholtz is fully willing to use a cluster bomb. If you don’t think it’s possible to get a true sense of moral outrage over, say, the latest BLS report, well…you haven’t read The Big Picture.

Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. Ritholtz does very well in book form. His editor, Aaron Task, served him well; the prose is compact and well-organized, though I’m fairly certain of the sentences where Ritholtz shook off all editorial changes. Where Ritholtz truly shines is in drawing connections between seemingly dispirit events; the fall of Bear Stearns, oleaginous mortgage brokers, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the growth of credit default swaps, even the effects of reforming the Consumer Price Index, all play a role in this complex mess of unintended consequences, vicious cycles, ideological blindness and abject stupidity.

I can’t remember that last time I had so much fun reading about the Apocalypse

The whole review is here.


The Strange Death of American Capitalism
Book Review of Bailout Nation by Barry Ritholtz
Eddy Elfenbein,
Crossing Wall Street, May 17, 2009


Category: Bailout Nation, Bailouts, Books

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

25 Responses to “The Strange Death of American Capitalism”

  1. Shnaps says:

    I think he meant to write “…disparate events”.

    Sigh…I’m a bit dispiritthat I didn’t opt for faster shipping from Amazon.

  2. leftback says:

    Even a man with rapier-like wit needs to throw a cluster bomb once in a while.

    Well done, Barry, I am sure this is going to be well received, especially once (shock, horror) the MSM discovers that people who have blogs can actually write….. half of them are just so embarrassed that they missed the whole thing and are only now writing the post mortem, long after you had chronicled events in real time.

    BTW, the NYT piece by the economics reporter was embarrassing, but I suspect not aytpical of media creatures.

  3. hipster says:

    just got my book in the mail….looking forward to reading it.

  4. Jdamon33 says:

    Congratulations Barry!! For those that frequent the blog, we knew the book would ROCK!

  5. JAH says:

    When is the book coming out on Kindle? Thanks, JAH

  6. Mannwich says:

    Congrats, Barry. Well, that little pump today should bring back all of Joe/Jane Retail into the market, so it seems we could be headed for S&P 1,000+ and DOW 10,000+. Strange days indeed.

  7. farmera1 says:

    Thanks for the book Barry.

    As a true non-financial guy, I’ve been fascinated in the unfolding story of this (Apocalypse) for years. From the first time I saw the graphs of total debt (personal, corporate and governmental) vs GDP I’ve been waiting for the exponential growth curve of debt to crash. Then when things started to get interesting in 2007 I’ve kept a huge folder of thousands of articles by all kinds of people about the crisis/Apocalypse/Contained event/American capitalism at its finest. Then I read AGE OF TURBULENCE by Sir Greenspan and then I knew we were so screwed (debts don’t matter, derivatives are great, Ayn Rand wanna be) it wasn’t even funny. Through it all I’ve read and studied and tried to understand what was going on. Barry’s book brought it all together for me. Now I understand what happened in the larger sense. It is truly an amazing story Barry has put together. Sad but true.

    “Where Ritholtz truly shines is in drawing connections between seemingly dispirit events; the fall of Bear Stearns, oleaginous mortgage brokers, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the growth of credit default swaps, even the effects of reforming the Consumer Price Index, all play a role in this complex mess of unintended consequences, vicious cycles, ideological blindness and abject stupidity.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Thanks Barry.

    From way down on the Farm,

  8. Steve Barry says:

    Nice job Barry…will read your book during the summer!

  9. chriscos says:

    Sorry if I missed this in your earlier posts about the book, but… why no Kindle edition?

  10. Kindle coming soon!

  11. chriscos says:


  12. wunsacon says:

    Congratulations, Barry!

  13. call me ahab says:

    you ARE the man

  14. 1001 says:

    ƾƾ When a rapier is needed, Ritholtz is fully willing to use a cluster bomb ƾƾƾ

    Love it

  15. johnbougearel says:

    I particularly enjoyed Elfie’s observation that you aren’t exactly a “shades of gray” kind of guy. When a rapier is needed, [u are] fully willing to use a cluster bomb.”

    My only regret is for all the “shock and awe” outrage we throw at our administration, lawmakers, and regulators, they are unshakable in their resolve to do precisely the wrong thing as public servants.

  16. bill750 says:

    How about an audio book (audible.com friendly, hopefully). I’d rather listen to your book on my iPod than CNBC on my satellite radio during my commute…

  17. Audible.com is on the list

  18. Blankfiend says:

    Hi Barry,

    Just getting started with your book. One theme that has intrigued me so far is the tepid public reaction to the Fed’s power grab and the obvious Obama/Geithner largesse towards the banks. Some reasons for this could include:

    1. Americans have truly become used to, even reliant upon, bailouts, both personally and publicly.

    2. So many Americans are politically illiterate. When it comes to understanding the moral hazard of PPIP, TALF, TARP, etc, 90% of Americans don’t have a chance.

    3. Americans feel politically powerless against the federal government. Despite overwhelming opposition from voters, Congress still passed Paulson’s TARP. I personally wrote my Senators and Congressman about the issue. The response I got was essentially a condescending form letter explaining that TARP was in the best interest of the nation, even though I might not be aware enough or bright enough to understand that.

    I think the lack of public outcry could be a combination of the three above. To go even further, I think that the Administration actually relies on the illiteracy of the general public when making policy. If the public does not understand what elected officials are doing, those officials can then shake off the earthly bounds of public accountability.

    A government that no longer feels constrained to be accountable to its citizens is a government to be feared indeed.

  19. tawm says:

    Another strong vote here for an audio version / Audible please!

  20. jason in charlotte says:

    I ordered my copy last night and looking forward to checking it out, hopefully I’ll receive it by the weekend (I went supersaver on the shipping!)

  21. gloppie says:

    Congratulations, Barry.
    I will order mine shortly so it is on hand for the summer.
    Right now I’m reading Infectious Greed for a second time, and it is amazing how many names, like AIG, Bear, Lehman etc were already firmly on Partnoy’s radar. That book was published in ’03.
    I’m looking forward to connect the dots…..

  22. DuchessGateau says:

    If you would like to see more mentions of “Bailout Nation,” try addictomatic.com. Here you can see an impressive display of mentions of Ritholtz, “Bailout Nation” book reviews, etc. within blogs, twitter, wikio, wordpress, etc. Some redundancy, but a nice display and some sites you might otherwise have missed.

  23. Minderbender says:

    Ok, Barry, perhaps you are exhausted of spirit and ideas for the moment after putting everything into this book, but my question is: any thoughts about the next book?

    With events transpiring at the rate they are, bad policies and good, there ought to be enough grist for a follow-on “Bailed Out Nation” that speaks to the consequences, in particular of government induced panic or “we know best” confidence causing unintended consequences, with all the risks of declining or collapsing dollar, high or even hyper inflation in an environment where deflation is still feared, events in the even worse off and more highly leveraged European banks causing ripples back to the markets, foreign buyers of US treasuries failing to show up, and other potential negative outcomes of world markets and investors bailing out of America.

    Not to mention that once government bails everyone else out, it has nothing left, and with spiraling debt, at that point, their is know one to bail out America. What then?

    Not asking you to predict the future, but an explanation every 12-36 months seems in order.

  24. BorseDAX says:

    The stock market keeps going higher

    dow 14000 soon according to experts


  25. Sarge says:

    Just ordered the book Barry.

    I’ve been following what’s been going on and while I don’t understand every nuance of the various financial dealings I know we’re in deep. I’m in there too as I chose to build a custom home, ran overbudget, got divorced and am now sitting on close to a million in debt with no possibility of retiring it for it’s full value. I refuse to apply for a bailout. I did it to myself and I’ll take my lumps. Too bad these big guys won’t do the same.