Government

'A Piñata Stuffed With Fantastic Sums'

In the new Vanity Fair, Michael Lewis has a piece on some Greek monks who turned a Medieval land deed into a modern real-estate empire. It's a good read, and Lewis frames it beautifully within the global context of the credit boom:

The credit wasn’t just money, it was temptation. It offered entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge. ...

Americans wanted to own homes far larger than they could afford, and to allow the strong to exploit the weak. Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers, and to allow their alpha males to reveal a theretofore suppressed megalomania. ...

As it turned out, what the Greeks wanted to do, once the lights went out and they were alone in the dark with a pile of borrowed money, was turn their government into a piñata stuffed with fantastic sums and give as many citizens as possible a whack at it. ...

More Lewis: Here's his VF piece on Iceland's boom and bust; here's his Portfolio piece on investors who shorted the U.S. housing bubble. The Portfolio piece turned into his book, The Big Short.

More Greece: Listen to our podcast on Greece and the global bond market. Bloomberg News has the latest on Greek debt.

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