Book Review “Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World”

This is an exemplary retrospective of the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath. Adam Tooze regales us with a depiction of the horrors that were unfurled during and after the crisis. the book is divided into four parts, each of which attends to different facets of the 10-year period following the financial disaster.

The author does a nice job of holding the reader’s interest. The book is filled with facts and figures pertinent to the monetary emergency, but Tooze does his best to make it accessible to the average reader.

The crisis originated in the United States when Lehman Brothers collapsed, but to quote Tooze: “ To view the crisis of 2008 as basically an American event was tempting,” but in fact the emergency spread all over the world, especially to the Eurozone, which experienced the brunt of the crisis around 2010 and 2011. Tooze divides the blame on liberals and  conservatives alike, although I got the feeling that he is/was a moderate left-winger.

In Europe the difficulties involved Ireland, Spain and most famously and harmfully Greece, which experienced economic turmoil after European authorities imposed austerity measures due to a terrible run on banks. European countries, especially Germany experienced great duress over the prospect of bailing out Greece.

In addition, the world was beset by what was viewed as populist political remedies, in particular the rise of Donald Trump in America and the Brexit vote in Britain. Tooze attributes most of the blame for these maladies to the shaky fiscal situation which arose from the crisis of 2008. The author lumps all these phenomena under the financial banner, and I am not sure they were all interrelated, but he does make an intersecting case for it all.

Tooze’s chapter on Trump elaborates on what the author believes to be the rise of a right wing demagogue, but he barely mentions the positive effect that Trump has had on the U.S. economy.

The crisis of 2008 was widely viewed by many to be the most unstable period since the Great Depression, which germinated in 1929 and lasted beyond the 1930s. During the latest crisis, millions of people lost their jobs and/or homes in the period from 2008 to 2015. President Obama who inherited the mess from the previous Bush Administration, did his best to contain the crisis, but the enormity of the instability was such that government intervention by itself could not contain the onslaught from the failing banks.

Adam Tooze is a gifted writer and his book on the fiscal disaster is filled with minutiae relevant to the duration of the financial difficulties.  I had never heard of Tooze before I read this book, but I will pay great heed to whatever he publishes in the future.

“Crashed” is an excellent read. The reader leaves it well informed on the niceties of finance. You, the reader will find it to be an excellent book. I recommend it heartily.

Bernie Kelly

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