Jack's Reviews > Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America

Griftopia by Matt Taibbi
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Dec 09, 11

Read in December, 2011

Taibbi's broad themes in this book will be familiar to anyone who's been following his work for the past two years: government and corporate interests have colluded to create an upward redistribution of wealth through the careful use of labyrinthine bureaucracy, various forms of corruption - whether technically legal or not, and Fraud. The US government and financial systems have formed a kind of joint venture Ponzi scheme whose eventual collapse leaves those out of power holding the bag. Taibbi's been making that argument for a while; see, for example, his previous book, the Great Derangement. But he's much more narrowly focused on the economic schemes at work here, with the financial collapse having profoundly colored . The Great Derangement was primarily a study of how both the right and the left have responded to their alienation from political influence. This book studies what the faction that does have the influence is choosing to do with it, and it's extraordinarily well done.

The financial collapse, the bailouts, and the revelations that both prompted have been at the forefront of Taibbi's work since the Great Derangement, and I, as well as some other people, were a little worried that he would become too predictable - producing a well-articulated and important argument, but essentially presenting the same one over and over. What he shows here is that, while the basics remain the same, there is more than enough fresh material to produce a great book, and one in which his writing differs in important ways from earlier works. Griftopia is very dense and analytical, written almost entirely as third person accounts based on research and interviews. The gonzo-esque undercover work from The Great Derangement and Spanking the Donkey (his book on the 2004 election) are gone here, as are the more outlandish literary methods, like the mock conversation among the planners of the government's 9/11 conspiracy. What remains is a book that some people might call more "mature," an analyses about national issues that contains all of his old anger but which seems to be trying to make its arguments all the more daring by its measured prose and its determination to keep the focus on the words and actions of the villains in the scheme. And he uncovers a LOT of new dimensions to his work here. The only recycled article from his rolling stones features is the infamous Goldman Sachs piece, which many readers would probably have been irritated NOT to have included. Particular highlights include his discussion of the AIG and the career of Alan Greenspan. The chapter in Greenspan is especially priceless.
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