Brian's Reviews > 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown

13 Bankers by Simon Johnson
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's review
Apr 03, 2011

really liked it

One of the most scholarly books on the financial crisis, Johnson and Kwak reference nearly every sentence in the book. This puts a flavor of simply documenting a series of pieces of information behind the book, rather than telling a compelling story. The information is good, though I can’t imagine reading it as the first and/or only book on the financial crisis. They do an excellent job of stating the fact that this challenge of large banks in America is not original; they cite at least three other epochs in American history where these same battles took place. The difference they point out in this episode is that now both parties are beholden to the big banks, and thus have little motivation to push back against their influence.
The pedigree of the authors and the backing of their text lends a sense of authority to the book, and they leverage that authority by suggesting a series of fixes at the end of the book. Many of them appear reasonable upon first glance, but fail to properly account for the globalization of American society and the benefits that come from that arrangement. Another conclusion that could easily be drawn from their research is that big banks are inevitable, and thus should have a strong regulatory framework in place to ensure they do not introduce systemic risk into the equation through ‘innovative’ financial methods. Regulation such as utilities experience is not a bad example, though a few additional freedoms may be necessary. The demise of the Glass-Steagall Act is referenced in nearly every book on this topic, and rightfully so; a new regulatory framework is needed to give America another fifty years of prosperity.

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0spinboson If you want a book that integrates the US situation into the global one, and which shows how the current crisis is in many ways a continuation of earlier crises, see David Harvey's The Enigma of Capital.

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