Bojan Tunguz's Reviews > Architects of Ruin: How big government liberals wrecked the global economy---and how they will do it again if no one stops them

Architects of Ruin by Peter Schweizer
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's review
Oct 10, 2011

it was amazing

The financial meltdown of 2008 has turned into one of the greatest economic crisis in history. Like most other economic crisis of that magnitude, it seemed to have come practically out of nowhere, and it will be analyzed and discussed by the historians, political scientists and economists for the decades to come. For all of us who have to live with its consequences it matters very little in the short run what really caused this crisis. However, it would be good to know with some level of certainty what major miscalculations lead to this unraveling of the global financial system, so hopefully we can avoid a similar fate in the future.

The two main culprits have emerged for this latest economic catastrophe: the government-subsidized and controlled mortgage industry, and the Wall Street investment banks. Those on the political right had vilified the former ones, while the political left reserved all of its contempt for those "greedy" capitalist bankers. It turns, according to this book, that both sides are right. The mortgage industry has been systematically under the assault of various "community" organizations for almost half a century, and in that process it had been gradually forced to abandon many of its core landing standards in order to appease various activist interests groups. One of the more valuable qualities of this book is the very detailed reconstruction of the architecture of this process. In particular Schweizer claims that most of the rationale and the methods for the shakedown of banks can be traced to Chicago activist Saul Alinsky. I not knowledgeable enough on this subject to ascertain its veracity, but the fact remains that a significant number of high-ranking Democratic politicians and activists are the product of the "Chicago school." Schweizer does not refrain from naming names and this book is a much more ground-level description of the unsavory housing regulations and mortgage industry practices than for instance Thomas Sowell's The Housing Boom and Bust: Revised Edition.

For me at least, the real eye-openers were the chapters that dealt with the financial industry. Far from being a bastion of pure capitalism, the Wall Street according to Schweizer had over the years become increasingly reliant on governmental support. The massive seven hundred billion dollars bailout in the fall of 2008 was only the latest instance of the federal government having to bail out the financial sector in recent decades. In effect, these large banks have come to expect that if anything were ever to happen to them they could rely on public money to get them out of the sticky situation. In a phrase that had since become widely used, they were "too large to fail." As in the case of the mortgage industry, I am far from being an expert in these matters, but the claims that Schweizer is making seem eminently plausible.

This is an important book that reveals some startling facts about the interplay between the activist community organizers, banking industry and politics. As far as I am concerned, this is the most plausible and comprehensive explanation of the 2008 financial crisis. I hope as wide of an audience as possible gets to read it.

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