In a Q&A preview for his upcoming piece in Vanity Fair, best-selling financial scribe Michael Lewis compares the Greek debt crisis to a Jonathan Franzen novel.
To put it differently, Lewis said that the global credit crisis offers something like a study in various types of overreaching, underachieving and unhappiness. (In baseball parlance, Lewis says the Greeks are the Pittsburgh Pirates of Europe.) Here's more from the Q&A:
VF Daily: From a financial standpoint, would you agree that happy countries are all alike and unhappy countries are each unhappy in their own way?
Michael Lewis: [Laughs.] Yes, Greece is made for a Jonathan Franzen novel. There are no happy countries any more. Financially speaking, unhappy countries do seem to all be different in their own way. The thing that interests me (in what looks like is going to become a series) is that the raw event seems to be the same in each place: make credit available for people who would never have qualified for it before. How each of the cultures responds to this credit tells you so much about the society in general.
Later in the piece, when asked by the interviewer whether or not the world would be better off without Goldman Sachs, Lewis answers yes, but doesn't stop there. The world, Lewis said, would be better "without the idea that Goldman Sachs embodies... If you look at the story of Goldman Sachs in the last six or seven years, you'll see that they made an awful lot of money getting people to do stuff that never should have been done."
Lewis has long been critical of Goldman, but he has maintained that the firm was emblematic of a larger problem on Wall Street: the blurred line between client interests and profits. Responding to the April news of the SEC's civil fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, Lewis told CBS News "Other Wall Street firms will be implicated and other deals at Goldman Sachs will come to light. The SEC essentially launched what amounts to a culture war." (Goldman settled the charges for a record $550 million.)