How Times Change

By James Kwak

For those waiting, the paperback edition of 13 Bankers went on sale on Tuesday to little fanfare. That’s not surprising; all of the crisis books have been dribbling out in paperback, about 8-10 months after the hardcover editions, to little fanfare. It’s a commentary on how quickly times have changed, and also on the fickle nature of the publishing market. While there is still a lot of residual anger and bitterness over the financial crisis — specifically, over the fact that the big banks played a central role in triggering the crisis, then got massive amounts of bailout money, and now have returned to “health” more quickly than the economy as a whole or the typical household — most people seem resigned to a continuation of the pre-crisis status quo, and what energy remains has perversely gone into railing against the national debt.

The whole story also highlights the importance of timing in publishing. Looking back, we couldn’t have gotten any luckier, with the book going on sale during the Senate debate over financial reform and just two weeks before the SEC sued Goldman, which also happened the day that our Bill Moyers appearance aired, which drove our Amazon ranking up to #6. Today we’d be lucky to crack #600.

Back at my law school, there has been much debate about Amy Chua’s new book and, more to the point, the excerpt published by the Wall Street Journal entitled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” Amy Chua, that is, being a Yale Law School professor, and a very popular one at that. As the son of Asian parents (I studied cello at Juilliard prep, by the way) and the father of a half-Asian daughter myself, there’s a lot I could say on that topic . . . but I won’t.

But I will say this about publishing a popular book. Chua said to the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip Felix Salmon) that the Journal distorted her book:

“I was very surprised. The Journal basically strung together the most controversial sections of the book. And I had no idea they’d put that kind of a title on it. But the worst thing was, they didn’t even hint that the book is about a journey, and that the person at beginning of the book is different from the person at the end — that I get my comeuppance and retreat from this very strict Chinese parenting model.”

Publishing is a business, and if the WSJ “essay” wasn’t what Chua wanted, it was what the Journal wanted, and absolutely what her publisher wanted. What I learned is that when you wade into the world of popular books, you have to understand it’s a business, and you have to take the bad with the good (the Chronicle says that Chua’s book reached #7 on Amazon, and it may be higher by now). You can’t control what people think about your book, or about you for that matter.

13 Bankers, for example, was widely received (by people who only read reviews or heard about it from others) as a diatribe against big banks devoted to a single issue: breaking them up. Yet the whole “break up the banks” thing was just half of one chapter. The Economist panned it as a “conspiracy theory” without pointing out what the conspiracy was supposed to be; people who have read the book know that there’s no conspiracy anywhere in there. I think 13 Bankers is a serious history book about one of the more important developments in American history in the past half century. But I’m resigned to the fact that most people will think of it (if at all) as a single-issue polemic. At least some people read it. The alternative, when it comes to publishing, is that no one reads it.

Update: Two clarifications. First, in the last sentence, by “no one reads it,” I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself about the paperback. Lots of people read 13 Bankers, and I’m grateful for that. What I meant is that to get that level of success, you have to accept the misunderstandings that come with it.

Second, I didn’t want to sound like I had anything to hide about my upbringing, so I’ll just say this. I got very little pressure from my parents, and I turned out fine. And my daughter has the most “Western” upbringing you can imagine, and she is extraordinarily happy.

45 responses to “How Times Change

  1. Don’t worry; I am fairly confident you will have the opportunity to write a sequel in the next few years.

    Though you might have to title it “11 Bankers” or somesuch.

  2. I read 13 BANKERS. It was great!

  3. I’m of of your readers who agrees that 13 Bankers is serious history. I highly recommend it.
    Those who mischaracterize it have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, and in redirecting popular attention and anger toward the national debt, as you said, and to the Republican story that Fannie, Freddie, and Barney were entirely responsible for the crash. Unfortunately, it is easy for those vested interests to get away with this tactic, and we see today how well it has worked.
    I’m currently halfway through “All the Devils are Here”. This is another serious historical account of how all this happened, and I recommend it as well.
    I would be interested in hearing recommendations from others here for a good history of the Great Depression.

  4. Don’t worry – you will get another sale. I am goin going to get a copy. I doubt history will look benignly on the fact that the only people who have been made whole from this debacle are the people who caused it. Peter Orszag going to Citi after he directed TARP funds to them and then writing op-eds on how the rest of us need to tighten our belts is more than disgusting

  5. Douglas Hunter

    “Publishing is a business, and if the WSJ “essay” wasn’t what Chua wanted, it was what the Journal wanted, and absolutely what her publisher wanted. What I learned is that when you wade into the world of popular books, you have to understand it’s a business, and you have to take the bad with the good.”

    Agreed, but I would add, that part of the job of authors, or other people in the public sphere whose ideas are being commented on is to understand a bit about how the media works and re-structure our discourse so that its better alligned with the way the media works. Putting a fair amount of fore through into what the sound bites are going to be and how one will answer specific obvious questions, practicing in smaller media outles prior to going into bigger interviews all help one control the spin / help one’s messages come through even in the presence of other agendas.

  6. Bruce E. Woych

    13 Bankers is relatively conservative in rating or ranking the systemics of contemporary crisis, so it is somewhat of a surprise to hear that the ECONOMIST called it conspiracy theory (…also a rather cheap rhetorical ploy for such a publication). Instead, I have no doubt that it will be utilized as a balanced introduction and contemporary critiques in economic courses and/or will be a standard on reference and reading lists. As such, considering (from one of your earlier writings…) that the paperback introduction is concerned with financial reform I would suppose that the tendency would lead towards political economy (as contrasted with the history of ideas itself). It may well be that a later edition and update of 13 Bankers may have to make a choice between these directions. I would have liked to see a general assessment of the literature that has been generated by the arena of contentions. This alone is a major shifting pattern. A bit more critical, the entire question of normative/positive: substantive and formative; theoretical vs. empirical impact upon ECONOMICS itself (not to mention the most recent question of ethics…) would be a milestone contribution. In any case, good luck with all aspects of its distribution and potential for further developments in the future.

  7. Actually parenting has been taken off of the “parents responsibility list” with the advent of technology since the 80’s and growing ,and growing. Public schools can no longer punish students for misbehavior without lawsuits, while the latchkey generation “Y” is digressing (morphing?) into it’s next phase of “Z”, bypassing the Ouija continuum of mass-degeneration…producing idiots that can only manhandle a fictional play-station from their closet? Their only accumulated culture is that of an i-pod, having the creativity to at least know how too tune-in and to tune-out? How times have changed is a grandious parlay of “Funky” social engineering placated by a photonic stream of osmotic nihilism. What say you, Doctor Orwell? Thanks James, and Simon

  8. The Economist is not a serious journalistic outlet–it’s just a propaganda machine for neoliberalism. It’s a badge of honor to get criticized by them. At least the WSJ daily “Book Review” has the decency to place its own propaganda for uncontrolled boards and plutocracy on the editorial page.

  9. A home made video of a couple of asian boys doing a skit on their high pressure immigrant mothers:

  10. The neoliberal puppets who run the MSM have no choice other than to marginalize and quickly encapsulate those who dare to speak the truth or choose to expose the corporatist puppet masters of those media muppets. If one pays attention to the MSM, it is not hard to conclude that even a publicly elected figure, like Ron Paul, for instance, will either be ignored or classified as a kook for speaking the truth. Neither Sean Hannity nor Keith Obermann are likely readers of The Baseline Scenario.

  11. I read 13 Bankers and it was great. What needs to be done now is to get a “cliff notes” version for the average Joe who will never read the entire book. People need to know this history to see through the Wall Street and political supposed conventional wisdom when it comes to banking and investing. I pretty much marked up my copy and started a cliff notes version for my own reference. Sounds excessive but this is important stuff.

  12. To be more specific James…”13 Bankers” will be as many great historical documentaries [?] that come to life well before their unfortunate fate has been predicted. ie.)”Too Early to Understand the Cassandra’s Forlorn Tale of Imprudent Fiscal Reality”

    Ref: Steve Winwood: Traffic – “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys (1971)” Wow?
    “the percentage you’re paying is too high priced
    while your living beyond your means
    and the man in the suit has just bought a new car
    from the profits he’s made off your dreams
    But today you just swear that the man was shot dead
    by a gun that didn’t make any noise
    But it wasn’t the bullet that laid him to rest
    was the low spark of high-heeled boys”

    *(we were children once, playing with toys)*

    God Bless You, Julian Assange!

  13. If you can’t get people to read a short book like this, then we are all doomed.

  14. Frank’s right–the Economist is pure propaganda. I used to read it, but caught on pretty quickly.

    I now a good deal about publishing, and you’ve done very well indeed. I bought a copy the other day, and will read it when I finish “The Big Short,” which is quite fascinating.

    Incidentally, you might be interested in “The Wstchman’s Rattle,” which I’ve been pushing to friends. It explains a lot about the big picture.

    Best of luck–paperbacks sell, too!

  15. Frankie Starks

    Well, at least you got to #6.

    It seems the truth goes in and out of fashion. But at least you allowed other people to catch a glimpse of it.

  16. As a loyal reader of Baseline Scenario and 13 Bankers I want to thank both you and Simon for the contribution you have made to the serious understanding of what was transpiring during the crisis, hour by hour or so it seemed, on then putting it all together in that wonderful book. I’ll be reading the paperback for the updates.
    There is no doubt that you helped, in many ways, that none of us yet understand, how the rest of this story will play out. Without your contributions, things would be even worse today and in the future.
    As a law student, you should be thinking about how you help put together more effective legal strategies to hold the banks responsible for the impacts on the finances of individuals and families throughout the US. Seems to me that the present strategies, going after the bank’s for the paperwork and procedural issues associated with foreclosures is only the tip of the iceberg on the range of possible claims that could be developed to hold the banks responsible for the devastation their irresponsible collective actions have caused to the personal well being of so many American families.
    One forum for those cases could be in the bankruptcy court, which are first and foremost courts of equity. In many many cases the bank or bank’s responsible for the crisis are the holders of the claims that are the cause of the bankruptcy.
    A few well chosen counterclaims in such cases against Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, or any of the other large banks at the center of causing the crisis would be a place to start. Once such individuals or families emerged from bankruptcy with their debts erased and their balance sheets restored to their pre-crisis financial condition, it would start a wave of similar claims throughout the system that would begin to hold banks accountable for their actions and send shock waves through the system.
    And just think of the impact such a movement would have to restoring the finances of those devastated by the bank’s actions. Restoring the dignity and finances family by family, and individual by individual of the victims of this crisis.

  17. @ Rich S. Most people don’t even read short articles in the paper, which is why the problems and issues brought up in 13 Bankers occurred and continue. The average person doesn’t have time or isn’t willing to spend it to read a book that size. That’s the reality. It’s not big for anyone who reads regularly, but it’s huge for the average Joe who probably last read a book in high school or college if they went to one. You’re talking on the order of 5 to 25 years. And if they did, many read cliff notes and not the actual book. Guess that’s my thinking. There is an element of doom in this reality. Cliff noting 13 Bankers could go a long way to reach and inform this crowd of a way out of this mess or the next one.

  18. I had decided to wait for the paperback and received it yesterday. I am looking forward to read it.

  19. Bayard Waterbury

    That reminds me, James, although it never actually referred to books, per se, the old saw “you can’t tell a book by its cover” could use a little freshen up, like “you can’t tell a book by its title” or maybe even more to the point, “you can’t tell a book by its reviews” especially since many reviewers of non-fiction books have a bias prior to reading (or guessing) the content. It’s sort of like the jaded reviewers of the arts. If you really care about a subject area or topic, better to read the actual book than miss some amazing wisdom and pearls along the way. For instance, when it comes to movies, there are at least three or four critics who, when they pan a movie, vertually assure me that it’s worth watching. Anyway, every serious author, be it intellectual or simply creative, has something to share. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of books, of the hundreds I’ve read which I would consider a waste of time. Sure, I’m selective, but also adventuresome, and feel that my horizons always can use broadening.

  20. Bayard Waterbury

    Perhaps “ring around the rosey” when they all fall down. Or Musical Banks, when a chair keeps getting removed from the circle.

  21. The Economist panned it as a “conspiracy theory” without pointing out what the conspiracy was supposed to be; people who have read the book know that there’s no conspiracy anywhere in there.

    In the same way that to point out the obvious fact that the system criminals are waging class war is itself called “waging class war” by system flacks, so to acknowledge the obvious fact that every aspect of the system is simply organized crime, and that the system is a kleptocracy, is smeared as a “conspiracy theory”.

    That’s the essence of the Big Lie.

    most people seem resigned to a continuation of the pre-crisis status quo, and what energy remains has perversely gone into railing against the national debt.

    That’s true among the so-called “elites”; the people have been pretty perceptive in rejecting this misdirection. Just look at the Peterson group’s abortive attempt at “town hall” brainwashing last year.

    The whole deficit terrorist propaganda campaign is the strongest proof yet of the systematic criminality of the MSM, how it’s a de facto Goebbels ministry by now.

  22. Giles Warrack

    This reinforces what I’ve thought for a long time, namely that “The Economist” is grossly overrated. “13 Bankers” is serious history, and well-written to boot.

  23. For a good economic history of the Depression, although one that makes demands on the reader, read Charles Kindleberger’s The World in Depression. For a more general history of the era from 1929-45, read David Kennedy’s Freedom from Fear.

  24. I’ve not read ’13 Bankers’ but I have participated on this site enough to have a good sense of the book’s essence. In short, there seems to be an underlying effort to establish a ‘few-bad-apples’ defense of a flawed system and its consequent society. Plus, this effort also has a bias toward excusing academics from blame while casting the maximum blame on Wall St. and etc.

    Bankers though have not changed nor are they likely to do so. Economists though, and other social scientists and especially ‘journalists’, have migrated intellectually toward an acceptance of corporatism over the past few decades and this has eliminated the vicarious voice of the working-class from public discourse. In the 1950s through the 1970s a sufficient number of academics provided a balance… but, that balance has shifted to provide excessive support not just to the corporate hierarchy… but to all formally educated workers and this has resulted in a trend that has done significant harm to the balance of power, both globally and domestically. The number of nations being ranked as ‘democratic’ for example, is declining. The World is in fact regressing to a hybrid form of feudalism, via wealth distribution, that could not exist without the support of academics, journalists, and essentially all formally educated citizens. But of course the very citizens who have united in the belief that their contributions are increasingly in demand are the very same citizens who were in large part required to bail themselves out, while comparatively little stimulus has made its way to the ‘unskilled workers’.

    But… somehow the discourse manages to focus on a small number of corrupt bankers while ignoring facts such as the World Bank’s standard of $1.25 per day equating to $0.16 per hour based on a 40 hour work week. And, somehow, we as Americans miss the obvious fact that there is excess liquidity still causing ‘bubbles’ across the globe while global aggregate demand is coming up short of what is needed to reach full-employment, which is yet another indication of extreme wealth distribution imbalances. But of course the very people who ‘do’ have a voice, well, they are now on the gaining side of the wealth distribution trends.

    So, ‘blame’ becomes an integral part of maintaining the status quo, it ‘sells’. But, like I said, I didn’t read the book and so it is possible that in this case I am being less than fair?

  25. I prefer paperbacks. But the major reason I will buy it, maybe next week, is actually similar to the reason I didn’t rush out when it first published, which is that by reading this blog and catching up with your appearances on tv and radio, I’m familiar with the major themes. And I already have a dense stack of reading materials. However I made the decision to buy the book specifically to show support for the authors—and to show support for the printed book because the format is endangered but the book is still worth defending. Same with bricks & mortar bookstores which are not just book delivery devices—they are also forums that help build and strengthen communities. But aside from highfalutin sentiments, I also realized that the content will help fill out my understanding of the crisis.

    This blog already demonstrates a great effort and generous willingness to make esoteric information understandable by non-experts. And the reason that especially matters right now is because those with such expert knowledge are small in proportion to the amount of ordinary people whose lives are gravely impacted by these forces. So it’s almost a courtesy to say thanks and buy the book.

    Only became aware of Amy Chua this week so I haven’t been following that story. But the topic of early childhood experiences that lead to success in later life is very worthy of public conversation. You’ve talked about your own experiences with elite American education in ways that are very insightful. I’ve observed that not everyone comes out of that system with a similar level of self awareness. So it could be socially useful for those who do have insight into the balance between their privileges and hard earned accomplishments to speak more about it. For example, it is amazing to watch and listen to Simon in public debate. I have wondered if some of that confidence comes from his UK education. For example, some of my co-workers are British and they also can be amazing public speakers. That’s where I first wondered if it’s a skill particularly valued in British culture—in comparison with American culture which seems to value shouting.

    The economists in particular are very interesting because the ones who speak out directly to the public like this are adept not just in numeracy, but they are also excellent writers. And those dual abilities are not always typical. So I’ve become very curious about their early developmental experiences. Did they all study music? Did that help them with math? Were they all great at school from the very beginning? Do they have awareness about their success as being aptitude in combination with opportunities provided to them blended with exertion of their own actions? If there was a Worldwide of Sports for public intellectuals, for example, we would hear all about how early they got up in the morning to go out and train for their exams. But instead media takes complex ideas and their thinkers and clobbers them—or puffs up their mystique. Anyway. Our society has other problems related to education so just wanted to mention that as another topic of interest. (Watching The Wire on dvd right now so that’s also got me thinking.)

  26. Bruce E. Woych

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Competition_regulator
    A competition regulator is a government agency, typically a statutory authority, sometimes called an economic regulator, which regulates and enforces competition laws, and may sometimes also enforce consumer protection laws. In addition to such agencies there is often another body responsible for formulating competition policy.
    Many nations implement competition laws, and there is general agreement on acceptable standards of behavior. The degree to which countries enforce their competition policy does vary substantially, with the United States generally regarded as having the most strict competition laws and enforcement.[citation needed]
    Competition regulators may also regulate certain aspects of mergers and acquisitions and business alliances and regulate or prohibit cartels and monopolies. Other government agencies may have responsibilities in relation to aspects of competition law which affect companies (e.g. the registrar of companies).
    The Blood Bankers: Tales from the Global Underground Economy [Paperback]
    James S. Henry
    James S. Henry (Author)
    › Visit Amazon’s James S. Henry Page
    Find all the books, read about the author, and more.
    See search results for this author
    Are you an author? Learn about Author Central
    (Author), Bill Bradley (Foreword)

    Editorial Reviews
    Product Description
    Like tentacles on a vast octopus, the firsthand investigations in The Blood Bankers all lead to one core. A financial detective of sorts, investigative journalist Jim Henry analyzes a range of scandals, including the looting of the Philippines by the Marcos family and the financial collapse of nations throughout the developing world.
    A rogues’ gallery of international criminals owes its existence to the dramatic growth of the underground global economy over the last two decades. Our world is being reshaped, often in sinister fashion, by wide open capital markets and an international banking network that exists to launder hundreds of billions of dollars in ill-gotten gains.
    Here is an inside look at globalization’s dark side—the new high growth global markets for influence-peddling, capital flight, money laundering, weapons, drugs, tax evasion, child labor, illegal immigration, and other forms of transnational crime.
    About the Author
    Former Chief Economist for McKinsey & Co. and VP Strategy for IBM/Lotus, James S. Henry has written for many publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and U.S. News & World Report. One of the original “Nader’s Raiders,” he is founder and managing director of the Sag Harbor Group, a strategy consulting firm with a special focus on technology strategy and business development. He has managed projects on a wide variety of competitive strategy issues for many prominent global companies. His clients have included AT&T, Chase Manhattan, GE, GM, IBM, Lucent, Merrill Lynch, the Samsung Group (Korea), Xerox, the Joint Caribbean Task Force for Scotland Yard and the FBI, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Swedish Power Board, and the government of Extremadura (Spain). –

  27. @ Russ

    Your aware that Goebbels subordinates were rounded up and recruited into the United States post-war propaganda regime. They were almost as valuable to the US Defense Department as were the German scientist. Ironically what helped the U.S. to snag the entire crop was for the very fact that Russia had already a homegrown surplus embedded in their “Media (Pre-Post War) Controlled KGB Unit”.
    Incidentally…Adolf Hitler would practice his speeches in a private auditorium with a monitor on stage as if he were actually talking to a live crowd. There were a select group of impartial critiques, and writers available upon his personal request to emphasize any frailties or weaknesses in his oratory approach, and emotional body-language impact.

    PS. And the came Hollywood?

  28. FROM RECENT INTERVIEW PUBLIC TELEVISION- INTERVIEWED M. SOLIMAN

    . . . Securitization accounting is based upon the “transfer of control” when determining a right to foreclose. This approach for bank transfer of risk or rewards eliminates foreclosure from the question of standing. The buyer is not foreclosing it’s the seller who is alleged to have lost control of the subject loan.
    Transfer of control would mean the assets have gone out of the reach of the transferor, whereby the transferor cannot re-acquire the same, except at market price, and the transferee is free to deal with the assets and make a profit on the assets. The only means for a repurchase is in an open market fair bid or auction and that’s what the lenders are doing. Buying your home at Trustee or Sherriff’s sale. But you do not get the money – you the fee title holder allows the lender to buy back you r home a credit bid.
    The underlying basis is: if the bank has sold the loans the buyer is free to hold or dispose of the assets further and make a profit, or suffer a loss. The bank therefore has transferred the reward to the buyer.
    But the buyer is not foreclosing is it? And if it were as we are led to believe then MERS is the bridge used to break the law. THIS IS CRIMINAL conduct by bank officials.
    The reward of making a profit on selling loans at a market price prohibits the bank from also mitigating risk whereby its is obligated to buy back the loan from the Buyer, something we already said it cannot do anyway. This is twilight zone mentality that makes a mockery of the US and international accounting rules. This government knows this. The pooling and servicing agreements are hurting you not helping you while looking for gibberish clues as to proper compliance and conveyances. The loan was sold and that is that – Get it?
    expert.witness@live.com

  29. Bruce E. Woych

    Big Oil & Their Bankers In The Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families & Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics & Terror Network (Volume 3) [Paperback]
    Dean Henderson (Author)

    Editorial Reviews
    Product Description
    Big Oil… pulls back the covers to expose a centuries-old cabal of global oligarchs, whose control over the global economy is based on hegemony over the planet’s three most valuable commodities: oil, guns and drugs- combined with ownership of the world’s central banks. Henderson implicates these oligarchs in the orchestration of a string of conspiracies from Pearl Harbor to the Kennedy Assassination to 911. He follows the trail of dirty money up the food chain to the interbred Eight Families who- from their City of London base- control the Four Horsemen of Oil, the global drug trade and the permanent war economy. “Big Oil… is an extraordinary expose of the powers and events that are exacting a heavy toll on us, the people”. – Nexus New Times Magazine. Australia. “Big Oil… is hair-raising and a masterpiece which deserves not less than the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism. This book should be a requisite for every American to study.” – Dr. Carlos J. Canggiano, M.D., Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico.
    About the Author
    Dean Henderson was born in Faulkton, South Dakota. He earned an M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, where he edited The Missoula Paper and was a columnist for the Montana Kaimin. His articles have appeared in Multinational Monitor, In These Times, Paranoia and several other magazines. A life long political activist and traveler to fifty countries, Henderson co-founded of the University of Montana Green Party and the Ozark Heritage Region Peace and Justice Network. He is former Vice-President of the Central Ozarks Farmer’s Union and former President of the Howell County Democrats. In 2004 he won the Democratic nomination for Congress in Missouri’s 8th District. Dean’s Books Available in print and e-book formats: Big Oil & Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf… https://www.createspace.com/3476183 http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/DeanHenderson The Grateful Unrich: Revolution in 50 Countries http://www.createspace.com/3477016 http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/DeanHenderson Read Dean’s Weekly Left Hook Column at: http://www.deanhenderson.wordpress.com

  30. 100 trillion !!!

  31. Thanks.

  32. James and Simon, please, please keep fighting the good fight. And thank you for the most cogent analysis of this boondoggle anywhere.

  33. Second Alex.

    Working in the regulatory field on the same issues, while disturbing at high level, on a personal level it’s comforting to hear about you two grappling with some of the same issues (“politics of envy!”… “isn’t it government’s fault that we’ve got so much debt?”…”oooh bankers rule government, doom loop, the end of the world is nigh!”-style sarcasm, etc.)

    Simon works as hard as anyone I’ve seen at making clear, from the outset, that’s he’s into competitive markets, wants to help business and ensure that our economy survives in the long run, a shame that even he can be painted this way.

    I think there’s a complexity issue that you’ve both highlighted… pharmaceuticals are complex, but when lots of babies are born deformed and there is clear consensus that the reason is a pharmaceutical product, society happily fights to ensure pharmaceutical innovations take 10 years to approve, etc.

    Finance is more complex – people “get” bonuses, and even in the UK it’s extraordinary how much coverage (and then universal anger) a CEO bonus announcement gets. Consensus that Basel III has been hugely watered down, for example, doesn’t get that kind of coverage, even through a fit-for-purpose Basel III would help enormously in ensuring “bonuses”/remuneration more closely reflect productivity, rather than subsidies etc.

    On the positive side (bare with me), there will be A LOT of social pain on the way, and a lot of anger, which many will be trying to channel. So the fight is a long way from over?

  34. We’re you really surprised nothing came out of the crisis at all? Where have you been living the last 10 years. Nothing comes of any political/economic/natural disaster/environmental crisis anymore. If the BP spill had happened in the 70’s, or maybe even the 80’s, there would have been hearings out the wazoo and all sorts of new rules and regs, etc. That all came to an end with contract with America. No reform will come until the whole system collapses. Get used to it.

  35. No reform will come until the whole system collapses.
    That is not entirely true, unless it’s the circles you run in that you are referencing. And neither is the BP sentence, In 1979 there was a similar spill just as catostrophic, (for its day) in the Gulf as happened last April. You are more likely among the LOT that George was refering to.

  36. Your book is definitely serious history. That some teenagers over at The Economist panned it should be seen as a plus. You’ve nicely sketched the political economy of pretending a solvency crisis is a liquidity crisis. The Japanese made the similar mistake in the summer of 1992, when then PM Miyazawa Kiichi knew they needed to inject capital into the banks. MOF organized a coalition in opposition, and opted instead for more forbearance, maintenance of the institutional status quo, and goosing the markets with pension funds, etc. Not unlike 13 Bankers…
    Anyway, the current BOJ Deputy Governor gave a fascinating speech Jan 7 on the fallout:
    http://www.boj.or.jp/en/type/press/koen07/data/ko1101a.pdf

  37. “some teenagers over at The Economist panned it”

    Seconded. For an evidence-based society we spend seem to spend a hell of a lot of time listening to the alchemists…

  38. I agree, it is “disturbing at a high level” that you work “in the regulatory field on the same issues”. Someone whose writing makes so little sense should not be allowed to regulate ‘anything’. What, for example, does the following say?

    “Simon works as hard as anyone I’ve seen at making clear, from the outset, that’s he’s into competitive markets, wants to help business and ensure that our economy survives in the long run, a shame that even he can be painted this way.”

    So is it that being “‘into’ competitive markets” and wanting to help “competitive markets” is all that is needed to be on the correct side of things? Or, does the fact that you criticize so generally, without any actual support, mean that being ‘into’ whatever you are ‘into’, puts Simon on the correct side of things?

  39. These banker guys are still sitting astride a Chernobyl-pile of radioactive sludge, and act like everything is fine-and-dandy.

    Jaime Dimon was yesterday speaking to a TV financial reporting, and explaining how his bank has to offer better products, lower costs, etc, in competing with the Chinese and others. By law, his bank should have been closed a long time ago, and he and the other crooks sent packing. My training as an auditor instilled in me the idea that people committing criminal frauds faced a real possibility of going to the klink, but I guess this is an obsolete or quaint relic of more robust times.

    I plan on getting the paperback of 13 Bankers, and reading it, since I appreciate this blogspace and the commenters on it. I say, support the good people.

    My only hang up now is finding a Borders that isn’t in the process of being shuttered!

    Cheerio, hip hip!! :)

  40. @ black swan

    Should I capitulate or should I take offense is the – “caught between a rock and a hard place” thought for today?

    Ref: “The Media Loses Readers and Viewers to it’s own Radicalism”
    http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/27160

  41. Ummm.. right. My point was how those who want tougher regulation on banks are painted as leftists – I didn’t mean to flag a “correct” side of any other debate.

    What did you think I was criticising? Who do you think I’m not supporting?

    I think you’ve misunderstood what I was saying. For any contribution I made to your misunderstanding, apologies.

  42. A friend sent this email link along, reporting the ripoff of US military personnel by JP Morgan Chase…..I hope you fat cats choke on your fat bonus pool, you disreputable swine.

    http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/41043127/ns/business-real_estate/

  43. Just checked my local library catalogue. Here’s the score:

    13 Bankers: 0 copies checked in, 11 requests
    On the Brink by Hank Paulson: 5 copies in, 0 requests

    See James, discerning readers know a good book from a bad one. Hope this makes you feel better.

  44. desi girl - Loyd B Worshiper

    This is why 13 bankers will not sell: false statements like….”the big banks played a central role in triggering the crisis, then got massive amounts of bailout money and now have returned to “health””.

    the correct statement is: ….”the american people played a central role in triggering the crisis then the big banks were FORCED TO TAKE massive amounts of bailout money…”

    Change the title from ’13 bankers’ to ‘3 bankers: Citi, BoA and AIG’. Then we we will be talking truthfully.

  45. 13, Bankers though didn’t get much response from consumers but then it highlighted the important developments in American history of past half century. So those who are interested in knowing about American history will definitely read the book.