Thank You

By James Kwak

13 Bankers is #11 on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list.* I’m certain that could not have happened without the readers of this blog. (Actually, the book would not have existed in the first place without this blog, and the blog wouldn’t exist without readers.) It’s also #4 on the Wall Street Journal hardcover business list and #14 on the Indiebound hardcover nonfiction list.

In other major news, the book is Arianna Huffington’s pick for April, which means that there will be a month of blog posts by us and by other bloggers at the Huffington Post. Our first post in the series, arguing against the “banana peel” theory of the financial crisis, is already up. We’ve lined up a wide range of commentators, several of whom we expect to disagree with us rather strongly.

We also have some full-length video of presentations by Simon. Over the next week, I’ll be in Providence and Simon will be in Chicago and Los Angeles (schedule here). Simon has a bunch of interviews; I’ll be on Sense on Cents tomorrow evening.

* The list is for the week ending April 3. It goes on the Web on April 9 but doesn’t go into the print edition until April 18, by which point it is two weeks out of date. (One friend thinks the lag is to give bookstores enough time to stock their shelves.)

15 thoughts on “Thank You

  1. James and Simon, congratulations to both of you on the success you’ve had with your book/blog. Please continue to press the issue of bank reform. It has afterall been nearly 2 years since the initial events unfolded that led to the crisis and I certainly don’t think we’ve seen any real reform (or even fake reform, although there was credit card legislation passed).

    Best to you guys, and keep writing!

  2. “In turn, Johnson suggested that a critical problem with large financial institutions is not just economic, but political: Bigger banks hold more influence in Washington, reducing government latitude for action. Johnson, the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, calls this industry “capture of the state.”” Add to that, a symptom of a wider problem in this society: capitalism and wealth becoming more concentrated and in the hands of fewer people (that is – what hasn’t already been outsourced in labor, capital, machinery, and intellectual properties to China, India, Brazil, Russia). It’s been proven societies that have a wider economic base (more equality), are societies that are more stable and are better able to recovery from economic calamities. The other two books I would suggest from that list (haven’t read yet), are The Big Short by Michael Lewis and Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. Although, I suspect in “Game Change” Mr. Heilemann doesn’t focus on one of the economic advisor who probably had more influence on President Obama’s current economic thinking than was realized at the time; someone needs to do some background checks on Austin Gooslbee (“he appeared frequently as a surrogate for the Obama presidential campaign and as a leading spokesperson for the administration.”)

  3. Pretty freaking cool. I think it is very good judgement to have opposing views against you at Huffington, but why do I get the strange premonition they are going to make me nauseated. Waiting for my book through free shipping. And the wait sucks.

    Love is too strong a word I guess. But we appreciate you and Simon, and your efforts to give the message which society needs very much.

  4. See, I didn’t even read the book yet, but I know it’s a great book. Some people know the education is a sacred thing, Reading is a sacred thing, writing is a sacred thing. Music is a sacred thing and you should take care to compose and phrase EVERY single note properly. And that’s how James Kwak does it. He can take huge amounts of information and filter it. Similar to Felix Salmon, I don’t agree with Felix Salmon’s conclusions always, but Salmon can take huge amounts of information and filter it, there is no begrudging Felix Salmon on that.

    This is the “wheelchair piece”. Wheelchair–you know wheelchair is like indented paragraphs, which have become nothing online now…. anyway…. Can you imagine composing a song as a vocalist in a wheelchair????? Page/Plant

  5. Can’t add anything better than the comments above – but to say that I agree with all that has been said. All nicely put, especially Ted’s YouTube link.

  6. James and Simon, I just finished reading the book and I have to say simply amazing. I can tell that you put a tremendous amount of time and effort pulling all the facts. So thank YOU for waking the American people up to the horrors of too big to fail and Wall Street madness. Thank you professor Johnson for being a leading critic of the Bush and Obama bailouts and financial restructuring.

  7. Congratulations!

    And I will be very happy to read the book and scream out bloody murder on all that I do not agree with, because that is what we must do… because we have had more than enough of those mutual admiration clubs like the Basel Committee and the Financial Stability Board.

    By the way, just in case anyone wants to apply, the failed regulators are now hiring for something that they still with much untamed hubris call the Secretariat of the European Systemic Risk Board of the European Central Bank

  8. I’m currently in the middle of “13 Bankers…” and enjoying it quite a bit. I hesitated purchasing it, as I’m overcome by financial crisis fatigue as well as by many of the myopic or self-serving books written about the latest crisis.

    “13 Bankers…”, however, has a more rational, macro perspective on the state of finance. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the book. Well done. (and thanks for getting the Kindle version out quickly)

  9. While I’m only on chapter 12 (of 13), so far I have found the book to the rather disappointing. A year ago, this would have been an impressive work, but if you have read any of the other books about the crisis, this one has little to add except what at times seems like a half-hearted attempt to tack on a story of undue political influence. But as the authors acknowledge, the “oligarchy” of the 1990s here doesn’t arise from familial connections with the ruling class or corruption, but rather is the result of widespread consensus. That’s a bit like arguing that the prevalence of capital systems of political economy in the post-cold war years is due to the undue influence capitalists. In other words, if there is (almost) no dissenting opinion, how can the influence be “undue?”

    With a paucity of pre-crisis evidence, the authors retreat to familiar ground: they take issue with the government response to the crisis. This is where it is most obvious that there is nothing new here. In fact, chapter twelve definitely reads like it was written a year ago and never edited. Beyond the inflated estimations of the costs of the bail outs (which are already working out to be better than the worst possible case), the authors fail to answer the three obvious obstacles to nationalizing the “zombie” banks: (1) doing so would have caused wide-spread panic, (2) the specter of “socialism” would have been prohibitively costly in terms of political capital in a country that is viscerally opposed to it, and (3) there were real questions of the regulators’ authority to take over and wind up non-bank institutions (i.e., AIG) and the non-U.S. portions of the megabanks. Nor do the authors offer any additional explanations why they, and not the administration, are right that the banks were zombies, rather than facing a liquidity crisis. This failure to address well-known arguments is all the more disappointing because the underlying criticisms of the bailout are valid, and deserve more complete treatment.

    Given these failures, one has to wonder whether the authors even recognize the (admittedly mild) hypocrisy in their own highly misleading statements. How does anyone write with a straight face that the banks were bailed out “leaving current management in place?” I wonder what the management of Bear Stearns, Lehman, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia, and Washington Mutual think about that, much less the ousted managements at Bank of America and AIG. If the authors mean that Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein (who if I recall doesn’t pre-date the crisis by much either), why don’t they just say that? Or is the beef really with the notorious management of Fifth Third (whoever that is)?

    Finally, and most disconcerting, is the bald-faced suggestion that the determining factor in which banks were seized by the FDIC and which were bailed out was the political connections of bank management. As if the only difference between the Bank of Clark County (failed bank whose seizure was chronicled on Planet Money and This American Life) and Citigroup was the size of their rolodex. Perhaps that would be a valid conclusion if we had seen the opposite outcome, but given the failure to address the factors described above, there is just no way to reasonably join the authors in this conclusion. Perhaps the authors were suffering from Taibbi-envy.

    Instead of buying this book, ask yourself whether Wall Street is too influential in politics. Assuming you don’t work on Wall Street, you will of course answer yes. Having done that, you know all that you would learn from this book. Talk to your neighbors, write your congressmen and do what you can to counterbalance that influence. But don’t hold your breath holding out for the authors’ pipe dream that the thirteen largest banks will magically turn into the fifty or so largest banks anytime soon. It just isn’t going to, and can’t, happen.

  10. Better Late Than Never??

    Not always the case is it?

    I am reading 13 Bankers.

    If I were a Congressional Representative I would filibuster the DODD or any damned banking bill until I done so by reading the whole book into the record.

    Think any of Nebraska’s pride will do that for me.


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