I promised to write a quick review of this book, so here goes.
The Debt Generation (2010) is based on commentary written on the financial pages of The Guardian during the period from July 2008 to May 2010. The postings have been somewhat edited for a better flow of the text, but the basic diary type structure has been preserved, so what the book provides is a real-time account of the debt crisis as it unfolded during that period with fresh reactions to whatever news happened to be current at any particular time.
The writer of the commentary, David Malone, is not an economist, but a film maker, so what you get is a layman’s perspective, although informed by contacts in the world of finance. I consider this a positive thing, since economists in general tend to have an amazing capability of disregarding any facts that don’t fit into their preconceived idea of how the world works. This probably has something to do with the fact that mainstream economics as a field of inquiry is much more about pure ideology than empirical science.
Partly because of that, the discourse on economy that we get in the media is chock-full smoke and mirrors and is designed to mislead rather than inform the general public. The media and the politicians deliberately paint a picture of the economy as an esoteric sphere of near magic that only “experts” can master. This is, of course, precisely what these self-proclaimed experts want: it gives them free rein to steal and plunder as much as they want behind the facades of the Potemkin village.
I’m sure most of us common people are able to intuitively sense the vast gulf that exists between what the pundits in the financial press are saying and how the everyday reality in which we live appears to us. But what we’re lacking are the tools to actually call the pundits on their bullshit. And that’s what this book offers. Malone has a talent of explaining even the most arcane workings of the financial system with all its fancy derivative products and risk dispersion schemes in terms that everyone can understand, whilst exposing the lies and half-truths our political leaders fed us at the time, and still keep feeding us. Piece by piece, you can get a fairly complete picture of how the system is rigged against us. And that is the first step on the way of changing it.
Despite its slightly awkward form, the book is also an entertaining read with an abundance of English wit included (just consider this entry from the index: politicians; arse-licking, 201, burbling, 131, craven, 144, idiotic, 130, 106, impotent, 133, lick-spittle, 106, lost, 96, mewling, 133, slavering, 222, supine, 231, tame, 2, wheezing, 52, whimpering, 217). We definitely need more books like this; books that cut through the rhetoric and offer a common sense view of the society we live in.
I’ve posted excerpts of this book on this blog before (here and here), and will probably post some more in the near future, but I really recommend you get the book itself. I also recommend Malone’s blog for an ongoing commentary of the ever-deepening crisis.