For most people, the reasons for the sudden collapse of our economy still remain obscure. I.O.U. is the story of how we came to experience such a complete financial disaster, starting with the magical proliferation of credit that led to an explosion of lending on the global and local landscapes of banking and finance. Viewing the crisis through the lens of politics, culture, and contemporary history—from the invention and widespread misuse of financial instruments to the culpability of subprime mortgages—Lanchester deftly draws conclusions on the limitations of financial and governmental regulation, capitalism’s deepest flaw, and most important, on the plain and simple facts of human nature where cash is concerned.
With newly updated, superbly written reportage, Lanchester delivers a shrewd perspective and a digestible, comprehensive analysis that connects the dots for expert and casual reader alike. Part economic primer, part fiscal and historical analysis, I.O.U. is an eye-opener of a book.
With clarity and a conversational style often (sometimes deliberately) lacking in the financial industry and its coverage, British journalist Lanchester (The Debt to Pleasure) takes readers on a comprehensive global tour of 2008's economic meltdown, focusing on each guilty parties' contributions to-and missed opportunities to halt-the worldwide crisis. Starting with the political buildup and then marching through the field of "banksters," regulators, mortgage companies and everyone else in a position to know better, Lanchester illustrates exactly how loans from predatory and incompetent players wound up being sold as triple-A investments, and how a subsequent housing market dip toppled the financial system. By prioritizing the financial sector and tenets of laissez-faire capitalism (to the point that it "became a kind of secular religion"), those in charge of the markets failed to identify the growing systemic dangers; meanwhile, those responsible to the public acted as if benefits for financial institutions also benefited every economic participant, no matter how small. Laypeople seeking to understand the crisis, and what it means for their own bank account, will find Lanchester's volume an oasis of understanding in a sea of partisan spin and convoluted financial language.