42 pages • 1 hour readMichael Lewis
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Lewis has made his career chronicling the culture of Wall Street and its consequences for society. In 1989’s Liars Poker, he describes a macho culture that elevates confidence over analysis where bond traders were gambled with peoples’ savings while seeking to outdo one another for their own machismo and reputations. 2010’s The Big Short shows bankers desperate to sustain the conditions of a booming housing market preying upon their most vulnerable clients with false promises and incomprehensible financial tools that ultimately unraveled the entire global economy. Unlike these two books, Flash Boys does not end in a financial crisis that proves the folly of certain attitudes. The lack of a comeuppance for HFTs in Flash Boys argues that Wall Street is rotten to its core. So long as it does not generate yet another catastrophe, Wall Street is happy to go from one day to the next committing a host of misdeeds on a smaller scale and ruining the lives of individuals like Aleynikov.
Lewis presents the problem as not one of mean-spirited predators, but an issue with the structure of Wall Street, which incentivizes predatory behavior. Long-term planning is strongly discouraged, since every firm is legally required to increase their shareholders’ profits whenever possible.
By Michael Lewis