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on 28 April 2011
Despite the cover and the title, there's really not a lot about Greece here. Mr Lynn appears entirely happy to settle for the "fable" view of the crisis being just desserts for an idle, sponging country - a borderline-racist portrait of Greek untermensch unable to compete with their German superiors. You'll look in vain here for any analysis of why Greek society took such a sclerotic turn, or even why the country enjoyed so much less benefit from EU membership than Ireland or Spain. I'm reasonably sure that Mr Lynn didn't visit Greece as part of his research - I couldn't find any original material or analysis, just tired - if telling - anecdotes like the "untaxed swimming pools" that has been repeated to death since it first appeared in the New York Times three years ago.

The tone of the book warms up a little more than half-way through, when it turns into an impassioned screed against the euro and the folly of locking such diverse economies into a single currency. I agree with Mr Lynn on this stuff, but even I found the recital tiring. Mr Lynn is uncritical of German policy, and appears not to have noticed the damage done by German capital surpluses far beyond the european periphery. Tellingly, bottomless pits like Depfa or IKB (Goldman Sachs' favourite subprime stooges) go unmentioned even as Greeks, Irish and Spaniards are castigated.

This book is an editorial against the euro, topped off with thin and half-hearted factual passages about Greece and the rest of the periphery. The arguments against the euro are exactly those that could (and were) mounted pre-crisis, but the role that bad lending (as opposed to bad borrowing) played is glossed over. Instead, the EFSF - the greatest emergency fiscal transfer in history - is presented as originating in the European Commission's "embarassment" at the prospect of the Greeks turning to the IMF. Nothing about rescuing the French and German banks, no this was about avoiding awkward silences at diplomatic cocktail parties. Mr Lynn also sprinkles his text with questionable non-sequiturs (EU member Bulgaria, with lower debt ratios than most of the EU will never be invited to join EMU).

In short, this book has little of the in-depth coverage of Greece you might expect from the cover, and not a huge amount of factual reporting, far less original factual reporting. Instead, it's mostly an impassioned editorial, but one undermined by its blindness to complexity and as such of little use even to those who agree with its critique of the economics of the euro. The decline of the European periphery does indeed match the pessimistic forecasts made before the euro formed, but Lynn is blind to the substantial differences, for example stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that - miserable though its growth record is - Italy has remained firmly outside the danger zone.

Manolopoulos' "Greece's 'Odious' Debt" actually looks at Greece and actually a lot more research (ie some) put into it.A much better look.
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VINE VOICEon 23 April 2011
I had trouble scoring this. First of all it was turned out in a rush. It has too many spelling and editing mistakes, and this is annoying. On the content, I do not really see the point of coming out with a title that is so current that it has the shelf life of scallops. It is already historical as events have overtaken the analysis. The book claims no greater theoretical insights on the processes it describes. It is great fun to read (I know this sounds strange) and informative, but it is too grounded on events that will be of limited significance in a few months time. Further, I do have to say using a national flag in derogatory manner as a front cover is questionable if not outright inappropriate. The Greek government is keen to litigate against anyone who in any way writes anything they dislike, so the publisher ought to rethink the choice of cover image. If you have not already ordered the book, do not bother. If the author would like to make this lasting, he should come out with a paperback edition that expands on the meaning all this has in a way that uses Greece as a case study that illustrates wider trends. He does not achieve this as it stands. If this were a PhD thesis, I would fail it.
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on 1 April 2011
A good combination of modern history, economics and politics has resulted in a book that provides a fantastic picture of the events that have taken place in the EU over the last few years.

However, The author lets his own opinions come through to the reader too much and at points his conclusions seem unbalanced. Towards the end of the book we are put through an over opinionated spiel about how the Euro will ultimately be removed as the common currency of the union.

I would also put the argument forward that this book is too short for a book of it's type. Perhaps there is limits to the amount of information available to write a book of this sort, however if the author had put more effort into balancing this book it could have perhaps been longer.
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on 26 January 2011
"Bust..." is one of the best books I've ever read.

For someone who has followed the European Sovereign Debt Crisis closely over the past few years, I was fascinated by Matthew Lynn's forensic and meticulously detailed exposé of the political and economic car crash that has been the EU and the Euro.

This book is a highly entertaining, detailed and informative account of political bravado, bloody-mindedness, ineptitude and massive government-level fraud. (For example Greece artificially lowered their budget deficit in order to gain accession into the Euro and had a tax system whereby only 354 people out of nearly 17,000 with swimming pools in their garden, actually declared them to the tax authorities!)

Lynn describes in a very candid and at times laugh-out-loud way, how Greece is essentially the Sovereign version of "Lehman Brothers", except due to its interconnectedness with the rest of the world, it would be too dangerous both for the country itself and the rest of modern society to "let it fail".

Reading this brilliant story, you will learn about everything from political decision making, to budgetary economics, Credit Default Swaps, international bond markets and much much more.

Overall a gripping read and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has even the vaguest interest in this ongoing saga. 10/10
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on 8 February 2014
Do not buy, there are much better books about the Greek Crisis out there! Mr Matthew Lynn I'm afraid that either your views are very subjective or you're just clueless!
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on 4 January 2011
Although it is true that Greece tried to bring the global financial system to its knees, this was only possible due to the fact that our fellow citizens of the developed market world were not financially sound themselves, trying to hide their financial problems in innovative financial derivatives. This is actucally backed by most economists and commentators globally (including Bloomberg, Lynn's employer) who agree that the majority of the developed market world countries (including UK and Ireland) are in a a very dire financial situation themselves. The only difference is that the UK created a very innovative capital markets environment that can hide most of the issues apparent in the med club countries. Maybe Lynn's next book should be on UK and maybe he can use a satiric version of the Union Jack in the book's front cover... One should know better before making fun of other people!
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on 30 August 2012
This book, Bust, explains what went wrong. The author Matthew Lynn does a good job giving substantive reasons where the Euro has gone wrong. In most cases, he puts the blame squarely on Greece for effectively lying to pass the requirements for membership.

The lack of EU governancy also comes under fire, blinded by the idealism of the single currency, they forgot the basic economics. Joining export powerhouse such as Germany with a primarily agrarian economy like Greece under a single economy was going to be an ambitious venture.

So what next for the currency? No doubt that it can't continue as it is, reform is necessary whether creating a two tier currency or simply kicking the likes of Greece, Ireland or Portugal out.

It was quite refreshing to see a book critical about the European project without the need to go down the road of a anti-EU loon that seem to dominate critical discussions on EU politics.
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on 13 January 2011
If you want to understand the EU and the Euro crisis, this is the book to read.

It is a well written, structured analysis of what has gone wrong and the problems just around the corner.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and am about to start a second reading (it contains a lot of important information).

I read many books on Economics and Finance. This one is on my top shelf!
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on 25 August 2011
For a relatively small country, Greece has made outsized contributions to the world: mythic legends and heroes, great art and architecture, illuminating philosophers and thinkers, and the very word "democracy." Yet the nation that invented the Greek tragedy is living its own version of one today, dealing with fatal flaws that threaten to spread its suffering to the rest of Europe and beyond. Journalist Matthew Lynn dissects the origins of Greece's debt crisis and relates how the dream of a united Europe has led to what he predicts is the euro's imminent downfall. His dry, witty, clever writing style provides some relief around the all-too-real events he recounts and the dramatic prospects he predicts. getAbstract recommends this modern-day tale of unfolding human tragedy that's going to need a deus ex machina to bring catharsis and resolution.
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on 22 June 2011
This is the most useful book on the euro's disastrous effects. The way that governments dealt with the credit crunch (printing money and lending at 1 per cent) paved the way to the present crisis, caused by the euro. The euro has turned the EU into a debt union, a union of deflation and disaster.

Greece joined the euro in 2001, and was at once allowed to borrow whatever it wanted. Indebtedness doubled to 230 per cent of GDP by 2008. Goldman Sachs arranged swaps that disguised the extent of Greece's debts. Greece has 300 billion euros of debt.

Spain had a huge property bubble, the world's second biggest trade deficit (foreign debts were 95 per cent of GDP by 2009), and families owed 130 per cent of their disposable income. Since the euro was launched, Spain's debt levels have doubled to 366 per cent of GDP.

Ireland's debt relative to GDP more than doubled to more than 700 per cent of GDP; the financial sector's debt alone was 410 per cent of GDP. France, Germany and Britain have a combined exposure to Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain of $1.2 trillion.

In May 2010, the EU put together a 750 billion euro package to save the euro - 440 billion to a special fund which would sell debt directly to markets and use that cash to buy government bonds of high-deficit countries; 60 billion from the EU budget - the European Stabilisation Mechanism - whereby the Commission can issue bonds, using the EU's 140 billion annual budget as collateral; and 250 billion from the IMF. Britain is liable for 8 billion euros (corresponding to our 13.6 per cent share of the EU budget), if any country that has received these loans defaults on them.

The bailouts are illegal: Article 104b of the Maastricht Treaty says, "A Member State shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law or public undertakings of another state." So no EU member state should be liable for another country's debts. The bailouts also tore up the European Central Bank's mandate.

Greece is caught in a deflationary hole. Lynn notes, "the cuts in public expenditure kept depressing demand and pushing up unemployment. That in turn would depress tax revenues even further, making the debt burden even harder to control." The cuts are increasing the debt, so that soon it will be paying 30 per cent of its national income to the banks, which is unsustainable. Fitch's report on Greece said, "even if the program is successful, the sovereign stands to be even more exposed to market risk than it was before." Cutting debt sounds better than cutting growth.

Default is going to happen, but the Greek people have to choose to get out of the euro.
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