Study Guide

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine Foolishness and Folly

By Michael Lewis

Foolishness and Folly

After finishing The Big Short, there's just one question we're left asking—was the 2008 stock market crash caused by heartless scammers or straight-up idiots? On the one hand, there's a ton of fraudulent activity in the lead-up to this disaster, most of which was obviously done on purpose. On the other, we meet countless individuals who seem like they're trying to do the right thing but simply lack the brain space to do so. So which way do you land on this one? And here's an even better question for you: does it make a difference either way?

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. Do you blame the subprime crisis on ignorance or an active desire to scam people? Or both? Explain.
  2. Does it matter if the subprime crisis was called by foolishness? Why or why not? Does this change the way that the government should have reacted to the crisis?
  3. What fallacies led Wall Street into thinking the subprime market was strong?
  4. In the context of the subprime crisis, were consumers foolish? Explain your answer.

Chew on This

It ultimately doesn't matter if the subprime crisis was caused by foolishness or not, as the damage done to the American public is the same either way.

It matters whether the subprime crisis was caused by foolishness (or not) because that directly affects the way that the government responds to it.