Study Guide

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine Hypocrisy

By Michael Lewis


Seriously, folks, the 2008 stock market crash is a case study in hypocrisy. Over the 1980s and 1990s, Wall Street recorded record-breaking profits thanks to an explosion in the "subprime mortgage bond" market. There's just one glaring problem: the subprime mortgage bond market is awful. Like, Batman vs. Superman awful.

In order to hold on to their golden goose, the men at the head of these companies end up doing some incredibly hypocritical things to their investors, their employees, and the American public. These people gave loans to folks they knew wouldn't be able to pay them back…and then pretended they were helping poor people.

Guess what happened to those poor people? They lost their houses and their money. Guess what to those bankers, even after they got caught? Nothing. Except they got richer.

Questions About Hypocrisy

  1. Are the short-sellers hypocritical in any way? Explain your answer.
  2. What does the story of AIG tell us about the hypocrisy of Wall Street?
  3. What historical factors led to the hypocritical state of the financial world in the early 2000s?
  4. Did the government's response to the subprime crisis reduce the amount of hypocrisy in the financial world?

Chew on This

The sad truth is that Wall Street traders become hypocritical simply because the system makes it profitable for them to be that way.

The heroes of The Big Short—the short-sellers—are hypocritical because they don't stop the crisis; they merely profit from it.

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