Wednesday, March 24. 2010
The recession that started in 2007 and nearly melted down into a major depression in 2008 is quickly becoming one of the most written about events in recent history -- the run-up and Bremer year of the Iraq War is the closest competition I can think of. The pace if anything is picking up, such that my Book Note queue has become swamped with such books. Rather than dump out one of my usual mixed bags, I thought I should group as many as possible into one post. And rather than just offer a time slice, I've gone back into the old files to give a broader picture of what's available.
The Top Tier: These are the books that strike me as the most important ones on the broad subject. I can't guarantee that they're all good ones, but I've dug into a quite a few of them (see the links), and the others strike me -- either from reviews or from author reputation -- as likely to be significant. I've read (or am working on) the ones with the links -- some going to as yet unpopulated pages, sorry to say. Two that are well populated and especially worth looking at are Nomi Prins and Charles Morris. Also, every now and then I've slipped in a link to a book on the Bush Era corruption -- James Galbraith's The Predator State is probably the best general account of the marriage of politics and predatory money-making out recently, with Thomas Frank's The Wrecking Crew a solid runner-up. Lanchester's IOU is one of the more literate explanations of how banking works (if you call what they've been doing working). Stiglitz's Freefall is as good a big picture summary we have, especially on the politics behind the economics. Cassidy and Smith have written excellent books on the economic theories that helped the bankers get away with it. The last four note sections are currently empty, but will be plenty interesting when I get around to typing them up. More books are coming out: I've scoured ahead and rounded up a few
Dean Baker: False Profits: Recovering from the Bubble Economy (paperback, 2010, Polipoint Press): Cover photos of Bernanke, Greenspan, and Paulson, although I doubt that it ends there. Baker was one of the first to understand the bubble and what its collapse would mean. This looks to be a little more developed than his slim Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy.
Richard Bookstaber: A Demon of Our Own Design: Markets, Hedge Funds, and the Perils of Financial Innovation (2007; paperback, 2008, Wiley): Too early to catch the whole blow-up, but the author was a pioneer in some of the innovations he now warns of, which gives the book a sense both of expertise and prophecy.
John Cassidy: How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities (2009, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Another book on the financial collapse of 2008, focusing mostly on the shortcomings of conventional economic theory -- all that stuff about robust, rational, reliable, all-seeing and benificent markets. What he calls Utopian Economics. [link]
John Bellamy Foster/Fred Magdoff: The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences (paperback, 2009, Monthly Review Press): Short (160 pp) Marxian analysis of how capitalism's tendencies toward stagnation led to the current crisis. [link]
Justin Fox: The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street (2009, Harper Business): Organized thematically, jumping around in time, which lets him sneak a big subject into 400 pages.
James K Galbraith: The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too (2008; paperback, 2009, Free Press): Give corporations the keys to the state and they'll turn it into a system for preying on people, the exact opposite of what a democratic state should do. One of the better political books to appear in the last couple of years. I need to go back and pick up my quotes. [link]
Charles Gasparino: The Sellout: How Three Decades of Wall Street Greed and Government Mismanagement Destroyed the Global Financial System (2009, Harper Collins): CNBC personality blames it all on Wall Street's embrace of risk.
Mark Gilbert: Complicit: How Greed and Collusion Made the Credit Crisis Unstoppable (2010, Bloomberg Press): "Greed, stupidity, and hubris" -- sure, all those factors are endemic in the banking world, and maybe we should do something about that (not that I see much interest in or hope for disparaging greed systemwide), but the bit about collusion is more interesting and possibly more fateful. Gilbert reported for Bloomberg from London. All Amazon reviews are raves, and Nomi Prins praises this short (192 pp) book.
Peter S Goodman: Past Due: The End of Easy Money and the Renewal of the American Economy (2009, Times Books): More concerned with Main Street than with Wall Street, perhaps figuring that ultimately the real economy matters more than the casino and its cronies. Looks like more reporting than theorizing, and looks like he's done an impressive job of it. [link]
Gary Gorton: Slapped by the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007 (2010, Oxford University Press): Rather short (240 pp) big picture survey of the meltdown, with references back to similar events like 1893 and 1907. Argues that this panic was concentrated in the financial sector, which put the panic at a distance from everyday understanding even if it couldn't contain its effects.
Simon Johnson/James Kwak: 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown (2010, Pantheon): Johnson has been on target throughout the crisis, and is likely to pull together one of the best big picture summaries of what happened and why. The six too-big-to-fail megabanks and their oligarchs are at the heart of the problem. That they start to talk abouta "next financial meltdown" suggests that they don't think Obama et al. are up to reigning these bankers in. [Mar. 30]
Alyssa Katz: Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us (2009, Bloomsbury): Not sure how much of this is on the bubble and how much goes beyond it to what made the bubble possible: cheap money, shoddy business practices, and a thirst for risk, of course, but even deeper the conviction most Americans have that owning a home is essential to building up personal wealth.
John Lanchester: IOU: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay (2010, Simon & Schuster): I don't see the word in any of the review notes, but my impression is that this is about leverage. Politically convenient cheap credit has led to a mountain of highly leveraged investments that don't seem to be based on much of anything. Getting that money back is going to be difficult. Author started researching this for a novel, then decided truth is stranger, or maybe just more powerful, than fiction. [link]
Michael Lewis: The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (2010, WW Norton): Wrote a famous book about the 1980s scandals on Wall Street, Liar's Poker, based on his days working for Salomon Brothers -- an experience that at the time he described as "America, when a great nation lost its financial mind." Now, he looks back on the old book and wonders: "How quaint. How innocent." The new book tries to cover the new crisis by focusing on traders who sold short -- as good an angle as any, and no doubt a lot more fun to write about.
Barry C Lynn: Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction (2010, Wiley): Argues that the most dangerous trend in American business is the persistent move towards greater monopoly power. I think he's basically right here, and that this may be an important book. Author previously wrote End of the Line: The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation, which I have on my shelf but unfortunately haven't gotten to.
Charles R Morris: The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash (2008; revised, paperback, 2009, Public Affairs): One of the first really useful books out on the subprime mortgage crisis and how the contagion was likely to spread. And as such, instantly out of date. Hence the revision, which includes bumping the title up -- originally The Trillion Dollar Meltdown. [link]
Raj Patel: The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy (paperback, 2010, Picador): Starts with Oscar Wilde quote: "nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." This distinction between price and value leads to many ideas that could upset the conventional apple cart of economics. Previously wrote on food, Stuffed and Starved. Naomi Klein raves about him. [Bought a copy; looks very promising.]
Kevin Phillips: Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism (2008, Penguin Books): Money played a key role in his American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century. Here he gets to tell you he told you so. [link]
Nomi Prins: It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Street (2009, Wiley): Former Goldman Sachs managing director turned muckraking journalist, argues that the pillage had less to do with subprime mortgages than "a financial system that rewards people who move money instead of people who make things, operates outside of the media's gaze, is sheltered from governmental supervision, and uses leverage to turn risky deals into insanely risky deals." Seems about right. Previously wrote Other People's Money: The Corporate Mugging of America and Jacked: How "Conservatives" Are Picking Your Pocket (Whether You Voted for Them or Not) [link]
Barry Ritholtz: Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy (2009, Wiley): Broad history of the bubble and its bust, especially looking at the bailout, which he describes as "history's biggest transfer of wealth -- from the taxpayer to the Banksters." [paperback June 28]
Nouriel Roubini/Stephen Mihm: Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance (2010, Penguin Press): Roubini, a NYU business school professor, was one of the first Cassandras predicting the finance system collapse. Book looks at all sorts of recent finance system failures. [May 11]
Yves Smith: Econned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism (2010, Palgrave Macmillan): "Naked Capitalism" blogger, explains: "why the measures taken by the Obama Administration are mere palliatives and are unlikely to pave the way for a solid recovery; how economists have come to play a profoundly anti-democratic role in policy; how financial models and concepts that were discredited more than thirty years ago are still widely used by banks, regulators, and investors; how management and employees of major financial firms looted them, enriching themselves and leaving the mess to taxpayers; how financial regulation enabled predatory behavior by Wall Street towards investors; how economics has no theory of financial systems, yet economists fearlessly prescribe how to manage them." That about sums it up.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System---and Themselves (2009, Viking): Most likely one of the more important histories of the financial debacle of 2008, focusing on the politics of Washington basically in thrall to Wall Street.
Joseph E Stiglitz: Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy (2010, WW Norton): Been waiting for him to weigh in on the global meltdown, and this is it. Reading a long review at Amazon it looks to me like he caught just about everything. [link]
Gillian Tett: Fool's Gold: How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at JP Morgan Was Corrupted by Wall Street Greed and Unleashed a Catastrophe (2009, Free Press): Funny how that happens. The "bold dream" was the 1994 invention of CDOs, the basic form for the securitization of subprime mortgages. [paperback Apr. 13]
Note: Given the length of this post, I've let it slop over into the "extended body. Click to continue.
The second list is what I figure to be the second tier (or maybe lower), a big stack of books more/less directly tied to subprime mortgages, the bank meltdown, and the recession (including a couple on Bernie Madoff, who's more a symptom of the disease than a cause, unless you too were infected):
Viral V Acharya/Matthew Richardson, eds: Restoring Financial Stability: How to Repair a Failed System (2009, Wiley): Some kind of group project from New York University Stern School of Business, which Amazon attributes as the author, with analysis and lots of recommendations.
JS Aikman: When Prime Brokers Fail: The Unheeded Risk to Hedge Funds, Banks, and the Financial Industry (2010, Bloomberg Press): E.g., Lehman Brothers, whose failure set off a chain of repercussions that ultimately convinced many skeptics that it was indeed "too big to fail." Not sure I can handle all this weeping over the poor hedge funds. [Apr. 21]
Edmund L Andrews: Busted: Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown (2009, WW Norton): New York Times economics writer, but mainly qualified for wiping his savings out by buying into a mortgage he couldn't afford. Could be a cautionary tale about the fickle press, but doesn't seem to be that smart, even in retrospect.
Erin Arvedlund: Too Good to Be True: The Rise and Fall of Bernie Madoff (2009, Portfolio): Author reportedly wrote the first critical article on Madoff.
John Authers: The Fearful Rise of Markets: Global Bubbles, Synchronized Meltdowns, and What Must Be Done to Prevent Them in the Future (2010, FT Press): Focus on global linkages which allow bubbles to have effects propagated throughout the financial system. [June 7]
Dean Baker: Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy (paperback, 2009, Polipoint Press): Short (170 pp) essay on the financial debacle, from one of the few critics who clearly saw it coming.
Bill Bamber/Andrew Spencer: Bear Trap: The Fall of Bear Stearns and the Panic of 2008 (2008, Brick Tower): First book out on the subject, well before the crisis had played out, so they tend to view Bear Stearns as the exception rather than the rule -- a martyr for Wall Street's sins.
Robert J Barbera: The Cost of Capitalism: Understanding Market Mayhem and Stabilizing our Economic Future (2009, McGraw-Hill): Seems like a fairly establishment guy to go around badmouthing capitalism like that. Hyman Minsky follower, learning lessons from one bubble/panic to the next. Evidently a good deal more readable than Minsky's own recently reprinted Stabilizing an Unstable Economy.
Bruce Bartlett: The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a Way Forward (2009, Palgrave Macmillan): Still a self-styled conservative, but whereas his 2006 book still clung to Reagan's legacy (title: Impostor: How George W Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy) and his 2008 book was dishonest (title: Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past) he finally has some doubts about Saint Ronald. Now he's pitching Keynes and the Welfare State to his conservative brethren, but it's probably too high and hard for them to touch.
Matthew Bishop/Michael Green: The Road from Ruin: How to Revive Capitalism and Put America Back on Top (2010, Crown Business): Of course, you first have to explain the road to ruin before moving on. Not sure where they're going, but seems to be a realistic analysis of how we got here.
Richard Bitner: Confessions of a Subprime Lender: An Insider's Tale of Greed, Fraud, and Ignorance (paperback, 2008, Wiley): I suppose there's a need for books by scum about how they screwed ordinary people out of their savings and homes and fed a profiteering ring that ultimately wrecked the whole economy.
Charles Brownell: Subprime Meltdown: From US Liquidity Crisis to Global Recession (paperback, 2008, Create Space): Short (116 pp) summary, starting at the house market end, which seems is the author's bailiwick.
Giles Chance: China and the Credit Crisis: The Emergence of a New World Order (paperback, 2010, Wiley): Some allusions here about China's role in precipitating the credit crisis, whatever that means. From what I know, China mostly put its surplus into US treasury bonds. They did take a hit as the credit crisis crippled world trade, and they responded with a huge stimulus program that put them on a faster recovery track than anyone else did. Obviously, how the whole thing sloshed through countries like China (and India) should be of interest. How to blame them is less clear.
William D Cohan: House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street (2009, Doubleday; paperback, 2010, Anchor): Focuses on ten days around the collapse of Bear Stearns, the beginning of the 2008 financial meltdown. Book has been described as novelistic, which I don't find very reassuring or entertaining -- maybe if more bankers flung themselves out of windows? Big issues like why and what it all means get lost in immediate details.
George Cooper: The Origin of Financial Crises: Central Banks, Credit Bubbles, and the Efficient Market Fallacy (paperback, 2008, Vintage): Seems to lay much of the blame on central bankers. He is certainly right that the present crisis was made much worse (if not necessarily caused) by the expansion of credit the Fed used to prop up the post-9/11 economy in its desperate attempt to prop up Bush's election prospects -- not that he puts it that way.
Patricia Crisafulli: The House of Dimon: How JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon Rose to the Top of the Financial World (2009, Wiley): Possibly even more obsequious than Duff McDonald's Dimon bio. Wall Street Journal calls this a "fiduciary love letter." Wonder if Dimon's quite the stud Midge Decter found Donald Rumsfeld to be.
Paul Davidson: The Keynes Solution: The Path to Global Economic Prosperity (2009, Palgrave Macmillan): A short book of economic policy prescription, based on the immemorial question, what would John Maynard Keynes say now?
Charles D Ellis: The Partnership: The Making of Goldman Sachs (2008; revised ed, paperback, 2009, Penguin): One of the key investment banks, which survived the meltdown partly because its traders had bet heavily against its own toxic CDOs, and partly because its ex-chairman, Hank Paulson, was running the Treasury at the crucial moment (e.g., when AIG, which held Goldman Sachs' CDSs, was going down). Paperback has an extra chapter, which hopefully explains all this.
David Faber: And Then the Roof Caved In: How Wall Street's Greed and Stupidity Brought Capitalism to Its Knees (2009, Wiley): CNBC business analyst, keeps it short (208 pp) and vivid, but probably not very deep.
Roger EA Farmer: How the Economy Works: Confidence, Crashes and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies (2010, Oxford University Press): Short overview of economics in light of the meltdown. Strikes me as on the conservative side -- likes quantitative easing as a means to target asset price inflation but doesn't like stimulus spending to grow employment -- but isn't dumb or inflexible about it. [Apr. 7]
William A Fleckenstein: Greenspan's Bubbles: The Age of Ignorance at the Federal Reserve (2008, McGraw-Hill): Pretty harsh on Greenspan, but probably more accurate than Woodward's book -- what was it called, Maestro? Note that Peter Hartcher has a similar book, Bubble Man.
Steve Forbes/Elizabeth Ames: How Capitalism Will Save Us: Why Free People and Free Markets Are the Best Answer in Today's Economy (2009, Crown Business): Forbes started writing this before the crisis, but he's not about to let history affect his convictions. He knows free markets are the answer to whatever ails us. What I'm not sure of is who "us" is.
Nicole Gelinas: After the Fall: Saving Capitalism from Wall Street -- and Washington (2009, Encounter): Looks like a brief for deeper and more effective regulation, although Amazon seems to be bundling it with conservative books, some utterly nonsensical -- probably the publisher.
Edward M Gramlich: Subprime Mortgages: America's Latest Boom and Bust (paperback, 2007, Urban Institute Press): A short (120 pp), relatively early primer on on the problem, before it became clear how toxic those mortgages had become, or how crooked the whole affair was.
James Grant: Mr. Market Miscalculates: The Bubble Years and Beyond (2008, Axios): Collected from speeches and editorials by the editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer. Seems to have had a clue on the subprime crisis.
Stephany Griffith-Jones/José Antonio Ocampo/Joseph Stiglitz, eds: Time for a Visible Hand: Lessons from the 2008 World Financial Crisis (paperback, 2010, Oxford University Press): A collection of academic papers pushing for significant reform of the banking system.
Daniel Gross: Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation (paperback, 2009, Free Press): Short (112 pp) account of the current financial debacle, rushed out in paperback first. Even so, I wonder how much news there is here, let alone analysis.
Ethan S Harris: Ben Bernanke's Fed: The Federal Reserve After Greenspan (2008; revised ed, paperback, 2010, Harvard Business Press): Seemed quick on the draw when it came out before Bernanke got a chance to live up to his reputation as an inflation hawk or get blindsided by the subprime bubble collapse. Paperback has been revised, but most often with these things the stamp is set at the start.
William J Holstein: Why GM Matters: Inside the Race to Transform an American Icon (2009, Walker): A timely subject, given that the US government is likely to wind up owning about 50% of the formerly huge automaker, and few people (if anyone) have a clue to do about it. Looks like this has more to do with the size and economic relationships that GM has than the details of car making.
Douglas W. Hubbard: The Failure of Risk Management: Why It's Broken and How to Fix It (2009, Wiley): Back to the drawing board. One thing we know now is that the computer models for risk management on things like CDOs and CDSs have been wildly wrong. Presumably Hubbard, who's supposed to be an expert in such, is out to correct that.
Dan Immergluck: Foreclosed: High-Risk Lending, Deregulation, and the Undermining of America's Mortgage Market (2009, Cornell University Press): Another history of the rise and fall of the mortgage market.
Tetsuya Ishikawa: How I Caused the Credit Crunch (paperback, 2009, Icon Books): Banker, Japanese by birth, grew up in London, attended Eton and Oxford; worked for Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, ABN AMRO, securitizing toxic assets, so maybe it was his fault. Just not quite his alone.
Asgeir Jonsson: Why Iceland?: How One of the World's Smallest Countries Became the Meltdown's Biggest Casualty (2009, McGraw-Hill): Interesting case study, although both the extreme boom and the bust were exaggerated by the tiny size of the economy.
Dave Kansas: The Wall Street Journal Guide to the End of Wall Street as We Know It: What You Need to Know About the Greatest Financial Crisis of Our Time -- and How to Survive It (paperback, 2009, Harper): Financial writer, depends on brand name for authority, writes down to his presumed audience, which might include Rip Van Winkle.
Henry Kaufman: The Road to Financial Reformation: Warnings, Consequences, Reforms (2009, Wiley): Notoriously bearish financial analyst gets to write an I-told-you-so book, and lay out some ideas for fixing things. Niall Ferguson wrote the intro, which doesn't strike me as a plus.
Kate Kelly: Street Fighters: The Last 72 Hours of Bear Stearns, the Thoughest Firm on Wall Street (2009; paperback, 2010, Portfolio Trade): An hour-by-hour account of the last tree days that terminated the venerable investment bank -- short on context or analysis, which no doubt heightens the blindsided by reality shock.
Lawrence J Kotlikoff: Jimmy Stewart Is Dead: Ending the World's Ongoing Financial Plague with Limited Purpose Banking (2010, Wiley): Stewart played the earnest small town banker in Frank Capra's film, It's a Wonderful Life, whose depression was cured by a chance to look decades ahead at all the good he would do with his bank. Such banks don't exist any more, but Kotlikoff has some sort of scheme to bring them back. The fact is that we need some small subset of banking services, and almost everything else that modern banks do is predatory -- scams that suck money out of the real economy and into the bankers' pockets.
Adam LeBor: The Believers: How America Fell for Bernard Madoff's $65 Billion Investment Scam (2010, Orion): This looks to be better tied to the real issues than the quickie bios that dwell on Madoff's personal extravagance. His "too good to be true" scam depended on those gullible enough to buy in, which is the underlying condition (part stupid, part greedy, part just sunny optimism) that allowed the entire investment world to lose their moorings.
Les Leopold: The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity--and What We Can Do About It (paperback, Chelsea Green): The Wall Street debacle told by a labor economist. I dislike "and what we can do about it" titles, but this is most likely a good primer on the problem, the place to start.
Roger Lowenstein: The End of Wall Street (2010, Penguin): Bloomberg columnist, has several big finance books to his credit; tries to pull the big picture together. His experience with financial disasters includes a book on LTCM: When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management and Origins of the Crash: The Great Bubble and Its Undoing. [Apr. 6]
Harry Markopolos: No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller (2010, Wiley): The Bernie Madoff story, as told by the whistleblower who brought the case before a somnambulant SEC.
Paul Mason: Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed (paperback, 2009, Verso): Economics editor at BBC Newsnight, good for a view outside of the usual US self-focus.
Duff McDonald: Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase (2009, Simon & Schuster): Suck this up: Dimon is "a dedicated family man whose uncanny facility with numbers and tireless work ethic are complemented by fierce loyalty and an unrelenting aversion to office politics [ . . . ] the only man in finance today who can be called an American hero." Dimon's been in the news much lately. Few things soured me on Obama more than the day Obama talked about what a "savvy businessman" Dimon is.
Lawrence G McDonald/Patrick Robinson: A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers (2009, Crown): Significant because the Lehman bankruptcy was the single most traumatic event of the financial collapse of 2008. Insiders might know something about that, but most of what happened lies elsewhere, including the political decision to let Lehman collapse.
Adam Michaelson: The Foreclosure of America: The Inside Story of the Rise and Fall of Countrywide Home Loans, the Mortgage Crisis, and the Default of the American Dream (2009, Berkley): The subprime mortage meltdown, as told by a Senior VP of Marketing at Countrywide, the nation's largest subprime racketeer. Many reviewers claim that it's shallow and self-serving.
Paul Muolo/Mathew Padilla: Chain of Blame: How Wall Street Caused the Mortgage and Credit Crisis (2008, Wiley): Two journalists track down the chain of responsibility for the subprime mortgage meltdown.
Shari B Olefson: Foreclosure Nation: Mortgaging the American Dream (paperback, 2009, Prometheus): Florida real estate attorney, probably much more here on nuts and bolts of dealing with a problem mortgage than overall analysis of how the market got to be so messed up.
Jerry Oppenheimer: Madoff with the Money (2009, Wiley): Cute title, one of many on the subject. Author previously wrote an unauthorized bio of Martha Stewart. [paperback Aug. 10]
Fintan O'Toole: Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger (2010, Public Affairs): Ireland's economy got a big rise on the front side of a capitalist-friendly boom from 1995-2007, including a big chunk of the housing bubble. Then when the world banking crashed, Ireland was hit harder than most.
Frank Partnoy: The Match King: Ivar Krueger, the Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals (2009, Public Affairs): The grandfather of all Ponzi schemes, not least Bernie Madoff's. Relevant today, natch, but the big scandals these days have more to do with Alan Greenspan, Richard Rubin, and Jamie Dimon. Partnoy has a couple of pre-crisis books that seem at least as relevant: FIASCO: Guns, Gooze, and Bllodlust -- The Truth About High Finance (1998), and Infectious Greed: How Deceit and Risk Corrupted the Financial Markets (2004).
Scott Patterson: The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It (2010, Crown Business): Presumably newer than the old math whizzes that soared and crashed LTCM back in the more innocent 1990s. Warren Buffett: "Beware of geeks bearing formulas."
Henry M Paulson Jr: On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System (2010, Business Plus): Bush's Treasury Secretary, one of the key actors in the bailout; before that head of Goldman Sachs, one of the key actors in causing the problem in the first place. Ever wonder why he switched jobs when he did? In every nook and cranny of the federal government, Bush gladly turned chicken coops over to foxes, but only Paulson had the gall to demand a $700 billion slush fund with no oversight. This is no doubt an important book on the crisis, but with equal certainty will not be an honest or critical one. The question is what seeps through -- most likely, hubris.
Richard A Posner: A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of '08 and the Descent into Depression (2009, Harvard University Press): The federal judge who knows and writes about everything weighs in on the economy. Reviewers are struck that someone deeply embued in Chicago School economics winds up promoting regulation as the necessary answer. Liberal economists already know that, so the main prospect here is the matter of discovery.
Robert Pozen: Too Big to Save? How to Fix the US Financial System (2009, Wiley): A nuts and bolts guide to reforming the financial system. Not sure where he's coming from or going, because things like "a way to revive the securitization of loans" aren't intrinsically clear.
Donald Rapp: Bubbles, Booms, and Busts: The Rise and Fall of Financial Assets (2009, Springer): Some on the subprime fiasco, more on older instances going back to the 1720s -- what, no tulips? Seems to have a political agenda, ranting against "tax and spend" Democrats and "spend and borrow" Republicans, citing Cheney's "deficits don't matter" as "the theme of American finance." But if deficits didn't matter to the banks, why bail them out?
Jack Rasmus: Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression (paperback, 2010, Pluto Press): Argues that massive job creation programs and wealth redistribution are needed to prevent the recession from getting worse and/or dragging on indefinitely. Clearly doesn't understand that the bankers that move and shake the world can get along fine without workers. [May 11]
Colin Read: Global Financial Meltdown: How We Can Avoid the Next Economic Crisis (2009, Palgrave Macmillan): Another big picture book, tries to be forward looking. No idea what all it covers, but Dean Baker approves.
Andrew Redleaf/Richard Vigilante: Panic: The Betrayal of Capitalism by Wall Street and Washington (2010, Richard Vigilante Books): Redleaf is a hedge fund manager who predicted the banking crisis in a letter to his clients in Dec. 2006. Looks like this could be a right-wing rant, but Robert Shiller approved, and here's one quote: "Bush's initial policy on the crisis was similar to his Iraq policy: create a Green Zone and a Red Zone. Both policies were failures."
Carmen M Reinhart/Kenneth Rogoff: This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly (2009, Princeton University Press): A comparative history of numerous financial crises, presumably showing that they aren't so different after all. Lots of charts and numbers.
Lawrence Roberts: The Great Housing Bubble: Why Did House Prices Fall? (paperback, 2008, Monterey Cypress): Land developer consultant in California, had a view "from ground zero" of the housing bubble.
Paul Craig Roberts: How the Economy Was Lost: The War of the Worlds (paperback, 2010, AK Press): Former Reagan Treasury undersecretary turned CounterPunch columnist. Looks like a set of such columns, on the many ways the economy has been degraded.
Guillermo Rosas: Curbing Bailouts: Bank Crises and Democratic Accountability in Comparative Perspective (2009, University of Michigan Press): Over the last twenty years banks have been bailed out on every continent but Antarctica, so there are plenty of samples for comparison. No doubt most are inside deals, with safeguards to make sure ordinary people never get a cut, which may be where questions of democracy come into play.
Stephen J Rose: Rebound: Why America Will Emerge Stronger From the Financial Crisis (2010, St Martin's Press): Calls for "simple financial regulation and forthcoming investments in education, health care and energy," arguing that the fundamentals of the US economy are so rich that little more is needed. This runs against our recent experience with jobless recoveries; maybe it assumes a more liberal political climate where jobs are actually a public concern. [Apr. 13]
Brian Ross: The Madoff Chronicles: Inside the Secret World of Bernie and Ruth (2009, Hyperion): One of many potboilers on Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme, which is kind of a sidecar to the real action.
Shane Ross: The Bankers: How the Banks Ruined the Irish Economy (paperback, 2009, Penguin Ireland): The bankers, the light-fingered regulators, the housing scams, all the things that happened elsewhere, the same old story sketched out in small scale with different names and places but much the same reasons.
Danny Schechter: Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal (paperback, 2008, Cosimo): Self-described investigative journalist, television producer, director of the DVD In Debt We Trust. My guess is that this isn't very deep, but the guy at least has a nose for dirt, and shouldn't have any trouble finding some.
Robert Scheer: The Great American Stick-Up: Greedy Bankers and the Politicians Who Loved Them (paperback, 2010, Nation Books): TruthDig editor, out for some good old fashioned muckraking. [Sept. 7]
Peter Schweizer: Architects of Ruin: How Big Government Liberals Wrecked the Global Economy -- and How They Will Do It Again If No One Stops Them (2009, Harper): Blames a long list of "liberal technocrats" -- actually, all Democrats (possible exception Saul Alinsky), mostly for encouraging "broadening home ownership," putting the banks "under the thumb of local activists," producing a "Robin Hood capitalism run wild." Actually, some of those listed (like Robert Rubin) did have dirty hands, but it wasn't because they were hurting poor people by lending them money. Rubin, for instance, cleared over $100 million at Citigroup after he left the Clinton administration.
Frederick J Sheehan: Panderer to Power: The Untold Story of How Alan Greenspan Enriched Wall Street and Left a Legacy of Recession (2009, McGraw-Hill): Well, Greenspan's reputation didn't take long to drop into the toilet.
Robert J Shiller: The Subprime Solution: How Today's Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do About It (2008, Princeton University Press): One of the first books out on the financial meltdown, early enough that it focuses on the subprime mortgage mess rather than the bigger picture.
Jeroen Smit: The Perfect Prey: The Fall of ABN Amro, or What Went Wrong in the Banking Industry (2010, Quercus): ABN Amro was a venerable 183-year-old Dutch bank acquired by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in Oct. 2007 and quickly scrapped for whatever profits could be gleaned. RBS, in turn, had to be rescued by the British government the next year. Just one of many recent banking stories: Tolstoy's unhappy families may all be different, but bad banks are distressfully alike.
Roy C Smith: Paper Fortunes: Modern Wall Street: Where It's Been, and Where It's Going (2010, St Martin's Press): Former Goldman Sachs investment banker, has a bunch of books on banking, including Global Banking (2003) and Comeback: The Restoration of American Banking Power in the New World Economy (1994). I have no real sense of where this fits in.
Andrew Smithers: Wall Street Revalued: Imperfect Markets and Inept Central Bankers (2009, Wiley): Economist, but main interest seems to be advising investors. Previously co-wrote, with Stephen Wright, Valuing Wall Street: Protecting Wealth in Turbulent Times, which this title plays off of. Thinks that central bankers should tighten money supply not only to fight inflation but also to prevent overvaluation of stocks (pace the Fed's actual policy of propping up the stock market, commonly described as the "Greenspan put").
George Soros: The Crash of 2008 and What It Means: The New Paradigm for Financial Markets (revised ed, paperback, 2009, Public Affairs): Revised from The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What It Means. Seems inevitable that Soros would weigh in, but this seems to have some economic analysis to it, as well as the experience of a guy who's moved a few billion dollars in and out of the casino.
Thomas Sowell: The Housing Boom and Bust (2009; rev ed, paperback, 2010, Basic Books): Conservative economist and ideologue, has a large number of books, some clearly tied to economics, some with ponderous titles like Intellectuals and Society, a few on race like Black Rednecks and White Liberals
Andrew Spencer: Tower of Thieves: Inside AIG's Culture of Corporate Greed (2009, Brick Tower): Another insider account, based on someone named John Falcetta, and, well, you can guess what he found.
Gary H Stern/Ron J Feldman: Too Big to Fail: The Hazards of Bank Bailouts (paperback, 2009, Brookings Institution Press): Policy wonk book on how to get out from under the TBTF doctrine. Intro by Paul Volcker.
Joseph E Stiglitz: The Stiglitz Report: Reforming the International Monetary and Financial Systems in the Wake of the Global Crisis (paperback, 2010, New Press): A set of policy recommendations based on the financial crisis and other concurrent problems ("food, water, energy, and sustainability"). [Apr. 27]
Leila Simona Talani, ed: The Global Crash: Towards a New Global Regime? (2010, Palgrave Macmillan): Short (224 pp), expensive ($90), collection of academic papers; UK editor. [July 20]
John R Talbott: The Coming Crash in the Housing Market: 10 Things You can Do Now to Protect Your Most Valuable Investment (paperback, 2003, McGraw-Hill): Possibly the earliest book to clearly identify the housing bubble. Predicted it would bust in two years, which was a bit short. Still, when it did bust it broke big.
John R Talbott: Sell Now!: The End of the Housing Bubble (paperback, 2006, St Martin's Griffin): Crossing over from Chicken Little to an I-told-you-so scold. Seems to have overestimated how much house prices would fall, not that he can be said to have overstated the problem.
John R Talbott: Contagion: The Financial Epidemic That Is Sweeping the Global Economy . . . and How to Protect Yourself From It (2008, Wiley): Another book on the subprime mess and how toxic assets spread illness throughout the financial system. Author recently wrote Obanomics: How Bottom-Up Economic Prosperity Will Replace Trickle-Down Economics.
John R Talbott: The 86 Biggest Lies on Wall Street (2009, Seven Stories Press): A straightforward catalog, starting with "lies that caused this mess" and more on hedge funds, derivatives, pseudo-reform and real reform.
Joseph Tibman: The Murder of Lehman Brothers: An Insider's Look at the Global Meltdown (2009, Brick Tower): Pseudonym for a 20-year Lehman Brothers veteran tells a "story of greed run amok."
Katrina vanden Heuvel, ed: Meltdown: How Greed and Corruption Shattered Our Financial System and How We Can Recover (paperback, 2009, Nation Books): Quickie compilation of Nation pieces on the economic downturn. Probably some worthwhile, some dated, some that could use a little more seasoning.
Johan Van Overtveldt: Bernanke's Test: Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, and the Drama of the Central Banker (2009, Agate B2): Pro-Fed brief by the author of The Chicago School: How the University of Chicago Assembled the Thinkers Who Revolutionized Economics and Business. [paperback Apr. 1]
Vicky Ward: The Devil's Casino: Friendship, Betrayal, and the High Stakes Games Played Inside Lehman Brothers (2010, Wiley): The by-now usual story of CDO gamesmanship inside the late investment bank, with all the usual arrogance and braggadocio, and someone named Marcus Brutus. [Apr. 12]
Brian S Wesbury: It's Not as Bad as You Think: Why Capitalism Trumps Fear and the Economy Will Thrive (2009, Wiley): A "top economic forecaster"; i.e., the sort of guy who's been selling you this crap for years now. Oh, that little blip in 2008: blame it on "mark-to-market" accounting rules, which somehow were never the problem when the market was up.
David Wessel: In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on the Great Panic (2009, Crown Business): The view focusing on the Federal Reserve and Bernanke, who gets to come off as a hero as opposed to just one of many contributors to the meltdown. The Fed pumped the bubble up with nearly free cash, made no effort to limit its expansion or the propagation of risk through the system, then met the collapse with ingenious and unprecedented methods to transfuse cash into the bleeding banks. Greenspan had more to do with the early stages, but Bernanke was never far from the mark, nor did he ever show the slightest inkling of grasping where it was all going. [paperback Aug. 11]
Mark Williams: Uncontrolled Risk: The Lessons of Lehman Brothers and How Systemic Risk Can Still Bring Down the World Financial System (2010, McGraw-Hill): B-school professor, risk management expert, looks back in wonder. [Apr. 6]
Martin Wolf: Fixing Global Finance (2008; updated ed, paperback, 2010, Johns Hopkins University Press): Sees one of those perfect storms of global macroeconomic imbalances, caused largely by "aggressive monetary easing" and the willingness of the US to act as "borrower of last resort." Proposes various ways to rejigger the system, mostly involving reducing the centrality of the US economy. Author also wrote Why Globalization Works, where the very title says something about his priorities.
Richard Wolff: Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It (paperback, 2009, Olive Branch Press): Given the title, could have used a slightly grosser cover illustration -- the one they have shows a stack of Franklins scattering in the wind. Wolff is a Marxist economist, so he's in his moment.
Thomas E Woods Jr: Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse (2009, Regnery): From the Product Description: "If you are fed up with Washington boondoggles, and you like the small-government, politically-incorrect thinking of Ron Paul, then you'll love Tom Woods's Meltdown." Note that their selling point is self-satisfaction, nothing to do with whether anything here is right. One learns, for instance, that never mind Roosevelt, it was Hoover's activist government that deepened the Great Depression. Ron Paul wrote the intro; he's a stopped clock, right on only one issue, and this isn't it.
Robert E Wright, ed: Bailouts: Public Money, Private Profit (paperback, 2010, Columbia University Press): Short (160 pp) focus on bailout issues, possibly even raising the morality of it all. Wright has mostly written on finance history going back to Alexander Hamilton, but has a book coming out in August that may be of interest: Fubarnomics: A Lighthearted, Seroius Look at America's Economic Ills (Prometheus).
Michael D Yates/Fred Magdoff: The ABCs of the Economic Crisis: What Working People Need to Know (paperback, 2009, Monthly Review Press): Short (144 pp) tutorial on the causes and effects of the crisis, concerned more with the real world economy than with the shibboleths of Wall Street.
Mark M Zandi: Financial Shock: Global Panic and Government Bailouts: How We Got Here and What Must Be Done to Fix It (2008; updated ed, paperback, 2009, FT Press): Analyst book, always full of advice. First ed. focused on "subprime mortgage implosion"; revised edition had to follow up on the consequences, which are still playing out.
Gregory Zuckerman: The Greatest Trade Ever: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of How John Paulson Defied Wall Street and Made Financial History (2009, Broadway Business): John Paulson is not, nor even related to, Goldman Sachs honcho/Treasury secretary Hank Paulson. John Paulson runs the hedge fund Paulson & Co., which bet heavily against the subprime mortgage racket, making billions of dollars from the Wall Street meltdown. This is a good thing?
The third list picks up books that don't directly deal with the current recession but provide useful background information, some historical, some in terms of economics and its politics. Some were written well before this crisis.
Moshe Adler: Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science That Makes Life Dismal (2009, New Press): About time someone turned the tables on "the dismal science" and show that what's dismal about it is how susceptible it is to political whims of its practitioners.
Liaquat Ahamed: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World (2009; paperback, 2009, Penguin): Actually, a history featuring four bankers from the 1920s, leading up to the 1929 Crash and Depression, and how the central banks bungled the crisis. Still, this appears at a time when the sequel is being acted out. Even if the analogies aren't obvious, the penchant for arrogance and error is still all too evident. Most likely the spookiest part will be Germany, given what happened there.
George A Akerlof/Robert J Shiller: Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism (2009, Princeton University Press): A look at how psychological factors impact economic decisions -- presumably a corrective to the ultra-rationalism most economists assume to simplify their equations. Title, I believe, comes from Keynes. Schiller previously wrote Irrational Exuberance, about the stock bubble (second edition in 2006), and The Subprime Solution: How Today's Global Financial Crisis Happened and What to Do About It. [link]
Daniel Altman: Neoconomy: George Bush's Revolutionary Gamble With America's Future (2004; paperback, 2005, Public Affairs): Focuses on Bush's tax cuts and efforts to trim programs like social security.
Robert D Auerbach: Deception and Abuse at the Fed: Henry B Gonzalez Battles Alan Greenspan's Bank (2008, University of Texas Press): Gonzalez is a D-TX congressman who chaired the House Financial Services Committee, one of the few politicians who ever tried to exert any oversight on the Fed.
Stephen H Axilrod: Inside the Fed: Monetary Policy and Its Management, Martin Through Greenspan to Benanke (2009, MIT Press): Until Bernanke most of what the Fed did was diddle with the money supply, taking the punch bowl away when parties started to get going (unless you're Greenspan and the party is Republican, of course), and this briefly (213 pp) surveys that side, from a long time insider's perspective.
Joel Bakan: The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (paperback, 2005, Free Press): Not specifically about banks, but the author could write a sequel that is. For starters, the custom of treating fines for illegal activities to cost-benefit analysis is sociopathic.
William Baker/Addison Wiggin: Endless Money: The Moral Hazards of Socialism (2009, Wiley): Exposes "the dark motives and drivers of today's socialist alliance, a combination of the über rich and the rights of the entitled lower-middle class." Sounds like if we had only kept to the gold standard we wouldn't have had all that growth which turned into bubbles and burst into recessions.
Bradley Bateman/Toshiaki Hirai/Maria Cristina Marcuzzo, eds: The Return to Keynes (2010, Belknap Press): Nothing like a crisis to nudge economists back to studying reality, even to bringing back tools that allow you to do something about it.
Anna Bernasek: The Economics of Integrity: From Dairy Farmers to Toyota, How Wealth Is Built on Trust and What That Means for Our Future (2010, Harper Studio): It's hard to overstate how important trust is for any sort of functioning economy. Not sure how much of this concerns itself with finance reform, but clearly there is a need for restoring integrity and trust there.
William K Black: The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One: How Corporate Executives and Politicians Looted the S&L Industry (paperback, 2005, University of Texas Press): A couple years old and looking back on several scandals ago, but the title is as true as ever, and the lessons evidently still haven't been learned.
Paul Blustein: The Chastening: Inside the Crisis That Rocked the Global Financial System and Humbled the IMF (paperback, 2003, Public Affairs): For 50+ years the IMF had been the stern parent of the third world, doling out money to keep first world banks afloat while tying its loans to forcing pro-capitalist "Washington consensus" policies on nations in dire need of development. Then came the 1997-99 East Asia crisis, where recovery and development was inversely related to IMF "help." Within a decade, no one would want IMF money on the old terms, and the IMF would be scrambling to change its usual prescriptions.
Paul Blustein: And the Money Kept Roling In (and Out): Wall Street, the IMF, and the Bankrupting of Argentina (paperback, 2006, Public Affairs): Another turning point for the IMF was its disastrous handling of Argentina's collapse, one of many important data points on the trail to the current recession.
Paul Blustein: Misadventures of the Most Favored Nations: Clashing Egos, Inflated Ambitions, and the Great Shambles of the World Trade System (2009, Public Affairs): Mostly on the failed Doha Round of trade talks -- the one that might actually help the third world but was postponed and ultimately shelved.
Robert F Bruner/Sean D Carr: The Panic of 1907: Lessons Learned from the Market's Perfect Storm (2008; paperback, 2009, Wiley): One of those depressions from back in the good old days when the federal government was powerless as well as uninterested in doing anything about it. Fortunately, the bankers could appeal to a higher authority: J Pierpont Morgan.
Jonathan Chait: The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics (2007, Houghton Mifflin): The story of "supply side economics," a/k/a "voodoo economics," a theory I thought was long dead. It was originally cooked up to justify tax cuts on the rich, but nowadays the Republicans don't even need theories to do that -- it's burned into their DNA, isn't it? [link]
Ron Chernow: The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance (1990; paperback, 2010, Grove Press): Ancient history, dusted off for another round. Author has a long history of writing about the moneyed, including Alexander Hamilton and John D. Rockefeller.
Steven M Davidoff: Gods at War: Shotgun Takeovers, Government by Deal, and the Private Equity Implosion (2009, Wiley): Quite a bit here about how private equity groups, sovereign wealth funds, and investment banks takeover businesses, and includes some deals the government set up as part of its bank bailouts. Interesting stuff, almost all of which makes insiders ridiculously rich while putting a drag on the real economy.
June Breton Fisher: When Money Was in Fashion: Henry Goldman, Goldman Sachs, and the Founding of Wall Street (2010, Palgrave Macmillan): Gilded age history; thank God we got over all that. [Apr. 27]
Thomas Frank: The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation (2008; paperback, 2009, Holt): A pretty accurate summary of the Republicans' run of ruin in Washington. Paperback added something to the subtitle; not sure if the book has been updated. [link]
Steve Fraser: Wall Street: America's Dream Palace (2008, Yale University Press): Background on the allure and romance of Wall Street, which goes a long way to letting them get away with it all. A short (208 pp) book following his much longer Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life. [link]
Daniel Friedman: Morals and Markets: An Evolutionary Account of the Modern World (2008, Palgrave Macmillan): A survey of cases where markets disconnected from morals with various ill effects. Not directly related to the latest financial crisis, but earlier ones appear to similar effect, and of course there are numerous analogous examples.
John Gillespie/David Zweig: Money for Nothing: How the Failure of Corporate Boards Is Ruining American Business and Costing Us Trillions (2010, Free Press): A couple of investment bankers put much of the blame for the financial crisis and plenty more on corporate boards. Reminds me of the low esteen Robert Townsend (Further Up the Organization) had for boards.
Alan Greenspan: The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World (2007, Penguin Press): Memoir written shortly after leaving the Fed, shortly before the housing bubble that he failed to recognize burst with all of its repercussions. One of the key actors in deregulating the banks, initiator of the "Greenspan put" which meant the Fed would reliably respond to any dip in the stock market, occasional pitch-man for variable rate subprime mortgages. Some people blame it all on him. Sometimes his ego seems big enough to bear that much responsibility.
William Greider: Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country (1987; paperback, 1989, Simon & Schuster): The then-definitive book on the Fed, and still the place to start. Focuses more (and more critically) on the sainted Paul Volcker than on the then-neophyte Alan Greenspan.
Harold James: The Creation and Destruction of Value: The Globalization Cycle (2009, Harvard University Press): One argument here is that the globalization juggernaut is a likely victim of the recession, much like globalization was undercut by the Great Depression. Previously wrote: The End of Globalization: Lessons From the Great Depression.
Richard C Koo: The Holy Grail of Macroeconomics: Lessons From Japan's Great Recession (2009; revised ed, paperback, 2009, Norton): The quick revisions, adding 32 pages, must reflect how relevant Japan's long recession is to our own, as well as to the 1930s, which loom large here. Author, chief economist at the Nomura Research Institute in Tokyo, previously wrote a similar book, Balance Sheet Recession: Japan's Struggle with Uncharted Economics and its Global Implications (2003). This seems to both bring it up to date and tie the lessons together.
Josh Kosman: The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Will Cause the Next Great Credit Crisis (2009, Portfolio): I guess this makes sense. Private equity companies use their leverage to buy up real companies and suck them dry, leaving them with huge piles of debt, which means that creditors can get screwed on both ends of the deal, while the banks at least reap huge fees for their complicity.
Paul Krugman: The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 (2008; paperback, 2009, WW Norton): Revised a year ago from the 1999 original, written then in response to the East Asian collapse of 1997, which bears many of the same traits as the current boom/bust. [link]
Michael Lewis, ed: Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity (2008, WW Norton): A quickie collection of old and not-so-old pieces, just in time to slap some product on the latest financial disaster, and to be obsolete almost instantly.
Benoit Mandelbrot/Richard L Hudson: The (Mis)Behavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Risk, Ruin & Reward (2004; paperback, 2006, Basic Books): Mandelbrot wrote the book on fractals in 1983, The Fractal Geometry of Nature. This is his second book on applying fractal theory to finance, after 1997's Fractals and Scaling in Finance. Predates the recent crisis, but has various past crises to work with -- the main effect a critique of conventional models of risk.
Mark A Martinez: The Myth of the Free Market: The Role of the State in a Capitalist Economy (paperback, 2009, Kumarian Press): I don't know how exactly he goes about this, but any degree of observation will tell you that free markets exist only in theory. Real markets are shrouded in monopolies, information asymmetry, and all sorts of gamesmanship, all of which lead to lots of problems, including complete breakdowns.
Steven G Medema: The Hesitant Hand: Taming Self-Interest in the History of Economic Ideas (2009, Princeton University Press): Adam Smith has been so subsumed under his "invisible hand" concept that the idea has taken a life of its own. Not really sure what Medema does with it, but it should be clear that while markets produce efficient results under ideal conditions, their real world leaves much to be desired. Medema has a bunch of books on history of economic thought, including a couple specifically on Ronald Coase, who I associate with blind faith in markets.
Murray Milgate/Shannon C Stimson: After Adam Smith: A Century of Transformation in Politics and Political Economy (2009, Princeton University Press): Intellectual history on the evolution of economic thought in the hundred years following Adam Smith -- i.e., the 19th century.
Ron Paul: End the Fed (2009, Grand Central): In the great debate between freshwater and saltwater economists, Paul sides with the Austrians, who'd gladly forego any kind of water in favor of heavy metals. I like Paul on some issues, and I'm not a fan of the Fed. I don't doubt that he can score lots of points over secrecy and lack of accountability, which has often let the Fed follow dangerous political interests. I find it really hard to take this seriously, but it turns out that fighting the Fed is an old libertarian theme: Murray Rothbard had a similar book, The Case Against the Fed.
Kevin Phillips: American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century (2006, Viking): This is where the one-time Republican strategist develops his "we are doomed" theory. His equation is based on three deep insights: the willful ignorance imposed by the political ascent of fundamentalist Christianity; the argument that American power was always based on a natural resource that is now in permanent decline: oil; and the turn to finance as America's main way of making money, in stark contrast to simply making things. He traces other empires through the same eclipse -- the wind-powered Dutch and the coal-fired British. That a financial debacle would mark the end is certainly implied. He wrote a told-you-so sequel just two years later. [link]
Naomi Prins: Other People's Money: The Corporate Mugging of America (2004; paperback, 2006, New Press): Former Goldman Sachs trader, left the racket in 2002, has plenty to tell.
Nomi Prins: Jacked: How "Conservatives" Are Picking Your Pocket (Whether You Voted for Them or Not) (paperback, 2006, Polipoint Press): I take this to be supporting documentation for James Galbraith's The Predator State, especially for Wall Street and its cronies in the Bush administration.
Alasdair Roberts: The Logic of Discipline: Global Capitalism and the Architecture of Government (2010, Oxford University Press): Short (216 pp) book covering the broad range of economic liberalization from 1978-2008, which set up the surprise ending. Author's tendency to look at capitalism as liberalism seems to be one of those UK quirks. Previously wrote The Collapse of Fortress Bush: The Crisis and Authority of American Government, which saw Bush as the prisoner of American liberalism and neomilitarism. How quaint. [Apr. 21]
Nouriel Roubini/Brad Setser: Bailouts or Bail-Ins: Responding to Financial Crises in Emerging Markets (paperback, 2004, Peterson Institute): A lot of background on financial crises elsewhere, the sort of things economists once believed couldn't happen here.
Robert J Shiller: Irrational Exuberance (2000; 2nd ed, 2005; paperback, 2006, Broadway): A book on bubbles, taking its title from the Alan Greenspan quote. One reason for the revised edition is that Shiller wrote a 2003 paper explaining why there was no housing bubble. Seems to have learned better, and given the pub dates he was quicker than some.
Robert Skidelsky: Keynes: The Return of the Master (2009, Public Affairs): Keynes biographer, his multi-volume series reissued abridged in 2005 to a mere 1056 pages. This reminder comes in at 240 pages. It seems to me that Keynes' disappearance has been greatly exaggerated, but there's nothing like a huge worldwide financial crisis to bring people back to the essential books. Also see: Peter Clarke: Keynes: The Rise, Fall, and Return of the 20th Century's Most Influential Economist.
Jim Stanford: Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism (paperback, 2008, Pluto Press): Not so short at 360 pages, but illustrated with cartoons. Figure this to be a leftist approach.
Judith E Stein: Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies (2010, Yale University Press): The 1970s are best known for the stagflation phenomenon, but in retrospect there was more changing than just a bad stretch with the money supply: domestic oil production peaked in 1969, trade turned to a deficit in 1970, a conservative movement started to gain traction, real wages for male workers started to decline. The transition from manufacturing to finance is typically interesting, even though it was not until the 1980s when it began to really take a toll. [May 25]
Pablo Triana: Lecturing Birds on Flying: Can Mathematical Theories Destroy the Financial Markets? (2009, Wiley): Evidently so. This digs into the latest models that supposedly give traders mysterious advantages in beating the market. Foreword by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, whose market math books (Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan) have a lot of fans (many of whom hate this book).
Jerome Tuccille: Alan Shrugged: Alan Greenspan, the World's Most Powerful Banker (2002, Wiley): Written back when he was, when practically everyone was fawning over his sorry ass -- cf., most famously, Bob Woodward: Maestro: Greenspan's Fed and the American Boom. Focuses heavily on Greenspan's relationship to Ayn Rand, and not disapprovingly -- Tuccille has also written It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand and The Gospel According to Ayn Rand. I think it was Paul Samuelson who said of Greenspan, "You can take the boy out of the cult, but you can't take the cult out of the boy."
Christopher Wood: The Bubble Economy: Japan's Extraordinary Speculative Boom of the '80s and the Dramatic Bust of the '90s (1992; paperback, 2005, Solstice): Not sure if this has been revised since it was originally published, but the bust dragged on longer than anyone imagined possible.
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