The Shifts and the Shocks: What We've Learned--and Have Still to Learn--from the Financial Crisis

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From the chief economic commentator for the Financial Times—a brilliant tour d’horizon of the new global economy
There have been many books that have sought to explain the causes and courses of the financial and economic crisis that began in 2007. The Shifts and the Shocks is not another detailed history of the crisis but is the most persuasive and complete account yet published of what the crisis should teach us about modern economies and econom­ics. Written with all the intellectual command and trenchant judgment that have made Martin Wolf one of the world’s most influential economic com­mentators, The Shifts and the Shocks matches impressive analysis with no-holds-barred criti­cism and persuasive prescription for a more stable future. It is a book no one with an interest in global affairs will want to neglect.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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About the author

Martin Wolf is the associate editor and chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, London. He is the recipient of many awards for financial journalism, for which he was also made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000. His previous books include Fixing Global Finance andWhy Globalization Works.
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Published on
Sep 11, 2014
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Business & Economics / Economics / Macroeconomics
Business & Economics / International / Economics
Political Science / Political Economy
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New York Times Bestseller

One of our wisest and most clear-eyed economic thinkers offers a masterful narrative of the crisis and its lessons.

Many fine books on the financial crisis were first drafts of history—books written to fill the need for immediate understanding. Alan S. Blinder, esteemed Princeton professor, Wall Street Journal columnist, and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, held off, taking the time to understand the crisis and to think his way through to a truly comprehensive and coherent narrative of how the worst economic crisis in postwar American history happened, what the government did to fight it, and what we can do from here—mired as we still are in its wreckage.

With bracing clarity, Blinder shows us how the U.S. financial system, which had grown far too complex for its own good—and too unregulated for the public good—experienced a perfect storm beginning in 2007. Things started unraveling when the much-chronicled housing bubble burst, but the ensuing implosion of what Blinder calls the “bond bubble” was larger and more devastating. Some people think of the financial industry as a sideshow with little relevance to the real economy—where the jobs, factories, and shops are. But finance is more like the circulatory system of the economic body: if the blood stops flowing, the body goes into cardiac arrest. When America’s financial structure crumbled, the damage proved to be not only deep, but wide. It took the crisis for the world to discover, to its horror, just how truly interconnected—and fragile—the global financial system is. Some observers argue that large global forces were the major culprits of the crisis. Blinder disagrees, arguing that the problem started in the U.S. and was pushed abroad, as complex, opaque, and overrated investment products were exported to a hungry world, which was nearly poisoned by them.

The second part of the story explains how American and international government intervention kept us from a total meltdown. Many of the U.S. government’s actions, particularly the Fed’s, were previously unimaginable. And to an amazing—and certainly misunderstood—extent, they worked. The worst did not happen. Blinder offers clear-eyed answers to the questions still before us, even if some of the choices ahead are as divisive as they are unavoidable. After the Music Stopped is an essential history that we cannot afford to forget, because one thing history teaches is that it will happen again.
The two great financial crises of the past century are the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Recession, which began in 2008. Both occurred against the backdrop of sharp credit booms, dubious banking practices, and a fragile and unstable global financial system. When markets went into cardiac arrest in 2008, policymakers invoked the lessons of the Great Depression in attempting to avert the worst. While their response prevented a financial collapse and catastrophic depression like that of the 1930s, unemployment in the U.S. and Europe still rose to excruciating high levels. Pain and suffering were widespread. The question, given this, is why didn't policymakers do better? Hall of Mirrors, Barry Eichengreen's monumental twinned history of the two crises, provides the farthest-reaching answer to this question to date. Alternating back and forth between the two crises and between North America and Europe, Eichengreen shows how fear of another Depression following the collapse of Lehman Brothers shaped policy responses on both continents, with both positive and negative results. Since bank failures were a prominent feature of the Great Depression, policymakers moved quickly to strengthen troubled banks. But because derivatives markets were not important in the 1930s, they missed problems in the so-called shadow banking system. Having done too little to support spending in the 1930s, governments also ramped up public spending this time around. But the response was indiscriminate and quickly came back to haunt overly indebted governments, particularly in Southern Europe. Moreover, because politicians overpromised, and because their measures failed to stave off a major recession, a backlash quickly developed against activist governments and central banks. Policymakers then prematurely succumbed to the temptation to return to normal policies before normal conditions had returned. The result has been a grindingly slow recovery in the United States and endless recession in Europe. Hall of Mirrors is both a major work of economic history and an essential exploration of how we avoided making only some of the same mistakes twice. It shows not just how the "lessons" of Great Depression history continue to shape society's response to contemporary economic problems, but also how the experience of the Great Recession will permanently change how we think about the Great Depression.
This book is open access under a CC BY-NC 2.5 license.

On April 22, 1915, the German military released 150 tons of chlorine gas at Ypres, Belgium. Carried by a long-awaited wind, the chlorine cloud passed within a few minutes through the British and French trenches, leaving behind at least 1,000 dead and 4,000 injured. This chemical attack, which amounted to the first use of a weapon of mass destruction, marks a turning point in world history. The preparation as well as the execution of the gas attack was orchestrated by Fritz Haber, the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry in Berlin-Dahlem. During World War I, Haber transformed his research institute into a center for the development of chemical weapons (and of the means of protection against them).

Bretislav Friedrich and Martin Wolf (Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, the successor institution of Haber’s institute) together with Dieter Hoffmann, Jürgen Renn, and Florian Schmaltz (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science) organized an international symposium to commemorate the centenary of the infamous chemical attack. The symposium examined crucial facets of chemical warfare from the first research on and deployment of chemical weapons in WWI to the development and use of chemical warfare during the century hence. The focus was on scientific, ethical, legal, and political issues of chemical weapons research and deployment — including the issue of dual use — as well as the ongoing effort to control the possession of chemical weapons and to ultimately achieve their elimination.

The volume consists of papers presented at the symposium and supplemented by additional articles that together cover key aspects of chemical warfare from 22 April 1915 until the summer of 2015.

Studienarbeit aus dem Jahr 1999 im Fachbereich Soziologie - Krieg und Frieden, Militär, Note: 1,7, Universität der Bundeswehr München, Neubiberg (Fakultät für Sozialwissenschaften - Professur für Allgemeine Soziologie), Veranstaltung: Seminar: Militär, Krieg und Gesellschaft: Aktuelle soziologische Perspektiven, Sprache: Deutsch, Abstract: Die Information der Öffentlichkeit durch staatliche Institutionen und die Kommunikation mit der Gesellschaft gehört zu den Wesensmerkmalen demokratischer Gemeinwesen. Auch die Institution Bundeswehr ist verfassungsrechtlich dazu verpflichtet. In den deutschen Streitkräften gibt es für die Information und Kommunikation mit der Bevölkerung ein eigenes Konzept. Die Darstellung und Erläuterung dieses Konzepts der Informationsarbeit der Bundeswehr ist Gegenstand der vorliegenden Arbeit. Die Binnen- und Außenkommunikation staatlicher Stellen stellt eine wichtige Aufgabe und Herausforderung dar. So besteht zum Beispiel hinsichtlich des neuen Aufgabenspektrums der Bundeswehr und die daraus resultierenden Einsätze deutscher Soldaten im Ausland sehr hoher Informations- und Kommunikationsbedarf sowohl innerhalb als auch außerhalb der deutschen Streitkräfte. Die Informationsarbeit ist eines der Anwendungsgebiete der Inneren Führung der Bundeswehr. Die Innere Führung hat die Aufgabe, die Spannungen auszugleichen und ertragen zu helfen, die sich aus den individuellen Rechten des freien Bürgers einerseits und den militärischen Pflichten des Soldaten andererseits ergeben. Sie ist das Gestaltungsprinzip für die Integration der Streitkräfte in Staat und Gesellschaft. Die vorliegende Arbeit gliedert sich in zwei Abschnitte. Im ersten Teil werden die Begriffe Kommunikation, Information, Öffentliche Meinung, Propaganda und Medien soziologisch definiert. Der zweite Abschnitt geht auf die Informationsarbeit der bundesdeutschen Streitkräfte ein. Dazu werden die fünf Aufgabenbereiche der Informationsarbeit der Bundeswehr - sicherheits- und verteidigungspolitische Kommunikation, Pressearbeit, Öffentlichkeitsarbeit, Truppeninformation, sowie gesellschaftsorientierte Basiswerbung - dargestellt und erläutert. Im Rahmen der Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit wird auf die rechtlichen Grundlagen, den Zweck, die Grundlagen und die Zielgruppen eingegangen. Im Teilabschnitt der Binnenkommunikation werden die fünf Bausteine des neuen Medienkonzepts der Truppeninformation erläutert. Am Ende der Arbeit werden die wichtigsten Erkenntnisse zur Informationsarbeit der Bundeswehr noch einmal anschaulich und thesenartig zusammengefaßt.
Studienarbeit aus dem Jahr 2001 im Fachbereich Politik - Politische Theorie und Ideengeschichte, Note: 2,3, Universität der Bundeswehr München, Neubiberg (Fakultät für Sozialwissenschaften), Veranstaltung: Interdisziplinäres Seminar Soziologie/ Politische Theorie: Kritische und Postmoderne Theorien: Ausgewählte Vergleichsaspekte, Sprache: Deutsch, Abstract: "Was immer auch die Intellektuellen sind - sie und sie allein waren es, die ihre jeweiligen Definitionen entwarfen und verwarfen. Jeder Versuch, Intellektuelle zu definieren, ist ein Versuch der Selbstdefinition; jeder Versuch, den Status eines Intellektuellen zu gewähren oder zu verweigern, ist ein Versuch der Selbstentwerfung. Definieren und über Definitionen zu streiten sind das Kernstück der Produktion und Reproduktion des intellektuellen Ich." Die Definition des Intellektuellen ist immer eine Diskussion um diese Definition. Die Diskussionen werden in der Regel von Intellektuellen selbst vorgenommen. Man hat es hier mit einem sich selbst reproduzierenden bzw. produzierenden Diskurs zu tun. Ziel der vorliegenden Arbeit ist es, die Selbstdeutungen der Intellektuellen am Beispiel der beiden französischen Intellektuellen Michel Foucault und Jean-Francois Lyotard darzustellen. Beide Persönlichkeiten versuchen Antworten auf die Fragen nach dem Status, der Rolle und der Funktion des Intellektuellen in der Gesellschaft zu finden. Sie gehen davon aus, daß sich der heutige Intellektuelle nicht mehr mit universellen Subjekten identifizieren kann. Die Arbeit gliedert sich in fünf Abschnitte: Nach der Einleitung, im zweiten Teil der Arbeit, wird die geschichtliche Entstehung des Begriffs "Intellektuelle" dargestellt. Als Ausgangspunkt dient hierbei die Dreyfus-Affäre im Großen Generalstab der französischen Armee im Jahre 1894 und der Offene Brief Emile Zolas an den französischen Präsidenten. Im dritten Abschnitt werden Michel Foucaults Auffassungen vom Intellektuellen erläutert. Im Vordergrund steht die Definition der beiden Begriffe "universeller" und "spezifischer Intellektueller", sowie ihre inhaltliche Abgrenzung. Im vierten Teil werden die Überlegungen Jean-Francois Lyotards zum Begriff des Intellektuellen aufgezeigt und erläutert. In der Zusammenfassung werden die wichtigsten Ergebnisse der Arbeit noch einmal kurz und thesenartig zusammengeführt.
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