Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy

Princeton University Press
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Raghuram Rajan was one of the few economists who warned of the global financial crisis before it hit. Now, as the world struggles to recover, it's tempting to blame what happened on just a few greedy bankers who took irrational risks and left the rest of us to foot the bill. In Fault Lines, Rajan argues that serious flaws in the economy are also to blame, and warns that a potentially more devastating crisis awaits us if they aren't fixed.

Rajan shows how the individual choices that collectively brought about the economic meltdown--made by bankers, government officials, and ordinary homeowners--were rational responses to a flawed global financial order in which the incentives to take on risk are incredibly out of step with the dangers those risks pose. He traces the deepening fault lines in a world overly dependent on the indebted American consumer to power global economic growth and stave off global downturns. He exposes a system where America's growing inequality and thin social safety net create tremendous political pressure to encourage easy credit and keep job creation robust, no matter what the consequences to the economy's long-term health; and where the U.S. financial sector, with its skewed incentives, is the critical but unstable link between an overstimulated America and an underconsuming world.


In Fault Lines, Rajan demonstrates how unequal access to education and health care in the United States puts us all in deeper financial peril, even as the economic choices of countries like Germany, Japan, and China place an undue burden on America to get its policies right. He outlines the hard choices we need to make to ensure a more stable world economy and restore lasting prosperity.

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About the author

Raghuram G. Rajan is the Eric J. Gleacher Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. He is the coauthor of Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists (Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Aug 8, 2011
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Pages
280
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ISBN
9781400839803
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economics / General
Political Science / International Relations / General
Political Science / Public Policy / Economic Policy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In the fall of 2008, fifteen of the world's leading economists--representing the broadest spectrum of economic opinion--gathered at New Hampshire's Squam Lake. Their goal: the mapping of a long-term plan for financial regulation reform.

The Squam Lake Report distills the wealth of insights from the ongoing collaboration that began at these meetings and provides a revelatory, unified, and coherent voice for fixing our troubled and damaged financial markets. As an alternative to the patchwork solutions and ideologically charged proposals that have dominated other discussions, the Squam Lake group sets forth a clear nonpartisan plan of action to transform the regulation of financial markets--not just for the current climate--but for generations to come.


Arguing that there has been a conflict between financial institutions and society, these diverse experts present sound and transparent prescriptions to reduce this divide. They look at the critical holes in the existing regulatory framework for handling complex financial institutions, retirement savings, and credit default swaps. They offer ideas for new financial instruments designed to recapitalize banks without burdening taxpayers. To lower the risk that large banks will fail, the authors call for higher capital requirements as well as a systemic regulator who is part of the central bank. They collectively analyze where the financial system has failed, and how these weak points should be overhauled.


Combining an immense depth of academic, private sector, and public policy experience, The Squam Lake Report contains urgent recommendations that will positively influence everyone's financial well-being--all who care about the world's economic health need to pay attention.

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.
Capitalism’s biggest problem is the executive in pinstripes who extols the virtues of competitive markets with every breath while attempting to extinguish them with every action.

Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists is a groundbreaking book that will radically change our understanding of the capitalist system, particularly the role of financial markets. They are the catalyst for inspiring human ingenuity and spreading prosperity. The perception of many, especially in the wake of never-ending corporate scandals, is that financial markets are parasitic institutions that feed off the blood, sweat, and tears of the rest of us. The reality is far different.

•Vibrant financial markets threaten the sclerotic corporate establishment and increase corporate mobility and opportunity. They are the reason why entrepreneurship flourishes and companies like The Home Depot and Wal-Mart—mere fly specks a quarter of a century ago—have surged as they have.
•They mean personal freedom and economic development for more people. Throughout history, and in most of the world today, the record is one of financial oppression. Elites restrict access to capital and severely limit not only general economic development but that of individuals as well.
•Open borders help check the political and economic elites and preserve competitive markets. The greatest danger of the antiglobalization movement is that it will keep the rich rich and the poor poor. Globalization forces countries to do what is necessary to make their economies productive, not what is best for incumbent elites. Open borders limit the ability of domestic politics to close down competition and to retard financial and economic growth.
•Markets are especially susceptible in economic downturns when the establishment can exploit public anger to restrict competition and access to capital. While markets must be free to practice “creative destruction,” Rajan and Zingales demonstrate the political and economic importance of a sustainable distribution of wealth and a baseline safety net. Capitalism needs a heart for its own good!

There are no iron laws of economics that condemn countries like Bangladesh to perpetual poverty or the United States to perpetual prosperity. The early years of the twentieth century saw vibrant, open financial markets that were creating widespread prosperity. Then came the “Great Reversal” during the Great Depression. It can—and will—happen again, unless there is greater understanding of what markets do, who benefits, and who really wants to either limit them or shut them down.

Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists breaks free of traditional ideological arguments of the right and left and points to a new way of understanding and spreading the extraordinary wealth-generating capabilities of capitalism.


From the Hardcover edition.
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