The First Crash: Lessons from the South Sea Bubble

Princeton University Press
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For nearly three centuries the spectacular rise and fall of the South Sea Company has gripped the public imagination as the most graphic warning to investors of the dangers of unbridled speculation. Yet history repeats itself and the same elemental forces that drove up the price of South Sea shares to dizzying heights in 1720 have in recent years produced the global crash of 1987, the Japanese stock market bubble of the 1980s/90s, and the international boom of the 1990s.

The First Crash throws light on the current debate about investor rationality by re-examining the story of the South Sea Bubble from the standpoint of investors and commentators during and preceding the fateful Bubble year. In absorbing prose, Richard Dale describes the trading techniques of London's Exchange Alley (which included 'modern' transactions such as derivatives) and uses new data, as well as the hitherto neglected writings of a brilliant contemporary financial analyst, to show how investors lost their bearings during the Bubble period in much the same way as during the boom.

The events of 1720, as presented here, offer insights into the nature of financial markets that, being independent of place and time, deserve to be considered by today's investors everywhere. This book is therefore aimed at all those with an interest in the behavior of stock markets.

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About the author

Richard Dale is Emeritus Professor of International Banking at Southampton University, United Kingdom. His books include Risk & Regulation in Global Securities Markets; International Banking Deregulation; and The Regulation of International Banking. He has been a Parliamentary advisor in the United Kingdom on financial regulatory policy and has testified before U.S. Congressional Committees on regulatory issues.
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Additional Information

Princeton University Press
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Published on
Apr 24, 2014
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Business & Economics / Economic History
Business & Economics / Finance / General
History / Europe / Great Britain / General
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Content Protection
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Eligible for Family Library

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An unimpeachable classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, The Road to Serfdom has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century. Originally published in 1944—when Eleanor Roosevelt supported the efforts of Stalin, and Albert Einstein subscribed lock, stock, and barrel to the socialist program—The Road to Serfdom was seen as heretical for its passionate warning against the dangers of state control over the means of production. For F. A. Hayek, the collectivist idea of empowering government with increasing economic control would lead not to a utopia but to the horrors of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

First published by the University of Chicago Press on September 18, 1944, The Road to Serfdom garnered immediate, widespread attention. The first printing of 2,000 copies was exhausted instantly, and within six months more than 30,000 books were sold. In April 1945, Reader’s Digest published a condensed version of the book, and soon thereafter the Book-of-the-Month Club distributed this edition to more than 600,000 readers. A perennial best seller, the book has sold 400,000 copies in the United States alone and has been translated into more than twenty languages, along the way becoming one of the most important and influential books of the century.

With this new edition, The Road to Serfdom takes its place in the series The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek. The volume includes a foreword by series editor and leading Hayek scholar Bruce Caldwell explaining the book's origins and publishing history and assessing common misinterpretations of Hayek's thought. Caldwell has also standardized and corrected Hayek's references and added helpful new explanatory notes. Supplemented with an appendix of related materials ranging from prepublication reports on the initial manuscript to forewords to earlier editions by John Chamberlain, Milton Friedman, and Hayek himself, this new edition of The Road to Serfdom will be the definitive version of Hayek's enduring masterwork.
Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities.

The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.

Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

- China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?

- Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?

- What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world. 
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