More than two centuries ago, America's first secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, identified the Revolutionary War debt as a threat to the nation's creditworthiness and its very existence. In response, he established financial principles for securing the country—principles that endure to this day. In this provocative history, Robert D. Hormats, one of America's leading experts on international finance, shows how leaders from Madison and Lincoln to FDR and Reagan have followed Hamilton's ideals, from the greenback and a progressive income tax to the Victory Bond and Victory Garden campaigns and cost-sharing with allies.
Drawing on these historical lessons, Hormats argues that the rampant borrowing to pay for the war in Iraq and the short-sighted tax cuts in the face of a long-term war on terrorism run counter to American tradition and place our country's security in peril. To meet the threats facing us, Hormats contends, we must significantly realign our economic policies—on taxes, Social Security, Medicare, and oil dependency—to safeguard our liberty and our future.
Mixing lively narrative with fresh views of America's founders, William Hogeland offers a new perspective on America's economic infancy: foreclosure crises that make our current one look mild; investment bubbles in land and securities that drove rich men to high-risk borrowing and mad displays of ostentation before dropping them into debtors' prisons; depressions longer and deeper than the great one of the twentieth century; crony mercantilism, war profiteering, and government corruption that undermine any nostalgia for a virtuous early republic; and predatory lending of scarce cash at exorbitant, unregulated rates, which forced people into bankruptcy, landlessness, and working in the factories and on the commercial farms of their creditors. This story exposes and corrects a perpetual historical denial—by movements across the political spectrum—of America's all-important founding economic clashes, a denial that weakens and cheapens public discourse on American finance just when we need it most.
Originally published in 1961.
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Nobel laureate Richard H. Thaler has spent his career studying the radical notion that the central agents in the economy are humans—predictable, error-prone individuals. Misbehaving is his arresting, frequently hilarious account of the struggle to bring an academic discipline back down to earth—and change the way we think about economics, ourselves, and our world.
Traditional economics assumes rational actors. Early in his research, Thaler realized these Spock-like automatons were nothing like real people. Whether buying a clock radio, selling basketball tickets, or applying for a mortgage, we all succumb to biases and make decisions that deviate from the standards of rationality assumed by economists. In other words, we misbehave. More importantly, our misbehavior has serious consequences. Dismissed at first by economists as an amusing sideshow, the study of human miscalculations and their effects on markets now drives efforts to make better decisions in our lives, our businesses, and our governments.
Coupling recent discoveries in human psychology with a practical understanding of incentives and market behavior, Thaler enlightens readers about how to make smarter decisions in an increasingly mystifying world. He reveals how behavioral economic analysis opens up new ways to look at everything from household finance to assigning faculty offices in a new building, to TV game shows, the NFL draft, and businesses like Uber.
Laced with antic stories of Thaler’s spirited battles with the bastions of traditional economic thinking, Misbehaving is a singular look into profound human foibles. When economics meets psychology, the implications for individuals, managers, and policy makers are both profound and entertaining.
Shortlisted for the Financial Times & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award