Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy

Princeton University Press
10
Free sample

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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Eligible for Family Library

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Charles H. Ferguson, who electrified the world with his Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job, now explains how a predator elite took over the country, step by step, and he exposes the networks of academic, financial, and political influence, in all recent administrations, that prepared the predators’ path to conquest. 
     Over the last several decades, the United States has undergone one of the most radical social and economic transformations in its history. 

·         Finance has become America’s dominant industry, while manufacturing, even for high technology industries, has nearly disappeared.

·         The financial sector has become increasingly criminalized, with the widespread fraud that caused the housing bubble going completely unpunished.

·         Federal tax collections as a share of GDP are at their lowest level in sixty years, with the wealthy and highly profitable corporations enjoying the greatest tax reductions.

·         Most shockingly, the United States, so long the beacon of opportunity for the ambitious poor, has become one of the world’s most unequal and unfair societies. 

If you’re smart and a hard worker, but your parents aren’t rich, you’re now better off being born in Munich, Germany or in Singapore than in Cleveland, Ohio or New York.
This radical shift did not happen by accident. 

     Ferguson shows how, since the Reagan administration in the 1980s, both major political parties have become captives of the moneyed elite.  It was the Clinton administration that dismantled the regulatory controls that protected the average citizen from avaricious financiers.  It was the Bush team that destroyed the federal revenue base with its grotesquely skewed tax cuts for the rich. And it is the Obama White House that has allowed financial criminals to continue to operate unchecked, even after supposed “reforms” installed after the collapse of 2008.

     Predator Nation reveals how once-revered figures like Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers became mere courtiers to the elite.  Based on many newly released court filings, it details the extent of the crimes—there is no other word—committed in the frenzied chase for wealth that caused the financial crisis.  And, finally, it lays out a plan of action for how we might take back our country and the American dream.
A bold indictment of some of our most accepted mainstream economic theories—why they’re wrong, and how they’ve been harming America and the world.

Budget deficits are bad. A strong dollar is good. Controlling inflation is paramount. Pay reflects greater worker skills. A deregulated free market is fair and effective. Theories like these have become mantras among American economists both liberal and conservative over recent decades. Validated originally by patron saints like Milton Friedman, they’ve assumed the status of self-evident truths across much of the mainstream. Jeff Madrick, former columnist for The New York Times and Harper’s, argues compellingly that a reconsideration is long overdue.

Since the financial turmoil of the 1970s made stagnating wages and relatively high unemployment the norm, Madrick argues, many leading economists have retrenched to the classical (and outdated) bulwarks of theory, drawing their ideas more from purist principles than from the real-world behavior of governments and markets—while, ironically, deeply affecting those governments and markets by their counsel. Madrick atomizes seven of the greatest false idols of modern economic theory, illustrating how these ideas have been damaging markets, infrastructure, and individual livelihoods for years, causing hundreds of billions of dollars of wasted investment, financial crisis after financial crisis, poor and unequal public education, primitive public transportation, gross inequality of income and wealth and stagnating wages, and uncontrolled military spending.

Using the Great Recession as his foremost case study, Madrick shows how the decisions America should have made before, during, and after the financial crisis were suppressed by wrongheaded but popular theory, and how the consequences are still disadvantaging working America and undermining the foundations of global commerce. Madrick spares no sinners as he reveals how the “Friedman doctrine” has undermined the meaning of citizenship and community, how the “Great Moderation” became a great jobs emergency, and how economists were so concerned with getting the incentives right for Wall Street that they got financial regulation all wrong. He in turn examines the too-often-marginalized good ideas of modern economics and convincingly argues just how beneficial they could be—if they can gain traction among policy makers.

Trenchant, sweeping, and empirical, Seven Bad Ideas resoundingly disrupts the status quo of modern economic theory.
He's one of America's most capable, canny, candid, and independent financial experts. Now David M. Walker sounds a call to action. Comeback America is a tough-minded, innovative, inspiring guide to help us avoid the approaching economic abyss and put the country back on track again.

As comptroller general of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO)—"the nation's top auditor"—Walker warned Congress and the administration as the federal surplus became a giant deficit under George W. Bush. As president and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, he now works full-time to raise public awareness regarding mounting debt burdens being imposed on future generations. Comeback America is his crucial manifesto, a way for President Obama to end out-of-control government spending and reform our tax, retirement, health care, defense, and other systems—before it's too late.

Walker believes that by 2030, absent significant reforms to current government programs and policies, federal taxes could double from current levels, meaning less money and poorer education for kids—which will hurt families along with our nation's economic strength and position in the world. If our foreign creditors—such as China—decide to buy fewer of our Treasury bonds, interest rates will rise and cars and homes will become less affordable. 

But it doesn't have to be that way. Comeback America shows how we can return to our founding principles of fiscal responsibility and stewardship for future generations. The book includes bold ideas to control spending, save Social Security, dramatically alter Medicare, and simplify the tax code—all taking into account the Obama Administration's current efforts, which receive never-before-published assessments both complimentary and critical.

Nonpartisan, nonideological, and filled with a love of the country its esteemed author has spent his life serving, Comeback America is a book for anyone interested in America's economic future—in other words, a book everyone should read.
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.
Is Wall Street bad for Main Street America?

"A well-told exploration of why our current economy is leaving too many behind." —The New York Times

In looking at the forces that shaped the 2016 presidential election, one thing is clear: much of the population believes that our economic system is rigged to enrich the privileged elites at the expense of hard-working Americans. This is a belief held equally on both sides of political spectrum, and it seems only to be gaining momentum.
 
A key reason, says Financial Times columnist Rana Foroohar, is the fact that Wall Street is no longer supporting Main Street businesses that create the jobs for the middle and working class. She draws on in-depth reporting and interviews at the highest rungs of business and government to show how the “financialization of America”—the phenomenon by which finance and its way of thinking have come to dominate every corner of business—is threatening the American Dream.
 
Now updated with new material explaining how our corrupted financial sys­tem propelled Donald Trump to power, Makers and Takers explores the confluence of forces that has led American businesses to favor balance-sheet engineering over the actual kind, greed over growth, and short-term profits over putting people to work. From the cozy relationship between Wall Street and Washington, to a tax code designed to benefit wealthy individuals and corporations, to forty years of bad policy decisions, she shows why so many Americans have lost trust in the sys­tem, and why it matters urgently to us all.
 
Through colorful stories of both “Takers,” those stifling job creation while lining their own pockets, and “Makers,” businesses serving the real economy, Foroohar shows how we can reverse these trends for a better path forward.
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