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What Caused the Financial Crisis Paperback – December 13, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"You will find in this collection some of the best efforts so far to understand the financial crisis."—Edmund Phelps, Columbia University

About the Author

Jeffrey Friedman is a visiting scholar in the Department of Government at the University of Texas, Austin and Max Weber Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advancement of the Social Sciences, Boston University. He is the editor of Critical Review.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (December 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812221184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812221183
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,296,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jean Parmesan on December 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
The financial crisis of 2008 was unusual, but not unprecedented. Over the past 25 years, there have been a string of financial crises including the 1984 bankruptcy of Continental Illinois, the 1987 stock market crash, the 1995 Mexican peso crisis, the 1998 bailout of LTCM and the 2000 internet stock bubble.

Under a system of regulated capitalism, the operative question is who is at fault? Was it the government technocrats or the greedy capitalists?

Editor Jeffrey Friedman takes a Hayekian approach to the most recent financial crisis of 2008 and concludes, along with his contributors, that the primary problem was information failure (i.e. ignorance on the part of regulators and market participants). But, he makes an important distinction: information failures work very differently among regulators and market participants. While there may be heterogeneous opinions among regulators as to the correct regulations, only one theory gets codified into law. In contrast, discordant theories between market participants lead to competition and a darwinian weeding out of erroneous strategies via profits and losses.

In order for pragmatic regulation to work, regulators must be able to anticipate the unintended consequences of a given regulation considered in isolation as well the interaction of a regulation with previously codified regulations. Friedman and his contributors conclude that the following regulations interacted in unexpected ways to produce the crisis:

1. SEC decisions in 1970s which produced a ratings cartel among three credit rating firms. This disabled competition and information in the financial markets.
2. HUD directives in the 1990s which spurred nonprime and subprime lending by Freddie and Fannie Mac.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Toad on June 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Let me first say that this is an outstanding book on the most important issue of the day. It should be required reading for anyone - but then again so should be the note on one's mortgage. Or one's tax return, for that matter.

An august group of Economists, from both sides of the political divide (the politics are quite visible) convene to answer the questions "Was this a failure of Capitalism, of Regulation (by omission or by commission) or of the Economics profession itself?" I think the title of my review expresses my own opinion.

The book is a collection of essays bracketed by overviews by Jeffrey Friedman (a "red economist") and Richard Posner (a "blue" one). Each reviews the factors cited in the previous review and weighs in on their assessment of the importance of each.

The essays are divided into three parts - in the first, the disaster is considered in historical context, going back to the roaring 20's, and discussing the evolution of finance and government policy to the present. In the second, the contributing factors are examined in detail - monetary policy, political factors, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the securitization of mortgage debt, the rating thereof by S&P, Moody's and Fitch, the Basel accords and swaps. The picture that emerges is that of the unintended consequences of regulatory good intentions. A healthy (yet lustful, insouciant and somewhat impulsive) man is prescribed a handful of well-tested medications, and they interact in a way that lands him in the ICU where he remains to this day.

All the material is thought-provoking. But what I found fascinating was the third group of essays in which the profession itself is put in the dock.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Choong on December 31, 2011
Format: Paperback
Among all the books covering the financial crisis, this must be one of the best. The authors cover the crisis in great and exhausting detail and it is clear that the research was done. Without doubt, I would endorse this book. At the same time, a worthy competitor is The Causes of the Financial Crisis: The Role of the American Government and the Federal Reserve which is worth a read as well.
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