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The Crisis of Capitalist Democracy Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (April 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674055748
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674055742
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #793,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


The prolific federal judge and University of Chicago economist argues that competitive forces inspire financiers to take irrational gambles--especially when they're betting other people's money. We cannot trust them to put the common good ahead of profits, says Posner. As a result, government must step in to limit the risks bankers take and, occasionally, repair the damage they inflict. Posner, who less than a year ago began his dissection of the crisis of 2008 with A Failure of Capitalism, has enormous credibility when he casts a skeptical eye on Wall Street. As an influential free-market thinker, he helped shape the antiregulatory ideology that inspired so much public policy since 1980...Posner offers solid suggestions for change. He echoes those, including former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, who would reestablish the Glass-Steagall Act's separation of commercial banking from proprietary trading and other forms of high-risk finance. That would insulate the financing of small and midsized businesses from the gales of Wall Street. He also urges eliminating the semi-official status of the big three bond-rating agencies, paring back their conflicts of interest, and beefing up the beleaguered corps of civil servants who staff federal regulatory agencies. Good ideas, all. In his final pages, though, the author can't muster much confidence that America will overcome its splintered politics, the "quasi-bribery" of campaign money, or the bipartisan myth that we can thrive indefinitely on low taxes and profligate public spending. Posner may have shaken off old shibboleths--and hurray for that--but at present he sees no reason to expect that courage or fresh thinking will prevail. (Paul Barrett BusinessWeek 2010-03-15)

Posner presents well-argued suggestions for change and offers fresh thinking about the business cycle, building on Keynes's theories. (Don Tapscott Globe and Mail 2010-04-23)

My advice is: Read it. While his book is not exactly beach reading, Posner is a fine writer with a real talent for making complex economic and financial matters clear to the average reader. If you're a little vague on exactly what a credit-default swap is or why deflation can be a bigger problem than inflation, The Crisis of Capitalist Democracy is just the ticket...Altogether, The Crisis of Capitalist Democracy is the best thing I've read on the origins and development of the "Great Recession." (John Steele Gordon National Review 2010-06-21)

This book is the most rigorous, detailed examination of the subject of origins we have so far. (Robert Teitelman The Deal 2010-09-10)

The best volume I have read specifically about the financial crisis and its implications is Richard Posner's The Crisis of Capitalist Democracy...Posner's book contains a formidable-looking chart of supply and demand curves, but do not be misled: this is a clear and brilliant exposition of the greatest economic news story for generations. (Azar Nafisi The Times 2010-11-27)

[A] compelling read...Notable for [its] high seriousness and sophistication...Posner unreels any number of sharp insights about shareholders, regulation and economists. (Robert Teitelman Huffington Post 2010-12-23)

About the Author

Richard A. Posner is Circuit Judge, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.

More About the Author

Richard A. Posner is a judge of the U.S. Court Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books, including Overcoming Law, a New York Times Book Review editors' choices for best book of 1995 and An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton, one of Times' choices for Best Book of the Year in 1999 and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist, 2000.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on March 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Judge Posner was appointed to a Federal Appeals Court position by President Reagan, and has sometimes also been mentioned as a Supreme Court candidate; reportedly he was not selected because of concern that his thinking would change over time, proven through this and his preceding book. During Posner's legal career he has pioneered the inclusion of economic perspectives in interpreting law and now regularly writes a blog on economics. In the preceding "A Failure of Capitalism" he focused his combined talents on our current economic downturn, and reached a surprising (for a conservative, "Chicago-school" proponent) verdict. Those most guilty of contributing to the downturn are Alan Greenspan and George W. Bush - Greenspan for keeping interest rates low, fueling the surge in home prices, and Bush for accelerating deregulation of financial markets and then doing little while the economy began crumbling.

Posner's earlier "A Failure of Capitalism" covered recent events up to February, 2009. His point was not that capitalism has failed and we need something different, but that we also need laws, regulations, and enforcement institutions because competition and financial markets do not permit business leaders to subordinate profit maximization to concern for the welfare of society. Since then (the subject of "The Crisis of Capitalist Democracy"), Posner has become a Keynesian, ready to incorporate psychology into economic reasoning, and agreeing that not all 'investing' or savings increases output - much is actually hoarding. Investment only increases output when it finances creation of productive capital, and this may also be impeded by banks' unwillingness to lend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Citizen John TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
We're a richer country when the brilliant and original Judge Richard Posner weighs in on the the way forward post-GFC (Global Financial Crisis). Judge Posner, considered by many an American Treasure, does not truly fit into the ideology of any political party. His parents were affiliated with the American Communist Party and he has had courage to write numerous opinions on hot button topics. These include abortion rights and animal rights. He has also expressed unique opinions on drugs, torture and privacy. There is no issue too sensitive for this graduate of both Yale and Harvard, where he was first in his class.

Posner's recommendations for the way forward all make good common sense to me. At some point, there has to be a non-politicized executive committee to study the crisis and identify necessary reforms. Citizens should demand this. Changing the bankruptcy code seems like an inevitablity as it always is in a democracy when so many go bankrupt. This will happen, I firmly believe. Staff at regulatory agencies should be rotated for control purposes. Even the military rotates drill sergeants on the assumption that power corrupts over time. A financial intelligence agency will certainly happen for national security reasons, perhaps within one of the agencies such as Homeland Security. The question will be it's mission, I think. Posner is out ahead with this idea. Surely the credit rating agencies have little credibility nowadays. I wonder if they can be reformed timely or if it's better to start from scratch. Posner's idea to tie capital requirements to the business cycle seems to be what Chinese authorities are trying to do in their own way. Bringing back Glass-Steagall is high on Volcker's agenda and is a solid plan.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By philip affuso on November 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The author,Richard Posner, is an exceptional intellectual who not only writes books, about forty at last count, but is also a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, and since 1981 has sat on the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. So what is a federal judge and a law professor doing by trying to explain the causes of the recent financial crisis? That's what makes Posner so exceptional, his knowledge of economics is incredible, but even more amazing is his ability to explain esoteric subjects like derivatives in simply language so that even those of us with little background in economics can understand what he's talking about. Now don't get me wrong this is not an easy read, and I'm sure many people are not interested in a comprehensive analysis of the subject matter. But it's certainly nice to know what a derivative is. As defined by Posner, "a security that is based upon another security." Another term which has been used a lot lately is "moral hazard", and again while you may have a vague idea of what it means, Posner illustrates it, "as the tendency to be less careful if one is well insured against the consequences of one's carelessness than if one is not."
In Posner's view the recent financial crisis wasn't a recession but a depression felt across the globe. Here in the U.S. we saw unemployment rise close to 10% and remain there with a present rate of 9.6%. Fannie and Freddie went into receivership. GM and Chrysler had to be saved by the federal government and today the feds own 60% of GM. Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch are gone, as they were taken over by other firms, and Lehman Bros. was allowed to go bankrupt, something which he faults Bernanke for.
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