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Empire of Debt the rise of an epic financial crisis a 2006 Wiley paperback Unknown Binding – 2006

129 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons (2006)
  • ISBN-10: 047198048X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471980483
  • ASIN: B004N73UZI
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

111 of 118 people found the following review helpful By David Ludden on August 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When my grandparents bought their home in the 1930s, they made paying off the mortgage a high priority and celebrated when the house was finally theirs. They worked hard, pinched every penny and took good care of what they had. They kept their house tidy and in good repair; they never used the fireplace because they did not want to get it dirty, and the furniture stayed good as new under its plastic covers. When they died, they were debt free and had money in the bank. It was these virtues--thrift and industry--that built the United States into the most powerful empire the world has ever known, according to Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggin in their new book, Empire of Debt: The Rise of an Epic Financial Crisis.

Bonner and Wiggin view ancient Rome as the classical model of empire. Running an empire was an expensive business; the folks in the homeland needed to be mollified with government handouts (bread and circuses), while a large military had to be maintained in the frontier. Rome used its military power to exact tribute from neighboring states; it was a protection racket, no different from the Mafia. Nevertheless, this scheme generally kept the central state solvent and the territories at peace. The United States is also an empire, Bonner and Wiggin maintain, but it does not follow the classical model. It placates its citizens with massive distributions of government largess while using its powerful military to exert influence and keep peace abroad. However, "[i]nstead of getting paid for providing protection, the United States is on the receiving end of loans from its tributary states and trading partners " (p. 77). This is how the United States became the Empire of Debt.
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255 of 291 people found the following review helpful By Jack T. on November 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I read this tag team of financial prognisticators' first book, Financial Reckoning Day, and LOVED it. Well, loved it in the way you can love a book that tells you history is all for naught and the financial world as we know it is coming to an end (at least they smiled when they said that, in a bemused kind of way).

But it's my understanding these guys wrote that book and some of this one while over in France (they're also the team behind the Daily Reckoning ezine, which I also read). There must be something in the wine over there that makes you see a little more deeply into things than most are prone to here in the States. Or maybe it's the distance from their homeland (they're both American) that gives them perspective.

Because I found Empire of Debt, which I just got and finished, nearly as eye-opening as the discussion they'd already started in the last book. In short, easy credit and wild spending will get us in the end. Already, it's nipping at our heels. Even while most of us, right on up to the powers that be -- who should be exercising a little more caution, but instead happen to be the worse over-spenders of them all -- refuse to pay attention to the message.

But it's there in the history books. And it's in this one, which you could call a kind of history lesson as much as you could call it a forecast for things to come. Great material and well done. Definitely worth a read for anyone (smart) who cares about the future of the world economy.
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516 of 594 people found the following review helpful By Scott Meredith on November 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bonner is a very entertaining and witty writer.

But in this book he's saying (over and again) not much more than:

1. Empires are created by vainglorious self-deluded fools.
2. Empires always overreach and go broke and collapse.
3. America is an Empire.
4. America buys more from overseas than it sells there, and that's bad.
5. Americans spend too much and don't save enough.
6. The housing market is a bubble due to pop.
7. Gold is a good store of value.

That's about it, along with some fragments of schoolbook history. Hope I "saved" you some money!
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96 of 111 people found the following review helpful By D. Stuart on January 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is an interesting concoction - akin to the contrarian stance in the marketplace. When everyone else is buying shares, these guys are advocating gold. When economic growth sits at a healthy 4.2% per annum - these guys preach gloom.

The basis of their argument is the record US foreign debt, and they see this as the banana skin on which the USA will ultimately slip. The argument has some merits, but the outcome is not as inevitable as the authors argue.

The irony of debt is that it can actually integrate an economy more closely with that of the rest of the world. Just as the old adage goes that if you have a million dollar overdraft at the bank, you get really great service, so too - if a nation has a high debt exposure, then the rest of the planet is more inclined to talk business. Who, after all, could afford to see America fail? Could China? Could Europe? I doubt it.

So I'm not so sure that the gloom is warranted - and I find this tendency of today's political and economic commentators to choose one stance or another academically weak. The truth in economics is seldom anything but a series of "but on the other hand..." statements. Debt is bad...but on the other hand.

Next question posed by the authors: Is America an Empire? Does it behave as an empire? These authors believe it does, but again I'm not so sure the truth is that simple. Sure, Iraq really does appear to be about oil hegemony at the highest politcal level - but on the other hand the American economy is made up of so many non-political commercial organisations that it is unrealistic to say that the USA behaves as a single minded Roman-styled empire. Microsoft, or Dell or Amazon will do their own thing with or without the politicians.
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