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Editorial Reviews


Robert J. Shiller, Co-Winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Economics

Winner of the 2012 Business Book Award in Finance & Economics, 800-CEO-READ

Winner of the 2012 PROSE Award in Business, Finance & Management, Association of American Publishers

Winner of the 2013 Bronze Medal Book Award in Economics, Axiom Business

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2012

Shortlisted for the 2012 Best Finance Books in China, Caijing Magazine

"Reading his book is like wandering through an interesting garden. . . . [T]he best passages in this book make a persuasive case for a fresh view of an industry that is too glibly demonized. The most promising way to promote the good society, Shiller says, is not to restrain finance but to release it."--Sebastian Mallaby, New York Times Book Review

"[R]igorous. . . . Shiller presents a helpful taxonomy, and is convincing in his defence of insurers, financial advisers, and (some) bankers. He is good at relating even some of the more obscure and complex trading strategies to real world problems . . ."--Howard Davies, Times Literary Supplement

"Shiller, professor of economics at Yale and author of the best-selling Irrational Exuberance, examines the future of finance in this timely new book. Recognizing the anger of many Americans--as evidenced in part by the rise of the Occupy movement--Shiller suggests that the way to fix our increasingly unequal society is through the 'democratization' and 'humanization' of finance." Online Review

"Finance is in need of a little redemption. In his priestly new book, Finance and the Good Society, Mr. Shiller . . . sets out to provide it. He argues convincingly that finance can, should and usually does make the world a better place. . . . As an advocate for the financial system . . . he is wonderfully persuasive because he never plays down the problems. . . . Mr. Shiller reminds us of the profound importance of finance to making our society work."--Robin Harding, Financial Times

"[S]hiller comes across as pragmatic as well as visionary, explaining how much financial capitalism has done for society and how much more it could do if harnessed for the common good."--James Pressley, Bloomberg News

"[W]hile many have damned the finance industry for rampant self-interest and a tendency to prey on people's flawed thinking for its own benefit, Shiller wants to overhaul it to make sure finance serves the greater good. The key, he says, in his new book, Finance and the Good Society, is to democratize finance--giving the rest of us access to the tools and techniques that rich folks have used for decades to raise capital and protect themselves from risk."--Drew DeSilver, Seattle Times

"[F]inance and the Good Society is so contrarian as to be shocking--all the more so because its author, Robert Shiller, is no head-in-the-sand capitalist nor a highly paid Wall Street shill. . . . [A]t a time . . . when fear is curbing financial innovation and the political climate could 'prevent financial capitalism from progressing in ways that could benefit all citizens,' Mr. Shiller's sensible message demands urgent attention."--Economist

"Shiller has sought to prove what most of us were prepared to assume: finance may not be the great saviour that will create good society in the Utopian sense, but a society that truly seeks to be good will find in finance a willing partner that can help it achieve its goals. If you are looking for a social revolution, you will not find it in Finance and the Good Society but if you are planning a social revolution you should definitely read this book first."--Financial World

"[D]eeply intelligent and elegantly argued."--BizEd

"If François Hollande really believes finance is an enemy of society, he should read Robert J. Shiller."--Tim King, European Voice

"What present would you give to the man who stands on the threshold of the élysée Palace--a man who has almost everything? A copy of Robert Shiller's Finance and the Good Society might be a timely present. . . . [A] stimulating book . . ."--European Voice

"Extensively citing history, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science, the book convincingly calls for better fiscal education and claims that greater knowledge will lessen resentment and inequality, improve comprehension, and facilitate 'the good society.' An excellent resource for readers interested in understanding and improving financial capitalism."--Library Journal

"Robert Shiller makes a bold but convincing plea to reform the present financial system and use its power for the benefit of society as a whole."--Arab News

"Shiller has won a deserved reputation as being among the world's most prescient analysts of financial excesses. When he defends finance, we should pay attention."--Martin Wolf, Prospect

"Shiller argues his case skilfully and persistently, and with a wealth of quirky and interesting examples."--Lord Skidelsky, Management Today

"What is great about the book, and surprising I suppose, is that Dr. Shiller spends a great deal of time explaining why the practice of modern finance is mostly good. . . . Honestly, it's worth the price of the book just to read an outstanding explanation of why Derivatives Providers, Financial Engineers, and Mortgage Securitizers aren't inherently evil. . . . [T]his is an even-handed book that makes a distinction that has been rarely made in the post-crisis witch-hunt: Hate the sin, love the sinner. The people involved in finance are, in general, good people and the structures, in general, work well most of the time. Improvements can be made, and when the serial crises are over in a few years, hopefully we can discourse intelligently on these improvements. Dr. Shiller has made a good contribution to that discourse with this book."--Inflation Trader, SeekingAlpha

"In Finance and the Good Society, the Yale economist comes to praise finance, not to bury it. . . . After examining the often unappreciated value contributed by finance professionals, Shiller reminds us that finance has already helped build a better world through inventions like amortizing mortgages, and mutual funds."--CFO Magazine

"Shiller, author of The Subprime Solution and Irrational Exuberance and an originator of the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, has written a timely, readable book, the product of teaching finance for 25 years. Unlike so many recent books stimulated by the financial disruptions that started in 2007, it does not vilify the current system of financial capitalism but instead attempts to inform readers. . . . Judging from the book, Shiller's students are very fortunate."--Choice

"Robert Shiller deserves much praise for trying to restore balance to public discussion of contemporary finance. His task is not easy, but he carries it off clearly, succinctly and with great hope for the possibilities of reformed finance. His focus on 'the good society' is absolutely correct: to build the better society that philosophers and social scientists have sought for ages, we badly need a financial system that works, not only for big business but for all of us."--Joel Campbell, International Affairs

From the Back Cover

"Finance and the Good Society is a provocative call for understanding, then reinventing finance as a force that could create inclusive prosperity. Shiller acknowledges the excesses, inequalities, and unfortunate incentives to sleaziness in the current financial system but says it doesn't have to be that way. An important book for those who seek change."--Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School Professor and author of SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profit, Growth, and Social Good

"Drawing from history, economic theory, and keen observation of our economy, Robert Shiller brings a fresh perspective to a big issue--the role of finance in our society. He urges us to overcome the popular misperception that all finance is sleazy and to think broadly about how we can harness its power for the benefit of society as a whole."--Darrell Duffie, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University

"Many MBA students are fascinated by the world of finance but wary of entering it because they perceive it as declining and marred by unethical behavior. This book will show them why finance is and should be a vital part of the good society's solution, rather than its problem. No other book does this with more authority or credibility."--Shlomo Maital, professor emeritus, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

"This is an overflowing feast of ideas and facts--from Adam Smith to neuroscience to casino design--that will convince intelligent readers who think of finance as an arcane subject that it is not just interesting but even entertaining."--Robert Wade, London School of Economics and Political Science


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691154880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691154886
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By DonL2507 on May 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To many observers, particularly since the financial crisis of 2008, finance is a kind of rent-seeking bahavior equivalent to legal services in that it serves to redistribute wealth and not create wealth; the typical accusation is that it's involved with the buying and selling of things and not the making of things. Professor Shiller's latest book challenges these prejudices and ably discusses the critical role that finance, and all its many applications, performs in a modern, complex economy. His very definition of finance -- "the science of goal architecture", i.e., the structuring of economic arrangements to achieve given goals -- conveys its comprehensive role in our economy. Before the 1960s finance, particularly corporate finance, was largely accounting-oriented and rules-driven; since that time it's been a large and active branch of economics using the same sort of tools and analytical rigor.

Shiller breaks his book into two main parts: Part I discusses the roles and responsibilities of various participants in finance while the more interesting Part II covers some of the issues involved in finance that have received criticism like risk-taking, the use of leverage, and the costs of speculation. The overall argument is that strong, responsive and well-regulated financial institutions and well-developed and liquid financial markets are critical for an economy's success, and there's some macroeconomic research that links a strong financial infrastructure to greater economic growth. Finance provides the "lubricant" for the economy's smooth functioning; obviously, financial institutions and markets are required to transfer and price funds from "savings-surplus" economic units to "savings-deficit" economic units.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Antonio on December 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I'm a fan of Shiller's other books such as Irrational Exuberance and Animal Spirits. However I was disappointed with this book.

The first half of the book discusses the major players in the modern financial system. I didn't really enjoy this part of the book as most moderately informed readers already know the various roles, and the discussions didn't really seem to have much point.

Some chapters such as the one on insurance had some somewhat bizarre comments. For example Shiller complained that the media made too big a deal about the gulf of mexico oil spill. According to him the spill wasn't really much of a problem since most people had insurance and got some compensation for their losses. I found these remarks insensitive and lacking insight.

The second half of the book was somewhat better although the chapters were uneven. Many of them appeared somewhat aimless and not really contributing to some sort of cohesive theme. He spends too much time making excuses for some of the problems with the modern financial system. I believe in capitalism and markets, but I think there is plenty of room for improvement.

In summary I was very disappointed with this book, I didn't enjoy reading it, and I found some of Shiller's arguments poorly considered.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A. Menon on May 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Finance and the Good Society is Shiller's most recent work on the state and role of finance in society. Given the economic climate and the time weve now had to reflect, the book is a good addition to literature of late, which has primarily been focused on causes with a sprinkle of literature suggesting solutions. Shiller takes a different perspective and analyses the role of finance in society in general and the fundamental need of financial capitalism for modern society. He splits the book into two parts Roles and Responsibilities which is focused on the roles of agents of finance and the political economy and Finance and its Discontents, which reviews the failings of finance and the agency problems that exist.

Roles and Responsibilities is probably what many readers believe the author is too idealistic on. He describes the benefits that financial actors bestow on the economy by doing their job well. For all who have read New Financial Order, much of the ideas are associated with the ideas first stated there. The author basically makes the case that finance allows us to structure our means to achieve larger longer term goals. Financial industries all have their niche in expertise to help create financial solutions that allow for long term planning and if done properly our ability to structure investment gives us the freedom to plan more intelligently.

Finance and its Discontents discusses much of what frustrates most people as well as recent financial economic issues of importance. He discusses the motives of those in finance, the credit cycle, the ethical issues that arise in short term arms length finance and financial speculation among other things. The author qualifies most issues as being self adjusting and evidence of misdeed by the few not by all.
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45 of 56 people found the following review helpful By FY on April 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
First of all, I would like to comment on the ingeniousness of the title "Finance and the Good Society." For "finance" generally brings to mind a world of relentless profit-seeking, while Good Society recalls one that is abundant in comforts, altruism and beauty. No two worlds could have been more antithetical, and surely, it is in the latter that human civilization and its most glorious achievements- arts, literature, music, ideas- thrive. Robert J. Shiller undermines this perceived relationship between the two concepts by effectively arguing that good society in fact, owes a great deal to finance.

The book even goes into some much appreciated etymology, such as the Latin roots of finance to mean "goal". One of the many memorable statements Shiller made included "Finance is the science of goal architecture". People design instruments like mortgage-backed securities so that we can afford to buy homes and exchanges are created to reduce the transaction costs of over-the-counter deals. Of course, people profit from these creations, but this does not give us sufficient reason to discredit these instruments and the benefits they bring.

Perhaps what this book does best is exposing our myopia, and often negative bias, regarding finance. But who can blame us? Given the 2008 financial crisis and the downfall of MF Global, the word "finance" has acquired a very bad taste. Because of its arcane nature of the subject, most people would much rather embrace this bias instead of understanding the problem in its entirety. To do so requires examining the micro-structures of decision making of financial institutions- be it the incentives of market makers or the credit rating agencies.
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