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Fixing Global Finance (Forum on Constructive Capitalism) Paperback – February 26, 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his latest, author and economics journalist Wolf (Why Globalization Works) pronounces the current, "nearly inevitable" global economic crisis the product of a "perfect storm" of global macroeconomic imbalances: the scale of net borrowing by the U.S. and the lack of corporate demand for outside funding, exacerbated by aggressive monetary easing, consequent financial excess, and the housing bubble. Wolf's writing is hardly popular economics, requiring some work to understand and absorb, but it bridges a gap in economic understanding not yet addressed by Congressional subcommittees or the media, whose only suspects thus far have been Republican free market policy and Wall Street greed. The primary problem, argues Wolf, is global reliance on the United States as the borrower of last resort. Whether Wolf is correct is another question-determining that would require putting his suggested policies into action. Domestic financial housecleaning aside, Wolf's plan includes countries like China finding domestic uses for their enormous account surpluses and emerging countries creating first-world financial systems that complement but don't depend upon global financial markets, goals requiring significant international cooperation. Heavy but rewarding, Wolf's analysis fills in a lot of blanks for those seeking to understand the new U.S. recession in a global context.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Ingram's Ron Watson, of the university press group, recommends that booksellers stock up." -- Publishers Weekly

"This is an ambitious book by one of the most respected financial journalists of our time... He does a terrific job, taking us through the plethora of theories that were put out to explain the imbalances, debunking the more popular but flaky ones with gusto." -- Financial Times

"Wolf is adamant: global trade and global finance ride in harness, and global finance requires controls -- controls that cover all nations. Agree or not, get the book and expand your understanding of precisely what has brought the United States to its current flirtation with disaster." -- Arthur Jones, The Desk

"In the diligent Fixing Global Finance, the Financial Times editor and columnist takes on the imbalances that have made the world economy lopsided." -- Andrew Bast, Newsweek

"Heavy but rewarding, Wolf's analysis fills in a lot of blanks for those seeking to understand the new U.S. recession in a global context." -- Publishers Weekly

"An extremely helpful guide to the origins of today's problems and to possible solutions... Written before the crisis, it is unhindered by minutiae about the credscendo of ad hoc measures that several governments took throughout the fall." -- Harold James, Foreign Affairs

"If Mr. Wolf were to rewrite his book... he would no doubt shift his emphasis. But his first run at the subject... holdes up remarkably well despite all that has happened." -- Economist

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Product Details

  • Series: Forum on Constructive Capitalism
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; expanded and updated edition edition (February 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801895731
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801895739
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #943,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This version (i.e., Forum on Constructive Capitalism) might be different than Mr. Wolf's yet-to-be-released book of the same name. I don't know. But, regardless this an eye-opening book. Previously, I have studied the US credit crunch from a retail/Wall Street perspective: that is, subprime loan originations and securitizations. Before Mr. Wolf, I understood the crisis as an utterly avoidable debacle triggered by greed and enabled by certain financial instruments.

But the book opened my eyes to larger forces at work in global finance. Sort of like, if i before saw the crisis as an inept swimmer drowning, now I see the swimmer as more of a victim caught up inexorably in a powerful undertow beyond his control. To see it his way, there was a degree of inevitability due to unsustainable imbalances. Mr. Wolf is absolutely expert on the dynamics of international capital flows. A good portion of the book makes vivid something he covers in his columns: the U.S. has been the world's "spender and borrower of last resort;" okay, you knew that, but the breakdown between government, companies and households is where it gets scary. While the US government used deficits to spur demand (and absorb other countries, like China's, excess savings), US households went into an unprecedented deficit. Our problem is that our current account deficit is met with excess spending rather than investment. Mr. Wolf has great charts in the book to illustrate this perfectly; a few of his simple line charts elicited a visceral reaction for me (fear, specifically).

Also, for those who haven't read Mr. Wolf before, he is the consumate professional giving counter-arguments their just due. You learn just as much while he's weighing the idea he doesn't agree with.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has almost nothing to do with the current housing and credit crisis. Wolf only says in the last couple of pages that part of the world savings glut was recycled in excess US residential investment. And, that's it. If you are interested in studying the current crisis I recommend instead those two excellent books: The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash, Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises (Wiley Investment Classics), and to a lesser degree The Subprime Solution: How Today's Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do about It.

Martin Wolf excellent analysis focuses on capital flows. He observes that the global savings glut generated by huge Current Account Surplus (CAS) from Asian exporting countries is matched by the US Current Account Deficit (CAD). He advances that if not for the US ability to absorb excess savings, the World economy would be in a recession. That's why he calls the US the borrower and spender of last resort. Wolf supports this savings glut theory by stating that:
1) Asian countries pegging their currency level is an explicit policy choice to boost exports;
2) US money supply growth has been reasonable; and
3) US Inflation and inflation expectation are low.

Martin Wolf explains how Asian countries came about to generate such huge CAS.
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Format: Hardcover
This book really isn't about fixing global finance. In fact, the author dedicates less than 10% of the book to that prospect and his solutions, rather blithely stated are for 1) developing countries to reform their economic governance so that they can issue own-currency debt (or the pie in the sky fix, to do away with single sovereign currencies); and 2) the IMF specifically and world economic organizations generally to reform themselves (the pie in the sky solution being that participating countries pool their reserves).
Well, golly (long golly ala Gomer Pile) you just done fixed global finance, Sarge!
Thank you, but I think we already know what economic Nirvana looks like and hoped for something other than nostrums as fixes, something like concrete suggestions, say.
Alas, I know, the task is too big for a single man and as such perhaps you may be allowed to take a pass on even attempting to tackle the problem right here and now, Mr. Wolf....but then there is the little issue of the title of the book. H'mmm.
No, this book is more interesting for its extended discussion of the various schools of thought surrounding the phenomenon of the US Current Account deficit. In other words, how the various schools explain the reason for it, and whether it can continue to grow or even remain the same size. The author's discussion of this is mostly transparent and always lucid even if it does take a bit of getting through at times. Reading it will definitely give one a more complete appreciation of what the phenomenon is and how it is caused, if not, perhaps, the exact reasons for it.
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