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Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (October 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393338959
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393338959
  • Product Dimensions: 3.4 x 4.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Dick Hill gives just the everyman kind of reading to make Nobel Prize–winning economist Stiglitz's analysis of the financial collapse plainly comprehensible and a ripping good—if enraging—yarn. With harsh words for the right and the left, Reagan-era deregulations that set the stage for the catastrophe, the Fed's bungling, the high costs of the Iraq War, and President Obama's refusal to take stronger measures, Stiglitz is passionate and iconoclastic. Hill handles the financial intricacies with clarity and delivers the material with warmth, urgency, and erudition. A Norton hardcover. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Booklist

Written by a Nobel Prize recipient, a graduate of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors, and a stout advocate of Keynesian economics, this inquest into the recession of 2007–09 lashes many designated villains, banks above all. Writing in a spirit Andrew Jackson would have loved, Stiglitz assails financial institutions’ size, their executive compensation, the complexity of their financial instruments, and the taxpayer money that has been poured into them. But unlike Jackson, who didn’t understand a thing about economics, Stiglitz is a little more analytical. He dwells on incentives—perverse, in his argument—for risky financial legerdemain in housing mortgages. The temptations stemmed from deregulation of the financial industry, a Reaganesque policy Stiglitz rebukes: he favors re-regulation and more government involvement in the economy. In fact, Stiglitz waxes unhappily about the Obama administration’s interventions, which thus far have been inadequate in his view. Zinging the Federal Reserve for good measure, Stiglitz insistently and intelligently presses positions that challenge those of rightward-leaning economists upholding the virtues of markets. Amid animated contemporary economic debate, Stiglitz’s book will attract popular and professional attention. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Joseph E. Stiglitz is a professor of economics at Columbia University and the recipient of a John Bates Clark Medal and a Nobel Prize. He is also the former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank. His books include Globalization and Its Discontents, The Three Trillion Dollar War, and Making Globalization Work. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

The author presents a very readable summary of events.
misterbeets
Stiglitz is an unapologetic man of the left, but his book is more balanced than many which have addressed this issue from the right.
Dan Heath
Still, I highly recommend it to anyone with any interest in economics or current events.
JG

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

460 of 487 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on January 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Stiglitz believes that markets lie at the heart of every successful economy, but do not work well without government regulation. In "Freefall" he explains how flawed perspectives and incentives lead to the 'Great Recession' of 2008, and brought mistakes that will prolong the downturn.

Between 1996-2006, Americans used over $2 trillion in home equity (HELOC) to pay for home improvements, cars, medical bills, etc., largely because real income had been stagnant since the early 1990s. Economic recovery requires that we repay the remainder of these amounts, overcome stock market losses (10% between 2000-2009), the loss of some 10 million jobs, and reductions in credit card balances, and find an equivalent amount to the former home-equity sourced financing ($975 billion in 2006 alone - about 7% of GDP) to finance another consumer-driven GDP upturn - without the prior boom in housing and commercial building. Stiglitz also points out that the Great Depression coincided with the decline of U.S. agriculture (crop prices were falling before the 1929 crash), and economic growth resumed only after the New Deal and WWII. Similarly, today's recovery from the Great Recession is also hampered by the concomitant shift from manufacturing to services, continued automation and globalization, taxes that have become less progressive (shifting money from those who would spend to those who haven't), and new accounting regulations that discourage mortgage renegotiation.

Stiglitz is particularly critical of the U.S.
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60 of 66 people found the following review helpful By W. P. Strange on February 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I admit that economics confuses me, so when I read a book written in lucid easy to understand language I can begin to understand a compound-complex idea a little more clearly. Nothing in economics is as it seems because politics can often obfuscate with ideological explanations that are neither simple or even partially true when based on politics. Stiglitz doesn't say that the free market can't work, but that it isn't the entire answer. Regulations, as the banking meltdown of 2009 demonstrates, are necessary to prevent greed from becoming the dominating motivation for Wall Street and big banks, especially investment banks that measure success only in terms of how big their next bonus will be.

"Freefall" doesn't give us all the answers, and again I admit that I still have questions, but for a basic understanding of the markets as they played out in the past couple of years and how deregulation merely increased the problems for most of Main sreet this is a very good place to start. Some critics have already panned this book as a call to socialism, but those critics obviously lack even a basic understanding of what socialism really is and are only looking for a buzz word to sustain the belief that a totally "Free Market" system is the only good thing, when in fact it increases the chances of boom and bust cycles coming even closer together in the future. To begin, modest regulations are all that might be needed, and if bankers once again act trustworthy and preform ethically it could be enough. If greed continues unabated, then the middle class will disappear and only the wealthiest will profit.
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38 of 46 people found the following review helpful By JB Kemble on January 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Professor Stiglitz has repeatedly spoken truth to power. He wrote about the perils of unchecked globalization, the disaster of the Federal Reserves policies in the 90s and 00s, the wrong-footed solutions to the Asia crisis, and the cost of the Iraq War. Here he lays out in simple, straightforward jargon-free language, what happened to cause the worst economic crisis since the Depression and what steps we need to take to prevent it from happening again. Highly recommended.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Berschauer on April 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
With Freefall, Joseph Stiglitz presents a thoroughly argued - although at times convoluted - exposé on the downfall of the global economy and (he clearly hopes) the discrediting of the "markets can do no wrong" school of economic thought. I'm not an economist, and am not qualified to comment on the academics presented here, but the fact that no one emerges unscathed from this book gives me a degree of confidence that Mr Stiglitz has produced a well-balanced work focussed on outcomes rather than party platforms.

Many of the 1-star reviews harp on about Mr Stiglitz's wanting to give the government more power when the Fed and others were culpable in the Great Recession. At best that interpretation does a disservice to what Mr Stiglitz advocates. Yes, he calls for a balanced role for government involvement to keep markets in line (as, he argues, they have clearly demonstrated they cannot do it themselves), but he also takes regulators and the Fed to the mat for their poor oversight, and the Obama administration for poor choices of remedy (basically just continuing the failed policies of GW Bush). Mr Stiglitz goes further, though, in calling for a restructuring of the financial sector - from the ashes, a phoenix - saying that today's incentives produce bad behavior, and need to be rethought with "right" outcomes in mind. It's an admirable goal, but where the political will for this comes from is anybody's guess. If Obama couldn't part ways with GW Bush on this matter, how will he restructure finance? One reviewer laments the lack of moral outrage expressed by the author - did he read the book? It's full of moral outrage and condemnation of a system which has failed everyone except the heads of the financial sector.
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