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Stabilizing an Unstable Economy Hardcover – May 5, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0071592994 ISBN-10: 0071592997 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Praise for the prescient work of Hyman P. Minsky

“Twenty-five years ago, when most economists were extolling the virtues of financial deregulation and innovation, a maverick named Hyman P. Minsky maintained a more negative view of Wall Street; in fact, he noted that bankers, traders, and other financiers periodically played the role of arsonists, setting the entire economy ablaze.”
--John Cassidy, The New Yorker

“The journey from subprime mortgages to a major credit crisis, a weak economy and broken business models in finance could all have been foreseen through Hyman Minsky’s perspectives. His work remains essential to understanding the ground beneath us and the path ahead.”
—-George Magnus, Senior Economic Adviser, UBS Investment Bank

“It is time to revive an old issue: Just how inherently unstable are economies? But instead of getting much guidance these days from contemporary economists, we need to turn to some of the giants from the past. The work of Hyman Minsky . . . is especially on the mark.”
--Jeff Madrick, The New York Times

“Hyman Minsky's work has never been more valuable. His financial instability hypothesis, complete with hedge, speculative and ponzi units, has played out to a T in the U.S. property and mortgage markets over the last half decade.”
--Paul McCulley, Managing Director, PIMCO

“As it happens, Minsky is enjoying something of a revival. Two of his books, John Maynard Keynes, and Stabilizing an Unstable Economy were just republished by McGraw-Hill, and his contention that stability is inherently unstable seems more relevant than ever in the aftermath of the period of low market volatility that ended in the current crisis.

"In the latter of those books, published in 1986, Minsky wrote, 'If the institutions responsible for the lender-of-last resort function stand aside and allow market forces to operate, then the decline in asset values relative to current output prices will be larger than with intervention; investment and debt financed consumption will fall by larger amounts; and the decline in income, employment and profits will be greater.' In other words, without government bailouts, there can be a downward spiral.”
--The New York Times

About the Author

Hyman P. Minsky, Ph.D., was an American economist who studied under Joseph Schumpeter and Wassily Leontief. He taught economics at Washington University, University of California--Berkeley, Brown University, and Harvard University. Minsky joined the Jerome Levy Economics Institute of Bard College as a distinguished scholar in 1990, where he continued his research and writing until a few months before his death in October, 1996. His two seminal books were Stabilizing an Unstable Economy and John Maynard Keynes.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 350 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (May 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071592997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071592994
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 63 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on April 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This classic work of political economy, first published in 1986, has valuable lessons for us today. Minsky studies the recessions of 1975 and 1982, economic theory, institutions, particularly banks, and finally presents an agenda for reform.

Financial traumas have led to ever-worse recessions, in 1970, 1975, 1979-80, 1982, 1987, 2002 and the present. As he notes, "the normal functioning of our economy leads to financial trauma and crises, inflation, currency depreciations, unemployment, and poverty in the midst of what could be virtually universal affluence - in short, .. financially complex capitalism is inherently flawed." Yet he believes, "the collapse of aggregate demand and profits, such as occasionally occurred and often threatened to occur in pre-1933 small government capitalism, is never a clear and present danger in a Big Government capitalism such as has ruled since World War Two." Life is disproving this hope.

What causes these recessions? Minsky writes, "the Wall Streets of the world are important; they generate destabilizing forces. ... This instability is not due to external shocks or to the incompetence or ignorance of policy makers. Instability is due to the internal processes of our type of economy. The dynamics of a capitalist economy which has complex, sophisticated, and evolving financial structures leads to the development of conditions conducive to incoherence - to runaway inflations or deep depressions." Strangely, capitalism can't handle capital: "capitalism is flawed precisely because it cannot readily assimilate productive processes that use large-scale capital assets."

What is to be done? He warns, "Meaningful reforms cannot be put over by an advisory and administrative elite that is itself the architect of the existing situation.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Larry R Frank Sr, MBA, CFP on August 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Unfortunately, economists seem to given more attention after they're deceased and it appears Hyman P. Minsky (1919 -1986) is one in this category as well. As I read this book, originally published in 1986, I was amazed at not only one, but the many, parallels to today his synthesis of economic views, a blend of today's camps including the behavioral, had.

More valuable to you are his comments than mine, so I will quote Minsky as much as possible in this review and highly suggest its reading to fill in the gaps he so well articulates on his own. I decided to read this book because I'm not an economist and heard how his theories may better apply today than ever.

Many years later, the preface to this edition provides an excellent summary of Minsky's work. You do not need to be an expert to follow along. In the Introduction (8), Minsky points out that the institutional arrangements we have today in response to the Great Depression were set up pre-Keynes and with a pre-Keynesian understanding of the economy. ¨The evidence from 1975 indicates that, although the simple Keynesian model in which a large government deficit stabilizes and the helps the economy to expand is valid in a rough and ready way, the relevant economic relations are more complicated than the simple model allows. In particular, because what happens in our economy is so largely determined by financial considerations, economic theory can be relevant only if finance is integrated in the structure of the theory.¨

Minsky discusses Big Government and lender-of-last-resort (Federal Reserve or Fed) which is enlightening is and of itself. The balance of Chapters two and three are devoted to how these two interventions may work in theory.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A. Menon on October 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is and has really re-emerged as a classic and prophetic book on the endogenous factors that drive instability. Again, the book is referred to a little too late and undoubtedly the same will happen in whatever next bubble next pops. To give a quick overview, most people study economic growth as as function of the economy's factors of production (including human capital) and their dynamics (modern economists are updating methods and ideas but people are still taught the solow growth model as foundational). The "trajectory" of an economy is usually smooth and the stochastic growth drivers/detractors are technology and exogenous shocks, where exogenous are not known from a substance or timing perspective a priori. Minsky explores a form of instability that is not discussed in most growth models, he discusses the instability that is embedded in our economies resulting from the use of currency its fluctuation from being scarce to abundant.

To me his insights as to the dynamics of what drives asset bubbles, in particular, banks propensity to lend as well as agents propensity to borrow against assets as a function of recent history was so spot on it makes you smile were it not so sad that it just happened. Minsky has identified a particularly dangerous form of the animal spirits that Keynes and more recently Schiller have written about, especially in a fiat currency environment in which we are separated from the pricing of money mechanism that the central bank is empowered to control. This book is worth reading for a multitude of reasons.
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