80 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2012
The New Depression is an important book. I think the subject matter is beyond the grasp of a mass market audience but not at all boring or too complicated for those with some financial education or a keen interest in the subject. I mention this point because a few chapters necessarily lay a logic foundation for what follows and that requires some discussion of money and credit. Don't be scared off by my mild caveat.
This tightly written 179 page exposition explains the credit based economy since 1968. This book brings it all together and explains how we arrived at the economic ledge and the limited policy options remaining. Duncan starts by quickly showing how the expansion of credit has driven our economic growth. America continued it's economic expansion after leaving the gold standard by switching to an economy of credit/spending from saving/investing. It explains America's financial relationship with China/Asia and how we're all in this together and none are without sin. The progression he presents is absolutely convincing and sweeps away the confusion and incompleteness of the piecemeal theories that dominate financial market discussions. This understanding is monumentally important to the investor who stands stunned looking at a world of negative interest rates and wondering about inflation versus deflation. It's truly a matter of financial survival for many of us.
This book is not about blame or angry opinion but a mature and rational analysis. Terrible policy decisions were made in the past. The continuum of folly brought us to the credit collapse of 2008. Duncan places you in the shoes of the Fed chairman and the Treasury Secretary as they stand on the ledge discussing what to do next. Shocked themselves, they wonder what is politically possible and how much time have we left. Want to be the fly on the wall and hear the truth? Get the book. Worth every nickel.
184 of 196 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2012
This is the first book I have read by Duncan and I find it very thought provoking. Note that Duncan approaches the subject of the contemporary economy from an American perspective, and I, also being an American, will discuss it from a US-centric perspective.
I believe his most central concept is that we currently operate under an economic system that is based on an ever-increasing expansion of credit, which he calls, for lack of a better word, "Creditism". He seems to substantially share the view of the Austrian school of economics that this state of affairs, which was triggered by the abandonment of the gold standard, and aggravated by a virtual elimination of any capital reserve requirements for the issuance of debt, is a tragic one.
A number of other books I have read recently on the economic crisis have also emphasized the key role that debt expansion has played in the economy being where it is today. He is perhaps unique, however, in asserting that debt is in fact now the cornerstone of our economic system.
He asserts that economic growth or decline is caused by the expansion or contraction of credit, and provides what appears to be some pretty good evidence of how ups and downs in the economy were caused by fluctuations in total credit. ("TCMD" Total Credit Market Debt) And that overall there has been an exponential increase in TCMD over the last 60 years or so, which was the cause of the prosperity that has prevailed during that period.
That assertion makes a good deal of sense to me, although another explanation of the prosperity of the late 20th century that some have made is that it was driven by the availability of abundant cheap energy. That seems to me to also be a pretty credible hypothesis. I am inclined to believe that both probably played a major role.
With regard to the post-2008 crash in the US, he shows how the short-term ups and downs in the economy since then were caused by the specific actions taken by the Federal Reserve.
Another key point he makes is that Ben Bernanke is incorrect in claiming that China's heavy purchase of US government debt is funded with savings. He contends that it is in fact funded by Yuan freshly-printed by the Chinese central bank.
I was interested in his opinion on China. He seems to share the mainstream view that China has no choice but to continue buying up government debt from the west else the Chinese economy would collapse. He asserts that China cannot switch from an export economy to a domestic-based one because Chinese cannot afford the goods produced by Chinese factories, only westerners can. For those familiar with the views of Peter Schiff, you will recognize that not everyone agrees with that assessment. Schiff believes the west is in fact an economic albatross around China's neck, and it would prosper more if it would simply redirect its focus to its domestic economy and transition out of exporting.
Another point Duncan makes in the book, is that we have undergone a lengthy period of massive debt expansion in which price inflation has not been commensurate with that debt expansion, and the reason is that highly inflationary economic policies have been accompanied by a huge drop in labor costs associated with the replacement of domestic labor with low-wage foreign labor. This is a point contemporary Austrians such as Peter Schiff have also made. Schiff points out that the most prominent mandate central banks tend to be tasked with is price stability, while he points out that deflation is actually a characteristic of a healthy market economy- it means that higher productivity is lowering prices and making products more affordable. In Duncan's final chapter on inflation and deflation he cites past periods of them and it appears the latter 19th century was deflationary along the lines of what the Austrians would characterize as "healthy deflation".
Despite the numerous instances in which Duncan asserts that the Austrians have correctly diagnosed the economic realities of our times, his prescription for the future bears no resemblance to theirs. He opposes austerity measures for the US on the basis that they will trigger a depression. He believes the "cold turkey" approach of the Libertarians (disciples of the Austrian school) of switching to a system of free-market economics would cause a catastrophic Depression. Duncan feels that if the originators of Austrian economics were around today they would see things his way, although I sincerely doubt it. Certainly the contemporary followers of that philosophy do not.
It seems to me Duncan raises a very legitimate question regarding the Libertarian solution. Would the transition really simply be a short bout of economic pain followed by a glorious return to an economy based on free market capitalism that would provide long-term prosperity? Or could the transition last decades or longer, and involve a complete collapse of the economy, leading to tyranny, violence, mass starvation? Even if that is the path to the Promised Land, if is impossible to travel that path without dying on the way, then it is of dubious merit. Or as Duncan puts it, it took hundreds of years to get from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance.
Duncan's prescription for the future is basically massive government stimulus to keep the credit expansion continuing. He seems to feel that this could lead to a stronger economy if that stimulus were spent very wisely.
However, here it appears to me that he is on extremely shaky ground.
This has probably been said by others before, but it seems worth stating: It is far easier to refute than to assert.
Duncan wants a "moon shot" type program to transition the US to solar energy. Well, I am not an economist but I am a retired engineer and although I was not in the energy field I do have done a fair amount of reading on the subject. And, one thing I try to impress on people is that while I believe solar energy is in all probability the primary energy solution for mankind in the long term, it will be many decades before solar will have the ability to provide a substantial portion of our energy. And throwing massive amounts of money at it will not necessarily speed it up much. There are major breakthroughs still needed. There have been incredible advances in photovoltaic cells that have improved their efficiency while drastically lowering their cost. But, since solar is an intermittent source, the solar cell is only one piece of the puzzle. I believe Duncan is totally incorrect that the price of gasoline could be brought way down. His $1 a gallon is in my view delusional. As to the electric car, which he also advocates, I believe it has great potential, but battery technology is still a long way from being adequate to produce an electric car with comparable functionality to an internal combustion vehicle. Furthermore, there are all sorts of essential uses of fossil fuels for which we are a lot further still from having any substitute. Aviation fuel, plastics, agricultural fertilizers are a few examples.
It seems that often these days people, particularly those on the political left, seem to feel that scientific advances can be created by government decree. And such a view is not totally unfounded, as evidenced by the example of the program to put a man on the moon. But to overly generalize that concept is in my view foolhardy. Suppose the government decreed that scientists develop a mechanism to "beam a person up" to an inhabitable planet elsewhere in the galaxy within ten years, and that they will be given a virtually unlimited budget to assure their success. How many people would bet that such a program would succeed? Only a handful of disturbed individuals would. What this shows is that while a large-scale project driven by the government can be successful, it must not only be well-run but be directed at a realistically achievable objective.
The only solid point I would grant him is that Creditism does serve as an ENABLER for the sort of massive government stimulus he proposes. Because interest rates are forced to artificially low levels by the economic policy-makers, and it appears that state of affairs can be continued for the forseeable future, despite the unprecedented spiral of debt, the US government still has the capacity to engage in massive additional borrowing.
I believe there may also be some parallel in Duncan's economic prescription to that proposed by the adherents of "Modern Monetary Theory". I wanted to get familiar with that philosophy and bought Wray's book "Understanding Modern Money", which seemed to be the most respected book on the subject. However, I stopped when I got to what seemed to be his first major proposal, that government employment of the unemployed be used as a mechanism to regulate inflation. It seemed to me that idea has obvious fatal flaws. However, my curiosity is picking up again and I look forward to continuing with that book now that I have read Duncan's.
I believe the energy situation is almost opposite of how Duncan views it. Fossil fuels will be becoming scarce in coming decades. Renewables will be incapable to replace them to any meaningful degree for decades. Nevertheless, we need to AGGRESSIVELY fund energy research to expedite the transition from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. However, for several decades, renewable energy will NOT be an economic boon, it will be a money sink, as we spend billions toward government-funded research that will have no economic payoff for decades. In fact, if Duncan were right that throwing hundreds of billions of dollars at deployment of solar energy would have an economic payoff in the near term, the private sector could do it. It is the fact that the basic research needed to make alternative energy a reality will have no payoff for a number of decades that is the precise reason that such research must be funded by the government. But do not engage in "faith-based" deployment on a large-scale of a technology that is at far too primitive a level of development to be able to provide an economic benefit at the present time. Such policy would simply be another "Decline of the Roman Empire" act of imperial hubris which would hasten the collapse of modern civilization.
Some other questions that come to mind with regard to Duncan's prescriptions.
1). Does he show no interest in returning to Capitalism because he believes such a system has no inherent virtue over Creditism, or because he believes that the transition would have such catastrophic consequences for mankind that there is "no going back"?
2). Does he believe that Creditism can continue indefinitely? As far as I can tell he appears to believe that massive government stimulus funded by debt could trigger economic growth that would save the economy. His main concern seems to be staving off calamity in the short term. Exactly what sort of economy would exist beyond that under his regime seems very murky. I suspect that if he gave more detail it would raise a whole lot of new questions.
3). Regarding his energy plan: If a massive government energy program is a key to our economic woes, who says solar is the right choice? I happened to listen to an interview on financialsense.com today by a spokesman for Thorium reactors. Why not a multi hundred billion dollar program to develop Thorium reactors? Not that I am an advocate of Thorium reactors, but I bet that a stronger case could be made that they could be a solution to our energy needs in the next 100 years than the case that could be made for solar. I should emphasize that I do not mean to suggest that I support such a massive hail mary program for any energy technology, be it solar, Thorium, or whatever.
I see that in the liner notes it says Duncan's book ` "The Corruption of Capitalism" described the long series of US policy mistakes responsible for the crisis. It also outlined the policies necessary to permanently resolve it.' Perhaps that book elaborates in more detail on Duncan's economic prescription and what his rationale is for how it could somehow .
So I look forward to getting that book and seeing if he sheds more light in there as to how he sees Creditism playing out in the long term.
But at this point, I do not find Duncan's economic prescription to be credible. It seems to me we have two choices.
1). The cold-turkey discontinuation of Creditism proposed by the Libertarians, for which it is unclear whether the negative consequences are a "lesser evil" than other alternatives.
2). Continuation of large fiscal deficits and associated debt creation in nominal terms, but with the currency devaluing faster than the debt rises, so that the US works its way out of debt by a slow-motion (probably over a period of decades) default of its currency. This will amount to a gradual downsizing of the standard of living in the United States. I believe that to some degree actually does constitute a "solution" to our economic problems, since I believe one of the most fundamental problems for the United States is that we have a standard of living that is above our means, and that is sustained by debt expansion that cannot be continued indefinitely. As Peter Schiff has in my view accurately pointed out, the recession is not the disease, it is the cure. The prosperity of the early 2000s was not a genuine prosperity, it was a debt-fueled bubble "prosperity". Attempting to get the economy to "recover" is an attempt to restore an economic illness that had the appearance of prosperity.
The continuation of the status quo is the likely path for the future. Attempts at severe austerity by the Tea Party folks would be punished on election day since the public will not tolerate the economic pain they would cause, regardless of whether or not they would be a prudent thing to get the economy back on a sound footing. On the other hand, economic policymakers will not have the option of accelerating the debt bubble, since they will have to hold down the official rate of inflation in order to suppress wage increases that would risk the onset of a hyperinflationary spiral. They will also have to limit government spending increases to no more than the official rate of inflation, which, being artificially suppressed, will mean that government spending will actually be decreasing in real terms, even while not under any sort of formal "austerity" regime. Thus, we can expect the economy to shrink at a gradual rate in the coming years. Scarcity of oil and gasoline could, however, exacerbate that and trigger a public groundswell in favor of the resumption of bubble-blowing.
"Growing our way out" of debt is a third way that is proposed, and I believe it is possible we could have a little growth that could help, but I believe politics, demographics, and energy supply all render it very implausible that there will be appreciable economic growth in the forseeable future. The one wild card would be a revolutionary breakthrough in energy, something Duncan appears to believe could be created by wise bureaucrats with blank checks; whereas I believe it could only happen quickly if a researcher out there somewhere happens to stumble on something revolutionary that unleashes abundant and low-cost renewable energy.
On financialsense.com today Jim Puplava asserted that the US debt burden post WW2 was addressed through a combination of financial repression (policy-driven inflation accompanied by interest rates that provide a negative rate of return for savings) and economic growth. My belief is that this time around we won't have much growth to help, so financial repression will be the primary mechanism by which debt is eventually brought under control. Decades of mild economic torture or a few years of economic hell are probably the only options we have, but the choice is moot because the public will inevitably feel the former is a less onerous alternative.
In the meantime, I have found this book a fascinating and thought-provoking one, and although some of Duncan's assertions seem highly questionable to me, we should all welcome exposing ourselves to different perspectives and not be too quick to dismiss them out of hand. That Duncan has a lot of very intelligent things to say in this book leads me to the view that all his opinions deserve serious consideration.
84 of 90 people found the following review helpful
Richard Duncan knows more about economics than most people; certainly more than most politicians. He understands that expanding credit expands the money supply and causes inflation. But the inflation is not generally felt throughout the entire economy. Rather, expanded credit makes some investments seem profitable when they really are not. Resources are misallocated, and eventually those investments fail, often dragging down large parts of the economy with them. The 2008 real estate crisis that led to our current depression (let's be honest and call it what it is) is a prime example of what happens when credit is extended beyond what a population would naturally save or invest.
Duncan's observations in this area are not new. Austrian economists have for years argued that the entire business cycle is best explained by credit expansion, often at the behest of governments trying to manipulate the money supply. What is new is the scope of expansion. As Duncan notes, previously the creation of money for the purpose of extending credit was at least partially restrained by the gold standard and by the requirement that banks maintain significant reserves should their depositors want to access their money. Both constraints have since been lifted, and the government can extend credit at will. But eventually the bill must be paid, and at this point, neither households nor corporations can continue to run up debt, and this means a large amount of investments need to be liquidated at a lower level.
Or perhaps not. Classic Austrian economics suggests that you should let the market sort out which investments are truly profitable and let prices fall. But Duncan argues we cannot afford that option. Instead he suggests the government itself manipulate credit in such a way as to produce the optimal economic policy. When I read this I was absolutely stunned. What pricing structure would insure government was able to even determine the optimal policy? But Duncan has the answer: we need to use credit to transform our whole economy to solar power by 2025. This would supply clean, cheap energy, lower the price of oil in the immediate term (as suppliers struggle to get rid of what will soon be a worthless commodity) and provide an economic utopia, a "creditopia" to future generations of Americans.
It should go without saying that this is a hopelessly naive proposal, though not because the economics are wrong. Duncan is correct that the government could undertake many times our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in debt and still not default. He is also correct that this money could be directed towards converting our power supply to solar power. But the physics of solar mean that no matter how much money the government invests, it will not be sufficient. We simply cannot get enough solar energy to run a third world economy, much less a first world one. Consider the following facts. First, the construction of solar panels requires a lot of fossil fuels to begin with, so we will not be elminating that form of energy consumption (and prices will not fall like Duncan thinks they will.) How much energy? In brief, a solar panel has to operate for 11 years before it produces as much energy as was consumed in constructing it. But most solar panels have to be replaced or at least repaired before then. Then there is the problem of how much energy one can actually obtain from the sun. In a sunny climate (during the day) we get about 300 watts per square meter from the sun. That is a pretty diffuse power supply. Just to heat a home (in a sunny climate) requires 10% of the total house space in solar panels. But electricity generation is much harder to obtain than heat. Indeed, only 10% of the sun's power can be converted to electricity and panels with solar cells need to be spaced apart to keep them directed toward the sun, so you can't capture all the sun's energy even in an area which is optimal for solar power. As a result, each acre of land will generate only 48kW of power, or enough energy to run 40 hand held hair driers. And Duncan thinks this can completely replace our energy needs? Not a chance.
The Austrians were rightly skeptical of credit expansion due to government manipulation of the money supply. They knew that such expansion would inevitably cause recessions or worse. They proposed letting the market decide which investments were profitable not because they felt markets were magic. Entreprenuers make mistakes all the time. But the market quickly corrects those mistakes. Mistakes made by government policy are far more difficult to correct. Duncan thinks government can direct credit to solve our energy problems. His proposal, however, vindicates the Austrian emphasis on free markets. Tripling our current debt to supply solar power will not bring about utopia. It will bring about more Solyndra failures and bankrupt the country.
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2012
The Dollar Crisis was featured on the front page of the Prudent Bear website for ages... that is, until Mr. Duncan came out with the new chapters explaining the possibility of hyperinflation (fire or ice). The folks at Prudent Bear didn't like that much, being the deflationists that they were (Prechter and Ian Gordon followers).
In that book, and in interviews that can be found online, we can see that Mr. Duncan - unlike virtually every Federal Reserve "economist" has actually read economics classics (as opposed to specializing in ivory tower mathematic models). Having read Mises, I found The Dollar Crisis to be an excellent examination of the current state of the global economy. And in fact, Duncan directed me to Reuff, who was friends with Mises and whose books are worth reading for sure.
Then came The Corruption of Capitalism, and while laissez faire idealists may disagree with his recommendation in that (and this) book, you have to admit... if we just allow deflation to occur and let resources reallocate themselves, it will involve a lot of pain and capitalism will take the blame, even though Duncan correctly points out that Central banking is to blame and that the tearing apart of the gold standard was essentially the end of capitalism.
In The New Depression, Mr. Duncan convincingly dismantles Bernanke's Global Savings glut theory and explains to Mr. Greenspan what the "Conundrum" is all about. He also quotes von Bohm Bawerk - showing that his thirst for research into economic truth is unquenchable. I'd like to see a debate between Mr. Duncan and James Grant.
I highly recommend this book to financial practitioners and aspiring economists and politicians.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2012
I listened to an interview of this author on the Financial Sense podcast with Jim Puplava on iTunes about a week ago (early April 2012). I was immediately struck by the fact that this guy's keel runs deeper than most. So I immediately looked for his book on Amazon. A telltale sign that it would be a worthwhile purchase was that the publisher is Wiley. In my work, I read a lot of engineering texts concerning wireless technology and I have found that Wiley consistently selects superior authors and publishes the best texts overall in this rather complicated technical area.
I read Duncan's short book quickly and although I am not an economics expert, from a layman's point of view, I recommend it highly because he sets forth the difficult problem he sees facing the world economy in a clear and convincing way that stays focused. The bottom line as he sees it is that we are not engaging our political discourse around solving our 50 trillion dollar debt problem.
He calls for a particular kind of political leadership from Washington that I think could be likened to President Kennedy's call in the early sixties to land a man on the moon by the end of that decade. Everyone knows the economic benefits that program threw off. It was a relatively small effort, as compared to what we need to do now, but the idea is to stop bickering and get political agreement: what we really need is to launch a far more ambitious government-sponsored advanced technology investment program right now, not later. The government can borrow the money at low rates now and if it's invested intelligently, it's possible we can get out of the mess we find ourselves in. Admittedly, that's a lot of "ifs" but there's also some hope with this kind of an approach.
The consequences of continuing on our present course without doing something like he proposes will be nothing short of disastrous for everyone, that is, hyper-inflation, severe deflation, or both, followed by political upheavals including the possibility of war such as followed the last depression.
You can also see a video of a recent presentation by Duncan at his webpage delivered to an Asian audience: [...]
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I did not think I would be giving this book five stars when I started reading it. My prima facie view was that it was another rehash of the debt bubble causing impending doom. However, this book is written superbly, explaining details with well thought out explanations along with useful tables, graphs, and charts. For example, Table 3.16, page 47, dramatically shows how the total credit market debt vs GDP ratio has expanded. Another important point the author makes is explaining different kinds of inflation, ie. asset price, commodity price and consumer price inflation. And why wage rates went up in the 1970s but not after 2002 despite increased commodity prices. The author's explanation on page 66 of the limits of monetary policy is lucid and even if arguable, is well stated. Chapter 6, "Where are We Now?" is actually a clearly written review of not only where we are now, but how the author thinks we arrived here in terms of personal debt relative to income as well as to assets. The author laments that there are no bold policy initiatives on the horizon to deal with global imbalances and therefore he proceeds with a chapter called, "How it Plays Out." Here the thesis is that when credit ceases to expand, a painful economic contraction can ensue, however in this case, the US government intervened aggressively to prevent a similar scenario to the 1930s. The book points out that after a 40 year credit boom, the natural tendency to collapse into a debt deflation depression is known and understood by policy makers. The book indicates that government intervention that is clever may prevent an untoward economic and political outcome. One vision offered by the book is for the government to pay for and foster a massive expansion of solar power with a nationwide grid and that gasoline stations would be replaced with electric refueling stations. This would be using deficit spending for infrastructure that creates wealth, rather than transfer payments that are used for consumption which increases debt and the debt bomb. Importantly, the author offers investment advice for different possible bad scenarios. As I said, this is an interesting book. Despite limited shelf space in my residence, I will keep this book and re-read it as the future unfolds. Finally, the writing is not only articulate, but understandable and concise as well as very eclectic in covering history, economics, public policies, and investment implications. Five stars from this reviewer. Please see my other reviews and you will see I rarely give five stars.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I must admit that I am leery of economics books (other than histories of the 1930's) that have the word depression in the title. I have found most of them to be long on polemics, short on supporting data, and have a political agenda. I am happy to report that, much to my surprise, this book is none of these things. It is very well documented, with dozens and dozens of supporting graphs and charts. The book is well written and makes a strong case for the idea that our economy has fundamentally changed to one "... no longer driven by savings and investment. Instead, it is driven by borrowing and consumption." I do not think that there are many who would disagree with this, however, the author's remedy for this is less well accepted; especially for those believe that this process must end immediately. Duncan believes that remedies such as an immediate end to deficit financing and establishing a balanced budget would drive our current economy into a "New Depression"; one that would not only destroy the American economy but also that of the rest of the world. Furthermore, he fears that this could also doom our democratic form of government. You may not agree with Duncan's ideas, but they are very well presented and quite persuasive, especially the data that shows how our economy has changed. Duncan's arguments are extremely well documented and even if you do not agree with his analysis and conclusions your will find the data he provides to be very informative.
Duncan is a believer in the gold standard, whereas I have concerns about this approach. Given this and the title of the book I expected to dislike the book. However, much to my surprise, I find the reverse to be the case. I learned a lot from this book and while I disagree with some of Duncan's ideas, he has convinced me of others. I therefore highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about our current economic problems and how we got here.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2012
Having already read Mr. Duncan's first two (2) books several times, this, his latest book, is even more informative and is written in such a way that all who read it will understand that it is time to live below their means. A few gold coins, a few rental properties, some money in the bank, and some cash on hand should see a person through this rough economic time.
Can only hope and pray that people in strong government positions worldwide will read and heed Mr. Duncan's words.
48 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2012
He gets it right on what is wrong and why. Then he presents a solution of even MORE big government borrowing and "investment" in boondoggle projects like solar energy. Enough has happened in the news recently to show the folly of trusting politicians to innovate.
He can't admit that the only real solution is to take our lumps, restructure the economy, end globalism, and endure a short sharp depression. Had we done this 5 years ago we'd be out of it by now. The reason smart people like the author object to this is that their incomes zero out during this period of economic disruption. The investment class wants the status quo to be preserved, with slow change. We simply don't have that kind of time and the government is the last entity to trust to fix things.
His prescription is, unfortunately, malpractice.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2012
The research and data that the author utilized in setting the foundation for why we currently find ourselves within this "new depression" was meticulously presented in such a way that it was convincing, easy to follow and understand, and practically irrefutable. The author clearly states how over the past several decades our great country has lost its way from becoming a beacon of manufacturing and production to a society that simply borrows in order to consume. The author rightly states that this cycle can not continue - there comes a time when we as a country (whether as individuals, corporations, or governments) simply are unable to repay our debts. If you don't believe this premise, you need look no further than the "home prices always go up" mentality that eventually caused the collapse of the housing market. We are heading in the same direction with respect to individual, corporate, and sovereign debt - it's only a matter of time. The author does a great job of explaining why that conclusion is absolutely inevitable. On that alone, I would have given this book 5 stars. I gave it 3 because although the problem is laid out in statistically reinforced, plain-English detail, the grand solution to rectify the problem offered by the author borders on the comical.
Essentially the author provides 3 solutions, 2 of which he mostly dismisses as politically unviable. The first one is austerity; which the author feels would not work within the U.S. due to the "welfare state of mind" that is starting to become entrenched within our country - fair enough. He may have a point there. The second one is to continue on the path that we're on and simply borrow to consume and postpone the day of reckoning as long as we can. However, there are still enough folks in the U.S. that find disfavor with that approach such that option #2 would most likely not be politically viable either. So the third solution provided by the author is the one that he seems to view as a panacea of sorts. The solution?? - Continue all of the government spending that we've been doing, but focus it ENTIRELY on solar energy. He lost me there entirely. Although alternative energy sources should be researched and adopted where practical, to view his 3rd and best solution as a sort of "remaking of America" is comical at best, and irresponsible at worst. Given the solar debacles that we've witnessed since President Obama has taken office (e.g., Solyndra went bankrupt after untold subsidies, just to name one), it's amazing that an otherwise well researched and fact laden book would come to such an obviously misguided conclusion. I considered posting a review of 1 or 2 stars due to the ridiculous conclusion drawn, but I had to be fair given the author's attention to detail when he came to describing the problem.
If you're looking for a great description of how the United States got into this economic mess, there are few better than this book. To be fair, the author is mostly politically agnostic throughout the book, although the few potshots that he does take come at the expense of the GOP (he bashes Reaganomics for instance, while simply referring to dates when he points to poor economic decisions that were made during Democratic administrations). He provides one somewhat condescending reference to the Tea Party, but all in all, his book is fact-based and very educational. However, his conclusion that Solar Energy is the path to prosperity for America when the facts (e.g., Solyndra) say otherwise was incredibly disappointing. For someone who clearly values a good factual premise, Mr. Duncan will let down more than a few readers with his far left, fact-starved conclusion.