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The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 4, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With this illuminating book, Smick revisits Thomas Friedman's description of the "flat" world produced by globalization, arguing instead that the uncertainty produced by globalized financial markets has created a world that is curved, where events and their consequences are unpredictable. Smick begins with a puzzle: why did the subprime mortgage crisis, an event that directly impacted a relatively small piece of the global market, have such a catastrophic impact on the world market as a whole? From there, the author turns to topics as complex and varied as the potential 21st Century Chinese financial bubble and the policy dilemmas currently facing the Fed. Throughout the book, the author returns to the argument that political trends are increasingly at odds with the forces driving the globalized world economy. Smick brings expertise and lucidity to many difficult subjects, and while his book's appeal will likely be limited to those with some background in the field, it will undoubtedly stir interest and debate amongst investors, policymakers and strategists alike.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

The 2007–08 subprime financial crisis is the jumping-off point for Smick's (Johnson Smick International) examination of current threats to global prosperity. He explains that although the subprime losses are small in the context of world financial markets, a lack of transparency has diminished investor confidence, dried up financial liquidity, and threatened the very foundations of our world financial system. He says that the growth of global financial markets has made it more difficult for central banks like the U.S. Federal Reserve to intercede effectively in times of crisis. Smick compares the subprime crisis to past events like the UK's forced devaluation of the pound in 1992 and Japan's economic stagnation in the 1990s. He warns of pending dangers like an overheating of the Chinese development juggernaut and the present calls for protectionism by U.S. politicians. He favors a global financial system built on transparency and trust. Smick's role for some 30 years as an economic adviser to central bankers and legislators of all stripes gives him a solid perspective on the global financial system. This summing-up of the subprime debacle and other global financial threats, aimed at general readers, is first rate; highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.—Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover (September 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616880457
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616880453
  • ASIN: B001U0OG90
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,432,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Lawcool on December 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Overall I enjoy the many interesting discussions in the book on macro-economics, international finance and issues on public policy decision making. But the materials presented by the author often lack clear direction. You will find the author presents a large number of ideas without giving a clear conclusion or summary at the end of the chapters. After I read through each chapter, although interesting, I had a sense of not knowing what exactly I just learnt. May be this is the nature of macro-economic issues, which are often complex and the various factors affecting the outcomes can have different effects if observe / apply at different times. But I still think the author can do a better job of summarizing his ideas and present his materials in a more organized way.
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60 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Bill Gossett on September 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Smick uses a fascinating series of facts and stories to paint a picture of the world-to-be that is frightening, enlightening, awe-inspiring and hopeful (for the person that knows how to exploit the opporunities). I haven't read a book that changed my world view this much since How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of "Intangibles" in Business by Doug Hubbard (which Smick could probably have used on a couple of points in his book).

Smick takes, I think, a more realistic view of the world than Friedman's The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. Where Friedman optimistically sees a move toward an equalibrium of an "even playing field" between all of the world's economic participants, Smick sees something less even - and not entirely in the favor of the developed West. Smick sees market uncertainties, the mortgage crisis, and consumer debt as evidence of a trend toward increasing uncertainties. China is the new economic giant, but lends itself to much less predictability than the relatively solid advances of the western world in the last quarter century.

I have to wonder if Smick makes the "narrative fallacy" as explained in Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable or his earlier Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets. Still, Smick seems to make a convincing case, even if at times anecdotal.

Smick discusses the possibility of a Chinese financial bubble alongside the details of US monetary policy. Utterly unnerving and engaging, it will should eclipse "Flat" as the "must read" for long-term thinkers.
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50 of 59 people found the following review helpful By George D. Klein, author, Dissensions on September 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This extremely well-written book describes the current financial problems of globalization. It is easy to follow, easy to understand, and eliminates jargon. It's a great example of communication out of the Frank Lutz 'words that work' school.

The problems of globalization, as the book described' are critical as a major period of entrepreneurial prosperity may be coming to an end. The availability of `oceans of money' started with a liberalized program in the USA during the early 1980's and later elsewhere with the rejuvenation of pension funds and other financial instruments. Capitalization/reserve requirements of banks were reduced, capital gains taxes were cut and a variety of new investment vehicles freed up large sources of capital. Smaller businesses were funded as the need to invest capital continued to grow and consequently, new wealth, new jobs and prosperity resulted. Moreover, many countries established sovereign funds that needed to be invested too. Rapid machine computation facilitated an explosion of capital transfer and global investment. Because the USA was perceived as the safest haven with the highest level of global transparency, it benefited from these changes. Moreover, the USA with labor market flexibility, higher education, a benign political environment, innovative strategies and quality of corporate management is considered the prime country in which global funds invest. However, the USA is not an island, but is interconnected and therefore subject to global economic events. But is it fading?

The downside was securitization, a process of spreading out investment into multiple income streams to reduce risks. Securitization also involves arcane practices that are difficult for most policy makers, bankers and financial institutions to fully understand.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By David C. Hills on February 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book based on David Brook's gushing recommendation four months back. The majority of the book is mildly informative with a constant undertone (as has been mentioned in earlier reviews) of self-promotion. A similar feeling I got when I read Robert Rubin's "In Uncertain Times" a few years back.

If you're not just looking to kill time, or don't need a lot of historical background to be laid out for you; get to the meat of the issues by reading Michael Lewis' December 2008 Article "The End" and his January 4, 2009 NY Times Op-Ed "The End of the Financial World as We Know It", then go to the library and read the last chapter (9) of this book.

You'll be the wiser and have saved some money too!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Dan McFist on February 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I began reading The World is Curved with great hope and anticipation. The book has some good insights, but in the end I felt disappointed. Smick's basic points include:

- Global capital today flows from one investment to another in the blink of an eye, regardless of borders or culture. As a result, central banks have less control over their economies.

- Global capital exceeds the number of good investment opportunities, creating the potential for bubbles (i.e. too much debt has expanded the worlds money supply beyond what's financially healthy).

- The securitization of debt is a primary villain, because the bank that originates the mortgage suffers no consequence if the loan goes bad. (But I worked at Countrywide in the mid-1990s - they were securitizing mortgages back then and there were no problems at that time).

Smick says that the bond rating agencies and the government regulators were simply not up to the task of anticipating the problems. In reality, some Republicans belatedly questioned the lending practices that were occurring pre-meltdown, but the Democrats in power at the time denied there were problems! These same Democrats are still in power today.

Smick expresses concern that the current political trend is toward over-regulation, protectionism and class warfare, all of which will cause the global pie to shrink. And we don't want "financial executives working desperately to avoid civil suits and criminal prosecution."

In my opinion, a good share of the blame must go to Alan Greenspan who kept interest rates too low for too long. Smick does a good job of trying to protect Greenspan from criticism.
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