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Empire of Debt: The Rise of an Epic Financial Crisis (Agora Series) Hardcover – November 11, 2005
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Many Americans have resisted the notion that their country is an imperial power. The idea seems to contradict the values of the Republic and its Founding Fathers. But in Empire of Debt, prominent financial analysts Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggin argue passionately that not only is the United States an empire, but it is also one whose end is coming soon. Bonner and Wiggin are the brains behind www.dailyreckoning.com, an iconoclastic and irreverent market advisory service that has long raised concerns about American indebtedness and warned of a looming dollar crisis. In Empire of Debt, a sequel to their earlier doom-and-gloom book Financial Reckoning Day, they elaborate on their argument that the U.S. economy is about to implode.
Bonner and Wiggin enumerate a long list of chronic ailments that imperil the American financial system--a massive trade deficit, soaring personal and government debt, a housing bubble, runaway military expenditures. These problems "hardly disturb the sleep of the imperial race," the authors write. "[But] all empires must pass away." Bonner and Wiggin argue that American imperial delusions are similar to the fantasies that fueled the dot-com market mania. They recommend readers buy gold as insurance in the event of a financial crisis. Empire of Debt flounders when discussing how America indebted itself; the authors blame the Federal Reserve Board's low interest rates but gloss over the fact that rates were slashed because the U.S. teetered on the brink of deflation in 2002 and 2003 (a topic they give more attention to in Financial Reckoning Day). As hardcore free-marketeers, Bonner and Wiggin also seem to long for the pre-welfare days of the 1920s but forget how that period's policies led to the Great Depression. That said, Empire of Debt contains many revelations that will open eyes. --Alex Roslin
“The doom mongering is leavened with some waspishly witty writing” (Daily Telegraph, 6th December 2005)
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Like cold water thrown on someone sleeping, this book reveals the real reasons behind our country's indebtedness to China and others, and the dangers this debt presents to personal financial planning. It appalls me that our politicians prefer to debate what are primarily personal issues like abortion and gay marriage, instead of truly tending the core issues of government, more important perhaps evan than global warming: deficit spending, underfunded Social Security, and unfunded Medicare.
Even more discomfiting is learning that the formulae for the very economic statistics we read every day have been so altered that they are now essentially meaningless. The Gross Domestic Product, for example, now contains all mortgage payments (not, to my mind, a true "product") simply because the enormity of these monies hugely inflates the otherwise limp GDP.
How does this impact you? It's hard to underestimate it. A must read!
The seeds of empire were sown in 1913, when the Constitution was amended to permit a federal income tax and the Federal Reserve System was created.
It seems that our country should not have gotten into World War I, most likely could have stayed out of World War II, and has no one to blame for 9/11 except itself.
The best U.S. presidents were not those whose faces are carved on Mount Rushmore, but men like Warren Harding who did very little during their time in office.
The reputations and motivations of various people, e.g., Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Allen Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, and journalist Thomas Friedman, are mercilessly lambasted.
Oddly enough, given their readiness to express opinions on so many other subjects, the authors shy off from explaining the Great Depression, beyond pointing out that FDR used it as an excuse to expand the scope of the government. "The causes of the depression have been hotly debated. They go beyond the scope of this book." Darned, just when things were about to get interesting.
When it comes to evaluation of financial matters, such as the fact that both as a nation and as individuals we are living beyond our means and financing it with debt that most likely cannot be repaid, the message of the book becomes more compelling. Such thoughts are not entirely new, however, and might even be characterized as obvious.
Worse, in my opinion, the authors offer no suggestions to get the United States back on a sounder track. Now that might be worthwhile, whereas mere hand wringing about the financial situation seems rather pointless.
Some recent reviewers say things like it is reduceable to a simple message (empire+debt=trouble), and it is. But it is also more, a history and social lesson on how this empire arose, how it compares with some in the past, and how it differs. Most books are reducable to a simple message, how it is told is what matters.
The writers are, as usual, intelligent, witty, pithy, timely and most importantly wise. This is much like their recent Financial Reckoning Day, but a more urgent, interesting and enjoyable read. Coming just after reading Rupert's Crossing The Rubicon, I found this a lighter and yet reinforcing (to Rupert's sobering, shocking) look at our country (can we still call it just a country?). What I liked most is the treatment of past historical "heros" (Lincoln, Bryan, Wilson, the Roosevelts, Bushes etc...) showing how they systematically pushed our now long gone American Republic into the role of the world's democratic phony cheerleader cum corrupt cop (as with ..."President Kennedy offered another blank check to the forces of improvement: 'We will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe in order to assure the survival and success of liberty'").
And so we have....
This is similar, but again more enjoyable, to Thomas DiLorenzo's excellent if polemic books about capitalism and Lincoln. It is hilarious to read of their treatment of these presidents. Their favorites were...." Harding, Arthur, Fillmore - unlike the clumsy giants who left their deep footsteps in the earth along Pennsylvania Ave. and trod on practically everyone who got in their way - these midgets managed to make their way through the nation's highest office leaving hardly a trace. That is, they left the country alone."
The book is full of irreverent gems like, "Woodrow Wilson was the worst kind of politician - he wouldn't lie and couldn't be bought. He was so full of good intentions he could practically pave the road to Hell by himself."
What better way to enjoy the quick peak of the American Empire? If you'd rather laugh than cry (or slit your wrist, shoot up another fix, or wriggle your head deeper into the sand/muck) then this book is for you.