Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy Hardcover – January 18, 2010
|New from||Used from|
All Books, All the Time
Read author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more at the Amazon Book Review. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
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.
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
Top customer reviews
Stiglitz is an extremely well organized writer. For example he outlines the content of a good mortgage product: low interest rates, low transaction fees, predictable payments, no hidden costs, and protection against value loss or job loss. Stiglitz points out that financial markets should serve a societal good, like hospitals or schools or utility companies. Financial markets should optimally allocate under used capital for production and innovation while managing risks and maintaining low reasonable transaction fees. Stiglitz thinks these financial markets failed. There should be cause for concern around the financial health of the United States when in 2007 41% of all corporate profit was generated by financial firms. Support for innovations weakened in a market environment in which innovations that circumvented regulation and oversight gathered the focus of the financial industry.
Stiglitz builds the case that efforts to blame the government for the 2007-2008 financial crises are insubstantial. Ironically the financial instruments used against the lower working classes eventually brought down the financial institutions themselves. Efforts to deregulate and weaken government oversight resulted in the United States owning the largest automobile and insurance companies in the world. Stiglitz points out those subsidies to financial corporations make the economic system less efficient and these subsidies when to financial firms which had gone to great lengths to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Another irony pointed out by Stiglitz was that executive contracts at AIG were fully honored despite huge losses because the case was made that the government should not undermine contracts, whereas the union contracts at GM were undermined and had to be re-negotiated. One sentence from the book summarizes this: The 7 largest financial firms had losses of 100 billion dollars, were bailed out by the government with 175 billion dollars, and then gave the very executives that created the crisis 33 billion in bonuses.
This book spends a reasonable amount of time on the financial crisis but then analyzes the recovery and stimulus strategies. Stiglitz points out that a crisis does not destroy the underlying assets of an economy- physical plants, natural resources, the knowledge and skills of the workforce, technical knowledge and technologies are all still there. He points out the necessary ingredients for a successful stimulus package which would include: fast action and implementation, use of the multiplier effect to spread the impact of the stimulus, address long term infrastructural problems, invest in the future through research and innovation, should be fair to the middle class working families not just the affluent, should provide relief for short term hardships and should target job loss. Stiglitz makes the case that the stimulus package after the 2007-2008 crisis was too small and only spread out the pain of a slow recovery. Stiglitz is also critical of the lack-luster efforts to restructure financial markets by stopping casino type risks in derivative markets that result in little if any larger societal good. Further, Stiglitz spends considerable effort to explain multiple strategies that could have been undertaken for homeowners other than foreclosures, none of which were pursued. There was a clear tendency to blame the financially illiterate lower middle classes for the crisis when responsibility lay with the financial industry infrastructure and its perverse incentives. Mortgage originators and banks engaged in poor risk assessments and predatory lending practices – yet most government rescue efforts went to those who perpetuated the crisis.
Stiglitz points out that capitalism is an extremely robust economic model. It defeated feudalism during the middle ages. It can withstand high levels of inequality but eventually if private rewards are inverse to societal needs, then the entire system is in jeopardy.
Stiglitz has studied the impact of unequal knowledge in market transactions and finds that imperfect and asymmetric information challenges the concept of transparent equitable market transactions. Therefore the interest of the consumer should be a government responsibility.
Financial markets, in Stiglitz’s view, should benefit society as a whole by better allocation of capital to the most productive enterprise and to better manage risks. The financial crisis of 2007-2008 demonstrates that these markets failed. Their executives were rewarded with astronomical salaries and bonuses because they were supposed to know how to manage risks and they failed. Stiglitz points out that if these major financial firms were too big to fail, then they were too expensive to save and too big to manage. In fact, the failure of Lehman Brothers demonstrated these firms were unable to calculate their own worth. Lehman Brothers was showing 26 billion in assets on their books when in fact they had over 200 billion in losses.
Stiglitz finds the argument that TARP was necessary to strengthen the firms that managed most of American’s pension funds. He points out those retired and retiring tax payers would benefit more if the TARP money had been used to strengthen Social Security.
I found the book to be fascinating and far reaching with sections on how stock options for executives dilute share owner equity, the use of off-shore money havens that help support terrorist activities, and the Glass-Stegall act of 1933 that built a firewall between commercial and investment banking. Like Kaynes, Galbraith, and Krugman, Stiglitz does not think markets are self correcting. He points out that the irony of the Reagan-Thatcher approach to less government regulation led to more government control.
a)This is not a typical market and capitalism bashing book. Instead, Joe Stiglitz very much emphasizes that any viable system needs to have both market and government supplementing each other to provide a method of checks and balances
b)This is not a an investigative journalism piece written by some random reporter who picked up an interest in finance and economics because it's a "hot topic" to rehash the popular "Main street vs. Wall street" talking points. Instead, Stiglitz is a world renowned economist, who called the real estate bubble and the financial crisis long in advance and who won a Nobel Prize for his work in a relevant topic of market failures, particularly information asymmetries
c)Although Stiglitz's analysis of what went wrong is by far the most interesting and thoughtful that I have read, the book doesn't just point out the obvious shortcomings and failures of our private and public sectors. It also offers a very sensible approach to re-structuring our society and our institutions in a way that provides the right incentives and improves our well being, while avoiding unethical and short-sighted behavior that gets us into trouble
d)The book does an excellent job of explaining principles of finance and macroeconomics to a laymen audience without dumbing things down. If someone is interested in a more in-depth reading on a specific subject matter described in the book, there are plenty of good sources provided
e)The general level of rational thought, analysis and critique in this book is really way beyond anything that you would hear in the media and other pop culture outlets. I think that regardless of your political leaning, if you are really interested in the subject, you owe it to yourself to get at least this expert's take on what happened with our country and how to fix it