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The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy Paperback – Bargain Price, August 25, 2009

3.4 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Trade; Reprint edition (August 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591842905
  • ASIN: B0030EG0O8
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,385,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
Excellent overview of the current (29 Sept 2008) macroevents and the how we got here. Fascinating for me as I remember the 70's gas lines and lived in DC in the 80's -- Mr. Smick, clearly walked the halls of power and understand how we got into this mess. Note - he seems to be quite balanced in that both Dem's and Republicans are at fault. He gives Bill Clinton a lot of credit for pushing thru NAFTA, Welfare reform and cutting Capital Gains by 30% thus allowing all of us to benefit from globalization.

He also suggests that China is in a large bubble and what the impact is to us. I was there a few years ago and they and Dubai are clearly over the top (dot commish even) so it will likely get ugly for all of us when China blows.

The only disappointment I have is the last chapter "Surviving and Prospering in This Age of Volatility". This is about how to govern better not what you can do in your personal investments. Interesting but not something I can act on, except perhaps voting.

Best quote was from Marc Leland, former US Treasury official... "Globalization is like the two institutions we know as democracy and marriage. Both institutions at times can be problematic, but the alternatives are highly unattractive" Reminds me of Churchill's famous quote "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
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