The Great Recession that began in 2007 is now more than four years old - and counting. Some 24 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, and at recent rates of job creation we won’t be back to normal levels of employment until late this decade. This is a tragedy. Do we have to accept it?
"No!" is the resounding answer given by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman in this call to arms. We have seen this situation before and we know how to fix it; all we lack is the political will to take action. Krugman walks us through the financial crisis that triggered the greatest downturn since the Great Depression and outlines the efforts that have been made thus far.
The way forward is clear: Our priority must be to get ourselves back on the path to growth; every day that we lag behind normal production levels only adds to the astronomical economic loss of this depression. What we need for a rapid, powerful recovery is precisely what we've needed in crises past - a burst of government spending to jump-start the economy. We owe it not only to the unemployed, but to everyone affected by this tragedy to end this depression now.
©2012 Paul Krugman (P)2012 Random House Audio
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
I was quite impressed with this book. I did not agree with everything single thing the author suggests, but the author seems to take great care to both give clear evidence for his position and (which is quite rare) presents and refutes non-straw man arguments against his positions. Krugman does a great job of explaining economic issues with clarity and energy. Having studied the issues I did not learn a lot from this book, but I would recommend it to anyone who wants to better understand the current economic crisis and what could be done about it. I only wish the book was longer and more detailed. This book, in combination with The Big Short, puts this downturn into a clear context regarding what happened and why recovery has been so slow to come.
I recommend looking at the available pdf carefully before listening and referring to the charts as necessary. The narration was excellent making the detailed material actually fun to listen to.
The premise of this book is that government spending on an astronomical scale is the only thing that'll be able to repair our economy and that national foreign debt doesn't matter as long as we inflate our currency at a higher rate than the interest on the debt. Seems destructive and shortsighted to me.
That said, the book is well written, I just happen to disagree with it. His commentary on the Euro was actually pretty interesting, but ultimately I don't agree with his hypothesis.
In this short book Paul Krugman argues for Keynesian fiscal stimulus as the way out of our economic mess. The current troubles, he says, resulted from a banking crisis that was precipitated as New Deal-era controls on financial recklessness were dismantled. The resulting collapse in demand left the economy chronically depressed, with an intractable overhang of private debt. The solution has been known by the economics profession ever since the triumph of that massive program of federal deficit spending known as WWII, and is there for the taking, right now. The only question is whether we will do what is necessary.
Much of the book is devoted to pushing back against conservative economic dogma, and there are many I-told-you-so moments, as we revisit predictions of right-wing pundits that have not aged well. Remember when interest rates skyrocketed as bond investors lost faith in our national solvency? No? How about our Weimar-style hyperinflation? But while the author is plenty scornful of conservatives, he is also critical of the Obama administration for bungling the politics. By accepting a stimulus package that its own economic team knew would be insufficient without even arguing for more; by indulging in happy talk about “green shoots” and a “summer of recovery” when the economy was still depressed; by “pivoting” to the deficit when the deficit was the least of our worries—the administration brought discredit on its own efforts, accepted the framing of the opposition, and made policies that were correct in direction, if not in scale, seem like failures. So says Krugman.
All of this will be recognizable to his fans, along with many familiar turns of phrase: the shadow banks; the liquidity trap; the zero lower bound; the confidence fairy; the bond vigilantes; and the conventional wisdom of Very Serious People (properly attributed). For those who already read Krugman’s Times columns and nod along, the book provides more thorough presentation of his views (with charts!). But it should be especially valuable for those who are not yet persuaded, because he doesn't merely assert his points, he tries to prove them. He lays out his reasoning clearly in a readable, lucid style, with very little technical jargon. He supports his arguments with historical and contemporary examples from the real world, and occasional references to professional literature. He acknowledges his opponents and takes on their actual arguments, without caricature. He believes in evidence and produces it. He doesn’t pound the table. I find him completely convincing, but whatever your views, I think you will give him credit for making his case.
One quibble: I’m not sure that the audiobook is an ideal format for this kind of presentation. Although it’s a terrific read, the book could also be useful as a reference, since so many of its subjects are issues in the daily news. But it’s not easy to locate particular passages or topics when the book is an audio file.
mostly nonfiction listener
I learned many things from reading Krugman's new book. 3 of which I will share:
1. That I like Paul Krugman's books better than I like his NYT's column.
2. That a high unemployment, stratified and slow-growing economy is most likely our "new normal."
3. That we need to have a serious (and hopefully informed) discussion in this country about Keynesian economics.
On the first point, I think that Paul Krugman does better with a book length format than the near sound-bite space available in a column. Krugman is clearly livid that the the Obama administration failed to push forward a stimulus plan that he considers anywhere near large enough to bring down high unemployment, but his arguments in End This Depression Now! come across as more balanced and measured than his NYT's writing.
The long form of a book allows Krugman the space to develop his arguments and to support his points with evidence and historical examples. While the book contains plenty of politics and descriptions of the failings of politicians (of both parties), it is more of an economic than a political treatise. I always felt that Krugman was on surer ground when explaining economic principles rather than political motivations, a belief that reading End This Depression Now! only reinforces.
Should you read this book? If you are already predisposed to the core Keynesian belief that government should have a role in stimulating demand (by spending) during a recession (low consumer/business spending and idle economic capacity) then reading this book will only strengthen this belief. Getting a good grasp on the fundamental economic arguments (both for and against) for Keynesian type stimulus is a worthwhile activity for anyone interested in the workings of the economy.
But what if you are of a more conservative bent, outside of Krugman's usual readership? For you I have an even greater hope that you will read End This Depression Now! so that we can go to coffee (I'm buying) and we can discuss what you make of Krugman's arguments. I found Krugman to be persuasive, and I'd like to hear your arguments in response.
What are you reading?
Comparing fundamentalist belief about depression economics with reality. Since 2009 austerity advocates have predicted runaway inflation by 2010, 2011, and certainly by 2012. Where is it it? They have been dead wrong yet still in denial about what will end the slump that started with the 2008 financial meltdown. The charts, the facts, the figures are here. This book also gives an understanding of the Eurozone, the problem with one currency, and the failure of austerity there.
Krugman expertly, yet informally explains the progressive case for first all stimulus and the near and long term losses of austerity on the middle class and working people.
I am a physicist, I work on the energy problem and particularly in sustainable development and promoting science learning
Prof. Krugman explains to the general public the basic idea of neo-Keynesian theory. Very provocative y opportune discussion.
The clarity of the arguments.
I won't. Very liberal thinker. Nothing wrong with that, but doesn't seem open to new ideas. Overly self-confident.
Krugman starts off making the argument that the current "depression" is a function of lack of demand. OK, maybe. But he never comes back around to defend that. Instead, he spends about half the book attempting to debunk austerity and the other half making the case for growth (fueled primarily by govt spending) to get us out of the depression. That's interesting because he never comes back to the demand problem. The US's, and much of the developed world's, problem of demand is largely rooted in demographics, a subject he almost totally ignores. I don't disagree that growth could drive the economy. But perpetual growth would require perpetual increases in demand and that simply isn't possible with our demographics. Krugman's no doubt a smart guy. I'm and MBA and I've read a lot of economics; I'm sure Krugman has forgotten more than I'll ever know, but I also read Harry Dent and he makes the case, in a non-partisan manner, that we can't fight demographics and that we should help the economy de-leverage and start again from a position of much less debt vice Krugman's idea of doubling down and taking on more debt.
Shapiro read's really slow, like he's talking to a child or someone who he believes might not understand a big word. It almost feels patronizing.
It's a different perspective, but not a complete one.
Read Harry Dent's the Great Depression Ahead. Its not as ominous as it sounds because he also goes through ways to protect yourself.
I expected a diatribe and that is what I got, but even the there are so many unsubstantiated opinions that leaves one asking why not back up your arguments better. One recollection I have is a sentence that the European ministers increased interest rates because of an unfounded fear of inflation. Well these are smart people too. Why were they fearful? What signals were they misreading?
Also fundamentally this whole book comes down to thinking that World War II is a model for everything, and how do we know that this applies today?
Finally the reading was waaaaaayyyyyy too slow and boring and drawn out.
This book, especially towards the end, put together a well reasoned practical way to end this depression. I in general lean toward smaller governments with less spending in normal times and appreciate how the author (when not making personal attacks on Republicans) lays out the reasoning and historical examples for his policy. It's best quality is that it does not assume that there is a simple solution to a simple problem for many of our current calamities and explains the problems in depth along with a reasonable sounding solution.
My problem with this book is that in the beginning it seems to just be a I hate republicans lets bash them book. An example is that he continues the myth that rich people and corporation give all their money to Republicans, sites like opensecrets tend to show that Politian in power get the lion's share of the money.
This is a shame, because the book is really good (so if you are an open-minded Right leaner like me keep listening). This book has the best detailed explanations of the 2007/8 mortgage crisis, European debt problems, unemployment and why the Bush/Obama economic stimulus package failed out there.
It's a fascinating and accessible explanation of current economics. Given the impact of the political decisions on our lives, it's a useful read/listen to help make sense of the world.
"Buy this book now!"
There are some excellent books out there that explain how the current economic slump came about. The Big Short is a great example of that approach. This Time Is Different is great on how things are likely to unfold from here. Not very cheery but extremely solid in its evidence base. Paul Krugman manages to do something different in as much as he gets off the fence and tells us how to fix it. You might not agree with him but he's got an engaging style, the ability to explain complex concepts in a clear and entartaining way and a Nobel prize on his side.
(As seen through my blurry and leaky perception...)
I really enjoyed hearing another frame from what I'm used to hearing on the British media.
He does a great job conveying the price of the government not launching a more massive intervention in the economy what was seen during the 'american reinvestment and recovery act': trillions of dollars of lost production over years, human misery and a loss of spirit (the lost generation), rusting of essential value adding public services (education and social services)...
I loved the outline of the 'fresh' and 'salt' water streams of economic thought and how their wrestling perceptions of reality are having material impacts on our society, Ideas DO matter!
Informative and enjoyable discussion, and response to, pro-austerity thought.
So it turns out that the the federal government is paying record low interest rates?? That wealth holders want to pay the state, as inflation reduces already tiny bond interest rates, to keep their property safe? It's the same story in Britain?
These are some of the things I learned from listening to this well produced and, perhaps most importantly, enjoyable audio book.
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