The current global financial crisis carries a "made in America" label. In this forthright and incisive book, Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz explains how America exported bad economics, bad policies, and bad behavior to the rest of the world, only to cobble together a haphazard and ineffective response when the markets finally seized up.
Drawing on his academic expertise, his years spent shaping policy in the Clinton administration and at the World Bank, and his more recent role as head of a UN commission charged with reforming the global financial system, Stiglitz outlines a way forward, building on ideas that he has championed his entire career: restoring the balance between markets and government, addressing the inequalities of the global financial system, and demanding more good ideas (and less ideology) from economists.
Freefall is an instant classic, combining an enthralling whodunit account of the current crisis with a bracing discussion of the broader economic issues at stake.
©2010 Joseph E. Stiglitz (P)2010 Tantor
"What makes Stiglitz special is that, along with Paul Krugman, he is the rare progressive in a profession whose norms resist tampering with the verdicts of markets or the power of private capital and also one of the few world-class technical economists who can write lucidly for a lay audience. The tone of this book is good-humored and public-minded." (The American Prospect)
Narrator Dick Hill emotes Stiglitz' material perfectly. Stiglitz outlines the path the past three decades have led to this inevitable Great Recession commenced in 2008, pointing fingers at the culpable parties in both political parties. He also explains how to prevent it going forward by aligning business goals with social goals.
Of the dozen are so books written about our current financial crisis, this is one of the best. The author's objective analysis sets this publication apart from the crowd. Unlike competing volumes, this book actually provides realistic solutions to our problems. If knowing more about this subject is important to you, this offering will not disappoint.
i've only managed to get through two chapters of the book so far, so anything said here is based on a limited sample. that said, the reason for the slow progress is bad narration. i always listen to the clips of a book before making a decision on whether to buy it because i am quite sensitive to the quality of the narration. there are a couple of books i would dearly love to have audio versions of, but the narration is so intrusive that i can't buy them (for any who are familiar, the reader Stephen Hoye is a particularly glaring example of a bad narrator). the clip provided for Freefall provides no clue of how the narrator overacts and belabors simple points. through two chapters, the book is mainly a scold, providing little to no data to support the claims, but rather giving a schematic overview, along with a number of value judgments. i happen to agree with much of Stiglitz' analysis, but so far, i've learned nothing of value. worse, the narration is like a cranky grandfather wagging his finger and slowing down ... to... make... each...significant.......point, or gesticulating (aurally) urgently about a fairly straightforward idea. it's incredibly aggravating and distracting narration. i wish narrators would stay out of the way in expository works, and let the words speak for themselves. subtle intonation is fine, but this kind of narration is not.
all that said, because of my respect for dr. stiglitz, i intend to keep slogging through the schematic opening section to try to get to the detailed analysis. i will make one critique here, though, of his position. he argues that many of the policies adopted failed to serve their stated goals. to my mind, the policies and actions that led to the financial meltdown were not failures, they were successes. they succeeded in transferring massive wealth to the financial engineers, and away from everyone else. and i believe that that was their purpose.
Nobel Prize Winner and former Chief Economist of the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz is a voice we don't hear enough of in modern politics. It's really unfortunate because he has a lot of really interesting perspective to offer and some very clearly articulated ideas about policy that deserve a fair hearing. He is someone who knows the ins and outs of the monetary world and yet has not lost track of the effects of policy on ordinary people. He is critical of both Bush and Obama in a way that is plainly not partisan and is more focused on measuring real effects, studying historical trends, and proposing policies that might do some good for other than just the people who've already been profiting handsomely off of others in both good times and bad. I found this book to be a real breath of fresh air and a nice solid follow-on to The Big Short, which had left me understanding pretty plainly how the financial collapse happened and ready to hear some good proposals about where to go from there.
Stiglitz' treatment of the causes of the economic crisis seemed a bit superficial. His argument was unconvincing because he didn't strongly support many of his claims. He points to the crisis as a failure of the free market and of capitalism, while admitting that this situation did not operate as a free market, nor did we have a true capitalist system in place.
The most interesting - and perhaps most important - chapter of the book is not specifically about the economic crisis. In Chapter 9, Stiglitz raises several interesting questions that challenge the traditional assumptions of economists. I recommend beginning by reading/listening to Chapter Nine to get a sense of Stiglitz' theoretical underpinnings, and then read the rest of Freefall with that in mind.
I read T. Sowell's Housing Boom and Bust concurrent with this book, and found Sowell's facts and arguments more satisfying. Stiglitz' book seems to leave out a lot of details. For a more clear explanation that deals with the facts in an easier to understand, more down-to-earth way, I'd recommend Sowell's book as the place to start. FreeFall makes a good second book because it deals with different aspects of the crisis and comes from a different point of view.
I bought this book in hopes it would provide a comprehensive economic analysis of the 2008 financial meltdown. Instead, it turns out to be little more than the author's rant on all the things that are wrong (in his opinion) with the US economic system, schools of economic thought he disagrees with, and the policy responses of the Bush and Obama Administrations to the financial meltdown. It is more polemical than insightful, in my view. To be fair, if you stick with it, there are a few interesting observations based on the author's experience at the IMF, in conversations with foreign leaders and in the Clinton Administration.
If you are looking for insights on the 2008 financial meltdown, I recommend as much more informative and useful David Faber's book (And Then the Roof Caved In) followed by Michael Lewis's book (The Big Short).
Stiglitz clearly describes many problems and their causes, but he unfortunately glosses over far too many, giving a very slanted picture of the financial markets. In the process, he makes circular and contradictory arguments that devolve into incoherence.
I find it difficult to believe that Stiglitz is so misinformed on market behavior, regulation, and basic economic principles. The only other explanation is that he's guilty of the spreading the same self-serving propaganda that he pillories the bankers of doing.
Skip this one - there are far better books out there.
The performance was also painful to listen to: Dick Hill's sneering voice drips with contempt and reduces the credibility of the book even further.
Who am I to evaluate Joe Stiglitz?
Excellent text book but very dry. No humor, no anecdotes. I might be silly, but for this reason I liked "The Big Short" better.
I did the book injustice and myself disservice by reading it after a series of like books which rendered a lot of the information here redundant.
My husband and I are a captive audience listening to this book as we put mud and tape over drywall in our kids new bedrooms. Drywall is time consuming and repetitive, and a decent audio book can really help make the time more pleasant. This book is not helping. Stiglitz has spent the last two hours blaming the government, the banks, and greedy Americans for the current recession without proposing one solution. He sets himself high over everyone else claiming that he saw the whole thing coming, and pointing the finger in at least a hundred different directions to everyone who was too dumb to see it or do anything about it. I wish The Great Super Cycle were in audio format, I have a feeling that would have been a lot better than this.
Non Fiction Reader
I'm not a liberal/progressive but I'm willing to listen. This book if a pious formulation of class warfare and more spending. The contradtiction is that he says the government is esentially incompetent but just keep on giving it more money in the hope, someday, it will get it right. No doudt banks made many mistakes and capitalism isn't perfect, by any means, but he draws cartoonish charactertures so they may be compared to Stiglitz's perfect bureaucrat. The text is repetitive and eventually you anticipate every argument. The narrator is horrible!!! He sounds supercilious and demeening. When he gets to be obvious "boo" lines he sounds sarcastic. (Everybody collectively jeer.) I can only listen to this for short intervals before I want to crash my truck to releive the pain. I read his work in grad school but I must have missed the narrowness of Stiglitz's thinking. Or maybe he has become a pamphleteer.
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