This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly
Princeton University Press, Sep 11, 2009 - Business & Economics - 512 pages
A comprehensive look at international financial crises that puts more recent economic meltdowns into perspective
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Yes, this is not an easy read in the sense that the authors write for a lay audience. However, I managed to get through it with a basic comprehension of their exposition and their message, despite the fact that I am an amateur at economics.
One key message is that financial markets are not self-regulating. Competition for profit leads lenders to take on dangerous and ultimately deadly levels of risk, even to serial defaulting sovereigns.
Another message is that memory assets depreciate over time, leading regulators to discount the past as a guide to future pain. One of the early charts shows a 2-generation (~50 year) cycle of crisis. (This provides anecdotal support for the idea that there are Kondratieff waves of 50-60 years in economic time series.)
A technical suggestion: Figure 17.1 shows changes in Institutional Investor ratings of sovereign credit. If a country's rating is already above 90%, it has much less room to move to the upside than one with a rating of 50%. A more sensitive chart might plot changes as a percentage of the room to shift.
The authors have compiled one of the most comprehensive records of the various types of financial folly from hyperinflation to banking crises that I have ever seen. These records are in and of themselves valuable for policymakers to remind them to avoid the "this time is different" syndrome. The authors analyze the data in a broad macroeconomic way to point out when a particular financial crisis might occur. For example, they conclude that the massive influx of foreign capital into the United States prior to the current financial crisis should have been a warning flag to policymakers. From a broad prescriptive perspective, they suggest that international organizations should have better access to national economic data as well as publishing same. They lament the lack of transparency that national governments have with regard to their financial data. They further suggest that international organizations should have more power to regulate the financial affairs of nations. Although skimpy in terms of prescriptive detail, i.e. what regulatory regimes work best to manage a nation's financial affairs, the book is worth reading for the grand survey of financial folly which it describes.
SOVEREIGN EXTERNAL DEBT CRISES
THE FORGOTTEN HISTORY OF DOMESTIC DEBT AND DEFAULT
BANKING CRISES INFLATION AND CURRENCY CRASHES
THE US SUBPRIME MELTDOWN AND THE SECOND GREAT CONTRACTION
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?