The latest offerings on the credit crunch . . .
Katrina vanden Heuvel, Meltdown: How Greed and Corruption Shattered Our Financial System and How We Can Recover (Nation Books, £8.99)
In Meltdown, the editor of the Nation draws together the magazine’s coverage of the crisis, from the first glimmers of trouble to our hopes for recovery. A prophetic 1999 editorial, exposing the perils of the Financial Services Modernisation Act, makes for particularly unsettling reading: “Companies [will] rush to combine into ‘one-stop shopping’ operations, concentrating financial power in trillion-dollar global giants and paving the way for future taxpayer bailouts of too-big-to-fail financial corporations.”
Charles R Morris, The Two Trillion-Dollar Meltdown (PublicAffairs US, £8.99)
This book was first published in the early stages of the crash in 2008, under the title The Trillion-Dollar Meltdown. In it, Morris estimated that the losses in the banking and investment sectors would total at least $1trn, potentially double or triple that “if the deleveraging is disorderly”. The unpleasant news is that “we now seem to be in the midst of a disorderly deleveraging”. In this retitled edition, the floundering sector looks set to be at least $2trn in the red. Here’s hoping that Morris’s book doesn’t reach a third edition.
Frank Partnoy, Fiasco: Blood in the Water on Wall Street (Profile Business, £9.99)
Frank Partnoy sold derivatives for Morgan Stanley in the mid-Nineties. A revised edition of his 1997 book, this exposé of Wall Street’s villains has lost its power to shock. Over the past year, our governments have emerged as the quiescent victims of intricate financial systems created by greedy, aggressive and arrogant young men. Fiasco is the story of one wealthy banker who turned away from high finance in its heyday, and might therefore be expected to alter our opinion of this now-detested subspecies. However, Partnoy hasn’t managed to cast off that trading-floor hubris, and ends his new epilogue with an irritating “I told you so”.
Benn Steil and Manuel Hinds, Money, Markets and Sovereignty (Yale University Press, £20)
According to the publisher’s blurb, Money, Markets and Sovereignty is “the most powerful defence of economic liberalism” since Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. Hayek’s theories lie behind both Reaganomics and Thatcherism; prospective readers might wonder if free-market dogmatism really offers a credible solution to our present predicament.
For Steil and Hinds, the real problem lies in the incompatibility between increasingly globalised trade and “the most extreme doctrine of monetary nationalism ever contrived”. But, whether they like it or not, the state’s intervention in domestic economics is growing to unprecedented levels in response to the crisis.
David Marsh, The Euro: the Politics of the New Global Currency (Yale University Press, £25)
Ten years on from its introduction, the euro “has neither healed nor destroyed the continent”. But as Europe prepares to weather the global financial storm, the currency seems set for a much tougher second decade. The City of London’s supremacy over Frankfurt and Paris has perhaps been the crucial factor in keeping the UK outside the Eurozone. Despite the crisis, however, Marsh speaks of “a palpable sense that the UK is drifting further away”. In his eyes, the pound will endure until at least 2025.
Tags: economy 2009