What is the one book (or two or three or four or five) you recommend that really gets down to the heart of the economic crisis? Root causes?
***Call for TOP 5 "Economic Crisis" Books(35 posts) (25 voices)
I’d recommend the following:
“No More National Debt” by Bill Still
“The Web of Debt” by Ellen Brown
“The Secret of Oz” award-winning documentary by Bill Still
"The Money Masters" documentary by Bill Still
oh, maybe I can propose another one - a possible new economy:
"Dare to Care"
Made the book of the month on 11/11/11! :-)
"The book promotes a vision for a love-based economy and a care-first world. With examples of businesses who work with models similar to his own, Bohtlingk proves how and why this vision could become a reality. His workable method has been developed to help corporations and companies change from their current financial plans, which, for many focus purely on profit, to a new economic outlook that focuses more on supporting each other. Dare to Care encourages readers to approach finance and economics from a new perspective, one which urges them to reorganize their own attitude towards money and empowers them to act and achieve a care-first worldview."
I recommend Freefall by Joseph Stiglitz
I'd like to recommend "The Debt Generation" by David Malone. It's a critical account of the crisis as it unfolded in 2008-2010, told from a layman's perspective. Malone has an excellent ability to explain even the most arcane workings of the financial system in terms that everyone can understand. The book really manages to cut through all the smoke and mirrors that the media and the politicians use to conceal the reality from us.
I like these:
1. 'The Grip of Death' by Michael Rowbotham
2. 'The Web of Debt' by Ellen Hodgson Brown
3. 'Where does Money come from' by Josh Ryan Collins, Tony Greenham et al
4. 'A Fate Worse than Debt' by Susan George
The first 3 explain how our debt-based money system works, why the system is flawed, and why there are recurring crashes. Susan George's book covers the effects of austerity measures or structural adjustment imposed on Africa and Latin America in the 70's and 80's - essential reading given austerity is the default response of the ruling class to Capitalism's recurring crises.
A political influence is
5. 'Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice' by Rudolf Rocker
which includes historical background to working class movements.
Of course there are the obvious - 6. 'Freefall' by Joseph Stiglitz
7. 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein
Tracing the geopolitical consequences of the Capitalist system and aggressive US power (as well as exposing Western media propaganda), Noam Chomsky's books, 'Failed States', and 'Hegemony or Survival' are essential reading. As are recent books and documentaries by John Pilger.
For quick backround, I recommend Reckless Endangerment, It Takes a Pillage, and All the Devils Are Here
The End of Wallstreet by Roger Lowenstein 2010
The Big Short by Michael Lewis 2010
Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future by Robert Reich 2011
Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner 2011
All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis by Bethany McLean & Joe Nocera 2010
Too Big to Fail: How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System – and Themselves by Andrew Ross Sorkin 2010/11 (too sympathetic to players, but interesting)
Other People’s Money: The Corporate Mugging of America by Nomi Prins (former managing director at G. Sachs) 2004
**It Takes a Pillage: An Epic Tale of Power, Deceit and Untold Trillions by Nomi Prins
Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History by Matt
Two of my choices are already on the Primer list:
- Matt Taibbi, Griftopia (2010)
- David Graeber, Debt: the first 5,000 years (2011)
Griftopia is the only book on the Primer list that I've read so far; Debt: the first 5,000 years will be the next. Griftopia is fantastic; if you're dealing with someone who is skeptical but is willing to read one, and only one, book about Occupy's economic issues, Griftopia is the one I would recommend. The following interview with David Graeber explains why I decided to put Debt: the first 5,000 years next on the list:
Pilkington, Philip. What is debt? – An interview with economic anthropologist David Graeber. Naked Capitalism. 2011 Aug 26. Available from: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/08/what-is-debt-%E2%80%93-an-interview-with-economic-anthropologist-david-graeber.html. Accessed 2011 Dec 9. Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/63op8omcc.
Some of my favorite quotations from Griftopia:
And understanding [the credit default swap, the synthetic collateralized debt obligation, the interest rate swap] and how they were used (or misused) is the difference between perceiving how Wall Street made its money in the last decades as normal capitalist business and seeing the truth of what it often was instead, which was simple fraud and crime. (page 14)
With the $13-plus trillion we are estimated to ultimately spend on the bailouts, we could not only have bought and paid off every single subprime mortgage in the country (that would only have cost $1.4 trillion), we could have paid off every remaining mortgage of any kind in this country — and still have had enough money left over to buy a new house for every American who does not already have one. (page 123)
If Goldman Sachs really was, as we'd described, little more than an upscale version of a boiler-room pump-and-dump operation, then that definitely was an indictment of the financial press, which almost universally praised the bank as a pillar of economic genius. If financial journalists like the Charlie Gasparinos and Megan McArdles out there took it that way, good — I meant it that way. (page 207)
But in our media you're not allowed to just kick the rich in the balls and use class-warfare language. The taboo isn't so much the subject matter, the taboo is the tone. You're allowed to grimace and shake your head at their shenanigans, but you can't call them crooks and imply that they haven't earned their money by being better or smarter than everyone else, at least not until they've been indicted or gone bankrupt. (pages 207–208)
My contribution was to launch a debate over whether or not it was appropriate for a reputable mainstream media organization to publicly call Lloyd Blankfein a motherfucker. This was really what most of the "vampire squid" uproar boiled down to. (page 230)
Think about these quotations the next time some gangster or professional liar wrapped in a veil of respectability tries to insist on "civility" in discourse.
And here are two more of my choices, which are not already on the Primer list:
Paul Krugman, The Return of Depression Economics. I read the paperback version of the first edition (2000), but there has been at least one new edition since then; try to get the most recent version, whatever that may be at the time you obtain it.
Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (2004). There is also a video documentary based on this book.
Krugman's The Return of Depression Economics explains the basics of the "liquidity traps" and deflationary spirals that cause economic depressions. Essentially, businesses can't afford to pay their workers because they can't make any money, and they can't make any money because their workers — now in the role of consumers — don't have any money to spend, because they aren't being paid. Although Krugman doesn't emphasize it, this is essentially the scenario that Marx predicted to lead to the collapse of capitalism. The following article gives the short version, but Krugman's entire book is well worth reading anyway:
Krugman, Paul. Baby-sitting the economy. Slate. 1998 Aug 14. Available from: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_dismal_science/1998/08/babysitting_the_economy.html. Accessed 2011 Nov 28. Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/63Xi8FoUt.
Liquidity traps are critically important to the 99% movement, because they explain why the "austerity" approach favored by the 1% (tight fiscal policy to avoid deficits, and tight monetary policy to avoid inflation) is so predictably and uniformly disastrous.
There are other (neo-Keynesian) mainstream economic approaches that would solve the problem in theory, but the 1% never listen to people like Krugman who propose them (at least, they haven't listened for a long time). Krugman seems to be unable to explain why his good advice is not taken. I see his apparent puzzlement as a sign of a deep-seated problem with mainstream economists, even liberal ones like Krugman; they treat the global economic market (or rather, that part of it that functions publicly) as a closed system, and try to model it all by itself, but it really isn't a closed system at all. It interacts strongly with other aspects of human life — especially with politics, law, individual psychology, and the clandestine "fraud and crime" that Matt Taibbi has exposed — to such an extent that it cannot be understood in isolation. Any remotely adequate, predictive economic model must be more than just an economic model — it must also model other aspects of the sociopolitical environment, especially what Marx called ideology. The comprehensive character of Marxist theory is one of its strong points, and is separable from other aspects of Marxism, such as the labor theory of value. Occupy really needs to stress the non-economic influences on economics.
That's where Bakan's The Corporation comes into the story. Bakan's argument is that business corporations, because of the way they are designed and the laws that govern them, behave not like average individuals, but like individuals who are sociopaths. The actual human individuals who make up a corporation are pressured by its structures to sacrifice all other considerations to profit, and are (obscenely) required by law to do so. This narrow focus on profit, combined with their awesome power to influence public opinion through PR, leads corporations to take actions that are, in the long term, self-defeating — actions like bribing politicians (often legally, via campaign contributions) to follow "austerity" policies that lead to liquidity traps of the kind that Krugman describes.