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Commerce Matters - Ladue News: Business & Wealth

Commerce Matters

Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance

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Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 11:24 pm, Tue Aug 9, 2011.

Author’s Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm aren’t psychics, and their book is not a crystal ball into when our world will be rocked by another financial crisis. But once you’ve read their Crisis Economics:  A Crash Course in the Future of Finance, you might question why more people didn’t see the signs that the world was embarking on its greatest financial challenge since the Great Depression.

Like The Great Reset by Richard Florida (reviewed in this column last month), authors Roubini and Mihm compare and contrast our current financial troubles with the historic ‘dark days’ of economics. Delving deeper than Florida, the authors go as far back as the ‘tulip bubble’ in 1630s Holland and the infamous South Sea Company crash of 1720 that left the British economy in tatters. People refer to crises as if they were black swan events, Roubini says. The authors, however, believe that financial crises are predictable and that history proves their point by showing the parallels between the present day and the financial crisis in 1824, the panic of 1907 and the Great Depression of the ‘30s.

It is the current situation that Crisis Economics attacks with vengeance. In this book you will not find the root of all evil lying at the feet of the housing bubble. The authors admit that blaming subprime borrowers for the catastrophe that toppled the global financial system is reassuring. But, they say, it’s wrong. Yes, the burst bubble did arise, in part, from subprime mortgages. But the problems causing this crisis were much more insidious and prevalent. Securitization, the self-governing of financial firms, and the refusal by the Federal Reserve to use its power to regulate markets are just a few of the avenues they examine as having a part in the collapse. Add to the mix the purchasing of securitized products by investors and financial institutions in Europe, and the world was soon saturated with cash.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Crisis Economics is the book’s look to the future and how the authors lay out what they call “much-needed reforms of the financial system.” They also look into what crisis we will be enduring next. “I see the next phase of this financial crisis,” Roubini has said in recent interviews. “It’s not over.”

In fact, Roubini contends that we are at the next stage of a typical financial crisis where private sector leverage in debt and insolvency can turn into a public sector insolvency problem. It has already started in Greece, Portugal, Spain, the U.K. and Iceland. At some point, with these large budget deficits, it will happen also in the United States or in Japan. Let’s all hope that when it does, more people have read Crisis Economics and are ready for it.

Dr. Benjamin Ola. Akande is Dean of the School of Business and Technology at Webster University.

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