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Age Shock : How Finance Is Failing Us [Hardcover]

Robin Blackburn

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Book Description

15 Jan 2007
The last few years have shown how badly the financial services industry performs as a custodian of savings and pension funds. The "skimming" of US mutual funds, the see-saw of the stock markets, and a string of business scandals from Enron to Parmalat have wiped billions from the savings of employees on both sides of the Atlantic. They have also exposed the absence of responsibility at the heart of what Robin Blackburn calls "grey capitalism." In this short and pithy book, Blackburn takes forward the argument of his acclaimed Banking on Death and explains why attempts to meet the costs of the ageing and learning society through a proliferation of financial products are doomed to fail and have a host of unfortunate side-effects. In fact "financial engineering," as it is called, has allowed corporations to escape taxation while allowing a new breed of chief executive to accumulate extravagant fortunes at the expense of shareholder and employee alike. The author does not just expose problems, however; he also explores solutions. Blackburn identifies new sources of pension finance...especially ways of ensuring that corporations make a real contribution...and sketches the shape of a progressive and responsible pension fund regime, embracing all citizens and accountable to them.

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Praise for Banking on Death: "Blackburn's views seem to me refreshing ... [He] acknowledges that there are real strains on the old welfare state and proposes interesting ways to handle them that do not resort to simplistic formulas of privatization." -- Jeff Madrick, New York Review of Books "... required reading for all those interested in the pensions industry. That is, all of us." -- Barry Marshall, Public Service Review: Finance "One of the best books I have read on pension funds." -- Independent "Blackburn is particularly good at disentangling the different dynamics that make the pensions problem so intractable for mature, ageing economies." -- Sir Howard Davis, Director, FSA, Guardian

About the Author

Robin Blackburn teaches at the Graduate Faculty of the New School University, New York, and in the Sociology Department of the University of Essex. He is the author of Banking on Death: Or, Investing in Life: The History and Future of Pensions.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading on pension and retirement policy 26 Feb 2012
By James W. Russell - Published on
Robin Blackburn, a former editor of New Left Review, is probably the world's greatest leftwing expert on pensions and retirement policy. This is his second comprehensive book on the subject, the first being Banking on Death (2002).

Blackburn probes with extraordinary scholarship and critical analysis the retirement crisis facing western countries, one that portends a future of growing elderly poverty as financial elites, abetted by compliant politicians, increasingly replace public programs like Social Security that generally work well with private 401(k) like plans that provide more income for the financial services industry than security for retirees. This retrograde policy is occurring as societies are ageing and in need of more, not less, support for the retired. In the final part of the book he sketches out a fiscally sound alternative: bolstering public plans and creating new secondary pensions so that all retirees could be assured of at least 70 percent of preretirement income.

This is important reading for anyone attempting to sort out the very complicated relationship between finance capital and pension funds. The book will be especially useful for labor union officials and organizers who are entrusted with protecting their members' retirement plans.
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