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Freefall: Free Markets and the Sinking of the Global Economy Hardcover – 28 Jan 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (28 Jan. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846142792
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846142796
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 432,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Freefall is a spirited attack on Wall Street, the free market and the Washington consensus.--David Smith

About the Author

Joseph Stiglitz was Chief Economist at the World Bank until January 2000. He is currently University Professor of the Columbia Business School and Chair of the Management Board and Director of Graduate Summer Programs, Brooks World Poverty Institute, University of Manchester. He won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001 and is the author of the best-selling Globalization and Its Discontents, The Roaring Nineties, and Making Globalization Work, all published by Penguin.

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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Winchil Vaz, Coimbra, Portugal on 5 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
I am a chemist, not an economist, and being interested in understanding what went wrong with the world economy in the past few years, began reading some books on the subject. Having read some neoclassical (Chicago School) opinions (Raghuram G. Rajan's (with Luigi Zingales) "Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists" and "Faultlines"), I was left with the unsatisfying sensation that something was missing in their arguments. So, I turned to an opposing school of economic thought (the Neo-Keynesian School) and decided to read Joseph E. Stiglitz's "Freefall - Free Markets and the Sinking of the Global Economy". I have just finished reading it. What a lucid and clear-minded exposure of what led up to the problems that culminated in the 2008 financial debacles that have shocked the world! Stiglitz points out rather clearly (for someone who does not think in terms of political economy daily) how damaging the Reagan-Thatcher legacy and the subsequent hands-off, no-regulations policies of U.S. and U.K. (and many other) governments concerning financial markets have been to the world economy. (No wonder Margaret Thatcher gave up studying Chemistry - she couldn't possibly have made a good Chemist!). "Freefall" also discusses what was done by the Bush and Obama administrations to "solve" the misery created by the thieves who called (and most of whom continue to call) themselves "bankers". It took Obama off the mental pedestal I had put him on! Stiglitz suggests solutions to the problems which, not being an economist, I hesitate to judge. They seem rational and, more importantly, address the human misery that financial and political "leaders" (the thieves and their abetters) have created for us. Makes one wonder whether we should not find some other way to finance electoral campaigns in our so-called "democracies".Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The Outsider on 27 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
Joseph Stiglitz's finest popular book puts the nails in the coffins of 'self correcting markets' and 'all government intervention is bad' forever. It has taken the crisis of 2007-2008 and its aftermath to work Stiglitz up to a book of this quality. Some reviewers complain that the author's politics are laid bare in this book, and that somehow, this undermines the message. What utter rubbish.

Stiglitz proves that the recent 'freefall' is just the latest and possibly worst in a series of market disasters caused by Reagan and Thatcher's destruction of the regulatory framework that has kept the world safe from free markets since the 1930's. It is no mere one off, but the grand finale of crashes that began in Latin America, East Asia, Russia, and now America and Western Europe (starting in the dot com crash - the housing bubble was a continuation of the 2001 crash). These are no accidents but result from removal of incentives and regulations that made the 1945-1970 period so prosperous, and the last 30 years, so erratic. Though Stiglitz concludes that no serious adult can defend any longer unbridled free market theory from responsibility for this collapse, he underestimates the 'willful blindness' of so many economists and ordinary people, who cling to their ideology like demented religious fanatics. They are 'true believers' - people without a shred of rationality left.

What is most alarming and worrying about this analysis is the notion that in re-funding the banking sector in 2008, the Bush and then Obama administrations have made things even worse. How? They have created a greater core of financial power in the remaining banks.
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52 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Miles Stapleton on 11 Feb. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As the Former Chief Economist of the World Bank, and a Nobel Prize Winner, Stiglitz clearly can write with authority on the world economy, and this book certainly deserves to be on the reading list of all candidates and interested voters in the next Election, if they would like to understand why American Style Capitalism has brought such abysmal consequences to America and the U.K..

The markets failed their in societal functions of managing risk and the mixed motivations of the Rating Agencies meant that the Institutions were not adequately appraised of the risks that they were taking. "In short, there was little or no effective quality control". Securitization did indeed spread risk but this was more than negated by the asymmetries of information. In other words people had little idea of the detail of what they were buying.

Externalities are to economics what `collateral damage' is to the military; the damage caused to those who were not involved in the transaction. "If there are externalities, one can't logically believe in market fundamentalism." Contagion between financial institutions is of course the `quintessential externality'.

Many who were sold sub-prime mortgages were ill equipped to understand what they were taking on, and yet they lost their homes, life savings, and dreams of a better future. Many were driven to divorce, some to suicide. The `deregulation frenzy' of the eighties and nineties left these people ill protected. Some of the thrust for deregulation was undoubtedly inspired by political campaign donations by Financial Institutions.

Many of the financial products that were bought and sold by the banks were based on flawed models which were often evaluated by `lawyers untrained in the subtle mathematics of the models'.
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