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Manias, Panics and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises, Sixth Edition

Manias, Panics and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises, Sixth Edition [Kindle Edition]

Charles P. Kindleberger , Aliber Robert Z. , Robert Solow
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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'Underneath the hilarious anecdotes, the elegant epigrams, and the graceful turns of phrase, Kindleberger is deadly serious. The manner in which humans beings earn their livings is no laughing matter to him, especially when they attempt to do so at the expense of one another. As he so effectively demonstrates, manias, panics, and crashes are the consequence of an economic environment that cultivates cupidity, chicanery, and rapaciousness rather than a devout belief in the Golden Rule.' - From the Foreword to the Fourth Edition by Peter L. Bernstein, author of The Power of Gold

'Deep knowledge and a pragmatic approach to financial history qualifies Robert Aliber to provide this desperately needed sixth edition of Charles Kindleberger's classic study of financial manias and crashes. It comes in the immediate aftermath of the biggest and most dangerous global financial crisis since the 1930s. But that, alas, was no isolated event. It was, instead, the culmination of four waves of crisis over 40 years. The latest crisis is most unlikely to be the last. It may even be the precursor of a still bigger crisis in the years ahead. Read. Learn. Weep.' -Martin Wolf, Financial Times

'Alas, both the need for a book such as Manias, Panics and Crashes, and the coverage of its material, keep on increasing, almost exponentially. So much has happened in the last few years that this is now Bob Aliber's book, as much as, perhaps more, than Charles Kindleberger's. Aliber has enhanced the prior high standards that Kindleberger set. This is an easily accessible book, filled with fascinating historical vignettes, and one that everyone from the experts to newcomers to the field should read and would profit greatly by doing so.' - Charles Goodhart, London School of Economics,UK

'Every so often financial markets fly off the rails of rationality. Manias, Panics and Crashes brilliantly explains these crises and warns us that as each one fades into the past, the lessons are eventually lost, and investors again come to believe that trees grow to the sky.' - David Laibson, Harvard University, USA

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This sixth edition has been revised and expanded to bring the history of financial crisis up to date, covering such topics as speculative manias, the lender of last resort and the case of Lehman Brothers. Ths highly anticipated volume has been hailed as 'a true classic...both timely and timeless.'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 997 KB
  • Print Length: 365 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0230575978
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; Sixth Edition, Revised Edition edition (9 Aug 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #106,357 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This volume is extremely topical, engaging and entertaining, and is highly pertinent to the Eurozone sovereign credit and banking crisis. The bulk of the book concerns itself with credit bubbles, banking (financial) crises, and the role of the lender of last resort. The sixth edition has been updated to cover the burst of the subprime mortgage credit bubble and subsequent Lehman Brothers implosion, and also some of the developments taking place in Europe (e.g. Greek government debt). When I first read this book (the fourth or fifth edition) around 2000, when the dot-com bubble had burst, I was more interested in the model described in the text explaining how bubbles grow and eventually burst, and the implications for stock markets. Re-read in November 2011, I realise that its focus is much wider.

The authors first explain how manias, panics and crisis start - through pro-cyclical changes in the supply in credit. In short, asset bubbles result from the rapid growth in the supply of credit. A stylised model of credit expansion, speculation (manias), financial distress and panic is presented. Easy credit, fuelled by the apparently easy gains to be had through rising property prices and speculation, fuels the bubbles.

International financial contagion is covered in depth. Aliber makes the case that there is something special about the four waves of crisis in the last 30 years (Latin America in the 1980s, Japan in the late 1980s and early 1990s), South East Asia in the late 1990s and the current US subprime/Lehman andEuropean sovereign credit crisis.) He explores the interactions between these events and the contagion from one country to another. If bubbles appear in multiple countries at the same time, it is highly likely that there are common origins.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I purchased the book because it was referenced in Bethany McLean's "all the devils are here", and I'm willing to try anything Bethany deems interesting, but boy, what a complete and utter disappointment it was.

"Manias, panics and crashes" is the 6th edition of a book written decades ago, and it painfully shows. In terms of structure, the book resembles a selection of randomly selected paragraphs, with no reference to each other. Even though the subject is naturally poised for simple and elegant chronological, crisis-after-crisis continuity starting with South Sea bubble and ending with present day, the authors and editors clearly deemed this idea too simplistic, and instead went for incoherent mix of dates, facts and ideas.

That in itself might not fully discredit the book, but the little there was left to ruin, was ruined by the narrative. "Manias, panics and crashes" redefines boring, I doubt anyone actually proof-read this edition before publishing. I didn't manage to get all the way through the book, despite enormouse interest in the topic, I simply gave up. I would advise everyone considering a purchase of this book to choose something else on the topic in order to a void a boring and costly disappointment.
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53 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 6th Edition of a Classic Study of the Anatomy of Financial Crises. 27 Sep 2011
By AdamSmythe - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book provides an analytical treatment of the process of speculation and monetary expansion that has sometimes led to a variety of historical crises. These major crises don't necessarily occur frequently within a human lifespan, so it is important to study these historical episodes in order to gain a better understanding of some of their common characteristics. It was written by "literary economist" Charles Kindleberger through the first four editions in 1978, 1989, 1996 and 2000, and subsequently updated by Robert Aliber in the fifth and (this) sixth edition in 2005 and 2011. Kindleberger passed away in 2003 at age 92. Specifically, Kindleberger and Aliber identify and discuss common attributes of the speculation and crisis cycle using material from lots of historical episodes. This is not a chronological story of crisis after crisis, like Charles MacKay's classic 19th century work, "Memoirs of Extraordinary Delusions and the Madness of Crowds," which I recommend. Rather, it is a highly readable discussion of the processes in play, with observations and analyses developed from a wide variety of historical crises.

My reference to Kindleberger as a "literary economist" means two things: First, Kindleberger has focused on a discussion of key theoretical concepts in a language (clear English) that the intelligent lay reader can understand, not on the more widely used language of mathematical economics and econometrics that is so common in the field today. Second, in addition to writing in English rather than math, Kindleberger writes in a sufficiently engaging and interesting style that it shouldn't put you to sleep. Indeed, this is a very interesting work that addresses some of the most irrational bubbles in history (see below). History doesn't always repeat exactly, but it does rhyme.

My first encounter with this book was back in the early 1990s, when I read the second edition. When I pulled my old copy off the shelf and reviewed it prior to taking up the latest edition, I noticed I had forgotten that Kindleberger devoted several pages to the work of Hyman Minsky, whose work has really come into fashion in the last five years. Basically, the Minsky Instability Hypotheses states that periods of prolonged economic stability lead to a reduced awareness of risk, which then leads to periods of instability when the risk that has been ignored finally presents itself on our doorstep. Put more simply, economic stability leads to economic instability. I mention this because it suggests that as a result of his research into speculation and financial crises, Kindleberger was keenly aware of the kinds of conditions that would ultimately play out in 2007 - 2009 and beyond.

In this sixth edition Aliber covers the new ground of more recent crises, making it a very nice update, and he includes his listing of the top ten financial bubbles:

1. The Dutch Tulip Bubble, 1636.
2. The South Sea Bubble, 1720.
3. The Mississippi Bubble, 1720.
4. The late 1920s stock price bubble, 1927 - 29.
5. The surge in bank loans to Mexico and other developing countries in the 1970s.
6. The bubble in real estate and stocks in Japan, 1985 - 89.
7. The 1985 - 89 bubble in real estate and stocks in Finland, Norway, and Sweden.
8. The bubble in real estate and stocks in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and several other Asian countries in 1992 - 97 and the surge in foreign investment in Mexico, 1990 - 99.
9. The bubble in over-the-counter stocks in the United States, 1995 - 2000.
10. The bubble in real estate in the U.S., Britain, Spain, Ireland, and Iceland between 2002 and 2007--and the debt of the government of Greece.

Late in this edition, Aliber devotes a chapter to "The Lehman Panic," which he refers to as "an avoidable crash."

Given the events of recent years, the latest edition is well timed to address the growing interest in systemic issues of speculative manias and monetary expansions that contribute to the national and international crises we see in panics and crashes that central banks and other lenders of last resort must struggle with. The authors devote two chapters to national and international lenders of last resort and their difficult decisions. As this book describes financial crises, they are "hardy perennials," so we have a lot to gain from understanding some of the common attributes of historical periods of speculation and crisis. As a clear, well-written and solid study of the whole process, this book deserves your serious consideration.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Book Review from the Aleph Blog 13 Nov 2011
By David Merkel - Published on
This is the first book that I have reviewed twice. I reviewed the third edition of the book previously, but I am reviewing the sixth edition now.

Kindleberger places the manias, panics, and crashes on a common grid, to see their similarities, In it he draws on a number of common factors:

* Loose monetary policy
* People chase the performance of the speculative asset
* Speculators make fixed commitments buying the speculative asset
* The speculative asset's price gets bid up to the point where it costs money to hold the positions
* A shock hits the system, a default occurs, or monetary policy starts contracting
* The system unwinds, and the price of the speculative asset falls leading to
* Insolvencies with those that borrowed to finance the assets
* A lender of last resort appears to end the cycle

The advantage over the third edition is that you get to hear about the Asian crisis LTCM, the tech bubble, Madoff, and the present crisis (banking & housing, soon to be sovereigns).

The main point for readers is to beware when monetary policy is easy, banking regulation is lax, and many seem to favor buying the asset du jour, often with leverage. What is self-reinforcing on the way up will be self-reinforcing on the way down, but with greater speed and ferocity, as bad debts have to be liquidated.


Hindsight is 20-20. If the US Government had rescued Lehman, something else might have proven to be "too big to rescue," that the government might allow to fail, but miss the connectedness of the institution. I do think the US Government should have been a DIP lender to troubled firms, but not a buyer of equity.

Who would benefit from this book: Most investors would benefit from this book. It will make you more skeptical of assets that seems to be doing unnaturally well; it will also make you more skeptical about catching falling knives in the market.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Kindleberger's nuanced jabs softened by Aliber 3 Oct 2012
By Dargy Badget - Published on
I vastly preferred Kindleberger's earlier version of this text. Aliber seemed to suck much of the vitality out of this book by removing Kindleberger's occasional jabs at monetarism, and making sure the general narrative referenced the evolving intermediate and graduate level theory. It was as if Aliber edited the original with an eye to making it more like a textbook. Dry, convoluted, and stripped of a coherent perspective. Take a pithy and insightful comment of 50 words, then add 100 more to kill it. Kindleberger did not provide a radical critique, but his earlier version at least opened to the door to recognizing some unsavory trends. Aliber shut that door. Boo, Aliber.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Financial Shenanigans Exposed & Currency Money Flows 7 Oct 2011
By James East - Published on
<Review of the 6th Edition>
Maybe not the definitive book on bubbles, speculation, and monetary expansion, but one can surely benefit from the knowledge obtained to avoid such casual financial distress to one's pocketbook. This 6th addition of Manics, Panics & Crashes is almost entirely re-written to include the relatively recent adventures and speculation in finance of the last 20 years. Beyond the exposé on the plethora of financial shenanigans over the last 300 years, a good amount of the text details the money flows during the old gold standard to assist in explaining causal reactions to the formation of bubbles and subsequent busts.

Surely many reading this review have experienced some effects described in the book, but nothing is really new as it has all been done before - just updated names for the same game (i.e. think Ponzi scheme). A worthy read for those interested in the history of financial shenanigans. However, the author's do assume you are aware of some of the classic Manics such as the Tulip Bubble and the Mississippi Company scheme. All in, is one is interested in financial history then this is an edition you would want to read.

The reader may be interested in Charles MacKay's classic "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" as a primer prior to reading this updated edition. As a side note, I was fortunate to read Extraordinary Popular Delusions nearly 20+ years ago and it saved me many headaches with the ability to spot several suspect adventures.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay

Of note: The typeset of Manias, Panics is a little tough and could have been a different font and 1/2 point larger. A little rough on older eyes.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another "Inconvenient Truth"? 3 Mar 2012
By T. Graczewski - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Now in its sixth edition, "Mania, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises" was first published by Charles Kindleberger in 1978. How times have changed over those thirty plus years -- at least that is the striking conclusion from this latest iteration of the enduring classic, which argues that the world of financial crises began to take a very different shape just as the first volume was being written.

Consider this: according to the latest lead author, Robert Aliber (Kindleberge died in 2003), nearly all of the 10 greatest financial crises of all-time have occurred since 1978; the only ones that fall outside are the Dutch tulipmania of 1640, the South Sea and Mississippi bubbles of 1720, and the Latin American sovereign debt defaults of the 1970s, which fell right on the demarcation line. The original theme of this book was that all financial crises throughout history are the same and that they are a "hardy perennial." While the basic contours of a crisis (exogenous shock, euphoria, mania, distress, collapse, a pattern first laid out by Hyman Minsky) and the critical enabling element (loose credit) remain the same, the velocity, frequency and magnitude of these events is increasing. Reading this book in 2012 is the financial equivalent to watching "An Inconvenient Truth" - with the frightening overhang that the worse is likely yet to come.

The authors argue that things really began to change in the late 1960s and early 1970s. First, the US began to experience a sustained high rate of inflation (6% plus) for the first time ever in peacetime. Next came the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system, when the dollar went off the gold standard and free floating exchange rates were introduced, which dramatically increased the spread and volatility of world currencies. Then, large and persistent budget and trade deficits, especially that of the United States, along with dramatic economic growth and oil wealth in Asia and the Middle East, led to payments imbalances that created an enormous mountain of money looking for a higher rate of return. Finally, the liberalization of the world's capital market and the opening of off-shore banks made the international transfer of money fast and easy. In my mind, I see this huge and easily moveable pile of capital as an enormous tidal wave that is drawn, as if by the gravitational pull of higher returns, to the most attractive opportunity of the moment. Aliber writes that over the past 30 years there have been four major cycles of opportunity, over investment, collapse, and then flight to the next future boom and collapse.

The first was Mexico (and Latin America in general) in the 1970s. External money was attracted by the high GDP growth rates, high demand for capital, and the belief that "countries don't go bankrupt." When Paul Volker made the decision to squeeze inflation out of the US economy it was the growth economies in Latin America that were really crushed, as the ability of these countries to finance trade and current account deficits declined sharply. The money that had been invested in Mexico and elsewhere needed a place to go - and it moved rapidly across the Pacific to Tokyo.

Japan had been growing at a breakneck rate for decades, mainly fueled by export focused industries, such as automotives and high tech/electronics. As the surge of profit seeking dollars flooded into Japan central banking authorities were faced with a challenge. The success of the Japanese economy depended on exports. The success of exports depended on a relatively weak yen in the international currency market. The rapid inflow of international investment dollars would appreciate the yen. The Bank of Japan made the decision to prevent the yen from appreciating, which meant buying US treasuries to appreciate the dollar. The end state was that Japanese banks held the enormous investment surge and had to find an outlet that wouldn't appreciate the yen. The answer was loosening the regulations around investment in domestic real estate - which resulted in a skyrocketing of Japanese real estate that makes the recent US experience look like child's play. The Japanese real estate and stock markets (Nikkei) rose to dizzying heights in what the authors call a "financial perpetual motion machine": 1) increases in real estate prices led to an increase in stock prices; 2) increases in both led to increases in bank capital; 3) as bank capital increased they were able to lend more; and 4) because those that invested in real estate were making great profits, they took on as much loans as they could get.

So how did it end? Like every other bubble, according to Kindleberger and Aliber. Once the bubble was punctured - in Japan's case by the seemingly benign policy pronouncement by the incoming head of the Bank of Japan in 1989 that future real estate loans should grow no faster than other loans - those that were most aggressive were caught with their pants down. They had been paying their interest payments with new extensions of credit, which suddenly weren't coming, so they desperately needed to sell, which caused the perpetual motion machine to sputter, then stall, and then nose dive, as high risk investors became distressed sellers and the prices collapsed. In 1989 the Nikkei was at 40,000. A full generation later, in 2012, it stands at 9,700. One word: WOW.

The tidal surge of global capital quickly receded from Japan and flooded into the emerging economies next door in Asia, the so-called dragons that were the darling of the development community in the early 1990s, countries like Thailand, South Korea, and Indonesia, which offered a compelling combination of high growth, low labor costs, and market oriented monetary policies. Once again the familiar pattern reappeared: foreign capital raced in, much of it into real estate; the local currency appreciated, pushing up the book value of the original investments; allowing local banks to make new and riskier loans; real estate and equity prices skyrocketed as investors flipped properties and poured money into the new and popular "emerging market asset class" of equities; that is, until a few hyper-aggressive and/or risky debtors defaulted, and then the whole house of cards suddenly collapsed, with many countries experiencing a currency devaluation of up to 50%. Fortunes recently and quickly won were just as quickly and easily lost. The speculative money gathered itself up with due haste and bolted back across the Pacific to the next best bet for a quick buck: American mortgages.

The hypothesis that drove the US (and Irish, South African, Spanish, etc.) real estate boom of the early 2000s was that the securitization of mortgages made them more liquid and thus less risky. Global money couldn't get enough of American mortgages fast enough. When the bubble burst US investment banks had a six month backlog of mortgage securities awaiting actual mortgages to fill them with.

The central hypothesis of this sixth edition makes a lot of sense and it's sobering. In a global capital market that facilitates "hot money" flowing rapidly and nearly without obstruction to the greatest opportunity for return, where that flow feeds a feedback loop that encourages further and often reckless investment, usually driven as much by currency appreciation and the real estate/equity market link rather than any rational driver of growth, these markets are almost guaranteed to experience a tragic storyline of surreal expansion followed by horrifying collapse.

All of this raises the obvious question: where has the tidal surge of money fled after the US subprime collapse? Unfortunately, disappointingly, almost shockingly, Aliber says nothing at on this critical point, although my sense is that China, and to a lesser extent India, must be absorbing the lion's share of those assets.

In closing, this is a good book, but by no means a great or essential one, despite its "classic" mantle. I can't help but feel that the latest iteration is somehow hampered by being tethered to the original. If things have really changed that much so fast, then perhaps the authors need to wipe the slate clean and write something new.
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