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Stabilizing an Unstable Economy [Hardcover]

Hyman P. Minsky
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 May 2008

“Mr. Minsky long argued markets were crisis prone. His 'moment' has arrived.” -The Wall Street Journal

In his seminal work, Minsky presents his groundbreaking financial theory of investment, one that is startlingly relevant today. He explains why the American economy has experienced periods of debilitating inflation, rising unemployment, and marked slowdowns-and why the economy is now undergoing a credit crisis that he foresaw. Stabilizing an Unstable Economy covers:

  • The natural inclination of complex, capitalist economies toward instability
  • Booms and busts as unavoidable results of high-risk lending practices
  • “Speculative finance” and its effect on investment and asset prices
  • Government's role in bolstering consumption during times of high unemployment
  • The need to increase Federal Reserve oversight of banks

Henry Kaufman, president, Henry Kaufman & Company, Inc., places Minsky's prescient ideas in the context of today's financial markets and institutions in a fascinating new preface. Two of Minsky's colleagues, Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Ph.D. and president, The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, and L. Randall Wray, Ph.D. and a senior scholar at the Institute, also weigh in on Minsky's present relevance in today's economic scene in a new introduction.

A surge of interest in and respect for Hyman Minsky's ideas pervades Wall Street, as top economic thinkers and financial writers have started using the phrase “Minsky moment” to describe America's turbulent economy. There has never been a more appropriate time to read this classic of economic theory.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 350 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional (1 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071592997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071592994
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 17.3 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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From the Back Cover

Praise for the prescient work of Hyman P. Minsky

“Twenty-five years ago, when most economists were extolling the virtues of financial deregulation and innovation, a maverick named Hyman P. Minsky maintained a more negative view of Wall Street; in fact, he noted that bankers, traders, and other financiers periodically played the role of arsonists, setting the entire economy ablaze.”
--John Cassidy, The New Yorker

“The journey from subprime mortgages to a major credit crisis, a weak economy and broken business models in finance could all have been foreseen through Hyman Minsky’s perspectives. His work remains essential to understanding the ground beneath us and the path ahead.”
—-George Magnus, Senior Economic Adviser, UBS Investment Bank

“It is time to revive an old issue: Just how inherently unstable are economies? But instead of getting much guidance these days from contemporary economists, we need to turn to some of the giants from the past. The work of Hyman Minsky . . . is especially on the mark.”
--Jeff Madrick, The New York Times

“Hyman Minsky's work has never been more valuable. His financial instability hypothesis, complete with hedge, speculative and ponzi units, has played out to a T in the U.S. property and mortgage markets over the last half decade.”
--Paul McCulley, Managing Director, PIMCO

“As it happens, Minsky is enjoying something of a revival. Two of his books, John Maynard Keynes, and Stabilizing an Unstable Economy were just republished by McGraw-Hill, and his contention that stability is inherently unstable seems more relevant than ever in the aftermath of the period of low market volatility that ended in the current crisis.

"In the latter of those books, published in 1986, Minsky wrote, 'If the institutions responsible for the lender-of-last resort function stand aside and allow market forces to operate, then the decline in asset values relative to current output prices will be larger than with intervention; investment and debt financed consumption will fall by larger amounts; and the decline in income, employment and profits will be greater.' In other words, without government bailouts, there can be a downward spiral.”
--The New York Times

About the Author

Hyman P. Minsky, Ph.D., was an American economist who studied under Joseph Schumpeter and Wassily Leontief. He taught economics at Washington University, University of California--Berkeley, Brown University, and Harvard University. Minsky joined the Jerome Levy Economics Institute of Bard College as a distinguished scholar in 1990, where he continued his research and writing until a few months before his death in October, 1996. His two seminal books were Stabilizing an Unstable Economy and John Maynard Keynes.


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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant study of a failed system 29 April 2009
Format:Hardcover
This classic work of political economy, first published in 1986, has valuable lessons for us today. Minsky studies the recessions of 1975 and 1982, economic theory, institutions, particularly banks, and finally presents an agenda for reform.

Financial traumas have led to ever-worse recessions, in 1970, 1975, 1979-80, 1982, 1987, 2002 and the present. As he notes, "the normal functioning of our economy leads to financial trauma and crises, inflation, currency depreciations, unemployment, and poverty in the midst of what could be virtually universal affluence - in short, .. financially complex capitalism is inherently flawed." Yet he believes, "the collapse of aggregate demand and profits, such as occasionally occurred and often threatened to occur in pre-1933 small government capitalism, is never a clear and present danger in a Big Government capitalism such as has ruled since World War Two." Life is disproving this hope.

What causes these recessions? Minsky writes, "the Wall Streets of the world are important; they generate destabilizing forces. ... This instability is not due to external shocks or to the incompetence or ignorance of policy makers. Instability is due to the internal processes of our type of economy. The dynamics of a capitalist economy which has complex, sophisticated, and evolving financial structures leads to the development of conditions conducive to incoherence - to runaway inflations or deep depressions." Strangely, capitalism can't handle capital: "capitalism is flawed precisely because it cannot readily assimilate productive processes that use large-scale capital assets."

What is to be done? He warns, "Meaningful reforms cannot be put over by an advisory and administrative elite that is itself the architect of the existing situation.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stabilizing an Unstable Economy 20 Jan 2012
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
The late professor Hyman P. Minsky wrote this study of economic volatility in 1986, as an era of frequent economic crises was shaking investors' confidence. His treatise remains relevant today. Minsky doesn't mention dot-com bubbles or subprime mortgages, yet he manages to nail contemporary economic reality. As the economist who lent his name to "the Minsky Moment," that point in time when markets tip from prosperity to crisis, he often repeats his concerns about income inequality, seeming to predict the current debate about ever-increasing concentrations of wealth. But in case you consider labeling Minsky as just a tax-and-spend liberal, consider that he frowns on welfare and long-term unemployment benefits. He's no master stylist as a writer, but Minsky's prose is generally clear enough to reward readers who seek his insight. getAbstract recommends this classic analysis to readers seeking a skeptical perspective on free markets.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rewrite The Rulebooks 18 Mar 2012
By demola
Format:Hardcover
One hundred and forty three reviews for Jo Nesbo's The Redbreast but just three for Minsky. We live in a world where economic forces are our first order of concern but people cannot be bothered to read about it. But they read asinine propaganda in their daily newspapers and on television and come away thinking macroeconomics is just like home economics. And politicians, who perhaps don't understand any better and anyway who have their mouths stuffed with bribery/campaign money, have a field day hoodwinking the electorate.

You need to come to Minsky after having read orthodox macroeconomic texts. The ones that start with Adam Smith ("the invisible hand" and all that malarkey), then move on to the American Depression of the 1930s (so we can understand why economics is important) before leading readers like sheep to the altar towards those ubiquitous demand and supply diagrams. In this world, constructed and presided over by our priests the neoclassical economists, prices are democratic and competition is perfect. Regulators always act quickly to set to rights any market inefficiencies and oligomonopolies are well behaved because they always sell where marginal cost equals marginal price.

What Minsky does is come in through the side door and upend this lie. Because, when we look at the real world (not the parallel universe imagined by neoclassical economists) things don't work as we've been brainwashed to believe. Minsky starts off explaining that profits can only be made when people are paid less than they produce. Those profits must be reinvested on investment or in higher wages. Add in government deficits and the human impulse to profit (leading to over-investment or excessive credit) and you get a virtuous cycle that leads to the boom before the bust.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stabilizing an Unstable Economy 14 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you read "Freefall" (Stiglitz), "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism" (Ha-Joon Chang), "Theory of Economic Development" (Schumpeter) or Krugman, or Keynes, even Hayek or Friedman, you still need to read this work: this book will give you a very good and clear inside in the macro-economic principles behind crises and how to bring the economic back in balance.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books on macro-economics 26 Sep 2010
Format:Hardcover
This is well worth reading as an antidote to most mainstream books on macro-economics. Minsky makes the case that most behaviour within the financial world is de-stabilizing and that bubbles are an inevitable consequence of Ponzi financing.
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