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When the Money Runs Out: The End of Western Affluence [Hardcover]

Stephen D. King
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 May 2013
The Western world has experienced extraordinary economic progress throughout the last six decades, a prosperous period so extended that continuous economic growth has come to seem normal. But such an era of continuously rising living standards is an historical anomaly, economist Stephen D. King warns, and the current stagnation of Western economies threatens to reach crisis proportions in the not-so-distant future. Praised for the 'dose of realism' he provided in his book 'Losing Control', King follows up in this volume with a plain-spoken assessment of where the West stands today. It's not just the end of an age of affluence, he shows. We have made promises to ourselves that are only achievable through ongoing economic expansion. The future benefits we expect - pensions, healthcare, and social security, for example - may be larger than tomorrow's resources. And if we reach that point, which promises will be broken and who will lose out? The lessons of history offer compelling evidence that political and social upheaval are often born of economic stagnation. King addresses these lessons with a multifaceted plan that involves painful - but necessary - steps toward a stable and just economic future.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (18 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300190522
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300190526
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.6 x 3.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 141,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'King writes with an authoritative and erudite voice, making him an excellent guide through the convolutions of the financial crisis.' --Iain Morris, The Observer, 26th May 2013

'His clear-eyed assessment of the problems ahead makes the book essential reading.' --The Economist, 9th May 2013

'King's clear sighted and highly readable book is a timely reminder of just how challenging Britain's problems still are...the economic equivalent of post-apocalyptic fiction'. --Philip Aldrick, The Sunday Telegraph, 19th May 2013

'Instead of believing that everything is once again on an upward trajectory - however slow - after the banking collapse, King argues that stagnation could well become the norm...King doesn't exactly prescribe a cure, other than that our expectations need lowering, but in assessing the problem he is admirably thorough.' --James Ashton, Evening Standard, 30th May 2013

'King is a tough-minded economist and his approach is analytical and brilliantly educational, though you might wish you hadn't learnt some of the stuff in these pages...There are too many entertaining but depressing examples to list here. Instead, I will focus on the book's greatest strength, which is its clear sense of the role of belief or, if you prefer, psychology in the working of the economy.' --Bryan Appleyard, New Statesman, 31st May 2013

'[King] wants to chill you with a tale of how western economies have lost their way...a polished performer, the tone is breezy and King ranges widely...[he] makes a great case for further decline in the West.' --Dominic O'Connell, Sunday Times, 2nd June 2013

'...beautifully written.' --Hamish McRae, The Independent, 4th June 2013

'...lively and provocative'. --Ferdinando Giugliano, Financial Times, 10th June 2013

'...admirably thorough'. --James Ashton, Scotland on Sunday, 9th June 2013

'It is it alarmingly difficult to disagree with Stephen King. All one can say, perhaps, is that one of the great errors of human nature - strongly displayed before the credit crunch - is the belief that a prevailing trend will continue indefinitely. The crunch is surely a reminder that what goes up must come down'. --Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph, 24th June 2013.

'...admirably thorough'. --James Ashton, Scotland on Sunday, 9th June 2013

'King argues...that the future is not what it used to be. We have made promises to ourselves we cannot afford to keep. [This] argument is important...' --Martin Wolf, Financial Times, 27th June 2013

'[A] hard-hitting, history-rich book.' --David Wilson, South China Morning Post, 30th June 2013

About the Author

Stephen D. King is Group Chief Economist and Global Head of Economics and Asset Allocation research at HSBC. He is a member of the UK government's Asia Task Force and writes regularly for the Financial Times and The Times. He lives in London.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By l b
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Definitely a book worth reading for a succinct analysis of the malaise experienced by the west, and for the ability to put it in the wider historical context. Simple, straightforward and jargon free it is the ideal introduction to reading about the challenges which we'll have to overcome if we want to continue prospering
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By na
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book presents the most convincing argument I've read so far on the trajectory of Western economies. In my opinion, this book is aimed at people with a greater than average understanding of finance/economics and so provides a new way of looking at the economic theories that we were brought up on at university. Other books can be repetitive or spend too long presenting the basics, unlike this book which gets to the point succinctly.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's okay 2 Oct 2013
By jukka
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I did expect from S King a slightly more in depth and nuanced approach, especially since his style as a professional economist is very interesting and insightful. Therefore I was slghtly disappointed with shallowness of this book for someone following the current events from economic and political point of view.

This book is probably written for a wider audience, hence the level of detail is kept fairly superficial on purpose. Mr King could have writen a more elaborate story. Therefore professional investors and market watchers probably find this book slghtly flat reading, hence ***'s.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Biro
Format:Kindle Edition
A well written and researched book that clearly explains the enormous hole the West has dug for itself.

If this topic concerns you then you will also love Mark Steyn's 'After America: Get ready for Armageddon', which it lighter on facts, but the humor and wit is unmatched. Both are great reads and highly necessary during this current crises of Western identity.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising much but delivering less 12 Jun 2013
By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Frustrated by politicians' refusal to admit that western economies may be in permanent decline, and their wrangling over austerity versus stimulus as the key to restoring growth which may be a chimera, I leapt eagerly on King's topical book.

I like King's rejection of economists' recent preoccupation with obscure models, and his concern to take historical, political and social factors into account, although I think some of his analyses would make academics in these disciplines wince.

The most original aspects seem to be his comparisons between the current situation and previous events, such as the decline after a period of promising growth of both Argentina and Japan, the bubble of "subprime" investment in the original American railroads, or the crises of the 1990s from which "Tiger economies" like South Korea or Malaysia, recovered quickly owing to their lack of a sense of entitlement, or so the author claims.

His examination of the recent financial crisis is clear, but has already been well-covered elsewhere. Yet his approach to economic terms seems inconsistent: the "loss aversion" which occurs in periods of stagnation is defined at some length, but I am not aware that he explains at any point how bond yields work, or the difference between monetary and fiscal policies, all crucial to an understanding of the economy. A glossary of economic terms would have been useful.

There is a good deal of space-taking repetition and some of his observations seem unduly subjective and perhaps a little confused, such as frequent references to the guilty role of "baby boomers" who are "having their cake and eating it". Does he expect this group to opt for early euthanasia so they can hand their ill-gotten share of resources on to the next generation?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The money is running out 28 Jun 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very deep but mentally stimulating. We in Britain need to take note of what may happen in the future if our politicians do not get it right. I recommend this book to those who need to know what is happening and why the measures taken so far by the government have not been successful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good summary of where we are 10 Jun 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A nice summary of where we are today. Some good suggestions going forward. I only hope policy makers are reading this and can find a way to present it to the voters in a way that it has a chance of being implemented. Otherwise the inevitable 'selling off of the family silver' will make life increasingly hard for the younger generation. Plenty of mention of the baby boomers, called 'the selfish generation'.
Only three stars as in my opinion it doesn't go into enough depth on fixing the situation.
Here's an idea for a follow up: "Preventing democracies running up overdrafts".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 6 July 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Good analysis , good service
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear & convincing
Well written and engaging. Very accessible and plausible on the interactions of economics, politics and the social contract. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Rob Martin
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Another great book by Stephen King. I just hope some of his predictions turn out to be too pessimistic. If not ' we are doomed' !!!!
Published 2 months ago by james
3.0 out of 5 stars A truly terrifying read – but not for the reasons Stephen King (not...
This is a we-are-all-doomed narrative of the ongoing economic crisis. In King's view both Osborne and Balls are wrong when they claim that financial tinkering (of different kinds)... Read more
Published 4 months ago by C. Wake
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't answer the question
You're probably considering buying this book with this question in mind "What happens when the money runs out?" You'll be disappointed. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Oldsmoker
4.0 out of 5 stars Adjusting expectations
Maybe never ending increases in economic prosperity are a good thing...
But it leads to democratic governments seducing voters with their eventually unaffordable... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Richard Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious read
Interesting take on the financial future of the country.
Need to read in chunks to take in and process th infomation
Published 7 months ago by linda wetton
4.0 out of 5 stars The end of western affluence
Stephen King does a fine job in describing the mess the western world finds itself in. As an economist he does spend a lot of time recounting history - that's what they often do -... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Thomas Koetzsch
4.0 out of 5 stars Important topic, worth buying, but significant weaknesses
Any book trying to examine a low-growth economic future is worth checking out, especially when written by someone with proper understanding and a balanced view rather than an... Read more
Published 10 months ago by JC
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent analysis...
Stephen D. King has written a book whose central message is based around the idea that Western economies have got two major problems that essentially have to do with structural... Read more
Published 10 months ago by os
4.0 out of 5 stars Balanced approach
Well written by an accomplished economist, with real life experience of the 2008 financial crisis. Its an easy read with relevant examples.
Published 11 months ago by Ravinder Nagra
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