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Paper Promises: Money, Debt and the New World Order Paperback – 6 Sep 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0718192141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0718192143
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 57,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Bold and confident ... Coggan covers the terrain with characteristic calmness and objectivity, avoids over-simplification, and laces his arguments with his trademark erudition ... The alphabet soup of acronyms, from SIVs to CDO Squareds, is blissfully lacking ... Finally, the book is free from the shrieking ideology that afflicts virtually all contemporary debates over money. Indeed, it offers a clear explanation of the fresh ideological divisions that have arisen over how to deal with the crisis ... the book should be taken very seriously (Financial Times)

This book stands way above anything written on the present economic crisis (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of 'The Black Swan')

The most illuminating account of the financial crisis to appear to date ... [written] with a lucidity that enables him to convey deep insights without a trace of jargon ... [a] thought-stirring book (John Gray New Statesman)

A remarkable book from one of the most respected economics journalists on the planet. Every page brings a fresh insight or a new surprise. A delight (Tim Harford, author of 'The Undercover Economist')

Fascinating and authoritative, with the rigour and depth to satisfy an economist and the accessibility and pace to engage the layperson ... If everyone read Coggan's book we might just be a little more circumspect if and when the next burst of irrational exuberance overtakes the economy (Management Today)

A masterful history of financial crises (Independent)

By far the best analysis of the "new normal" (David Stevenson Financial Times)

An excellent book ... a smart and witty analysis of the current economic storm, set in the context of the history of money (David Wighton The Times)

Coggan is ... an exceptional banking and economic historian (Irish Examiner)

Coggan traces 'history's tug of war between monetary shortage and excess' in this engaging and timely book about the current financial crisis.... Thoughtful and thorough (Publishers Weekly)

Intriguing (Irish Independent)

Coggan ... deserves his Best Communicator award: he moves the story along at a fast and flowing pace, combined with the ability to find the short phrase that summarizes in simple language the kernel of many complex economic ideas ... demonstrates a comprehensive awareness of the major academic debates in economics and economic history ... deserves to be one of the three books you read from the vast literature spawned by the recent crisis (John Gent LSE blog)

A very good and sensible introduction to the history of the recent economic crisis, with an emphasis on debt and also historical perspective (Tyler Cowen Blog)

About the Author

Philip Coggan is the Buttonwood columnist of the "Economist." Previously, he worked for the "Financial Times" for twenty years, most recently as investment editor. Among his books are "The Money Machine," a guide to the city of London that is still in print in the UK after twenty-five years, and "The Economist Guide to Hedge Funds."


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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book highlights, in very simple and understandable language, and with great elegance, the complexity of the world we live in. Everybody wants the best of both worlds. Governments want to please the voters through promises, and borrowing money, which they have to return back. Governments are inefficient than the markets, yet, the markets may not exist without them. We all want a comfortable life - working less and consuming more. However, life is hard. And if we try to do everything for ourself, we might end up growing potatoes in the garden, to cook it using wood chopped from the nearby forest. Trading, amongst ourselves or with other nationalities benefits us, but we always want our nations to prosper more than others. There is always a friction. Like Buddha said, we need to find a balance.

Debt is the subject of this book. Debt is a "promise to pay back", sounds simple. But modern debts are promise to pay back in promises to pay back (as fiat money is also a form of debt). This makes the economic system very complex. Money these days can be created by central banks with a click of a mouse. Creating money may cause inflation, but it may be vital to help the economy function property or to help avoid mass bankruptcies in our society. Money is the store of value as well as the medium of exchange, we need to find a balance between the two functions. The futures of debtors and creditors of the world are tied together. And debt is not only the fault of the borrowers, but also a fault of the lenders. All this has implications of the global economy. This book addresses these issues flawlessly.

To sum up, a wonderfully researched book. Acknowledges ides from all political and economic spectrum. One of the most enjoyable reads (went through the book in 18 hours, and could not put it down). I recommend it to everyone interested in issues facing the global economy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author sets the current financial crisis in context. If you are a regular reader of the financial press you may not learn too much about the latest crisis itself. However, in my own case I had huge gaps in my understanding of everything that happened before my own time - for example the gold standard, Bretton Woods, and earlier monetary systems.

Philip Coggan starts at the very basics, with an explanation of what money is, and of various monetary systems that have been tried out in the past, from whales' teeth to gold to paper money, and also the pros and cons of each. By placing the current crisis in context, our overall understanding of what is happening in 2011 becomes clearer. He also answers many questions I had wondered about for years but had been too afraid to ask.

The author writes with an outstanding simplicity and clarity. If you are not familiar with the ins and outs of the current crisis, this would be a great place to start. And if you are familiar, you will benefit from reviewing the crisis in its context.

Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Not many people understand how the world got into such a financial mess. Philip Coggan is the best possible guide. He explains the world of finance with a clarity that is really quite surprising, given the complexity of the subject matter. And he tells stories that grip the reader from the start. Who knew that modern governments, with their overactive printing presses, had outdone the Roman emperors who debauched their gold coins by mixing them with cheaper metals? I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Philip Coggan has compiled a 400 page book with enough knowledge and analysis to make it feel like an 800 page book, without seeming at all like a long and demanding read.
Having read previous books in the financial and monetary sector, Paper Promises compares favorably in the sense that it is truly the best of all worlds.
The first part of the book is a financial and monetary history in every sense worthy of Niall Ferguson's Ascent of Money, coupled with a monetary analysis every bit as astute as the works of Barry Eichengreen, but much more readable.
Despite the length of the book, Coggan leaves no stone unturned. The collapse of the Gold Standard, Bretton Woods, and the 2008 and subsequent sovereign debt crisis are all covered appropriately within this volume.
Rather than just been a simple chronological sweep of finance, phenomena such as bubbles, inflation, and monetary practices such as quantitative easing are all explained.
One is hardly left wanting for more, as most questions one is left asking after the events of recent years receive explanation.
As a book that, among many other things, focuses on the value of money, Paper Promises in itself is superb value for money, and an important asset for the investment portfolio of any economics enthusiast.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book about debt, and why "money is debt" - one of those striking phrases that starts simple and gets murkier, so that even after reading Philip Coggan's intelligent analysis of the credit crisis, I'm left wondering just how much I've really understood. That's probably a good thing, given the combination of complexity, reflexivity and intangibility that is peculiar to economics, and given Coggan's own admission: "If there is a fundamental theme of this book, it is that there are no easy answers in economics."

Despite its familiarity, money remains "a nebulous concept". Fortunately, Coggan is not a nebulous author, and in this clearly written guide he coordinates detail and theory in terms that this non-economist could (just about) follow. It's worth persevering through the intellectual vertigo and the numerical indigestion provoked by trade figures and debt ratios, especially given how crucial these issues are to all our lives. However, just as there there are no easy answers, there is no happy ending. Promises will be broken, and the result will be economic turmoil, as both debtors and creditors suffer. "The global economy is changing; for many in the West, it will not be for the better." Many of us might welcome a new order, but we should be aware that, "like so many of the goods sold in Western supermarkets, it will be made in China".

Coggan balances abstruse talk of the Triffin dilemma and the trilemma of currency policy (how do we juggle fixed exchange rates, free capital movements and interest rates?) with the kind of historical detail that we can all grasp (John Law hiring tramps to boost confidence in his emerging markets fund).
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