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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 February 2012
This, I suspect, is one of those books, like Stephen Hawking's A Brief History Of Time, which far fewer people read than own. It is not a book of popular economics, and it does not have a straightforward story line. It is, however, a book of extraordinary significance to our times, and of more immediate importance, I'd venture, than Professor Hawking's opus. This is a book that looks backwards, sideways and forwards all at the same time, examining financial crises of the past, drawing comparisons with the current crisis, and outlining some ways those of the future may be spotted on the horizon and at least alleviated. It warns particularly of the all-too-frequent tendency of developing countries to assume that times of plenty will never end and therefore to spend profligately, a tendency also seen in certain developed countries. Find the steepest point in the uptrend and extrapolate to infinity. We're rich forever!

In creating this relatively short but gigantically impressive and influential (while some possibly have not read it, many nevertheless have) work the authors have dug deep into what archives they have been able to delve. At times the charts are so numerous the text has a job keeping up. The tables, too, are frequent, informative and, often, frightening. But they underline the herculean task involved in prising the data out of some hands, and make a case for a centralised clearing house for making such data transparent, rather than the current opacity and obfuscation.

The central point, of course, is that the fundamental tenets of economics do not change. You can't spend what you'll never have and get away with it. There's a price to pay, always, as the world economy, and especially the increasingly pauperised south Europeans are now finding. This time, and any other time you care to mention, really is not different. The dotcom boom was replete with spotty youths accusing the oldsters that they didn't "get it", all too often hounding them out of the boardroom so they could observe at a distance as their dire predictions came true. Ditto with the armies of derivatives sellers explaining how their CDOs, CDSs and their like would completely diversify risk away. Instead, they were the root of the problem as the subprime deck of cards came tumbling down, leading to the discovery that much of the risk had been diversified away to the same place.

Perhaps of most pressing interest is the coverage received by Greece, including the disclosure that since independence in 1820 the country has spent over half the time in default, and looks like continuing that illustrious achievement for a few more years still. But the authors use the example of Argentina in 2001-2 to demonstrate the perils awaiting should Greece leave the eurozone, a sentiment echoed by, amongst others, former central-bank governors of Argentina and Mexico (The Economist, February 18th 2012), who remind us of the chaos following the abandonment of Argentina's peg to the dollar and point out that, given the deep integration of Greece with the rest of Europe, the result of the country abandoning the euro would be many times worse.

We have, say Reinhart and Rogoff, learnt a lot about the way the world economy works since the Great Depression. But we have much left to learn, and besides, the world is constantly in a state of change and the learning process never ends. Their book is a valuable part of that learning process.
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on 20 September 2013
This book investigates datasets connecting financial measures such as debt or real estate price changes to financial turmoil. Its a huge work, and I guess academics could not previously have conducted this without the computational tools which are now available. In the same way we now have software to decode DNA, we can apply similar computational tricks to financial data.

The book analyses domestic debt; data that has apparently been unavailable previously, as governments are not that willing to reveal how much they have borrowed historically. Indeed, the authors make it clear that there is obfuscation going on here, as with modern technology, this data should be readily available. Nevertheless, they have tacked bits of domestic internal debt data together in order to aid the analysis.

Future generations will look back at our present financial easing and wonder what the hell we were thinking, trying to dig ourselves out of a financial crisis (bought on by real estate lending), by trying to further stimulate the real estate market. All the more so given analysis which is now readily available, such as in this book.

One extension which I would like to see would be to include implicit debt, such as historic promises of state benefits, in order to draw further conclusions about our current financial situation. In the UK, we have the NHS and public sector pensions to finance. In the US, there is the medicare bill. It would be interesting to have seen the impact of these implicit debts being quantified in This Time is Different.
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on 13 May 2016
Despite the conclusions being discredited by a US student who found an error in the data analysis this book still provides an invaluable insight into the workings of the global economic cycle. This time is no different is the point, being evidenced by the sovereign defaults starting in the emerging economies following the Global Financial Crisis. It is well written and easy enough to read for non-financial readers with the stats and data included in the appendix, allowing the story to be told without getting bogged down in technical detail. Highly recommended read for those seeking more in depth knowledge after watching The Big Short.
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on 6 April 2010
The authors have written a monster of a refence book which spans 800 years of financial history. It's somewhat galling to see Brown/Darling on TV declaring "this time is different", and "we're in uncharted waters, we've not been here before", only to read just how many times we HAVE been here before. Wasn't it Einstein who said that the definition of stupidity is making the same mistake again and again?

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It's not a light bedtime read but is accessible and more than readable, and more's the point, you can dip in to whatever chapter is relevant for your enquiry. There are swathes of tables and reference charts, and the later chapters deal with the current crisis - which we learn is not new (though the debt mountain is the greatest on record).

I would suggest it helps to have a modicum of understanding of world finance, this is not a book for beginners (for that go to "Conspiracy of the Rich" by Robert Kiyosaki - possibly the best there is to really get inside what's going on in the world of finance and highly readable), but for those already engaged in this area, "This Time is Different" is essential.
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on 5 May 2014
Huge volume with links to a huge volume of reference material. As M Pedersen suggests it's dry as a panda's breast milk too. This book looks at 5 aspects of financial crisis, external and internal debt, inflation, banking crisis and currency collapse, and reveals some interesting insights into as to why they matter, and to what extent they matter. If you can't get an idea or two out of this volume, then you probably couldn't crack a snail's shell with your heel.
The information on banking crises being the worst of all possible crises, and that ratings agencies are poor predictors of these events was very enlightening.
So why does't it merit the full 5 stars?

The authors analyse recessions, and mention for example it means a loss of tax revenue. They completely omit that increase in government spending is usually a couple of multiples higher than loss of tax revenue. The authors also after-time in their definitions. This is to be expected, as you define the indicators of a problem after the sequence of events resulting from the problem has been revealed. But it's still after-timing nonetheless.

This matters in a sense as many economists are now saying that across the spectrum of modern advanced economies an experiment is being conducted to see if 'austerity' is the solution or part of the problem. Naturally these same economists will give it another 15 years or so before defining their terms as to what austerity on the part of a government actually means, and then fit the definition to predict the outcome. This is not the scientific method, that is for sure.

As the authors went to great trouble to define their 5 crisis events, I think they missed an opportunity for a genuinely superb opus which is of future relevance by failing to define 'austerity' and omitting crises of excessive government spending. They did labour the 'This time is different' point excessively too.

They've written something of historical relevance, that has to be admitted, and many ideas are suggested.
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on 6 April 2016
A most thoroughly researched analysis of the quantitative historical underpinnings of global financial crisis of the past 200 years, spanning 60 or so countries. Although the Neoclassical / New Keynesian macroeconomics schools consider credit largely a zero-sum game (the patient & impatient agent hypothesis of credit), this book demonstrates that the flow (rather than the stock) of private and public debt, together with current account imbalances often proceeds financial crisis.
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on 4 January 2013
A meticulously researched and referenced work this was right up my street. Wonderful graphs and tables, loads of new ground breaking data and analyses this is a truly wonderful book. But more than that it is an important book, what it has to say about the way governements and economists consistantly distort or ignore the lessons of history is really eye opening. Definitely one of my five best books I have read this year (2012). If they would let me I would give it ten stars.
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on 13 January 2014
I saw this book referred to in so many articles that I knew I had to read it sooner or later. I am glad I did. It has increased my understanding of economics, and also had the unwanted side effect of being quite a worry! It's heavy going in places, but interesting enough to make it worthwhile. You don't need to be a boffin to understand it, just average intelligence and desire.
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on 14 May 2017
good and valuable.Fast delivery and good quality
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on 29 December 2014
Plenty of useful lessons and data from past crises
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