We Have a World-Class Mess . . . Now What?
Amid the carnage of bankruptcies, soaring unemployment, and millions of families losing their homes during the financial crisis of 2007–2009 lay the bloody corpse of a set of ideas that had underpinned the economics of the previous thirty years. A system that had been delivering unprecedented prosperity on a global scale suddenly teetered on the verge of collapse. Capitalism was seemingly exposed as a house of cards. The blame game became a new national pastime as doomsayers predicted the end of America’s leadership of the world economy.
We’re at a crossroads, and decisions about how to reshape a discredited capitalism will profoundly affect whether the coming years will be ones of depression, stagnation, or renewed prosperity.
Instant analysis since the collapse of the financial system in the fall of 2008 has produced no end of ideas about what to do—ranging from those of free market ideologues (let the market do its work and damn the consequences) to extreme government interventionists determined to keep the animal spirits of capitalism penned up.
But if there is anything worse than toxic financial assets it is toxic ideas. We need to reject the old orthodoxies and conventional wisdoms. Matthew Bishop and Michael Green take a step back and analyze what can be learned from financial crises of the past—from the Tulip Craze of the seventeenth century through the Great Depression of the 1930s, Japan’s Great Deflation, and the Long-Term Capital debacle of the 1990s to the unprecedented interventions of the government during the past year—to set the agenda for a reformed twenty-first-century capitalism. The result is an enlightening perspective on what set us on the road to ruin, as well as road signs to guide us back to prosperity.
--Why bubbles are the consequence of financial innovations that generate economic breakthroughs, but why it would be wrong to abandon these inventions of the financial engineers. The Road from Ruin explains how stifling innovation and risk-taking comes at a huge cost to future prosperity.
--Why the economy needed a fiscal stimulus to recover from the crisis. Bishop and Green show how economic dogmatists of the Right, who opposed the stimulus, got it wrong, but warn that those on the Left who want the stimulus to run and run could usher in a new era of high inflation.
--Why company bosses became too focused on short-term results and did not see the crisis coming. The Road from Ruin shows how we can get business leaders to put the interests of society ahead of their own pay-packets.
--The danger of focusing on the financial symptoms of the crisis without tackling the underlying economic causes, such as the world operating on the dollar standard. Bishop and Green show why the role of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency is not just a problem for the rest of the world but for the United States as well.
--Why many of capitalism’s champions—especially the advocates of the efficient market hypothesis—lost touch with reality. The Road from Ruin provides insights into new ideas in economics that recognize how the complexity and irrationality of the human beings who make up the economy can be harnessed to build a better capitalism.
Remarkably, the issues we face today have presented themselves in one form or another over the past three centuries. Matthew Bishop and Michael Green skillfully draw both the lessons learned and prescriptions for reform to prevent another catastrophic meltdown and put America back on top.
About the Author
MATTHEW BISHOP is the U.S. business editor of "The Economist" and a former faculty member of the London Business School.
MICHAEL GREEN is a London-based writer who previously taught economics at Warsaw University and was a senior official in the British government. He is coauthor (with Matthew Bishop) of "Philanthrocapitalism.
" "From the Hardcover edition."
"Well-written, challenging, uplifting--Bishop and Green bring incisive insight and timely analysis to some of our biggest economic and social topics. The Road from Ruin is an intelligent and stimulating contribution to a vitally important conversation."
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall
“As the smoke begins to clear after the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, Matthew Bishop and Michael Green have some persuasive suggestions about where we go from here. As befits an Economist writer, Bishop has not lost his faith in American capitalism. But the authors argue trenchantly that some root-and-branch reform will be needed to prevent it vitality from being sapped by ill-designed regulation and political cronyism.”
Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, author of The Ascent of Money
"Bishop and Green have written an uncommonly lucid, unfailingly gripping analysis of the financial crisis that has placed the nation and much of the world in profound economic jeopardy. A particular value of the book is the rich historical, global, and intellectual context in which the authors situate the crisis. Their diagnosis of the causes of the crisis, which emphasizes psychological factors, will be controversial, as will a number of the measures they propose to prevent similar crises from arising in the future. But they have provided rich food for thought. Let the debate begin."
The Honorable Richard A. Posner, author of A Failure of Capitalism
"In The Road From Ruin, Matthew Bishop and Michael Green show why companies must respond to this crisis with long term vision and a renewed emphasis on values. An essential read for anyone who wants to learn why a corporate focus on sustainability and building a better society is the key to the long-lasting productivity growth and job creation that are needed now more than ever.
John Chambers, Chairman and CEO, Cisco
“Drawing not only on their keen understanding of current economic events, but also on a depth of knowledge of financial history, Matthew Bishop and Michael Green have written a lucid and lively account of the underlying factors that brought the world economy to the brink of collapse.”
Liaquat Ahamed, author of The Lords of Finance
“Everyone--from the CEOs of the world’s biggest companies to the consumers of their products and services--seems to asking whether capitalism as we know it will survive as our economic system. Through a unique blend of historical insights into past crises and pragmatic reforms, Matthew Bishop and Michael Green provide the ideas and action steps for renewing prosperity and preventing another meltdown.”
Ram Charan, coauthor of Execution
“The Road from Ruin is a masterpiece. Matthew Bishop and Michael Green combine truly luminous writing with simple, clear, unprejudiced scholarship and a keen journalistic awareness of how to extract lessons from the financial crisis to begin forming an agenda for a badly-needed reform of capitalism.”
Robert A.G. Monks, shareholder activist, founder of the Corporate Library and the author of Corpocracy.
"The Road from Ruin will be remembered as a serious, highly readable book, of the broadest intellectual scope. Its insights will help all of us reshape the future and enable both citizen and policy maker alike to separate real reform from the grandstanding bluster so prevalent today.”
Robert J. Shiller, Arthur M.Okun Professor of Economics, Yale University, author of Irrational Exuberance and coauthor of Animal Spirits
“The title suggests a map for a new, improved capitalism to follow - and that’s exactly what Matthew Bishop and Michael Green provide. A steely analysis of the structural and human frailty that led to the implosion of 2008 becomes their foundation for specific future reform. Alternative remedies are scrupulously examined; some discarded; others seized upon and improved. In its clarity of both thought and expression, this is a book that leaves you feeling cautiously better about the potential of capitalism and so cautiously better about its prospects.
Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP