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This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly
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on April 22, 2015
It's depressing. I always considered our leaders to be flawed, and often stupid. Unpleasant to be right, darn it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2013
Upon receiving the book it was really one so very very different to all the other histories of economic crisis that have been printed that my dismay and shock turned to pleasant surprise. Conditioned to the usual academic rigor of verbose and irrelevant commentary based on borrowed personal commentary from key individuals living during the crisis being reviewed, this book allowed for an easy read supported by solid economic time series presented in a graphical format.

The style is frankly one that takes all the modern tools in the computer age and consolidates the economic information into a useful concordance for the economic historian. The bibliography and references made available are outstanding. The use of graphics and description of relevant time lines for critical events raises the bar for future authors. What is contained between the cover pages is a nicely summarized database that is a useful desk reference for the trader or economic historian.

Most appreciated however is the lack of verbose commentary and personal reflections of personalities who were living through the crises events analyzed. The tone used to describe the events is not the usual PhD scribed analysis or over described rhetoric using obscure economic terms common to other volumes on economic panics. The length of the book also allows for more nights of leisure than the traditional economic history that needs several months or years to get through.

As others have said economic history is not the same read as say Shades of Gray or the latest Stephen King novel of popularized fiction. But this book is by far more readable and allows the reader the opportunity to make their own conclusions of the events and analytical areas under review based on the consolidated economic information presented. For students of economic history it provides a useful reference with comprehensive economic data not easily obtained anywhere else within one volume.

In short a good read and despite recent revelations of errors in the authors other writings, the conclusions and commentary provided in this book are solid and based on well researched economic data that allows the reader to independently arrive at their own conclusions about the theories being proposed by the authors.

A must have for the library of the economic historian.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This book is different; already an important and oft-cited contribution to our understanding of financial crises, it will likely endure as both a turning point and a benchmark for economists and policymakers alike. Reinhart and Rogoff compile and synthesize centuries of economic data, draw both facts and inferences, and offer some predictions as to how the global financial crisis that began in 2006 with the US housing collapse might continue to unfold. A truly remarkable and important work. It requires some effort to read, but at the authors’ suggestion readers can skim or skip some of the more technical parts with no loss of continuity. In fact, those with an interest in only the recent financial crisis can read just the final chapters (13-17) and be well rewarded for their time.

Because it is primary research and because of its analytical rigour, this is first and foremost an academic text. Unlike most academic works, though, it is bereft of formulas and statistical analyses, instead relying on readers’ familiarity with a bit of (economic) history and geography. This is the first work to compile such an extensive set of economic data (sixty six countries over almost eight centuries), and differs substantially from earlier academics’ work such as Charles Kindleberger’s Manias, Panics and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises, Sixth Edition, which had previously stood as the best chronicle (i.e. not ‘analysis’) of financial folly. In Reinhart and Rogoff’s book, successive sets of historical data are explained and inferences or lessons drawn. As the lessons progress, we see that indeed it never is different; financial folly has endured for centuries and the card houses have fallen each time.

The authors identify four types of crises: sovereign defaults (domestic and international), banking crises, exchange rate crises, and very high inflation (above 20% annually). Each is explained in detail in different sections or chapters, with additional chapters focussing specifically on the recent sub-prime mortgage meltdown and some prescriptions for today’s policy makers.

With respect to recent policies, Reinhart and Rogoff note that financial sector deregulation results in increased risk taking, and state that “financial innovation is a variant of the liberalization process.” Banks’ self-congratulatory statements about the societal benefit of decades of new financial products suddenly appear in a different light; not just risk management tools (and profitable products for banks), but rather contributors to increased systemic risk. Turning their attention to the inevitable systemic collapse and resultant ballooning government debt levels, the authors note “on average government debt rises by 86% during the three years following a banking crisis.” While the debt levels may be alarming, it appears they are the inevitable short run consequence of a debt bubble.

So it’s not different this time after all: financial bubble, ballooning government debt, and then ... inflation? For those who worry about a recurrence of inflation, the authors illustrate the remarkable similarity over the centuries (even millennia) of currency debasement (the dilution of precious metal content or size of coins) and the modern era’s periodic high inflation. In their words “inflation and default are nothing new; only the tools have changed.” The chart accompanying this section showing 500 years of annual inflation rates is truly astounding, and shows one consistent pattern to the early 1900s, and a quite different one from then on. What changed a century ago to cause this shift; the advent in the US and elsewhere of central banking, the rapid development of our modern fractional reserve banking system, or perhaps the increase leverage?

A remarkable and thought provoking book providing a sweeping historical overview, thoughtful analysis, and relevant commentary on our current economic and financial situation.
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on March 6, 2013
Based on the empirical evidence, I have retained two lessons from this masterpiece:

1. Sovereign default is absolutely possible, indeed probable. Greece and Iceland type failures happen regularly, at least every 50 to 100 years. A US default is extremely unlikely but not impossible.

2. The recovery from a 2008 style financial crisis does not evolve quickly. The healing process takes time, many years. If you think that the DJIA making a new high in 2013 means that all is well, then you are assuming that "This Time is Different". Disregard the talking heads and assume that we need a decade for the private households/businesses to deleverage. The government fiscal and monetary correction will take even longer.
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on February 6, 2013
The over technicality of the book was overly numbing. This made it a very extremely dull book. I recommend purchasing other business book regarding financial crises.
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on January 21, 2012
but depressing at the same time, how politicians and decision makers don't really understand money. great book for us common folks to manage our financial affairs differently so we don't work for the man our whole lives.
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on January 20, 2012
Once you have read this book you no longer have to purchase the many other financial titles out there. 90 % are quoted from in here. This is the most complete read.
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on December 28, 2011
I checked the book out from the library and started reading it. I am pretty quick when I read but I have no formal economics background. I found myself wanting to understand what I was reading completely so I was going fairly slowly. I only made it through a couple of chapters before the book had to go back and I could not renew it. So I bought a copy to consume at my leisure. It seems that it should be required reading for all capitalists. As something of a capitalist but definitely of the 99%, this nicely sums up what is broken with the capitalist way of doing things. If we fix this then capitalism is no longer the best of a bad lot. It becomes pretty good.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2011
Quick summary - this is NOT a light-reading book. This is doctorate-level, textbook-caliber information that requires a certain amount of passion for the subject, otherwise it is easy to lose focus.

This book clearly had many hours of sweat-labor put into it. The sheer amount of data collected, analyzed and conclusions derived from it is astounding. I commend the authors for committing to such a huge project, and am fully impressed with the results. I don't think I found one spelling, grammar, or other layout error in this book. The overall layout and flow of information was logically presented.

The first 50-60 pages were difficult to read - lots of assumptions and explanations as to how the data was collected, analyzed and presented. Structurally, this is understandable and accepted, but for those that want to "get to the meat" of this book, you can probably just skim this section.

From there on, it was simply brilliant. I will not spoil it for you, but I can assure you that my eyes were opened by the time I finished reading it. I look at the banking and finance industries in a very different view now. A difficult, but almost necessary read for those interested in banking/financial crises of our past.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Riennart and Rogoff list all sorts of financial data. They attempt to identify various financial upheavals, that have occurred throughout the ages. There is information on; banking crises, inflation , deflation , currency crashes, asset prices, and countries defaulting on their debts.
Riennart and Rogoff then list a number of reoccurring themes, that are common to most banking and debt collapse episodes.
After the reader has digested all the historical data. There is quite an anticipation on the analysis on the current Subprime Crisis. I would have liked a detailed breakdown of the US debt levels. There are all sorts of implied government debts such as Social Security, that are not officially listed as a liability. There are also high levels of personal debt such as; credit card debts, student loans, mortgages, and pay day loans, that should have been examined in detail. It would seem the US economy is in a far deeper debt situation, then anything we have seen before. Instead, Reinnart and Rogoff simply refer to US government accounting practices as "opaque".

Reinnart and Rogoff also concluded that a new independent international regulator, would help prevent future banking problems. Personally I laughed at that conclusion, but I am sure some people would agree with the idea.
This book is worth reading. However, the discussion on the current Suprime Crisis should have been more comprehensive.
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