With inflation rising, fears of another economic downturn are building. A look both backward and forward.

book covers

book cover

First responders: inside the U.S. strategy for fighting the 2007–2009 global financial crisis, ed. by Ben S. Bernanke, Timothy F. Geithner, and Henry M. Paulson Jr. with Nellie Liang. Yale, 2020. ISBN 9780300244441, $37.50; ISBN 9780300252743 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE July 2020

A policy wonk’s paradise, this volume could not be more timely. The 18 essays were all written by federal government policy makers active during the 2007–08 financial crisis and the Great Recession. Each essay focuses on a specific type of policy/situation—e.g., rescuing mortgage giants, crisis-era housing programs—and captures the challenges, proposed solutions, and broader lessons to be learned. This reviewer found “Recapitalizing the Banking System” and “The Rescue and Restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler” particularly fascinating for their illuminating insider insights. The introductory essay was written by editors Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, and Henry Paulson, the primary decision makers during the period. Their essay is a synopsis of their Firefighting: The Financial Crisis and Its Lessons (2019). The present volume fleshes out the details of that earlier work in a most insightful manner. The final essay, “Evidence on the Outcomes from the Financial Crisis Response,” evaluates the outcomes of the varied policies in terms of both macroeconomic impact and financial market stability and opines that without the extensive intervention, the Great Recession could well have become another Great Depression. Those seeking insights into crisis policy should read this book. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. —J. Prager, New York University

book cover

Gendering the recession: media and culture in an age of austerity, [ed.] by Diane Negra and Yvonne Tasker. Duke, 2014. 307p bibl index afp ISBN 9780822356875, $94.95; ISBN 9780822356967 pbk, $25.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE September 2014

The economic recession of 2007-08 has been the cause of significant changes in the labor market, especially for women. Negra (film studies, University College Dublin, Ireland) and Tasker (Univ. of East Anglia, UK) target an interesting area related to gender and recession–specifically, how the media portrayal of women has been influenced by the recession. This edited volume, in which contributors reveal gendered narratives that recur across media forms too often considered in isolation from one another, makes important interdisciplinary contributions to the fields of sociology, media studies, and gender studies. While the study of women and media is common enough, this book is especially timely, as it sheds light on the postboom cultural moment by raising questions about how the treatment of women in media has been shaped by their changing roles in the labor market, whether new stereotypes of women are emerging, and whether any positive changes for women are occurring in the work culture. As such, the book, with its feminist analyses of a recession-era media culture, will be particularly useful to students and faculty interested in the sociology of media, gender studies, women’s studies, and communication. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above. —S. Chaudhuri, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire

book cover

Granville, Brigitte. Remembering inflation. Princeton, 2013. 272p ISBN 0691145407, $35.00; ISBN 9780691145402, $35.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE January 2014

In an era of 24/7 news cycles and constant high-volume repetition of terms such as “fiscal cliff,” “sequestration,” “tapering,” and “debt ceiling,” it is refreshing to find a more reflective, longer-range treatment of these and related topics. Economist Granville (Queen Mary Univ. of London, UK) provides that with Remembering Inflation. She offers not only recent contrasts, such as a period of high-inflation anxiety (1960s-80s) or moderation (mid 1980s to the pre-crisis years), but also economic thought and economic history experiences that go back a couple of centuries. In addition, Granville provides theoretical underpinnings, empirical results, and policy warnings. The book’s seven chapters and short conclusion cover fiscal and monetary policy (and their coordination); financial markets and financial stability; the relationship among inflation, unemployment, and economic growth; and inflation in an open-economy framework. Granville’s introduction and explanations of the roles of specific theoretical concepts such as “credibility,” “commitment,” and “expectations” in policy actions will be heartwarming and valuable for scholars and policy makers. Thirty pages of references and a detailed 26-page index complement this highly informative, well-written volume. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate through professional readership. —A. R. Sanderson, University of Chicago

book cover

Rose, Mark H. Market rules: bankers, presidents, and the origins of the Great Recession. Pennsylvania, 2018 (c2019). 258p index ISBN 9780812251029, $39.95; ISBN 9780812295665 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE August 2019

The Great Depression sparked decades of analysis on why it happened; the Great Recession of 2007–09 seems likely to follow suit. Much of what has been published to date is case studies, but only a few scholars have developed a theme (beyond greed and criminality). Rose (history, Florida Atlantic Univ.) is among those few, and he has produced a great book. He examines six decades of political regulation of the financial services industry, showing how various changes, starting in 1960, eventually led to the Great Recession. He divides the seven chapters into three parts: the early chapters provide an overview of regulation from the 1960s to the 1990s, and the remaining chapters look at financial executives of major firms and at Obama’s efforts to end the recession. Rose argues that US presidents want the US to have a prosperous economy, and they have relied on banks to provide that prosperity, and so have been influenced by what banks say they need to grow. The various backstories—for example of rivals protecting their own interests—make the book particularly compelling. Written with nonspecialists in mind, this is among the best books available on the Great Recession. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers. —J. J. Janney, University of Dayton

book cover

Roth, Benjamin. The Great Depression: a diary, ed. by James Ledbetter and Daniel B. Roth. PublicAffairs, 2009. 254p ISBN 9781586487997, $24.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE August 2010

Nearly two years after the stock market crash of 1929, Youngstown, Ohio, attorney Benjamin Roth realized that economic prosperity would not return quickly, and so he began a diary to record his thoughts on the events of the Great Depression until recovery returned. From his middle-class perspective in a once booming steel community, he struggled to understand the crisis. His terse entries provide a clear perspective on the pervasive business collapse, the banking crisis, fluctuations in stock market prices, hopeful optimism of prosperity, and the Roosevelt administration’s struggling efforts to resolve the problems. Even though he supported Hoover and laissez-faire doctrine, ironically, Roth gave a series of speeches championing the National Recovery Administration. He frequently commented on inflation fears and the economic impact on his law firm and “professionals,” and he grew cynical of big government. The diary offers some examples of individuals who lost everything, and Roth provides advice about informed investing, the viability of bonds, and his desire to purchase stocks, but he, like others, had no money. The editors provide appropriate historical context when necessary, allowing Roth’s words to prevail. Students of the Great Depression will find this work an excellent source. A very good book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. —R. M. Hyser, James Madison University

book cover

Sarra, Janis Pearl. Predatory lending and the destruction of the African-American dream, by Janis Sarra and Cheryl L. Wade. Cambridge, 2020. 309p bibl index ISBN 9781108496063, $89.99; ISBN 9781108811583 pbk, $24.99; ISBN 9781108857147 ebook, $20.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE January 2022

The ability to build, hold, and bequeath wealth has been and remains vital to both private and public economic well-being in the US and Canada. For many citizens, home ownership is routinely the most direct path toward wealth creation and passing on of any would-be legacy. However, as this carefully researched book demonstrates, the path for many would-be home owners has been, and continues to be, obstructed by barriers including systematic misconduct and racially motivated predatory lending practices, used to undermine generations of African Americans and deny them wealth. Sarra (Univ. of British Columbia) and Wade (St. John’s Univ.) examine the context and the methodology of various pernicious practices, actions, and policies identified in both public and private lending institutions, enabling readers to understand their real and continuing economic, social, and political consequences. Notably, these authors demonstrate not only the existence of racially motivated predatory lending practices but also the pervasive asymmetry of outcomes due to such discriminatory malfeasance. Clearly, accessibility and affordability of housing is a thing that matters. Less obviously, however, destroying the dreams fostered by ease of access is too often profitable for lenders. Sarra and Wade offer a detailed, scholarly study of this regrettable situation that will be illuminating for students and researchers alike. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals. —T. E. Sullivan, Towson University

book cover

Tooze, J. Adam. Crashed: how a decade of financial crises changed the world. Viking, 2018. 706p index ISBN 9780670024933, $35.00; ISBN 9780525558804 ebook, $18.99.
Reviewed in CHOICE July 2019

The central thesis of Tooze (Columbia) in his massive tome—616 pages of text plus 88 pages of bibliographic notes—is that the global financial crisis of 2008 had fundamental and significant consequences in the political sphere. Bailing out the international banking system and thus, in the view of many (Tooze included), rescuing the global economy from a meltdown opened up a political schism that has yet to be resolved. The Left, characterized by the Occupy Wall Street movement’s motto, “Bail out Main Street and not Wall Street,” saw economic inequality as a core issue not adequately addressed by moderately reformist action. The Right, in the voice of the Tea Party, found centrist politics wanting for being too leftist and stymied compromise that would undermine the purity of their philosophy. Consequently, Western governments found themselves unable to govern effectively as the polarizations that hindered compromise began to spread through the democracies of the US and Europe. One further consequence, according to the author, is the rise of the populist extreme right parties especially in the EU. It may be too early to accept Tooze’s reading of financial-political history; only a decade has elapsed since the global financial crisis. But it behooves whoever wishes to debate this viewpoint to carefully read Tooze’s analysis. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —J. Prager, New York University

book cover

Wells, Donald R. The Federal Reserve System: a history. McFarland, 2004. 215p ISBN 078641880X pbk, $35.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE January 2005

The history of the Federal Reserve System is a familiar tale to economists, but this book targets the general public with a well-written, succinct, and complete account of the development and operations of the nation’s monetary authority. Wells (emer., Univ. of Memphis) begins with a brief survey of US financial institutions before the establishment of the Federal Reserve System in 1914. He then proceeds to describe in chronological order the origins of the Federal Reserve System, its role in WWI, its performance during the 1920s and 1930s, its role in WWII and in the Korean War, the growing independence of the Fed in the 1950s, stagflation during the 1970s, vigorous policies to halt inflation in the early 1980s, and subsequent performance up to 2003. Along the way, Wells highlights personalities and personal interactions, internal struggles for domination, and the role of precedents in determining the current modus operandi of the Federal Reserve System. He explains how transactions of the US Treasury and Federal Reserve banks affect private financial institutions and the money supply. Readers with a serious interest in this topic should also consult Allan Meltzer’s important A History of the Federal Reserve: v.1: 1913-1951 (CH, May’03). Summing Up: Highly recommended. Public and undergraduate library collections. —E. L. Whalen, Clark College

book cover

Wheelan, Charles. Naked money: a revealing look at what it is and why it matters. W. W. Norton, 2016. 348p index ISBN 9780393069020, $27.95; ISBN 9780393292893 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE August 2019

Wheelan (Dartmouth College) has churned out three solid, engaging volumes in the 21st century: Naked Economics, Naked Statistics, and now Naked Money.  The author offers factual information for intelligent lay readers, undergraduates, “industry” insiders, and government officials on contemporary and historical topics related to money, commercial banking, and central banking.  Somewhat stand-alone chapters cover the basics of what money is and does; inflation and deflation; monetary history, including gold and gold standards; major crash and credit episodes (1929 and 2008); international exchange rate systems; monetary policy; and country- or region-specific case studies such as Japan, the eurozone, and China.  He closes with two polar opposite discussions: digital money (Bitcoin at the moment) and ways to improve central banking.  Well-referenced, up-to-date, and important, Naked Money brings together a set of related threads and a very talented writer.  A can’t miss. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —A. R. Sanderson, University of Chicago