Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy [New in Paper]

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Overview

Raghuram Rajan was one of the few economists who warned of the global financial crisis before it hit. Now, as the world struggles to recover, it's tempting to blame what happened on just a few greedy bankers who took irrational risks and left the rest of us to foot the bill. In Fault Lines, Rajan argues that serious flaws in the economy are also to blame, and warns that a potentially more devastating crisis awaits us if they aren't fixed.

Rajan shows how the individual choices that collectively brought about the economic meltdown--made by bankers, government officials, and ordinary homeowners--were rational responses to a flawed global financial order in which the incentives to take on risk are incredibly out of step with the dangers those risks pose. He traces the deepening fault lines in a world overly dependent on the indebted American consumer to power global economic growth and stave off global downturns. He exposes a system where America's growing inequality and thin social safety net create tremendous political pressure to encourage easy credit and keep job creation robust, no matter what the consequences to the economy's long-term health; and where the U.S. financial sector, with its skewed incentives, is the critical but unstable link between an overstimulated America and an underconsuming world.

In Fault Lines, Rajan demonstrates how unequal access to education and health care in the United States puts us all in deeper financial peril, even as the economic choices of countries like Germany, Japan, and China place an undue burden on America to get its policies right. He outlines the hard choices we need to make to ensure a more stable world economy and restore lasting prosperity.

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Editorial Reviews

Economist
[E]xcellent. . . . [Fault Lines] deserve[s] to be widely read in a time when the tendency to blame everything on catch-all terms like 'globalisation' is gaining ground.
New Yorker
In a new book . . . entitled Fault Lines, Rajan argues that the initial causes of the breakdown were stagnant wages and rising inequality. With the purchasing power of many middle-class households lagging behind the cost of living, there was an urgent demand for credit. The financial industry, with encouragement from the government, responded by supplying home-equity loans, subprime mortgages, and auto loans. . . . The side effects of unrestrained credit growth turned out to be devastating—a possibility most economists had failed to consider.
— John Cassidy
Barron's
The proposed global reforms that [Rajan] lists in Fault Lines run the gamut from the prosaic to grandiose. Along with revamping Wall Street's pay system, he offers innovative ideas on building capital buffers into the global credit system, obviating much of the need for bailouts of companies deemed too big or too enmeshed in the financial system to fail.
Toronto Star
In 2007, then-chief IMF economist Raghuram G. Rajan delivered a stark warning to the world's top bankers: financial markets were headed for doom. They laughed it off. In the wake of the collapse that followed, Rajan has written a new book, Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy, that warns the system is doomed to repeat its mistakes. Like many defenders of the market, Rajan urges us not to demonize the bankers. But it's this fiscal conservative's focus on inequality that makes him stand out from the pack. The growing wage gap, he argues, is a hidden driver of financial instability, putting constant pressure on politicians to enact short-term fixes.
Wall Street Journal
The left has figured out who to blame for the financial crisis: Greedy Wall Street bankers, especially at Goldman Sachs. The right has figured it out, too: It was government's fault, especially Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Raghuram Rajan of the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business says it's more complicated: Fault lines along the tectonic plates of the global economy pushed big government and big finance to a financial earthquake. To him, this was a Greek tragedy in which traders and bankers, congressmen and subprime borrowers all played their parts until the drama reached the inevitably painful end. (Mr. Rajan plays Cassandra, of course.) But just when you're about to cast him as a University of Chicago free-market stereotype, he surprises by identifying the widening gap between rich and poor as a big cause of the calamity.
— David Wessel
Financial Times
A high-powered yet accessible analysis of the financial crisis and its aftermath, Fault Lines was awarded the FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year. Rajan . . . was one of the few who warned that the crisis was coming and his book fizzes with striking and thought-provoking ideas.
Finance & Development
Former IMF chief economist Raghuram G. Rajan . . . in his new book, Fault Lines, brings together and explains the diverse failings that contributed to the crisis—the fault lines, as he puts it, that were exposed by the events of the past several years. Rajan then puts forward broad policy recommendations to ward off a future problem. . . . Rajan's book takes a comprehensive look at what got us into the crisis and offers an intriguing approach to avoiding another one.
— Phillip Swagel
Esquire.com
What if the financial crash of 2008 was really caused by income inequality? Not greedy bankers, not reckless homeowners, but the ever widening-gulf between the rich and the poor? And what if the lack of social services—like health care—made things much, much worse? This is the startling new theory from Raghuram Rajan. . . . [Fault Lines is] especially fascinating because it mixes free-market Chicago School economics with good-government ideas straight out of Obamaland.
— John Richardson
Bloomberg News
Best Crisis Book by an Economist (2010).
— James Pressley
Yglesias blog
I devoured Raghuram Rajan's Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy in a very short span of time last night. It's brief, well-written, and extremely interesting. I would definitely recommend adding it to your financial crisis reading list.
— Matthew Yglesias
Forbes.com
Fault Lines is a must-read.
— Nouriel Roubini
New York Times
Like geological fault lines, the fissures in the world economic system are more hidden and widespread than many realize, he says. And they are potentially more destructive than other, more obvious culprits, like greedy bankers, sleepy regulators and irresponsible borrowers. Mr. Rajan . . . argues that the actions of these players (and others) unfolded on a larger world stage, that was (and is) subject to the imperatives of political economies. . . . [A] serious and thoughtful book.
Weekly Standard
Rajan is worth reading not just because he was correct when few were but also because his writing is clear as a bell, even to nonspecialists.
— Christopher Caldwell
New York Times Magazine
[C]onvincing.
— Christopher Caldwell
Washington Times
Few people were able to foresee the recent economic downturn. Raghuram Rajan . . . was one of them. This makes his new book, Fault Lines, worthy of consideration amidst the rampant speculation about the causes of the financial crisis. . . . Fault Lines is valuable primarily for its clear explanation of unintended economic consequences from well-meaning government intervention.
Choice
Economists who can challenge their peers while remaining accessible to the general reader are rare, but Rajan belongs to this elite group. No short summary can do justice to this well-written, insightful, and nuanced study.
Prospect
The critics are wrong: Raghuram Rajan's analysis of the global financial crisis remains highly relevant and deserves to be widely read. . . . The breadth of Rajan's explanatory framework—which is presented cogently and concisely within 230 pages of text—marks this book apart from many others that tackle the same themes.
— Mark Hannam
BizEd
Dozens of experts have explored the reasons behind the ongoing global economic turmoil, and Raghuram Rajan provides his own elegant and thoughtful analysis in Fault Lines.
De Tijd
With Fault Lines, Rajan has made an original diagnosis of the credit crisis, one that goes much further than those of greedy bankers or wasteful mortgage giants such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
— Christophe De Rijcke
Business Line
A book that should be the default choice of discerning finance professionals when they enter the store the next time.
— D. Murali
Business Standard
Rajan's Fault Lines is . . . expansive and policy-focused and clearly destined to become a must-read on any list of books on the recent global crisis.
— Jahangir Aziz
Hindustan Times
Insightful, educative and incredibly gripping, if you want just one book to understand the ongoing global financial crisis and the way forward, Fault Lines it is.
— Gautam Chikermane
Fund Strategy
Fault Lines has a strong claim to be the economics book that best caught the spirit of 2010. Raghuram Rajan's receipt of the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs annual business book award only confirmed his book's widespread popularity. It is not hard to see why so many people liked it. Fault Lines eschews hyperbole for a lucid and balanced account of the crisis.
British Politics and Policy
Rajan . . . comes up with original and important long-term remedies. . . . Rajan's book is a bold enterprise in three ways: firstly it aims to explain the US financial crisis by looking at deep, decade-long fractures in economies and societies; secondly it suggests well-known but radical solutions that few dare put forward; and finally it supplies innovative answers to practical questions. . . . [T]he book will please any reader looking for an inquiry into the deepest causes of the recession and a consistent account of government's errors of omission and commission.
— Natacha Postel-Vinay
International Affairs
In a well-written, well-organized study, he focuses on ten of the most important issues bedeviling a still shaky world economy. Neither too technical for laymen nor too glib for specialists, the book ought to be a significant contribution to policy-makers' discussions of where we go now.
— Joel Campbell
Good Book Guide
Just when you thought you had heard it all and that there is not much more that we can learn from the recent financial crises, here comes a brand-new assessment from another angle. . . . Written with clarity and persuasion.
Forbes.com - Nouriel Roubini
Fault Lines is a must-read.
Financial Times - Martin Wolf
A thought-provoking new book. . . . [Rajan's] voice is worth listening to.
Weekly Standard - Christopher Caldwell
[C]onvincing.
Wall Street Journal - David Wessel
The left has figured out who to blame for the financial crisis: Greedy Wall Street bankers, especially at Goldman Sachs. The right has figured it out, too: It was government's fault, especially Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Raghuram Rajan of the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business says it's more complicated: Fault lines along the tectonic plates of the global economy pushed big government and big finance to a financial earthquake. To him, this was a Greek tragedy in which traders and bankers, congressmen and subprime borrowers all played their parts until the drama reached the inevitably painful end. (Mr. Rajan plays Cassandra, of course.) But just when you're about to cast him as a University of Chicago free-market stereotype, he surprises by identifying the widening gap between rich and poor as a big cause of the calamity.
New Yorker - John Cassidy
In a new book . . . entitled Fault Lines, Rajan argues that the initial causes of the breakdown were stagnant wages and rising inequality. With the purchasing power of many middle-class households lagging behind the cost of living, there was an urgent demand for credit. The financial industry, with encouragement from the government, responded by supplying home-equity loans, subprime mortgages, and auto loans. . . . The side effects of unrestrained credit growth turned out to be devastating—a possibility most economists had failed to consider.
Esquire.com - John Richardson
What if the financial crash of 2008 was really caused by income inequality? Not greedy bankers, not reckless homeowners, but the ever widening-gulf between the rich and the poor? And what if the lack of social services—like health care—made things much, much worse? This is the startling new theory from Raghuram Rajan. . . . [Fault Lines is] especially fascinating because it mixes free-market Chicago School economics with good-government ideas straight out of Obamaland.
Financial Times - Clive Crook
What caused the crisis? . . . There is an embarrassment of causes—especially embarrassing when you recall how few people saw where they might lead. Raghuram Rajan . . . was one of the few to sound an alarm before 2007. That gives his novel and sometimes surprising thesis added authority. He argues in his excellent new book that the roots of the calamity go wider and deeper still.
Bloomberg News - James Pressley
Best Crisis Book by an Economist (2010).
Finance & Development - Phillip Swagel
Former IMF chief economist Raghuram G. Rajan . . . in his new book, Fault Lines, brings together and explains the diverse failings that contributed to the crisis—the fault lines, as he puts it, that were exposed by the events of the past several years. Rajan then puts forward broad policy recommendations to ward off a future problem. . . . Rajan's book takes a comprehensive look at what got us into the crisis and offers an intriguing approach to avoiding another one.
Yglesias blog - Matthew Yglesias
I devoured Raghuram Rajan's Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy in a very short span of time last night. It's brief, well-written, and extremely interesting. I would definitely recommend adding it to your financial crisis reading list.
Prospect - Mark Hannam
The critics are wrong: Raghuram Rajan's analysis of the global financial crisis remains highly relevant and deserves to be widely read. . . . The breadth of Rajan's explanatory framework—which is presented cogently and concisely within 230 pages of text—marks this book apart from many others that tackle the same themes.
De Tijd - Christophe De Rijcke
With Fault Lines, Rajan has made an original diagnosis of the credit crisis, one that goes much further than those of greedy bankers or wasteful mortgage giants such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Business Line - D. Murali
A book that should be the default choice of discerning finance professionals when they enter the store the next time.
Business Standard - Jahangir Aziz
Rajan's Fault Lines is . . . expansive and policy-focused and clearly destined to become a must-read on any list of books on the recent global crisis.
Hindustan Times - Gautam Chikermane
Insightful, educative and incredibly gripping, if you want just one book to understand the ongoing global financial crisis and the way forward, Fault Lines it is.
British Politics and Policy - Natacha Postel-Vinay
Rajan . . . comes up with original and important long-term remedies. . . . Rajan's book is a bold enterprise in three ways: firstly it aims to explain the US financial crisis by looking at deep, decade-long fractures in economies and societies; secondly it suggests well-known but radical solutions that few dare put forward; and finally it supplies innovative answers to practical questions. . . . [T]he book will please any reader looking for an inquiry into the deepest causes of the recession and a consistent account of government's errors of omission and commission.
International Affairs - Joel Campbell
In a well-written, well-organized study, he focuses on ten of the most important issues bedeviling a still shaky world economy. Neither too technical for laymen nor too glib for specialists, the book ought to be a significant contribution to policy-makers' discussions of where we go now.
Financial Markets and Portfolio Management - Emilia Garcia-Appendini
[T]his book is a must read for analysts, academics, politicians, economists, and the like.
From the Publisher

"Best Crisis Book by an Economist (2010)."--James Pressley, Bloomberg News

"Fault Lines has a strong claim to be the economics book that best caught the spirit of 2010. Raghuram Rajan's receipt of the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs annual business book award only confirmed his book's widespread popularity. It is not hard to see why so many people liked it. Fault Lines eschews hyperbole for a lucid and balanced account of the crisis."--Fund Strategy

"Rajan . . . comes up with original and important long-term remedies. . . . Rajan's book is a bold enterprise in three ways: firstly it aims to explain the US financial crisis by looking at deep, decade-long fractures in economies and societies; secondly it suggests well-known but radical solutions that few dare put forward; and finally it supplies innovative answers to practical questions. . . . [T]he book will please any reader looking for an inquiry into the deepest causes of the recession and a consistent account of government's errors of omission and commission."--Natacha Postel-Vinay, British Politics and Policy

"In a well-written, well-organized study, he focuses on ten of the most important issues bedeviling a still shaky world economy. Neither too technical for laymen nor too glib for specialists, the book ought to be a significant contribution to policy-makers' discussions of where we go now."--Joel Campbell, International Affairs

"Just when you thought you had heard it all and that there is not much more that we can learn from the recent financial crises, here comes a brand-new assessment from another angle. . . . Written with clarity and persuasion."--Good Book Guide

"[T]his book is a must read for analysts, academics, politicians, economists, and the like."--Emilia Garcia-Appendini, Financial Markets and Portfolio Management

BusinessWeek
Praise for Raghuram G. Rajan and Luigi Zingales's Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists: "Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists will dismay both titans of industry and their foes across the barricades. . . . It's written for the rest of us.
— Peter Coy
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691152639
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2011
  • Edition description: New in Paper
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 525,794
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Raghuram G. Rajan is the Eric J. Gleacher Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. He is the coauthor of "Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists" (Princeton).
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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
Chapter One: Let Them Eat Credit 21
Chapter Two: Exporting to Grow 46
Chapter Three: Flighty Foreign Financing 68
Chapter Four: A Weak Safety Net 83
Chapter Five: From Bubble to Bubble 101
Chapter Six: When Money Is the Measure of All Worth 120
Chapter Seven: Betting the Bank 134
Chapter Eight: Reforming Finance 154
Chapter Nine: Improving Access to Opportunity in America 183
Chapter Ten: The Fable of the Bees Replayed 202
Epilogue 225
Afterword to the Paperback Edition 231
Notes 241
Index 257
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Provocative economic analysis

    Dismissing the 2008 recession as an inevitable free market setback might seem simple, but economist Raghuram G. Rajan doesn't take the easy path. He makes a compelling case that the weak links in the global economy remain both visible and fixable. In a provocative analysis unhindered by ideological boundaries, Rajan argues against such government interventions as propping up the U.S. housing market. Yet he urges Americans to create a more generous safety net for unemployed workers facing a "jobless recovery." Rajan's more challenging suggestions, such as rebalancing the international economy or changing global monetary institutions, may not shift policy makers' actions, but he argues persuasively that failing to do so will mean deeper fault lines in the next crisis. getAbstract recommends his book to those who want a clear-eyed economic analysis.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 10, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    A mixture of shrewd analysis and reactionary politics

    Raghuram Rajan, formerly chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, now Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, has written an interesting book on the current crisis. It is a mixture of shrewd analysis and reactionary politics.

    He notes, "Greater immigration and trade have also played a part [in increasing inequality] because immigrants, competing directly for unskilled jobs, and unskilled workers far away, competing through trade, have both served to hold down wages of unskilled U.S. workers." Yet he recommends encouraging mass migration and increasing world trade.

    Low short-term interest rates encourage investors to put money into houses, stocks, bonds, oil and metals, producing bubbles in these assets. Rock bottom interest rates transfer wealth from savers to bankers. It is a one-way bet for bankers - gamble, cause a crisis, then get more profits from low interest rates.

    Rajan points out that Federal Reserve policy turned the entire USA into a giant hedge fund, investing in risky assets abroad, financed by debt issued to the world. Wall Street became a crooked casino which puts no limit on gamblers' gains but covers their losses. If run as a private enterprise, it would have gone bust; it could only survive as a leech on the public.

    He notes, "The problem stems from the fundamental incompatibility between the goals of capitalism and those of democracy." He also notes the USA's hugely unequal access to health care and education and the need to invest in improving access to quality education and universal health care. Then he urges public spending cuts and tax rises, which gives the lie to these commitments.

    As Rajan observes, "aid leads to dependency, indebtedness, and poor governance and rarely leads to growth." And, "the more a country finances its investments through its own domestic savings, the faster it grows. Conversely, the more foreign financing it uses, the more slowly it grows."

    He asks, "how can the United States reform the financial system so that it does not devastate the world economy once again?" Then he opposes reform and defends 'the basic structure of a system that has failed' (as he admits). All he proposes is "transparency to draw the interested public into monitoring the relationship between the government or regulator and the financial sector." That's it! This of course wouldn't have prevented the next financial crisis (now happening in the eurozone).

    He writes that governments 'have to step back . to allow the market to function effectively'. He opposes nationalism (which he absurdly equates to fascism) and protectionism. Instead, he promotes beggar-your-neighbour competition between countries. He concludes "Other countries [meaning China] have to implement reforms that will help rebalance the world economy."

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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