Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You've Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong

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In the aftermath of the Financial Crisis, many com­monly held beliefs have emerged to explain its cause. Conventional wisdom blames Wall Street and the mortgage industry for using low down pay­ments, teaser rates, and other predatory tactics to seduce unsuspecting home owners into assuming mortgages they couldn’t afford. It blames average Americans for borrowing recklessly and spend­ing too much. And it blames the tax policies and deregulatory environment of the Reagan and Bush administrations for encouraging ...

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Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You've Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong

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Overview

In the aftermath of the Financial Crisis, many com­monly held beliefs have emerged to explain its cause. Conventional wisdom blames Wall Street and the mortgage industry for using low down pay­ments, teaser rates, and other predatory tactics to seduce unsuspecting home owners into assuming mortgages they couldn’t afford. It blames average Americans for borrowing recklessly and spend­ing too much. And it blames the tax policies and deregulatory environment of the Reagan and Bush administrations for encouraging reckless risk taking by wealthy individuals and financial institutions.
 
But according to Unintended Consequences, the conventional wisdom masks the real causes of our economic disruption and puts us at risk of facing a slew of unintended—and potentially dangerous—consequences. This book addresses many essential but overlooked questions, such as:
 

  • If the United States had become a nation of reckless consumers rather than investors, why did productivity soar in the years leading up to the meltdown?
  • If predatory bankers took advantage of home owners, why did down payments decline, thereby shifting risk from home owners to lenders?
  • If the risks were easy to spot, why did top politi­cal and financial advisers encourage lenders to make unsound investments?
  • If new regulations encourage banks to hold enough capital to fund withdrawals and not just loan losses, how will the economy underwrite the risks necessary to reach full employment?

In an attempt to set the record straight and fill the void left by other analysts, Conard presents a fas­cinating and contrarian case for how the economy really works, what went wrong over the past decade, and what steps we can take to start growing again.

To read an excerpt from Unintended Consequences, please visit http://www.edwardconard.com/book-excerpt
For up-to-date information on everything related to Unintended Consequences, visit www.edwardconard.com

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Conard, a former partner at Bain Capital, the venture capital firm founded by Mitt Romney, and a Romney megadonor in the 2012 presidential campaign, expounds on U.S. economic policy and the future, defending private investment against government regulation and redistribution. The result will not please the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Conard lets banks off the hook for the subprime and mortgage-based bank debt debacles. Blaming government financial and housing policies, he claims “bankers, investors, and credit rating agencies and regulators all suffered from the same mistaken optimism.” Conard reminds readers of America’s past economic success and exceptional affluence, citing the cost of food, which has declined from 25% to 10% of household budgets since 1930. But he looks forward to a nation “exiting manufacturing” and continuing to innovate, sidestepping the problem of unskilled U.S. workers in a “world awash in unskilled labor.” Aging baby boomers and “changing U.S. demographics will make it harder and harder” to save and invest, he admits. A laissez-faire optimist, Conard sees venture capitalists and investors as the true American heroes, and lionizes these risk takers, insisting that entrepreneurial spirit and innovation will guide America’s economic future. His defense of private enterprise deserves the attention of policymakers in Washington. Agent: Cathy D. Hemming, Cathy D. Hemming Literary Agency. (June)
Andrei Shleifer
"Edward Conard's book presents the most cogent and persuasive analysis of the financial crisis to date. It is deeper and likely more accurate than what we have seen so far from journalists, academics, and particularly former government officials."
--ANDREI SHLEIFER, 1999 John Bates Clark Medal winner; Former Editor, Quarterly Journal of Economics; Professor of Economics, Harvard University
Nouriel Roubini
"Edward Conard provides a provocative interpretation of the causes of the global financial crisis and the policies needed to return to rapid growth. Whether you agree or not, this analysis is well worth reading."
--NOURIEL ROUBINI, Chairman, Roubini Global Economics
John C. Whitehead
"This is a wonderful book, filled with wisdom by a guy who really knows what he's talking about. It is must reading for both businessmen and politicians.
--JOHN C. WHITEHEAD, Former Chairman, Goldman Sachs & Co.; Former Deputy Secretary of State
William A. Sahlman
"Edward Conard has written a provocative and important book about the economy that challenges conventional wisdom about the financial crisis, the trade deficit, government policy, and the path to prosperity. I hope policy makers and business leaders will pay close attention to Conard's framework."
--WILLIAM A. SAHLMAN, Senior Associate Dean, Harvard Business School
Kevin Hassett
"Unintended Consequences will be the most talked about economic book in 2012. When Ed Conard points the spotlight at recent economic history, his uncanny ability to cut through the confusion provides something totally unexpected: a fresh, nonpartisan perspective on what is right and wrong with America."
--KEVIN HASSETT, Senior Fellow and Director of Economic Policy, American Enterprise Institute
Steven Levitt
"There are an amazing number of good ideas and interesting points made in this book. The thinking underlying it, and the obvious depth of understanding of the author, are very impressive."
--STEVEN LEVITT, Coauthor of Freakonomics; 2004 John Bates Clark Medal Winner
Glen Hubbard
"Edward Conard's keen business insight and sharp eye on economic forces explain structural strengths and weaknesses of the American economy. While some of his proposed solutions are controversial, the U.S. economy can recover its mojo if policy makers understand Conard's diagnosis."
--GLENN HUBBARD, Dean, Graduate School of Business, Columbia University; Former Chairman, President's Council of Economic Advisers
Kirkus Reviews
A retired Wall Street investment banker delivers a contrarian explanation of the recent financial crisis. Former Bain Capital partner Conard argues that investment bankers and lending banks across the nation played no meaningful role in the financial crisis. Instead, the author blames politicians, executive branch regulators, misguided academic economists and, especially, middle-class and lower-class borrowers signing mortgage contracts in the hope of owning homes clear of backbreaking debt. Although Conard mostly stays away from specific references to political parties, he employs "liberal" in its ideological political context as a dirty word. The author blames the Obama administration for doing too little too late, while seeming to absolve the Bush administration, still in office when the financial crisis began. As a result, the "causes" portions of Conard's argumentative book are not contrarian in any meaningful way; the author merely parrots what numerous Republican leaders and relatively apolitical wealthy businessmen have claimed for years: Trust the wealthy to use their gains wisely, with the trickle-down effect kicking in to reduce unemployment and otherwise ameliorate the recession. Conard is especially rough on those who favor income redistribution. He charges that such thinking is not only naive in an economic sense, but also wrong morally because the super-rich deserve to spend their wealth as they see fit. If less-wealthy citizens received additional money through income redistribution, Conard writes, they would do little if anything to promote innovation, and thus the economy would continue to stagnate or fall even deeper into recession. A densely written, repetitive text that fails to live up to its grandiose claims.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591845508
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover
  • Publication date: 6/7/2012
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward Conard was a partner at Bain Capital from 1993 to 2007. He served as the head of Bain’s New York office and led the firm’s acquisi­tions of large industrial companies. He sits on several boards of directors including the boards of Waters Corporation and Sensata Technologies. Prior to Bain, Conard worked for Wasserstein Perella, an investment bank that specialized in mergers and acquisitions, and Bain & Company, a management consulting firm, where he headed its industrial practice. He is a graduate of Harvard Business School and the Uni­versity of Michigan.

For more information, visit www.edwardconard.com

Become a fan of Ed on Facebook: www.facebook.com/EdwardConard
  Follow Ed on Twitter at @EdwardConard

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part I What Went Right

1 A Brief History of the U.S. Economy 11

2 The Role of Investment 30

3 The Role of the Trade Deficit 52

4 The Role of Incentives 72

Part II What Went Wrong

5 The Role of Banks, Credit Rating Agencies, and Regulators 113

6 The Role of Short-Term Debt and Government Policy 158

Part III What Comes Next

7 Preventing Another Bank Run 195

8 Reducing Unemployment 219

9 Redistributing Income 254

Conclusion 275

Acknowledgments 287

Notes 289

Illustration Sources 301

Index 305

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Customer Reviews

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( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 9, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    To be honest I have not read this book yet. But based on the se

    To be honest I have not read this book yet. But based on the second bullet point I question either his knowledge of the circumstances of the housing bubble or his desire to discuss it accurately. Most of the "predatory lenders" took mortgages with little or no down payment because the days of the originating lender keeping the loans had passed. Instead, they quickly sold the mortgage to a Wall Street firm to be packaged as a bond and sold for profits to investors. There was no risk to the original lender, all he had to do is make the deal, sell it to someone else and make a nice commission.This is precisely why there was such a huge jump in sub-prime, Alt-A, low-doc and ninja mortgages that made the housing bubble grow and then pop. I question the credibility of anyone writing authoritatively on this subject. who appears not to be aware of this fact.

    8 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2012

    What caused the financial crisis? How do we speed up recovery? A

    What caused the financial crisis? How do we speed up recovery? And how do we, as a nation, avoid getting ourselves stuck in the traps we landed in during the 2008 financial crisis? Unintended Consequences is a fresh and different look at the U.S.'s economic woes. This is a great gift for anyone interested in the economy, growth and innovation, and best practices for helping the middle class and working poor.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 29, 2012

    Should be required reading for high level federal government off

    Should be required reading for high level federal government officials. I gave it 4 stars only because, quite frankly: I didn't understand all of it. I'm sure Milton Friedman, if he were alive today, would highly recommend this book. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to learn about economic reality as opposed to economic policy spin from Washington DC

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 1, 2012

    I tried: I really tried to read Mr. Conard's book, but I was una

    I tried: I really tried to read Mr. Conard's book, but I was unable to follow his logic. I suppose as a Ph.D. I am more accustomed to reading research papers that provide cites for fact statements or emphirical evidence to justify a conclusion. However, Mr. Conard wrote in a style I would attribute more to Rush Limbaugh and I found his arguments less than convincing. I really am trying to understand the Republican positions on the economy, but this book only muddied the water in my opinion.

    3 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    If you would like to understand the context of Mitt Romney's &qu

    If you would like to understand the context of Mitt Romney's "47%" statements this is the book for you.  It describes a set of beliefs that argues why wealthy capitalists should be richly rewarded for their accomplishments, and honored and supported by the remaining 99% for their  wealth. The book consists of 285 pages extolling the virtue and worth of wealthy capitalists/investors, explaining how any government "interference" is well-meaning but misguided, and extolling the benefits the "little people" would receive from supporting the wealthy.  

    I went "tilt" quite a bit. I found many of his examples/analysis misleading (companies are grand because they spend 70% of their take on labor, leaving only 30% for the capitalists; unfortunately, the cited labor percentage includes the massive renumeration for the top executives who, after all, are "labor" as much as any minimum-wage front-line employee in this accounting.) The book is full of such statements which are open to challenge.

    An example of the author's mindset from page 276 "A shortage of talent exists, in part, because a large number of college graduates refuse to take the risk and responsibility necessary to bring unrealized investment opportunities to fruition. Art history and Elizabethan poetry don't employ workers; the arduous and tedious application of businesses sciences such as computer programming and accounting does. ..For the sake of those less fortunate, we must persuade our vast supply of underutilized talent that they have amoral obligation to lead and innovate." Pretty much sums up the tone of the book.I was hoping for a conservative view of  our economy's performance over the past decade or so. Instead I read an apologia for a second Gilded Age.  Don't waste your time with this book; buy/read something from a conservative economist such as Thomas Sowell instead.

    And I write this review as a staunch capitalist. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted October 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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