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ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism
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ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  282 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Why are we in such a financial mess today? There are lots of proximate causes: over-leverage, global imbalances, bad financial technology that lead to widespread underestimation of risk.
But these are all symptoms. Until we isolate and tackle fundamental causes, we will fail to extirpate the disease. ECONnedis the first book to examine the unquestioned role of economists a
Kindle Edition, 369 pages
Published (first published 2010)
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Mark Desrosiers
What strange beast is this? This book's original subtitle ("how the myth of free markets wrecked our economy") got a last-minute change to this fluffery about "unenlightened self-interest" -- an obvious turnaround from what could have been a radical critique. She really does posit that free markets are a myth -- very persuasively -- but you have to wade out to page 154, after lots of finance-industry shop talk, to find it. Elsewhere I get alternately entranced and cross-eyed.

This reads like the
Andrew Yoder
Jun 21, 2010 Andrew Yoder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, non-fiction
This is quite possibly one of the best books I've ever read. I've been desperately seeking a clearly written, thorough critique of neo-classical economics - the foundation of our entire modern capitalist economy. This is it.

It's a fairly well-known fact that modern economics sells itself as a "hard science" with clear, logically proven conclusions based on firm premises. Modern economics has become nearly synonymous with theoretical mathematics (without acknowledgment the "theoretical" party) a
May 20, 2010 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
Everyone has a villain to blame for our current economic fiasco, but as far as I know, only Yves Smith points the finger at the most obvious target: the intellectual gurus of our material world, the economists. For decades, she says, they have been preoccupied with a misguided effort to create a “science of economics”, an enterprise that has led them to focus exclusively on measurable phenomena and a simplistic model of a “free market”.

She calls it a “Potemkin science” that falls apart when con
Jan 27, 2011 DoctorM rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, economics
"ECONned" is a strangely-assembled book--- a kind of mulligatawney stew of essays put together into a single volume. Yves Smith's editors need to be soundly thwacked over this. It's not that the book is bad, or that it's poorly written. It's just that the pieces of the book don't really quite fit.

Her first section is a sharp critique of economic modelling and neoclassical economics as a a critique of economics as a profession (she doesn't think it is...or maybe can ever be...a scie
Feb 05, 2013 Amber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only reason I didn't give this book five stars was because there were parts of it that were over my head. Note that this is not the author's fault. She does an excellent job of trying to make some exceptionally complicated content accessible to a lay reader. I understood most of the economic philosophy and political arguments. What eluded me were the intricacies of how the toxic assets were structured. I got enough to get the gist of her argument, which made sense, but I'm left wondering if ...more
John Dziennik
Jan 10, 2016 John Dziennik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It makes the causes of the current state of the economy clear, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to naming those responsobley (including us, the consumer credit junkies). Failed or unproven theories were used, and neoclassical economics proved to be a complete fallacy. Yet the geniuses who drove us off a cliff just got a brand new bus to drive us to the next disaster.
May 12, 2010 Hillary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
This is far and away the best book I've read about the current financial crisis. Yves Smith does a great job explaining the hows and whys of financial risk-taking.
Jan 25, 2012 0spinboson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paper, growth-crisis
If you're interested in getting a decent high-level understanding of the financial instruments created by the financial sector in the past decade or two, and in the changes in the incentive structures at banks and other financial sector players, this book is highly recommended. It will provide you with accessible explanations of the various instruments they thought up, as well as how those relate to each other (though slightly less detailed when it comes to the exact reasons why the instruments ...more
Nov 08, 2011 Clif rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first encountered Yves Smith by way of her blog, Naked Capitalism, where she skilfully dissects the economic events of the day. With the help of that blog I worked my way through the economic collapse so it was a cinch that this book would appeal to me.

Smith is a clear writer, very matter-of-fact which is a good thing on such a dense topic as economics. She makes the case (made in great detail by Australian academic Steve Keen in his Debunking Economics) that the assumptions upon which modern
Jan 02, 2015 Pirkka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took a long time to work through all the chapters in the book, but it was well worth it. The end chapter about the currert financial crisis uses all the acronyms introduced earlier and finally explains what the whole thing was about. Well worth the time - this may be the most important book I've read in years.
Thank goodness I am finally finished reading this book! The jacket description describes ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism as "intelligently written for the layman". If you are not an Economics major, be warned! This is not true. Or it is, as long as you're prepared to learn the entire history of Economic theory before you finally get to Smith's thesis.

This book contains an interesting argument, about a very dry topic, written in a very dry wa
Oct 24, 2011 Benjamin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yves Smith takes a different look at the financial crisis. Instead of emphasizing the specifics (although she does discuss them) which she sees as symptoms, she attempts to undercut to what she considers is the root cause: a lousy economic paradigm (particularly the neo-classical economic paradigm.)

At times her critique is, perhaps, uncharitable, but I think she raises some valid criticisms and makes some excellent overall points. Without a paradigm shift, we will see more of the same though the
Jan 20, 2011 Ilya rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
Yves Smith is a management consultant and an economics blogger, who was interviewed on Russia Today alongside such American dissidents as Alex Jones and Lyndon LaRouche. She believes that the recent world financial crisis has utterly discredited the discipline of economics, the neoclassical paradigm of which provided shoddy models of risk and reward, the money managers' reliance of which caused the crisis. I am unconvinced: as far as I know, a great deal of economics, from the research of Nobel ...more
Feb 11, 2011 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While there is a lot of finance-speak in here and it should not be read lightly by the completely uninitiated, Smith lays out a persuasive case for tighter regulation on the financial industry as a whole. The author of the Naked Capitalism blog dives into subtle implications of credit default swaps, debt obligations and incentives and I did find my mind drifting from time to time. My favorite part is that rather than simply point to problems like many authors do, she proposes solutions that can ...more
This was my first book club pick that I hadn't read previously. I wanted something on the recent financial collapse, and I think this one worked out pretty well.

The book itself was pretty slow-going (we actually postponed our meeting because no one had finished it, and I was the only one who managed to finish it by meeting date.) Nonetheless I think it offers some pretty valuable information about what happened, the failures of economic theory, and the currently state of financial regulation.

Dec 26, 2010 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to stop reading books on economics for a while. Books like this, which is well written and forcefully makes many valuable points, are starting to leave me too angry for words. No wonder the american educational system is steadily falling behind other countries at an increasing pace! It produces people who actually accept the neo-classical economic hogwash that this book (like so many others) exposes as poorly reasoned nonsense.

I'll stick to arguing with my MIT economist neighbor. At least
Jan 03, 2012 Dave rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Information contained in the book is important for everyone to hear. If someone hasn't heard it before, there are better books out there on the financial crisis, but in the end it does an adequate job laying out the facts. My issue with it is that the presentation felt occasionally unprofessional and shallow. It was going for a casual tone, but didn't really succeed. Which was a shame because I would have liked to recommend this book more.
Dick Harding
Sep 23, 2013 Dick Harding rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yves Smith is one of my heroes. I read her economics blog Naked Capitalism every day. I think the views she expresses and others' that she gives a platform to are vital. This book is about the crash and is therefore somewhat easily dated. What is not dated however, is her explanation of what when wrong and the pivotal role that the economics profession played in the making of the crisis. And those dynamics continue.
Ecoute Sauvage
There's something instantaneously offputting about any female calling herself "Yves". Her/his book goes downhill from there.

Still, some of the anecdotal data are actually accurate as is the hedge fund strategy described with numerical inputs - assuming of course such trades could be made. The economic theory part is shaky and the tone far too polemic with no obvious reason. All in all a good read on a transPacific flight.
Roger Merritt
Jan 29, 2013 Roger Merritt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great explanation of the causes of the Great Recession. Having a little knowledge of economics and investment would probably help, but should be understandable to any intelligent high school grad. As President Obama said, some of what they did wasn't illegal, but that was because they bought off the regulators and legislators. And some of what the did and are still doing is blatantly illegal.
Dec 09, 2010 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A strong indictment of the field of economics, neoliberal philosophy, and the financial industry. The sharpest critique I have seen so far of these three areas and US economic policy since the 1980s.

I would have given the book 5 stars, but didn't because I felt that some sections were not organized well.
Jim Noyes
Oct 29, 2011 Jim Noyes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, sometimes enraging, book. Author tackles complex issues mixing the proper amounts of theory & practicality. A clear picture is presented as to how we got to this place with our economy and financial system, and how horrible a place we're still in. A must read.
Oct 25, 2010 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is well-written, well argued and, though a bit technical at times, is approachable for the average reader. As I am currently studying the concepts behind the material in this book, I found it an interesting critique of the subject.
Aug 09, 2010 Kiri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought the author made her case. I fully believe that there are ways in which certain unregulated markets can warp the motivations of participants, and Yves Smith does a good job of illustrating how this happens.
Alaric Pratt
Jan 03, 2013 Alaric Pratt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book it explains the the instruments that caused the collapse. Then the author gives a more aggregate view of the economy. She also point out that the economic models are flawed. Good read.
Nov 19, 2011 Adrian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Starting off real good. Let's see where it takes me. It's actually a very scary book. To realistic. :)

Half way through and I'm scared out of my wits... I hope this story has a happy ending!
Sid Johnson
Excellent explanation for the 2008 meltdown. Well researched by an author with obvious expertise. Very readable by anyone with a real interest in the subject.
May 25, 2014 Heath rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ECONned is serious, and lays out in clear yet scholarly fashion the origins and nature of the 2008 financial crisis.
Samuel Lubell
Economics. For book club. About the reasons for the economic crisis. I didn't really like this.
Mar 08, 2011 AC added it
Not really "done", but have moved on.... As has the market....
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