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The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  619 ratings  ·  109 reviews
A New York Times bestseller

The Great Deformation is a searing look at Washington's craven response to the recent myriad of financial crises and fiscal cliffs. It counters conventional wisdom with an eighty-year revisionist history of how the American stateespecially the Federal Reservehas fallen prey to the politics of crony capitalism and the ideologies of fiscal
Hardcover, 743 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by PublicAffairs (first published January 1st 2013)
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Athan Tolis
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the most significant book of 2013.

It's rambling and endless. 700 pages feel like 1,700. Frankly, it's a bad read. Halfway through, you can already complete every sentence yourself, that's how bad Stockman repeats himself. I'm not sure all numbers check out. No editor ever got near this manuscript.

Before I continue with why this is the most significant book of 2013, some more bad news: The author's unifying theory is in my view quaint and irrelevant. For completeness allow me to rearrange
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The book The Great Deformation is amazing. I just finished it this morning and now I want to go out and hang myself. Stockman made me angry at nearly everyone, but mostly at the US Government for creating the Federal Reserve in the first place. The most important good that exists in the world is money. The most important thing to price correctly is capital. But both money and capital have been so deformed since 1913 and particularly in the past 30 years, that we now sit on the verge of the ...more
Apr 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Listened to David Stockman give his premiere book presentation at the Greenwich Library 10 days ago and short of buying the book, i checked it out from the library, this 700+ page brick.

The author is certainly a highly intelligent individual with sharp argumentation skills, but he comes across as a doomsday machine. I agree with many of his observations although I don't accept all his conclusions or recipes for the cure of the fiscal and political illnesses of this country. He does contribute to
John Boettcher
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the greatest economic books to be published this year. It gives an absolutely SCATHING report on what actually happened between Wall Street and the Federal Government with the help of the Federal Reserve.

The amount of corruption and back door dealing that took place during the crisis of 2008-2009 was nothing short of jaw-dropping. Stockman makes that absolutely CRUCIAL point that it wasn't Capitalism that failed us, it was CRONY capitalism that ran rampant throughout the streets
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Whew. I hardly know where to start on this massive book. I had NO idea when I requested it at the library that it was over 700 pages and would take over my life for three weeks. :-) This book is a real investment of time, but it is worth it. This book is a very long but vigorous deconstruction of "what went wrong" with the economy, starting way back with FDR and continuing on until today--and Stockman finds plenty of blame to pass around, from FDR and Nixon killing sound money by taking us off ...more
Yuri Zbitnoff
This book is absolutely, positively essential for anyone who's even remotely interested in economics, finance or American history.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is one of the most important political and economic books ever written.

Yes, it's that good.

As a libertarian and as someone who's worked in banking and finance my entire adult life, I'm accustomed to hearing antipathy toward Wall Street and the financial complex. After the 2008 collapse and bailout, I empathize with those
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't possibly provide an effective summary of David Stockman's very lengthy polemic on the state of the U.S. Economy. Probably the best I can offer is to repeat an advertisement I noticed for a Seattle TownHall meeting on Stockman's book which states: "Todays national debt stands at nearly $16 trilliondivided equally among taxpayers, that means each of us owes $52,000. David Stockman, author of The Great Deformation, explains how we got hereand how warped crony capitalism has betrayed so ...more
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economy

This is one of those kind of books that I decided to read the last chapter first, knowing that 700 pages of analysis would lead to some likely solutions. So glad I did. Having spent the last three months reading everything I can get my hands on, this is an awesome book. Read the first chapter this morning and heading deep into the rest. This is more than a book this is a landmark and a call for real change. The pen is mightier than the sword.
Apr 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
(update from the original review of 2016).

David Stockman as a young man was Ronald Reagan's budget director. A proponent of the free market, he became disillusioned with the behavior of the Reagan administration in contrast to the pledges that were made before the Gipper came into office. He then wrote a book, The Triumph of Politics", about the experience relating how all the fine words went out the window while government grew, subsidies were given to all the big lobbies and in the end things
Apr 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This 700+ page door-stop is a no-holds-barred polemical indictment of our government's fiscal ignorance that has led to what might bring down the United States.But we are not alone. Similar policies pursued by the European Union, Japan, and others make this a global problem. The United States might still be high in the saddle had people truly knowledgable of economics and fiscal policy been running the store. But "crony capitalism" and the arrogance of the likes of Rubin, Greenspan and Bernanke ...more
Usman Chohan
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As a former OMB official, Stockman has firsthand insights about the fiscal quagmire besetting budgetary indiscipline in the United States. But this book is unique in that it proffers the middle finger both to Keynesianism and monetarism, to left-wing and right-wing economists alike. The contention of this book is that, so long as the country doesn't live within its means, squanders money on morally dubious enterprises abroad, and lacks farsighted leadership, it really doesn't matter what mantle ...more
May 15, 2013 rated it did not like it
I have to admit it. I had to give up on this after getting about a quarter of the way through. In a 700 page book, that is about 175 pages.

Why did I quit on this? To start with, it is hugely overwritten and poorly edited. So even if I had liked it, I would have been spending about twice the time than would be the case for a good book. But there is much more to it than that.

Second, it is clearly revisionist history -- an attempt to go back to the onset of the financial crisis and claim that there
Henry Mishkoff
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
The longest, angriest rant, ever.

Densely packed with data, but with surprisingly little information. It's as if Stockman assumes that we understand all of the esoteric concepts he throws around, so he doesn't have to bother to explain them -- but if we really understood them, we wouldn't have to read his book in the first place. He obviously knows a lot, but he either doesn't know how to explain things to people who know less than he does, or he just wants to vent and doesn't particularly care
Sep 06, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It is very important to remember that economics is not a science. Although the discipline couches itself in much of the language such as developing theories, and quantifying statistics or distributions, performing analyses of all kinds, we must remember its based on a social process of (currently) fiat symbol exchange. Nothing in that base understanding lends itself to hard science. You can take any economic model you want and essentially try to gloss over the fact that this is the case, but ...more
Nov 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
FDR: bad, Truman: good, Eisenhower: great, Kennedy: ok, Johnson: horrible, Nixon: the main cause of our problems, Ford: good but ineffective, Bush I: bad, Clinton: ok, Bush II: very bad, Obama: bad, and Krugman and Friedman: both bad. (Oh, and Carter and Reagan: little to no comment). This book's premise, as outlined above, promises a unique and informative analysis of why our country is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. However Stockman does not deliver on this promise in over 700 pages of ...more
Lisa Cindrich
700+ pages...somehow I doubt strongly that I will have time for the whole thing. But so far I really am enjoying how Stockman is willing to toss well-deserved grenades in both political directions--right and left--and his very entertaining way with invective, especially toward the Federal Reserve. Suits my (sour) political mood these days.

The chapter and subheading titles have me salivating: "Days of Crony Capitalist Plunder", "The Fed's Horrid Bailout of LTCM", "Goldman and Morgan Stanley: The
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great fiscal analysis! This book should be read by all students studying economics! A historical display on the failures of Keynesian policy and state intervention in the free market. The book is wonderful proof we should abolish the fed, restore the gold standard, and embrace Austrian Economics (

The book exhibits crystal clear evidence that Keynesian policy and the Fed are the economics of robbers and criminals. Institutionalized plunder according Frederic
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This really is an excellent book and an amazing feat of writing in history and current events. Stockman skewers everyone - conservatives, liberals,Congress, the Fed, green energy subsidies, the auto bailout, you name it. Hit hardest are Bush, Greenspan, Bernanke, and Paulson. Only Eisenhower and a few others get praise. The book makes a compelling case that Keynesian economics and supply-side are two sides of same coin and both are killing us. Also interesting was the explanation of how the ...more
Mary Hartshorn
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty informative, and something that I had to read in increments.
May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Never mind whether he's a gold bug. He offers a strong counter narrative, born of wide statistical command and seasoned policy experience. Ignore if you know it all.

I wish that someone with better economics knowledge than I would see how Stockman's critique of post-Bretton Woods monetary policy and the boon it has been to capital contributes or relates to Thomas Piketty's work in Capital. Perhaps there's something there.
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
The great Ponzi scheme a.k.a. the greed of the wealthy. Capitalism is being ruined by government bailouts of Wall St, bankers, automobile companies and at the expense of the shrinking middle class taxpayers. Mr. Stockman confirms this through his historical analytical description of the corruption of capitalism since the 1980s. Capitalism is unsustainable long term in the U.S. Its demise is inevitable and only a matter of time. I strongly recommend you read for yourself. 8 of 10 stars
Chris Elkjar
Sep 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent polemic covering the history of the current US economic situation it's causes and suggested solutions. Stockman pulls no punches and doesn't hesitate to place blame on either side of the isle. This book is quite a brick and definitely lags at a few points but his overall point of promoting sound money and removing the crony capitalism epidemic sound true.
Ryan Nunley
Mar 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing historical perspective of the financial history of US monetary policy. Insider view from the world of high finance.
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-cd
This is an amazing book. For all the hot rhetoric in today's sharply partisan divide, it seems to me that republicans no longer hold the will or ability to govern in any effective way. This is of course, a broad high level characterization wherein there will be those who do care and can govern. I see the author in this light, he is intelligent, articulate, and has the personal history to provide us perspective. I am very grateful that he wrote this book, and has chosen to share it with us all.

Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
A massive, undocumented polemic that nonetheless tells it like it is.

I hadn't heard of David Stockman until I came across an article by him on discussing American Middle East policy and actions. I was struck by his blunt, caustic, and seemingly well-informed criticism of the imperialist bungling of successive administrations. When I noted that Stockman had written a book on the history of the current economic crisis, and when I noted further that his credentials included service
Raimo Wirkkala
"Takeover premiums thus reached an all-time high of 60 percent compared to a traditional norm of 25-30 percent, while purchase multiples literally flew off the charts. Compared to a traditional ratio of total enterprise value to EBITDA of five to six times, the average purchase multiple during the mid-2007 deal frenzy exceeded eleven times EBITDA."

If you are capable of reading plenty of paragraphs like the one quoted above without having your eyes glaze over, you may well really enjoy this book.
Andrew Skretvedt
Aug 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
(a real review should appear here...maybe someday...this won't be that)

Okay, sit and listen for one paragraph. This wasn't the direct message of the book, but if you want to do something that will help bring our national government back under some discipline, if there is any hope at all for reasserting control, there's one thing you can do and must do: don't buy government bonds! Seriously. Buying government bonds is precisely the same thing as supporting pledges to tax future generations more
Oct 24, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I did not finish this book. I couldn't imagine a reason why I should. Author Stockman chose to not provide any footnotes, but rather mentions partial citations on the fly. He justifies this by saying, "... that is not the kind of book I was intending." Unfortunately for the reader, this gives the impression of "Thus spake Stockman". Author Stockman apparently felt no need for an editor, and as a result, he uses an abundance of polysyllabic adjectives that most of us would have to look up. Worse, ...more
Alberto Lopez
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-favorites
While clearly controversial, the book makes the very credible argument that the Fed's inflationary policy has created a mirage that can't end well. Leverage, as the author suggests, is the only viable outcome in the economic game. As someone close to the distortions caused by the Fed's gravitational pull , I found every bit of information to be credible. I was left to ponder the many implications. What a book!
Bob Gustafson
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is too long, but that is my only complaint.

Reviews that I have read that say what the book is about are accurate. It is a history of U.S. fiscal and economic policy since 1929, with a commentary that is very libertarian. A more provocative title may have been "This is John Galt Speaking".

If the reviews provoke your interest, go ahead and read it, and when you have read enough, lend it to a friend.
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David Alan Stockman is a former U.S. politician and businessman, serving as a Republican U.S. Representative from the state of Michigan (19771981) and as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (19811985).


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“The great irony, then, is that the nation’s most famous modern conservative economist became the father of Big Government, chronic deficits, and national fiscal bankruptcy. It was Friedman who first urged the removal of the Bretton Woods gold standard restraints on central bank money printing, and then added insult to injury by giving conservative sanction to perpetual open market purchases of government debt by the Fed. Friedman’s monetarism thereby institutionalized a régime which allowed politicians to chronically spend without taxing. Likewise, it was the free market professor of the Chicago school who also blessed the fundamental Keynesian proposition that Washington must continuously manage and stimulate the national economy. To be sure, Friedman’s “freshwater” proposition, in Paul Krugman’s famous paradigm, was far more modest than the vast “fine-tuning” pretensions of his “salt-water” rivals. The saltwater Keynesians of the 1960s proposed to stimulate the economy until the last billion dollars of potential GDP was realized; that is, they would achieve prosperity by causing the state to do anything that was needed through a multiplicity of fiscal interventions. By contrast, the freshwater Keynesian, Milton Friedman, thought that capitalism could take care of itself as long as it had precisely the right quantity of money at all times; that is, Friedman would attain prosperity by causing the state to do the one thing that was needed through the single spigot of M1 growth.” 3 likes
“There can be little doubt, therefore, that George W. Bush, and his father before him, carried out their imperial adventures in the lands ringing the Persian Gulf because they could. An accident of history had bestowed upon them a massive conventional war-fighting machine, so they went to war without having to prove the case or raise an army by taxing the people and getting a declaration of Congress.” 0 likes
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