After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead

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9780143124481: After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead

New York Times Bestseller

One of our wisest and most clear-eyed economic thinkers offers a masterful narrative of the crisis and its lessons.

Many fine books on the financial crisis were first drafts of history—books written to fill the need for immediate understanding. Alan S. Blinder, esteemed Princeton professor, Wall Street Journal columnist, and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, held off, taking the time to understand the crisis and to think his way through to a truly comprehensive and coherent narrative of how the worst economic crisis in postwar American history happened, what the government did to fight it, and what we can do from here—mired as we still are in its wreckage.

With bracing clarity, Blinder shows us how the U.S. financial system, which had grown far too complex for its own good—and too unregulated for the public good—experienced a perfect storm beginning in 2007. Things started unraveling when the much-chronicled housing bubble burst, but the ensuing implosion of what Blinder calls the “bond bubble” was larger and more devastating. Some people think of the financial industry as a sideshow with little relevance to the real economy—where the jobs, factories, and shops are. But finance is more like the circulatory system of the economic body: if the blood stops flowing, the body goes into cardiac arrest. When America’s financial structure crumbled, the damage proved to be not only deep, but wide. It took the crisis for the world to discover, to its horror, just how truly interconnected—and fragile—the global financial system is. Some observers argue that large global forces were the major culprits of the crisis. Blinder disagrees, arguing that the problem started in the U.S. and was pushed abroad, as complex, opaque, and overrated investment products were exported to a hungry world, which was nearly poisoned by them.

The second part of the story explains how American and international government intervention kept us from a total meltdown. Many of the U.S. government’s actions, particularly the Fed’s, were previously unimaginable. And to an amazing—and certainly misunderstood—extent, they worked. The worst did not happen. Blinder offers clear-eyed answers to the questions still before us, even if some of the choices ahead are as divisive as they are unavoidable. After the Music Stopped is an essential history that we cannot afford to forget, because one thing history teaches is that it will happen again.

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About the Author:

Alan S. Blinder, one of the world’s most trusted economists, is the Gordon S. Rentschler Memorial Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University and vice chairman of the Promontory Interfinancial Network.

Review:

The Wall Street Journal:
"[Blinder] is a master storyteller... [After the Music Stopped] is one of the best books yet about the financial crisis."

Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times:
"Highly readable... Mr. Blinder draws on the work of many... reporters in his account. But if large portions of After the Music Stopped feel familiar, the book nonetheless benefits from its wide-angle perspective, as well as from its vantage point in time, now that it's possible to assess the fallout of decisions that were being made on the run by White House and Treasury officials under extraordinary pressures. It also benefits from Mr. Blinder's clear-eyed prose and nimble gifts as an explainer — gifts that sometimes approach those of Bill Clinton, when it comes to making complicated economic issues and policies understandable to the lay reader. Direct and concise, Mr. Blinder tells it as he sees it."

Financial Times:
"Blinder's book deserves its likely place near the top of reading lists about the crisis. It is the best comprehensive history of the episode... A riveting tale."

The New Republic:
"For a reader wondering how we got here, and why the people in charge have seemed, often, to be so chary of stringing up the culprits, or tearing down the system, Blinder's book - not least because his fair-minded approach and pragmatic mindset evokes that of America's current regulators - gives us an invaluable insight."

USA Today:
"What does all the knowledge mean to generalist readers? A lot, actually. Blinder is no defender of his economist colleagues or other former and current insiders who caused so much damage - or, at minimum, failed to see the collapse on the horizon. He writes clearly - as well as lots of journalists. That combination makes the book a worthy addition to the literature."

Seattle Times:
“If you want to get between the covers with your favorite econ nerd this season, I recommend Alan Blinder’s After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response and the Work Ahead. Written by the former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, this deserves a place among the top reads on the Great Panic and its aftermath.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer:
"A prodigiously detailed yet generally accessible investigation of the roots of the meltdown, its multiple and continuing reverberations in the United States and globally, and the short-term fixes and long-term remedies required to treat, and then heal, the patient."

President William J. Clinton:
"If you want to understand every aspect of our economic crisis—how we got into it, how we escaped a depression, why we haven't fully recovered, and what we have to do now—read this book. It's a masterpiece—simple, straightforward and wise."

Paul A. Volcker:
"True to his scholarly roots and informed by his practical insights, Alan Blinder has produced in After the Music Stopped both a comprehensive and, mirabile dictu, engagingly readable analysis of the great financial crisis. Whether or not one agrees with every particular judgment, the force of the argument is clear: here we are, four years later, still short of reforms that are needed."

Bob Woodward:
"Alan Blinder is one of the world's best informed and most balanced, sensible economists. His credentials include years as a senior adviser in the Clinton White House, then as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve and as regular op-ed contributor to the Wall Street Journal. After the Music Stopped is the best account available of what really happened in the 2008 financial crisis, why and what it now means for the future."

Mohamed A. El-Erian:
"Of all the books that I have read on the topic—and I have read quite a few—After the Music Stopped provides the most authoritative account of the why, how and what of the global financial crisis. This highly readable analysis takes you brilliantly through the construction of America's fragile house of financial cards, its sudden and dramatic collapse and, as important, the difficult reconstruction and rehabilitation work that must still be done. Whether you are interested in current affairs or in history, read this book if you want an expert and well-written analysis of how economics and politics interacted to create one big mess, not just for America but also for the global economy."

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