A macroeconomic travelogue and lively jeremiad against expansionist monetary policies around the globe.
David (Australia: Boom to Bust, 2014) warns that excessive currency printing by central banks is inflating asset values, particularly those of real estate and stocks. These bubbles are doomed to burst, he contends—probably by 2017. In this book, he reviews how mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations triggered the 2008 global financial crisis and then compares the Federal Reserve’s actions before and after it. He argues that monetary easing should have ended in 2010, using an analogy of an emergency shot of morphine (as opposed to heroin addiction). Japan, Europe, China, and his native Australia each merit chapters in which he surveys central-bank profligacy and economic indicators, focusing on the widening gap between wages and housing costs. To avoid another meltdown, David recommends stricter mortgage rules, such as limiting mortgages to 70 percent of purchase price, requiring 10 months of payments in a reserve account, and prohibiting loans with payments exceeding 30 percent of household after-tax income. He also urges central banks to raise minimum interest rates to 4 percent by 2017 to help retirees and savers earn income without further fueling asset bubbles. David writes in a breezy, informal style that leavens his gloomy predictions, lightens his subject’s heft, and beckons lay readers. That said, he does risk leaving some people behind with unfamiliar terms such as “Tier 1 capital requirements” or “Basel III”—referenced early on but not defined as “agreements that bind all global banking institutions” until more than 150 pages later. Similarly, he coins and uses the term “IZNOP” (“Ponzi” spelled backward) to describe credit-fueled, asset-inflating business models but doesn’t explain it until Chapter 5. The concept of quantitative easing as an addiction is by now a familiar trope, and David doesn’t resist such clichés here. However, he makes his points clearly and supports them with hard figures and easy-to-read tables. Although the text lacks citations, it does list its sources in order at the end. Overall, the idea that asset bubbles pose serious risk is persuasive, but the notion that a replay of 2008 is imminent seems hyperbolic.
Despite some overwrought generalizations, this is a trove of well-researched, underreported international data that will be new to many readers.