It’s been a tumultuous 10 years. And the period has produced a bumper crop of excellent economics books by academics, journalists, and practitioners who have attempted to grapple with the extraordinary macroeconomic disaster. They have examined why it happened, how to fix it, what it means, and how to avoid a recurrence of anything even remotely as hellish.
But we may have arrived at a crossroads. Recently, Martin Wolf’s The Shifts and the Shocks: What We’ve Learned — and Have Still to Learn — from the Financial Crisis (one of s+b’s top economics books of 2015) and Barry Eichengreen’s Hall of Mirrors: The Great Depression, the Great Recession, and the Uses — and Misuses — of History (which received a highly favorable review in s+b) put a capstone on the intellectual structure of analysis on the crisis. And this year, in my view at least, the most compelling books on economics are widening the lens. Only one of the three, Adair Turner’s Between Debt and the Devil: Money, Credit, and Fixing Global Finance, deals with the 2006–10 period. The others take a broader view. Robert J. Gordon’s The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War tries to make sense of the economy not in a five-year period in the recent past but over the entire 150-year sweep starting in 1865. Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson’s American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper argues powerfully that the voluntary donning of ideological blinders has made U.S. economic policy lousy and the country’s political economy so badly dysfunctional.