Sunday, 15 January 2012

What's that coming over the hill? Is it a monster? How a global financial crisis looked a decade before it happened.

There are many fabulous macro-economic books written about the current financial crisis - some written in the early stages, some written in the heat of the action, some written following the first phase, after the primary participants could be interviewed, some written with a forward looking perspective on how either it'll get better sooner than we think, or that it'll drag on for a decade.

I've just finished reading one which was written ten years before the crisis.  The book itself, "Debt and Delusion" by Peter Warburton does a great job of identifying the main issues, traces their origins and makes a decent stab at predicting possible triggering events (one of which is a eurozone crisis).  

It must have been difficult for him to write this book in the lead up to the enormous equity bull market which culminated in march 2000, and just as difficult at times being its author as the second enormous bubble (sub-prime retail property) inflated.  But finally his warnings were prescient.  However, the world so far has responded quite well to the unsustainable debt situation.  Unfortunately that's because it is only about a quarter of the way through digesting this re-alignment.  His warnings were quite dire, and they were made in the absence of the knowledge of two further inflations (dot com and sub-prime), so I would imagine perhaps the unwind ought to be even more extreme than he predicts?  I guess he saw it coming during the dot-com build up, and Roubini saw it coming during the sub-prime build up.

He's currently a member of Britain's Shadow Monetary Policy Committee, as well a consulting economist.  He also pops up on the Financial Sense website.