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Why Save the Bankers?: And Other Essays on…
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Why Save the Bankers?: And Other Essays on Our Economic and Political…

by Thomas Piketty

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Piketty starts this book with a preface explaining what this book is exactly - 48 articles written between 2008 and 2015 for French newspapers, unedited in any way. As a result the book tends to be repetitive - the same argument over and over, sometimes in more than 10 articles - due to a different trigger or due to some change in the French policies or the world of finance.

As these were published for the French public, the short articles are written for people the follow the news and who are interested in the local politics. The translator, Seth Ackerman, added short prefaces to a lot of the articles to explain some of the background and history involved. These short sections complement the articles perfectly - and make the book relevant and readable even if you have no idea how EU is built and what happens behind the scenes; they are even more important for the purely French articles.

Most of the articles boil down to essays and writing on the topic of inequality in EU(and why it is bound to grow instead of decline), the problem with the euro (having 17 (and later 18) countries with one currency but separate debts and tax policies can never work - separate government cannot use their most powerful weapons - inflation and devaluing currency - when they do not own the currency and at the same time, the ECB cannot protect their debt from huge interest hikes) and the passive role of France despite being at the front of the EU summits and decisions. The title is provocative by design - some articles do treat the bailouts of Ireland, Greece and Cyprus of course but even they are in the light of the euro/debt conversation.

The rest of the articles on the USA monetary politics (and how they managed to escape the crisis faster despite being in a worse position), a couple of article for Asia (Hong Kong and Japan), one for Latin America (using a novel as a start) and internal French politics ones. This latter group is less cohesive and does not contain that many repetitions - and as a result are easier to read in quick succession.

It is almost funny to read the reminder of France and Germany's debts being dealt with after WWII and having the same two countries telling all the countries in Southern and Eastern Europe that they need to pay their debt to the euro and they cannot do anything to bail out of it. Yes, there was no war this time (for most of the involved countries) but still, it is a bit cynical. And it is even worse when you look at the interests rates - 2% or thereabouts for Germany, 5% or so for Italy for example - and Italy cannot do anything to protect itself while on the euro.

I lived in one of the newest EU countries until late in 2010. Some of those early stories I was painfully aware of - Bulgaria was not(and still is not) in the Eurozone but our currency is tied to the euro by an IMF mandate after the hyperinflation almost 2 decades ago. The fact that the institution cannot survive in its current form was obvious and still is and the lack of desire from the strong countries to deal with the problem will continue being the reason for the Eurozone still struggling. Piketty, despite being an economist and not a politician, says the same more than once. Maybe one day, someone will be brave enough to try to solve the issue; or maybe EU or the euro will fail.

The book is worth reading - just not in one sitting. The repetition does grate badly in places - and you know what is coming as an argument. But it is the kind of books that is needed more than ever - and if it shows the non-European readers what is really happening in the EU, maybe the repetition is worth enduring. You do not need to agree with everything he has to sau in order to understand that there is a lot to be done. And I really need to pick up Picketty's other books. ( )
  AnnieMod | Jun 18, 2016 |
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Thomas Pikettyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ackerman, SethTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0544663322, Hardcover)

Incisive commentary on the financial meltdown and its aftermath, from the author of the bestselling global phenomenon Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Piketty's work has proved that unfettered markets lead to increasing inequality. Without meaningful regulation, capitalist economies will concentrate wealth in an ever smaller number of hands. Armed with this knowledge, democratic societies face a defining challenge: fending off a new aristocracy.

For years, Piketty has wrestled with this problem in his monthly newspaper column, which pierces the surface of current events to reveal the economic forces underneath. Why Save the Bankers? brings together selected columns, now translated and annotated, from the period book-ended by the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers and the Paris attacks of November 2015. In between, writing from the vantage point of his native France, Piketty brilliantly decodes the European sovereign debt crisis, an urgent struggle against the tyranny of markets that bears lessons for the world at large. And along the way, he weighs in on oligarchy in the United States, wonders whether debts actually need to be paid back, and discovers surprising lessons about inequality by examining the career of Steve Jobs.

Coursing with insight and flashes of wit, these brief essays offer a view of recent history through the eyes of one of the most influential economic thinkers of our time.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 18 Mar 2016 13:07:14 -0400)

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