Book Series | May 2008

Stabilizing an Unstable Economy

Hyman P. Minsky. Introduction by Dimitri B. Papadimitriou and L. Randall Wray
Stabilizing an Unstable Economy

The late American economist and Distinguished Scholar Hyman P. Minsky first wrote about the inherent instability of financial markets in the late 1950s, and accurately predicted a transformation of the economy that would not become apparent for nearly a generation. In 2007, interest in his work suddenly exploded as the financial press recognized the relevance of his analysis to the meltdown of the mortgage-backed securities market. Indeed, in this book, first published in 1986, Minsky examined a number of financial crises in detail, several of which involved similar financial instruments, such as commercial paper, municipal bonds, and real estate and investment trusts. More important, he explained why the economy tends to evolve in such a way that these crises become more likely.

Minsky insisted that there is an inherent and fundamental instability in our sort of economy that tends toward a speculative boom. Unlike other critical analyses of capitalist processes, which emphasize the crash, Minsky was more concerned with the behavior of agents during the euphoric periods. And unlike other analyses that blame "shocks," "irrational exuberance," or "foolish" policy, he argued that the processes that generate financial fragility are "natural," or endogenous to the system.

Stabilizing an Unstable Economy is Minsky's seminal work, and it has been reissued so that it may be broadly available to a new generation of economists, analysts, and investors. The book covers, among other topics, the effect of speculative finance on investment and asset prices; booms and busts as unavoidable results of high-risk lending practices; government's role in bolstering consumption during times of high unemployment; and the need to increase Federal Reserve oversight of banks.

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