In July 2007, the combination of a seemingly unstoppable rise in house prices and bullish banks swimming in liquidity meant that almost anyone could get a mortgage in the UK or US. Little more than a month later the supply of credit dried up practically overnight, leaving the world wondering how bank liquidity could suddenly vanish.
In Financial Alchemy, Anastasia Nesvetailova shows that this liquidity never actually existed. The rise of sophisticated financial instruments created what appeared to be an abundance of liquid funds but was in fact a credit pyramid. As soon as house prices stopped rising the reality was exposed.
Nesvetailova's bold and radical analysis explains why the credit crisis was an inevitable consequence of entrusting the world economy to financiers who believe that they can 'create' money and wealth.
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Anastasia Nesvetailova is the author of Fragile Finance: Debt, Speculation and Crisis in the Age of Global Credit (2007). She is a co-editor of Global Finance in the New Century (2006); International Political Economy: A Reader (2007) and author of academic and media articles on finance and political economy.Review:
An excellent attempt to re-insert social and psychological notions into our views of 'the market' and its functions. At its heart is the understanding that 'liquidity' is not the substantial, present and almost physical phenomenon so readily assumed even by sophisticated financial actors, but that it is in fact one of the most social, contingent and ultimately ephemeral notions of all. -- Paul J Davies, Financial Times There has always been a tendency to confuse money and wealth. Anastasia Nesvetailova shows that, from the beginning of securitisation until the crisis, this confusion transferred to the creation of the bewildering array of new financial instruments. The belief that these instruments were creating wealth was based on an illusion: that these innovations were creating liquidity, while in fact, from a systemic perspective, they were reducing it. The illusion was in part fostered by far-reaching changes in the concept of liquidity itself. Nesvetailova gives a lucid analysis of these important matters as she takes us through the complex story of the changes which combined to bring about the crisis. -- Victoria Chick, University College London 'Anastasia Nesvetailova is one of a small handful of economists who understands what has gone wrong in the financial markets. Without condescension or incomprehensible and uncomprehending jargon, she reveals the structural flaws in the financial system that was supposed to be the highest achievement and essential foundation of our business civilisation. Her insights into the world of finance make this book the best explanation of the financial crisis to have come out of that sorry episode.' -- Jan Toporowski. Reader in Economics and Chair of the Economics Department, The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and Research Associate in the Research Centre for the History and Methodology of Economics, University of Amsterdam. In a crisply-written book that reads like a detective novel, Anastasia Nesvetailova shows how fraud, gaps in regulation, unchecked risk-taking, the sheer complexity of contemporary markets, and hubris by financial 'masters of the universe' have all played their part in the ongoing financial and economic crisis. The author then puts her finger on the hidden key to this crisis: all these markets and players bet on "the illusion of liquidity." She demonstrates that ready liquidity became a defining feature of the financialized global economy - but in the end, liquidity proved fragile, a point of entry for crisis which no amount of financial engineering could paper over. Nesvetailova has provided an indispensable guide. -- Gary Dymski
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