Penguin presents the unabridged downloadable audiobook edition of The Euro: And Its Threat to the Future of Europe by Joseph Stiglitz, read by Mike Fitzpatrick. From Nobel Prize-winning economist and best-selling author Joseph Stiglitz, author of Globalization and Its Discontents, this is the essential audio guide to the future of Europe. Solidarity and prosperity fostered by economic integration: this principle has underpinned the European project from the start, and the establishment of a common currency was supposed to be its most audacious and tangible achievement. Since 2008, however, the European Union has ricocheted between stagnation and crisis. The inability of the Eurozone to match the recovery in the USA and UK has exposed its governing structures, institutions and policies as dysfunctional and called into question the viability of a common currency shared by such different economies as Germany and Greece. Designed to bring the European Union closer together, the euro has actually done the opposite: after nearly a decade without growth, unity has been replaced with dissent and enlargements with prospective exits. Joseph Stiglitz argues that Europe's stagnation and bleak outlook are a direct result of the fundamental flaws inherent in the euro project - economic integration outpacing political integration with a structure that promotes divergence rather than convergence. Money relentlessly leaves the weaker member states and goes to the strong, with debt accumulating in a few ill-favoured countries. The question, then, is: Can the euro be saved? Laying bare the European Central Bank's misguided inflation-only mandate and explaining why austerity has condemned Europe to unending stagnation, Stiglitz outlines the fundamental reforms necessary to the structure of the Eurozone and the policies imposed on the member countries suffering the most. But the same lack of sufficient political solidarity that led to the creation of a flawed euro 20 years ago suggests that these reforms are unlikely to be adopted. Hoping to avoid the huge costs associated with current policies, Stiglitz proposes two other alternatives: a well-managed end to the common currency or a bold new system dubbed 'the flexible euro'. This important audiobook, by one of the world's leading economists, addresses the euro crisis on a bigger intellectual scale than any predecessor.
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This was very disappointing. This is not an economics book, but a political propaganda book. I had expected something a little more balanced and scientific. I have a list of issues below, but probably my main issue is that Stiglitz comes across so angry and doom and gloom. That already makes you want to disagree with him. In principle I don‘t even disagree that the euro faces huge problems and uncertainties, but the biased, polemic, subjective way in which it is presented is shocking and an insult to educated intelligent people. I was hoping to hear a few more pro and con arguments and economic theory from different schools, but there is hardly any economic theory to support the existing euro system design, and the limited reference to economic theory that he opposes is misrepresented. Stiglitz should be ashamed. One gets the strong impression that this is personal to Stiglitz (maybe because he did not part amicable with the World Bank) and that he has some kind of paranoia and conspiracy theory that there is a group of powerful people who want to ruin everyone else for their gain. This is particularly directed at Germany, and it may have to do with a deeply deeply rooted suspicion by Jews towards Germany, which is understandable, but also not very helpful in today‘s world.
Here are my issues with this book: - Stiglitz criticises „the designers“ of the Euro system as blinded by ideology. But in fact the one-sided way in which this book is written cannot be seen as anything else than Stiglitz being blinded by his socialist ideology and perhaps personal family background. - Stiglitz strongly argues that the bad design of the eurozone is on purpose by Germany to exploit others. He doesn‘t consider that perhaps Germans had good intentions of sharing their wealth. Some might say he massively overestimates Germany‘s abilities. It also seems bizarre to suggest that Germany could do all this alone while none of the other 18 euro countries realised they were being exploited. - Stiglitz says himself that many Germans are worse off, but also says that Germany has engineered the euro system to exploit everyone else. This is one of the many contradictions in his book. - One gets the impression that through sensationalism, Stiglitz is trying to get attention and perhaps sell more copies of his book. But this emotional sensationalism rarely makes for good science. - Stiglitz argues against the use of averages (for example GDP as a measure of how well an economy is doing). I totally agree with him but he uses them constantly himself to illustrate his points (e.g. re Argentina). This is yet another contradiction but also shows why averages are used so much in practice - they are more available, easier to digest, etc. - Until the very last few minutes of this 14 hour rant, Stiglitz seems to imply that the Eurozone has made mistakes where the USA has made so much better decisions. The idea that the US somehow has a fairer society and a better welfare system seems preposterous. Stiglitz critics the Eurozone of increasing the gap between rich and poor, but surely this is a worse problem in the US. - Stiglitz largely ignores short term vs long term when discussing economic or monetary policy. But surely it is commonly agreed that the time horizon is important. For example, Keynesian demand side stimulation works more in the short term but runs out of steam in the long run. Supply side measures or economic structural changes cannot be implemented on short notice but will probably have a bigger effect in the longer term. Instead Stiglitz bangs on about fiscal spending. - This book is not about the Euro and the Eurozone. It’s a book about Germany and Greece. Other countries hardly get mentioned. That seems a narrow view when one wants to write a book about the Euro. - Stiglitz suggests that Greece is somehow held in the Euro against it‘s will and while in this captivity, Greece is being exploited and tortured. Stiglitz does not explain well enough why Greece doesn‘t just leave the Euro if it is so much better off without it, even though he does suggest that this would be one solution. - In various places in the book, Stiglitz launches these bizarre random unrelated attacks on things he disagrees with, for example low corporation tax. These are very short and general attacks that lack a thorough deep analysis. If France was so wrong to lower corporate tax rates to attract large employers to the country, then why has the US just lowered their corporate rate from 35% to 21%? The truth is that in practice lower corporate tax rates are important. Ireland has experienced monumental advances in welfare, wealth and economic development solely driven by low corporate tax rates. One may not like that, but we need to face the truth. Clearly this is not an area of expertise for Stiglitz, so he should perhaps stay clear of it. - Another random out of context attack is against share options for employees and executives. This is where it becomes obvious that Stiglitz has never worked in the real world, but looks at the world from a desk in an academic institution or public sector. The truth is that share options work in achieving their desired objective - to incentivize employees to stay with an employer for longer. They are also a way of sharing a company’s success with employees - socialists should like that. - He constantly criticises the „troika“ (ECB, IMF and Europ Commision) and to some extend the world bank as being the drivers of all evil, but he misrepresents the fact that the country with the largest voting power in the IMF is the US. France and Germany together have just more than half the voting power of the US. Other countries such as China, Japan, India, etc have all (individually) larger voting powers than Germany. The IMF is not a European institution. Perhaps Stiglitz is trying a little too hard here to connect everything he dislikes. Perhaps he knows a lot about the IMF and therefore talks so much about it, but it‘s disproportional to the topic of the Euro. - Lastly, the fact that he mentions repeatedly that he worked at the World Bank, that he was an economic adviser to Bill Clinton and that he shared a novel prize, are either supposed to somehow imply that he has a superior knowledge and grasp of economic affairs than others, or it is simply an ego trip. Either way, it doesn’t add anything to the discussion of the Euro.
I wish I had given this book a miss. I won’t listen to a Stiglitz again.