Winner of the Spear’s Best Business Book Award

Longlisted for the 2012 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award

For the past forty years western economies have splurged on debt. Now, as the reality dawns that many debts cannot be repaid, we find ourselves again in crisis. But the oncoming defaults have a time-worn place in our economic history. As with the crises in the 1930s and 1970s, governments will fall, currencies will lose their value, and new systems will emerge. Just as Britain set the terms of the international system in the nineteenth century, and America in the twentieth century, a new system will be set by today’s creditors in China and the Middle East. In the process, rich will be pitted against poor, young against old, public sector workers against taxpayers and one country against another.

In Paper Promises, Economist columnist Philip Coggan helps us to understand the origins of this mess and how it will affect the new global economy by explaining how our attitudes towards debt have changed throughout history, and how they may be about to change again.

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews

Praise

Management Today (UK)
“Fascinating and authoritative, with the rigour and depth to satisfy an economist and the accessibility and pace to engage the layperson … If everyone read Coggan's book we might just be a little more circumspect if and when the next burst of irrational exuberance overtakes the economy”
 
Independent (UK)
“In this context of mildly hysterical panic in financial circles, Philip Coggan's book adds a welcome note of calm analysis.”

Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution
”A very good and sensible introduction to the history of the recent economic crisis…. Recommended.”
 
Motley Fool
“With the developed world facing fiscal and monetary crises, Coggan's new book, Paper Promises, is a veritable enigma machine for investors who wish to decipher today's headlines.”

800-CEO-READ
Paper Promises is not only a great book, it is a great accomplishment—a brilliant work of financial history, a clear examination of the present moment, and a journalistic masterpiece all wrapped into one.”
Joshua Rauh, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
"A compelling sketch of how the indebtedness of much of the developed world will eventually unravel. Rapid credit creation has always been a double-edged sword, associated with economic growth and democratic expansion of opportunity, but also inevitably leading to asset bubbles. In Paper Promises, history serves as a guide for the new order."

Tim Harford, author of Adapt and The Undercover Economist
“This is a remarkable book from one of the most respected economics journalists on the planet. Every page brings a fresh insight or a new surprise. A delight.”

New Statesman
"Writing with a lucidity that enables him to convey deep insights without a trace of jargon…. [Paper Promises is] the most illuminating account of the financial crisis to appear to date.”
 
Times of London
“A smart and witty analysis of the current economic storm, set in the context of the history of money.”
 
Irish Examiner
“Philip Coggan is a well-known financial journalist…. He now proves to be an exceptional banking and economic historian.”                       
 

Financial Times
"Bold and confident ... Coggan covers the terrain with characteristic calmness and objectivity, avoids over-simplification, and laces his arguments with his trademark erudition ... The alphabet soup of acronyms, from SIVs to CDO Squareds, is blissfully lacking ... Finally, the book is free from the shrieking ideology that afflicts virtually all contemporary debates over money. Indeed, it offers a clear explanation of the fresh ideological divisions that have arisen over how to deal with the crisis ... the book should be taken very seriously."

Publishers Weekly
“Coggan traces ‘history's tug of war between monetary shortage and excess' in this engaging and timely book about the current financial crisis…. Thoughtful and thorough.”

Kirkus
“Comprehensive…. A helpful analysis for anyone who wants to know how the world got into the present financial mess, which issues need to be addressed and what the consequences might be.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan
“This book stands way above anything written on the present economic crisis.”
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