I was about to say unratable. Not because this book is a classic, nor because it is too scholarly for me to apprehend. The reason is that I feel like it is too much like a draft. The book is full of graphs, boxes, tables, albeit with quite detailed descriptions and brief explanations. Put in another way, I feel like it is a preliminary analysis, where you throw out all raw materials you have, graphs, summaries, descriptives, and only with a very rough idea of what you are going to say. This time is different
is like that. It does not, in my opinion, feature a complete, coherent, and convincing story enough.
The most striking claim that these authors make is that they will prove how this time, the financial crisis in 2007 - or the "Great Second Contraction" as they name it, is so not
different from many crises in the past. They plann to do this by collecting a mass amount of data, notably for the last "eight centuries" to prove that we humans so often ignore the past, too confident of our ability of understanding the present because of our so-called advanced technologies, our superior development.
I like the idea
so very much. Economics tends to forget about history so much. The main reason is, obviously, the availability of data, which is the central part of the "scientific approach" with rigorous statistical calculations, mathemetics modeling and so on.
Yet, sadly, what these authors tried to do is still very much surrounding this "scientific method." This is, I think, quite impossible. At best, its data from 1800s onward are acceptable, but for the remaining 6 centuries, I am afraid, the data can only be employed in descriptive, comparative, or case study method. These data, simply by nature and no one's fault, are in many cases not comparable, and just not useable in statistical studies. Such boasting of "eight centuries" is very misleading. Even with the data of the last two centuries, it is problematic to tackle. Yes, these authors are able to show some interesting trends, point out few curious patterns, validly call for attention in future research, but not much more. With such very few variables, these data can only be a sort of illustration, not really persuading me.
The book discusses several theories about crises in general, but makes no attempt to develop or stick to one. It is perhaps beyond its scope, as it claims itself. But unfortunately, my definition of books is that you have at least a theory, a story, an idea well-developed to tell, not a set of proofs, for an uncertain something. The only argument "This time is not
different" is weakly supported by, again, descriptive statistics. Ironically, there are many times these authors emphasize again and again the "uniqueness" of the 2007 crisis - the only one with global scope in the post WWII period, only comparable but not fully so to the Great Depression. I was like, huh? Anyway, I think just by telling some historical accounts, or comparative analysis can be more effective than this. This book is perhaps useful for reference. It is like, I don't know, another data source?
And yet, another blow is coming, as a data source, it is not reliable. As this NY Times article
written by two professors sadly annoucnes, there is a definitely serious problem in data use. As a result, I could only give 1 star.
What is left is: nothing. I feel so cheated. Nevertheless, the book does discuss some theories, though very lightly. Therefore, it might serve as an ok introduction to the issue of crises: sovereign debt, domestic debt, inflation, currency crash. It is quite a short and easy to read book, so perhaps if you have much time, you can have a look.