Virtually every reader has been affected in one way or another by the market crash in 2008–09 and the subsequent Great Recession. Job prospects, retirement planning, political turmoil and other economic consequences can all be traced to the events chronicled by Mr. Tooze. While certainly not light reading, and coming in at almost 700 pages, this book nonetheless should be read by those who are interested in making sure recent events do not recur in our lifetimes.
“In 2008 the United States had been at the epicenter of the crisis. ... It had taken unprecedented efforts, led by the United States and the rest of the G20, to stabilize both ‘America’s free political and economic system’ and the world economy.” Tooze tries to remain above the political infighting of the last 10 years, but comes down on the side of a more ‘global’ approach to U.S. economic policy. He faults President Trump for challenging, and then changing, long-standing relationships among the U.S. and its allies.
While not pessimistic in his outlook, neither is Tooze a wild-eyed optimist. He feels we still must contend with China’s impact on the world economy, and, of course, the United States’ relationship with China. “Even to a regime as competent and well informed as that of China” seems to be his evaluation of that world power. The jury is still out, he believes, as to whether there will be further China-induced economic problems in the next few years.
In effect, Tooze posits that the questions we ask today about the world in 1914—What caused WWI and could it have been avoided?—are like the questions we should try to answer today. Will be able to prevent a repeat of 2008–09? “Did we sleepwalk into crisis or were there dark forces pushing?”
Asking who is to blame for the last decade leads directly into what, if anything, we and our trading partners can do to prevent a recurrence. If it was the system itself, you arrive at one approach. If it was the specific politicians and players at fault, you arrive at a different answer. Tooze is excellent at asking the right questions, even if his crystal ball in 2018 remained somewhat cloudy.
This is an important book that won a number of awards last year, and such recognitions are well deserved.