Today is the official release date for my latest book, The System Worked: How the World Stopped Another Great Depression. The title is pretty self-explanatory, but to be perfectly clear, it’s about how the great powers and global governance structures reacted to the worst economic downturn in seventy years, and prevented something even worse from happening.
Now the one lesson I’ve learned from the marketing folk is that the best way to market something is to bludgeon you with promotion after promotion. But I’m not going to do that. No, that just wouldn’t be fair to PostEverything readers. It also sounds exhausting.
No, instead, on the day of its release, I’m going to give you ten excellent reasons why you, the discriminating Washington Post reader, need to make sure The System Worked is on your bedside table before the week is out:
1) The book was motivated by me being wrong. From the opening few pages:
This book has been an intellectual exercise in trying to figure out why I was so wrong six years ago and why so many other smart analysts have been so wrong since….
By the time I doubled back to re-examine the state of global economic governance, I noticed two odd trends. First, the closer I looked at the performance of “the system,” the clearer it became that the meltdown I had expected had not come to pass. Second, most other observers nonetheless remained deeply pessimistic about the functioning of the global political economy. Indeed, book after book on the financial crisis was arguing the exact opposite thesis to my initial impressions. I could not blame these commentators for being so pessimistic because I had felt that way too when the crisis began. Nevertheless, I had come to believe that I was wrong then and that they are wrong now.
2) It’s a pretty optimistic book. Look, if you want to find a book that tells you how everything is going to hell in a handbasket, it’s not that hard. Click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. If you want to find a book that tells you why things are not actually going to hell, then you need to read The System Worked. I didn’t write this book to corner the market on optimism — but I’m happy to take a position in that corner.
3) I’m not a former policy principal. Take a moment and savor the interregnum between one former Obama administration policy principal publishing a memoir and another former Obama administration policy principal publishing a memoir. Really savor it by buying The System Worked — which contains absolutely no extraneous chapters devoted to AIG bonuses or Benghazi.
4) There’s a sports section!! While I argue that global economic governance did a great job in response to the 2008 financial crisis, I open by discussing why people might be skeptical of international organizations in general. Which leads to some fun pages on the corrupt cesspool that is FIFA. Which puts this and this into the proper context.
5) There are no equations. Not that there’s anything wrong with equations!! There are a few of them in this book and that book. But it wasn’t really necessary for The System Worked, because it’s more about describing what happened and less with developing a general model to explain everything. Which leads me to…
6) There are lots of charts! And who doesn’t love charts?!
7) The foreign policy community comes in for a serious shellacking. Chapter three of The System Worked goes into some detail as to why so many of my colleagues have misread what’s happened since 2008 — definitely worth a read. The foreign policy community also makes a cameo appearance in chapter six, when I explain the factors that led so much of the U.S. government to embrace fiscal austerity.
8) No monocausality here. Most academic tracts and popular books try to provide a simple explanation for complex phenomenon. The System Worked doesn’t play that game. The book offers a multi-part explanation for why, despite excellent reasons to expect the contrary, the international economic order didn’t collapse after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt.
9) The cover is awesome. Seriously, look at it. A simple image that captures my argument perfectly. Most book covers can’t do this.
10) If things go south, you can haunt me with this book for the rest of my days. From the last page of the book:
In the world of international affairs punditry, pessimism sells. Professionally, it is less risky to predict doom and gloom than to predict that things will work out fine. Warning about a disaster that never happens carries less cost to one’s credibility than asserting that all is well just before a calamity. History has stigmatized optimistic prognosticators who turned out to be wrong. Beginning with Norman Angell’s errant prediction a century ago that war would soon become obsolete, to Francis Fukuyama’s proclamation that history has ended, errant optimists have been derided for their naiveté. Policymakers prematurely declaring “mission accomplished” have suffered even more embarrassment.
In saying that the system has worked reasonably well since 2008, I risk joining that ignominious list—but it is a risk worth taking.
So just buy the darn book!! (Note: it makes a great Father’s Day present for the children of wonks.)