THE NEW FINANCIAL ORDER: Risk in the Twenty-First Century

Robert J. Shiller, Author . Princeton Univ. $29.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-691-09172-3

Shiller is best known for arguing, as he did in Irrational Exuberance, that stock market movements do not reflect underlying economic reality and that the volatility of the market makes the financial system unstable. It is therefore a surprise to find him advocating vast expansion of financial derivative markets to reduce the economic risk faced by individuals and countries. According to Shiller, governments should swap 10% or more of their gross domestic product with other countries and administer income swaps among entire generations. Individuals should manage risk by trading in new financial instruments based on the lifetime income of their profession, the value of homes in their area or economic statistics like the unemployment rate or inflation rate. Money, he says, will be replaced by "indexed units of account" tied to things like wage rates and commodity prices. People will carry transponders to report on their every activity, with the results stored in "global risk information databases," containing all personal information, including genetic data but protected against unauthorized access. In this way, the government can eliminate the underground economy and tax evasion and individuals will enjoy more economic security. The author admits people don't think they want this additional security, but he advocates "psychological framing" to change their viewpoint. The book is certain to be controversial. Some will see a visionary, high-tech combination of the best of capitalism and socialism. Others will be reminded of Brave New World and 1984, with privacy, freedom and adventure traded for a totalitarian mediocrity founded on constant monitoring and propaganda. (Apr. 2)

Reviewed on: 03/03/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-4008-2547-9
Paperback - 366 pages - 978-0-691-12011-9
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