The Subprime Solution: How Today's Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do About It

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The Subprime Solution: How Today's Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do About It
By Robert J. Shiller
Princeton University Press, 2008
208 pp. $16.95
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This book provides a more popularized version of the Yale economist Shiller's earlier analyses of the U.S. housing market and his proposals for improvement, which involve not less but more financial innovation. The book is not so much an analysis of the subprime crisis as an essay that ruminates on the genesis and evolution of financial bubbles in general and housing bubbles in particular. Shiller believes correctly that economists, in their emphasis on rational decision-making, have confused desired outcomes with actual outcomes -- and have paid far too little attention to the reality of swings in social sentiments that can move market prices far from sustainable levels. He reluctantly agrees that government support of financial institutions, misleadingly called "bailouts," is necessary in the current circumstances. He also proposes a series of financial innovations that would enable people to sell short an index of U.S. residential housing prices, in order to introduce some discipline into future housing booms with a view to making the subsequent corrections less severe.