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PAY ATTENTION TO THE FUNDAMENTALS.

Dean Baker's Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy is more useful as a primer about what went wrong and how to avoid it than it is as serious policy analysis. There's enough discussion of price-earnings ratios and rental compared to mortgage payments to enable a reader to spot risky situations and avoid them. It's written at about the level of difficulty of a newspaper, perhaps to expand the reading base. Book Review No. 17 must therefore note that the analysis is at about the level of difficulty of a newspaper, possibly to broaden some populist base somewhere. That, however, diminishes the work as policy analysis. It's easier to gripe about deregulation and Reagan and greed and Clinton and Bush than it is to carefully engage the rigidities the Depression-era structure of financial regulation that deprived much of Middle America of the rewards to participating in the financial markets, leading to work-arounds and ultimately to the deregulation, or to consider the possible benefits of tranched mortgages and derivative instruments. There, however, the fundamentals can again be helpful. Price to earnings, rental to payment.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

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