A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of '08 and the Descent into Depression. By Richard A. Posner. Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London: Harvard University Press. 2009. Pp. xix, 346. $23.95.
A Failure of Capitalism by Richard Posner is not a great book, and it does not pretend to be one. Posner summarizes the economic crisis of 2008-09 and considers proposals to reduce current suffering and avoid future recurrence (p. xvi). But when the book's final edits were made in February 2009, it was still too soon for authoritative solutions or full accounts of what had happened. Instead, Posner wrote a conspicuously contemporary-and thus incomplete-description of the crisis as it looked to him at the time (p. xvii).
Now one year later, readers may need a reminder about the value of Posner's quick-baked efforts. His book was one of the first to describe the crisis, and it is a work of fluid prose and potent intellect, written by a scholar with immense personal knowledge and easy access to nationally prominent macroeconomists. In the first wave of academic writing about the crisis, Posner's book is by far the most accessible, and it is also one of the best.