Since there are so few recent examples to guide us, it’s important not to draw conclusions about the current recovery just by examining the last 50 years or so. Instead, taking a longer-term perspective, while always important, is especially key when trying to understand today’s economic and investment landscape.
That’s precisely what economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff do in their book “This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly.” While the book came out in 2009, it is especially relevant to today’s investors as it helps put the effects of the recent credit crisis in the right historical context: a very long-term one.
The authors’ research includes an unusually long data set covering sovereign debt and other financial debacles going back eight centuries and occurring across sixty-six countries on five continents. By taking such a comprehensive long-term historical look at financial crises, the authors are able to arrive at some key conclusions which would have been difficult to reach just by looking at the last 50 or so years. In fact, the findings of the book are particularly valuable because there are only so many instances in modern times that we’ve seen financial devastation similar to the recent financial crisis.
So what conclusions about today’s recovery can investors take from the book? The authors teach us that in the aftermath of credit bubbles, both housing and labor markets take a very long-time to recover, and government debt typically sky rockets. In fact, based on the book’s conclusions, it could take five to 10 years for the housing market to recover, yet another sign of how the current economic recovery is likely to be anemic and uneven.
What books have helped you draw lessons about the recent credit crisis, and current recovery, and why?