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The American Way of Debt

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In this lively history of consumer debt in America, economic historian Louis Hyman demonstrates that today’s problems are not as new as we think.
Borrow examines how the rise of consumer borrowing—virtually unknown before the twentieth century—has altered our culture and economy. Starting in the years before the Great Depression, increased access to money raised living standards but also introduced unforeseen risks. As lending grew more and more profitable, it displaced funds available for business borrowing, setting our economy on an unsustainable course. Told through the vivid stories of individuals and institutions affected by these changes, Borrow charts the collision of commerce and culture in twentieth-century America, giving an historical perspective on what is new—and what is not—in today’s economic turmoil.

A Paperback Original

From Publishers Weekly

Oct 24, 2011 – Credit is both a ticket to good times and an economic cancer in this savvy history of consumer debt. Economic historian Hyman takes readers from the 19th century, when household borrowing was considered immoral and illegal, to our current reliance on ubiquitous consumer borrowing as economic engine and marker of middle-class respectability. It s a story of unsung but crucial innovations in the plumbing of the economy: mass mortgage lending and securitization, which caused as much mischief in the Great Depression as in today s subprime crisis; auto-loan operations that turned carmakers into giant banks; the fraud-ridden construction of the Visa and Mastercard credit card networks. Intelligently analyzing both the economics and the social meaning of debt, Hyman grounds these developments in commercial imperatives and an evolving consumer culture, and links them to deeper economic upheavals. Credit fueled growth, he argues, but it also generated instability and asset bubbles, and corroded America s productive capacities: as consumer lending became more profitable than actually making things, corporations poured their money into financing credit and killed off their manufacturing operations. Stocked with colorful personalities and trenchant insights, Hyman s lucid, entertaining, and timely treatise illuminates the murky processes by which debt became the troubled center of economic life. Photos.
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  • $10.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Economics
  • Published: Jan 24, 2012
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 306 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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