Justin Fox has a piece on Doug Henwood’s wonderful book, Wall Street
These days, it’s not hard to find people who question the role that financial markets play in our economy, who argue that shareholder value is a flawed metric of corporate success, who say that linking pay to financial markets is a big mistake. In 1997, though, such arguments were pretty close to unheard of. Which is what makes Doug Henwood’s book Wall Street, published that year, such an amazing document. Along with explaining in clear if caustic terms how financial markets work, the book prefigures almost every criticism of the financial system that’s been levied since the crisis of 2008. An overleveraged housing market? Check. A link between financial sector growth and income inequality? Check. A natural tendency toward instability in financial markets? Check. … There’s a saying in investing that “being early is the same as being wrong.” It’s not quite like that in intellectual endeavors, but Henwood clearly hasn’t gotten his due. That’s partly because he was early, partly because he operates in an ill-defined border zone between journalism and academia, partly because, well, he’s a crotchety leftist. But he was describing a lot of important problems with the workings of our capitalist system at a time when practically everyone else was proclaiming the brilliance of the shareholder-dominated Wall Street way. We should have been listening to him then, and we should be rereading him (or reading him for the first time) now.
The book is available for free download here (with a suggested donation to the author, who got a relative pittance for writing it; left-leaning publishers sometimes treat their authors like shit). It’s every bit as good as Fox says it is and better – there’s a very strong argument that it’s the best leftwing book on actually-existing-capitalism that’s been written in the last couple of decades. It is a little out of date – a lot has changed in the intervening years. I would love to see an extensively updated second edition, both for purely selfish reasons, and because I think that it could play an important intellectual and political role (most people on the left don’t understand how finance markets actually work). From various conversations, I’m sure that I’m not the only person who thinks this. The obvious way to get such an edition going – if Doug were interested in writing it – would be a Kickstarter or similar. But it might help encourage Doug to do this if there were some evidence of public interest beforehand (again: if he wants to do this – I have not consulted him before writing this). Hence this post – if you would be prepared to kick in to see this book written then say so in comments, or elsewhere as you like. I’m in for a commitment of $100 or over myself (nb that this is not a suggested donation – more a credible commitment and a signal that I personally really, really would love to see this book come into being).