Failed: What the "Experts" Got Wrong About the Global Economy

September 24, 2015

Mark Weisbrot
Oxford University Press (2015)

En Español

Preface by Ha-Joon Chang

“Comprehensive, long overdue and a resounding success” – Larry Elliott, Economics Editor, The Guardian

“For those who wish to understand the global economy of the past generation, the shocking failures and impressive successes, this is the book to read…a timely, authoritative, and very valuable study.” – Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus), MIT

“Mark Weisbrot demolishes the illusions of Europe and the IMF…”
James Galbraith, Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations at University of Texas-Austin

Why has the Eurozone ended up with an unemployment rate more than twice that of the United States more than six years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers? Why did the vast majority of low- and middle-income countries suffer a prolonged economic slowdown in the last two decades of the 20th century? What was the role of the International Monetary Fund in these economic failures? Why was Latin America able to achieve substantial poverty reduction in the 21st century after more than two decades without any progress?
“Failed” analyzes these questions, explaining why these important economic developments of recent years have been widely misunderstood and in some cases almost completely ignored. First, in the Eurozone, Mark Weisbrot argues that the European authorities’ political agenda, which included shrinking the welfare state, reducing healthcare, pension and other social spending, and reducing the bargaining power of labor played a very important role in prolonging the Eurozone’s financial crisis and its lapse into years of recession and mass unemployment. This conclusion is based not only on public statements of European officials, but also on thousands of pages of documentation from consultations between the IMF and European governments after 2008.

The second central theme of “Failed” is that there are always practical alternatives to extended economic failure. Drawing on the history of other financial crises, recessions, and recoveries, Weisbrot argues that regardless of initial conditions, there have been and remain economically feasible choices for governments of the Eurozone to greatly reduce unemployment—including the hardest-hit, the crisis-ridden country of Greece.

The long-term economic failure of developing countries, its social consequences, as well as the subsequent recovery in the first decade of the 21st century, constitute the third part of the book’s narrative, one that has previously gotten too little attention. We see why the International Monetary Fund has lost influence in middle-income countries. “Failed” also examines the economic causes and consequences of Latin America’s “second independence” and rebound in the 21st century, as well as the challenges that lie ahead.


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Praise & Reviews

Press Release | Flyer | Postcard

Excerpts and Related Articles:

Will the IMF Become Irrelevant Before it Changes?” – The Nation, August 29, 2016

The IMF’s Lost Influence in the 21st Century and Its Implications” – Challenge, July 25, 2016

European Authorities’ Failed Economic Policies Hit Resistance in Spain” – Boston Review, March 1, 2016

We’re All Paying for the Unaccountability of So-Called Experts Who Screwed Up the World Economy” – AlterNet, December 1, 2015

Interviews and Presentations:

World Affairs Council, Washington, D.C., September 24, 2015
KBOO FM (Portland, OR), October 22, 2015
World Bank InfoShop, Washington, D.C., October 28, 2015
Bus Boys and Poets, Washington, D.C., November 4, 2015
Potter’s House, Washington, D.C., December 8, 2015
The Zero Hour with RJ Eskow, December 16, 2015
The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann (Part 1), December 21, 2015
The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann (Part 2), December 21, 2015
This is Hell! (WNUR FM, Evanston, IL), January 16, 2016
The Fallon Forum, January 25, 2016
Great Day KCWI 23 (Des Moines, IA), January 28, 2016
UpFront (KPFA 94.1 FM, Berkeley, CA), March 14, 2016
Global Foundation for Democracy and Development Global Roundtable, June 7, 2016
The Real News (Part 1), August 15, 2016
The Real News (Part 2), August 16, 2016
The Real News (Part 3), August 17, 2016

Events & Dates:

September 24, 2015 – World Affairs Council, Washington, D.C. (Video here.)
October 1, 2015 – Official U.S. Book Release
October 14, 2015 – Center for Global Affairs, New York City
October 16, 2015 – United Nations Development Program, 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm, Amartya Sen Conference Room, 10th floor, 304 East 45th Street, New York City
October 28, 2015 – World Bank Group InfoShop, 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm, 18th Street NW, Room J1-0505, Washington, D.C.
November 4, 2015 – Busboys & Poets, 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm, Cullen Room, 5th & K Streets, NW, Washington, D.C.
November 26, 2015 – Official European Book Release.
December 8, 2015 – Potter’s House, 7:00 pm, 1658 Columbia Road NW, Washington, D.C.
January 28, 2016 – Beaverdale Books, 6:30 pm, 2629 Beaver Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa
January 30, 2016 – Prairie Lights, 2:00 pm, 15 South Dubuque Street, Iowa City, Iowa
March 29, 2016 – The New School, 4:00 pm, Albert and Vera List Academic Center, Room D1009, 6 East 16th Street, New York, NY
March 31, 2016 – Luxembourg Income Study Center, 6:00 pm, CUNY Graduate Center, Room 5414, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
May 10, 2016 – National Louis University, 5:30 pm, Chicago Campus, Second Floor Atrium, 122 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL
May 11, 2016 – Social Justice Initiative at UIC, 6:00 pm, Pop Up Just Art Gallery (PUJA), 729 Maxwell St, Chicago, IL













Praise for FAILED:

“For those who wish to understand the global economy of the past generation, the shocking failures and impressive successes, this is the book to read. With careful scholarship and lucid analysis, Weisbrot reveals the pernicious effects of the neoliberal assault on the world’s population, from wealthy and developed Europe to the global south, and exposes the dominant political-economic doctrines, rooted in a harsh attack on democracy and undermining of social policies that benefit the vast majority. He also shows how rejection of these doctrines has led to impressive achievements. All of this is consistent with actual economic history, if not prevailing illusion. The critique is harsh and incisive, but prospects are bright if the lessons of history and the logic of policy are viewed with care, as in this timely, authoritative, and very valuable study.”

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus), MIT

“Mark Weisbrot demolishes the illusions of Europe and the IMF — but also shows, by way of contrast, how it was that Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador have brewed success from rebellion against the neoliberal project.”

 —James K. Galbraith, author of The End of Normal: The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth and Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations at University of Texas-Austin

“Mark Weisbrot’s new book Failed describes in compelling detail the destructive diagnoses and economic prescriptions that the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and the U.S. Treasury department have tried to spread through the developed and the developing world. He provides a fascinating tour- that all students of macroeconomics and economic development should read- of the destruction wrought by these ‘economic experts’ preaching financial liberalization, privatization, and austerity: from Spain to Greece and Argentina to Indonesia. As Weisbrot shows, in recent years, other economists, policy makers, and governments have shown alternative paths to development that avoid these costly ideas. He concludes by arguing that: ‘The ideas that facilitated that regrettable failure remain influential, but these, too, will become increasingly less relevant in time.’

“If this prediction turns out to be true, it will be partly due to the excellent work that Mark Weisbrot has contributed over many years — well reflected in these pages — to show the dismal failures of these ideas and to help develop more just and inclusive economic paths for countries to follow.”

 —Gerald Epstein, Professor of Economics and Co-Director, Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), University of Massachusetts-Amherst

“The International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and neoliberal economics may have failed, but Mark Weisbrot has not. His demolition job on the economic policies that have led to misery for millions is comprehensive, long overdue and a resounding success.”

Larry Elliott, Economics Editor, The Guardian

“As the author describes it in the introduction, this is a book about failed economic policies — those of the Eurozone since 2008 and the failure of market reforms to reignite growth in low — and middle-income countries in the last two decades of the twentieth century. But it is also a book about development successes — and thus of alternatives to those failures — notably that of China’s state-led insertion into globalization, and Latin America with its several left-wing regimes over the past decade. It is a very important contribution to global debates by one of market (neoliberal) reforms’ leading critics. It should be on the shelves of both defenders and critics of market reforms.”

José Antonio Ocampo, Professor at Columbia University and former UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

“There are two types of economic history books: those that start with an ideological position and select facts as they please, and another that actually discusses what happened and why. Mark Weisbrot’s newest book belongs to the second category. It takes you on a journey to the places and crises that, according to the neoliberal narrative, should have never happened — the Asian financial meltdown, the Argentine depression and recovery, the interminable European austerity — and for good measure adds a discussion of the most successful economy of the last 40 years, China, which stands out among the rest with its pragmatic and unusual economic policy mix. There are here lessons to be learned for the rich, emerging, and poor economies alike.”

 —Branko Milanovic, Luxembourg Income Study Center and Graduate Center, City University of New York and author of The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality

“Weisbrot’s book shatters conventional wisdoms about the meaning of the Eurozone crisis. In clear, accessible language, it advances a desperately-needed alternative interpretation of the contemporary global economy.”

 —Sarah Babb, Professor of Sociology, Boston College

“Mark Weisbrot is among that very small group of economists whose theorizing about the world actually matches the truth of the world. His new book, Failed, is an indispensable analysis of prevailing misconceptions, of the type once described by the great sociologist C. Wright Mills as ‘crackpot realism,’ a delusional ‘style of mind’ that ‘justifies its false and feeble views as reality itself.’ It is required reading for anyone seeking to explain contemporary global politics.”

 —Greg Grandin, Professor of History, New York University

“It has an excellent discussion of the role of the IMF, particularly its leverage via informal support from other major institutions, that by itself makes for important reading.”

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

“… a brilliant critique of neoliberalism … play by play.”

Thom Hartmann

“Weisbrot’s main argument [is] important and compelling. When the standard economic policy model fails, the costs of such failure are huge. So it is critically important for more people across the world to be aware of more democratic and just economic strategies and to demand that their governments opt for them.”

Jayati Ghosh, professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru university, New Delhi, and executive secretary of International Development Economics Associates (Ideas)

“Especially if one is inclined to sympathise with ‘neoliberal’ policies (whatever precisely they are), this would be a salutary book to read and ponder.”

D. R. Myddelton, Emeritus Professor of Finance and Accounting at Cranfield University

“Weisbrot’s Failed is a comprehensive March of Folly cataloging the intellectual and policy failures of a set of extremely powerful institutions. Yet it is also written at a level accessible to any undergraduate with a basic economics background.”

–Herman Schwartz, Professor of Politics and Public Policy, University of Virginia

“Failed is a strongly- and passionately-worded book on how blindly following the western doctrine could be harmful. … [It] should be read by all our policymakers ….”

Madan Sabnavis, Chief Economist, CARE Ratings



Price of economic policy failures,” by Jayati Ghosh, Frontline, January 6, 2016

Failed: What the ‘Experts’ Got Wrong about the Global Economy by Mark Weisbrot,” by D. R. Myddelton, Economic Affairs, Volume 36, Issue 1, February 2016

Review of Weisbrot, Mark, Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong about the Global Economy,” by Herman Schwartz. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. March, 2016

Book review: Failed by Mark Weisbrot, how blindly following west could be harmful,” by Madan Sabnavis, Financial Express, October 16, 2016