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The Roaring Nineties

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The Roaring Nineties

A New History of the World's Most Prosperous Decade

W.W. Norton,

15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

The Roaring Nineties seem less exciting as the U.S. recovers from flawed economic policies and builds deficits instead.

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Only a Nobel Prize-winning economist could disguise a political broadside against conservatives and the George W. Bush administration inside a Trojan horse mea culpa of the Bill Clinton White House. No one could argue with Joseph Stiglitz’s assertion that an effective modern economy must strike a reasonable balance between free markets and government oversight – but what is reasonable? Stiglitz regrets what is arguably the shining achievement of the Clinton Administration, namely, its success in balancing the U.S. budget. Credit him for consistency: he opposed Clinton’s tax cut, just as he opposed George W. Bush’s. Stiglitz’s academic and professional chops are beyond question, and his insights into corporate welfare and inefficient markets are quite valuable, if somewhat short of profound. 


The Decade that Roared

In the Roaring Nineties, the New Economy promised to end boom-to-bust economic cycles, thanks to rising productivity, globalism and dot-com entrepreneurialism. Economia Americana characterized the new world order: unprecedented growth, including a six-year, six-fold increase in the capital flowing from developed countries to the developing world. Yet even as U.S.-style prosperity crossed international borders, clouds loomed on the horizon.

The first sign of trouble came in December 1999, in Seattle, with massive protests against globalization. Subsequent protests against globalization followed in Washington, D.C., Prague and Genoa. Four months later, tech stocks began to slide. In the next two years, American stock exchanges alone lost $8.5 trillion in inflated equity value, more than the annual domestic product of every country except the U.S. AOL Time Warner took a $100 billion write down, more than the market value of any company in existence in 1990. How did American capitalism morph in a few short months from a global success story to a symbol of everything that was wrong with the market economy? The very boom that brought the growth also...

About the Author

Winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics, Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote the international bestseller Globalization and its Discontents. From 1993 to 1997, he was a member and then the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. From 1997 to 2000, he was senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank.

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