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The practice of charging interest on loans has been controversial since it was first mentioned in early recorded history. Lending is a powerful economic tool, vital to the development of society but it can also lead to disaster if left unregulated. Prohibitions against excessive interest, or usury, have been found in almost all societies since antiquity. Whether loans were made in kind or in cash, creditors often were accused of beggar-thy-neighbor exploitation when their lending terms put borrowers at risk of ruin. While the concept of usury reflects transcendent notions of fairness, its definition has varied over time and place: Roman law distinguished between simple and compound interest, the medieval church banned interest altogether, and even Adam Smith favored a ceiling on interest. But in spite of these limits, the advantages and temptations of lending prompted financial innovations from margin investing and adjustable-rate mortgages to credit cards and microlending.

In Beggar Thy Neighbor, financial historian Charles R. Geisst tracks the changing perceptions of usury and debt from the time of Cicero to the most recent financial crises. This comprehensive economic history looks at humanity’s attempts to curb the abuse of debt while reaping the benefits of credit. Beggar Thy Neighbor examines the major debt revolutions of the past, demonstrating that extensive leverage and debt were behind most financial market crashes from the Renaissance to the present day. Geisst argues that usury prohibitions, as part of the natural law tradition in Western and Islamic societies, continue to play a key role in banking regulation despite modern advances in finance. From the Roman Empire to the recent Dodd-Frank financial reforms, usury ceilings still occupy a central place in notions of free markets and economic justice.

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Feeling overwhelmed by your debts? If you’re ready to regain your financial freedom, feeling the squeeze of the housing bust or simply get smarter about managing your money, you’ll find everything you need in this complete guide. Solve Your Money Troubles shows you how to:

. prioritize debts
. create a budget
. negotiate with creditors
. stop collector harassment
. challenge wage attachments
. contend with repossessions
. respond to creditor lawsuits
. qualify for a mortgage
. rebuild credit
. decide if bankruptcy is the right option for you

To make the process easier, Solve Your Money Troubles includes sample letters to creditors, as well as worksheets and charts to calculate your debts and expenses.

An accessible guide to the essential elements of debt markets and their analysis

Debt Markets and Analysis provides professionals and finance students alike with an exposition on debt that will take them from the basic concepts, strategies, and fundamentals to a more detailed understanding of advanced approaches and models.

Strong visual attributes include consistent elements that function as additional learning aids, such as: Key Points, Definitions, Step-by-Step, Do It Yourself, and Bloomberg functionalityOffers a solid foundation in understanding the complexities and subtleties involved in the evaluation, selection, and management of debtProvides insights on taking the ideas covered and applying them to real-world investment decisions

Engaging and informative, Debt Markets and Analysis provides practical guidance to excelling at this difficult endeavor.

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Bankruptcy in America, in stark contrast to its status in most other countries, typically signifies not a debtor’s last gasp but an opportunity to catch one’s breath and recoup. Why has the nation’s legal system evolved to allow both corporate and individual debtors greater control over their fate than imaginable elsewhere? Masterfully probing the political dynamics behind this question, David Skeel here provides the first complete account of the remarkable journey American bankruptcy law has taken from its beginnings in 1800, when Congress lifted the country’s first bankruptcy code right out of English law, to the present day.

Skeel shows that the confluence of three forces that emerged over many years–an organized creditor lobby, pro-debtor ideological currents, and an increasingly powerful bankruptcy bar–explains the distinctive contours of American bankruptcy law. Their interplay, he argues in clear, inviting prose, has seen efforts to legislate bankruptcy become a compelling battle royale between bankers and lawyers–one in which the bankers recently seem to have gained the upper hand. Skeel demonstrates, for example, that a fiercely divided bankruptcy commission and the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress have yielded the recent, ideologically charged battles over consumer bankruptcy.

The uniqueness of American bankruptcy has often been noted, but it has never been explained. As different as twenty-first century America is from the horse-and-buggy era origins of our bankruptcy laws, Skeel shows that the same political factors continue to shape our unique response to financial distress.

You might be thinking everything’s okay: the stock market is on the rise, jobs are growing, the worst of it is over.

 

You’d be wrong.

 

In The Real Crash, New York Times bestselling author Peter D. Schiff argues that America is enjoying a government-inflated bubble, one that reality will explode . . . with disastrous consequences for the economy and for each of us. Schiff demonstrates how the infusion of billions of dollars of stimulus money has only dug a deeper hole: the United States government simply spends too much and does not collect enough money to pay its debts, and in the end, Americans from all walks of life will face a crushing consequence.

 

We’re in hock to China, we can’t afford the homes we own, and the entire premise of our currency—backed by the full faith and credit of the United States—is false. Our system is broken, Schiff says, and there are only two paths forward.  The one we’re on now leads to a currency and sovereign debt crisis that will utterly destroy our economy and impoverish the vast majority of our citizens.  

 

However, if we change course, the road ahead will be a bit rockier at first, but the final destination will be far more appealing.  If we want to avoid complete collapse, we must drastically reduce government spending—eliminate entire agencies, end costly foreign military escapades and focus only on national defense—and stop student loan or mortgage interest deductions, as well as drug wars and bank-and-business bailouts. We must also do what no politician or pundit has proposed: America should declare bankruptcy, restructure its debts, and reform our system from the ground up.

Persuasively argued and provocative, The Real Crash explains how we got into this mess, how we might get out of it, and what happens if we don’t. And, with wisdom born from having predicted the Crash of 2008, Peter Schiff explains how to protect yourself, your family, your money, and your country against what he predicts.

An award-winning environmental activist and social entrepreneur exposes the link between our financial and environmental crises

 

For decades, politicians and business leaders alike told the American public that today’s challenge was growing the economy, and that environmental protection could be left to future generations. Now in the wake of billions of dollars in costs associated with coastal devastation from Hurricane Sandy, rampant wildfires across the West, and groundwater contamination from reckless drilling, it’s becoming increasingly clear that yesterday’s carefree attitude about the environment has morphed into a fiscal crisis of epic proportions.

Amy Larkin has been at the forefront of the fight for the environment for years, and in Environmental Debt she argues that the costs of global warming, extreme weather, pollution and other forms of “environmental debt” are wreaking havoc on the economy. Synthesizing complex ideas, she pulls back the curtain on some of the biggest cultural touchstones of the environmental debate, revealing how, for instance, despite coal’s relative fame as a “cheap” energy source, ordinary Americans pay $350 billion a year for coal’s damage in business related expenses, polluted watersheds, and in healthcare costs. And the problem stretches far beyond our borders: deforestation from twenty years ago in Thailand caused catastrophic flooding in 2011, and cost Toyota 3.4 percent of its annual production while causing tens of thousands of workers to lose jobs in three different countries.

To combat these trends, Larkin proposes a new framework for 21st century commerce, based on three principles: 1) Pollution can no longer be free; 2) All business decision making and accounting must incorporate the long view; and 3) Government must play a vital role in catalyzing clean technology and growth while preventing environmental destruction. As companies and nations struggle to strategize in the face of global financial debt, many businesses have begun to recognize the causal relationship between a degraded environment and a degraded bottom line.  Profiling the multinational corporations that are transforming their operations with downright radical initiatives, Larkin presents smart policy choices that would actually unleash these business solutions to many global financial and environmental problems.   

Provocative and hard-hitting, Environmental Debt sweeps aside the false choices of today’s environmental debate, and shows how to revitalize the economy through nature’s bounty.

For debtors everywhere who want to understand how the system really works, this handbook provides practical tools for fighting debt in its most exploitative forms. Over the last 30 years as wages have stagnated across the country, average household debt has more than doubled. Increasingly, people are forced to take on debt to meet their needs; from housing to education and medical care. The results—wrecked lives, devastated communities, and an increasing reliance on credit to maintain basic living standards—reveal an economic system that enriches the few at the expense of the many. Detailed strategies, resources, and insider tips for dealing with some of the most common kinds of debt are covered in this manual, including credit card debt, medical debt, student debt, and housing debt. It also contains tactics for navigating the pitfalls of personal bankruptcy, as well as information on how to be protected from credit reporting agencies, debt collectors, payday lenders, check-cashing outlets, rent-to-own stores, and more. Additional chapters cover tax debt, sovereign debt, the relationship between debt and climate, and an expanded vision for a movement of mass debt resistance.

Moyer provides the insight, in-depth analysis and strategies necessary to invest successfully in the securities of financially distressed companies. This high-risk, high-reward $400 billion market is more for institutional investors and often trades in blocks of $1-$5 million.

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It’s been almost seven years since I wrote Debt and Delusion. So naturally, readers have a right to ask, “Why produce an updated version at this time?” There are at least three reasons, the cheapest of which is that the author is surprised and flattered to find that it is in demand and there has long ceased to be any supply.

More than that, like an abandoned mine, the book stands as a monument to what was already known about the global credit expansion and the strains in the financial system before the halving of equity market prices from the early 2000 peaks. Most importantly, and sad to say, this equity market trauma foreshadows even more disastrous results of the financial folly that has reached proportions unimaginable in the summer of 1998. And so, the primary function of the book — “as a timely warning of the perils that lie ahead” — remains valid.

Debt and Delusion exposes serious flaws in the development of the global financial system starting in the early 1990s, singling out the world’s largest central banks for special criticism. Their negligent oversight has permitted an explosion of corporate and household credit that has fueled a succession of false markets in stocks, bonds, and property. Alarmed by the monster so created, the U.S. Federal Reserve has spent much of the past five years staving off the evil day when foolish lending turns into bad debt.

Far from being the architects of economic stability and low inflation, the world’s central bankers have ushered in a new era of financial fragility and latent instability. Innovations in the use of derivatives, structured products, and other complex financial instruments have been applauded by the central banks on narrow technical criteria. But these supposed bastions of conservatism have failed to comprehend the wider implications for financial stability.

From poorly documented home loans to sub-prime auto loans to subordinated corporate debt and junk bonds, permanently easy access to credit has compromised economic management in the U.S., U.K., and other English-speaking nations and has fostered an illusion of prosperity and well being.

Lamentably, this staggering collective flight from reason has been endorsed by the economics establishment.

The failure of many of the finest economic minds to engage with the rapid evolution of our financial structures and institutions has led to a superficial assessment of this unprecedented credit experiment. Only now, as various credit markets face the inevitable tests of higher interest rates and the realistic pricing of credit risks, is the threat of a pandemic of debt-related distress beginning to be taken seriously. Government budgets, already strained by the weight of social support, have limited scope to respond.

In short, tougher economic times lie ahead, when personal debts will hang more onerously than for 75 years. Debt and Delusion recommends a hasty! reappraisal of the debt requirements of corporations and households alike.

Peter Warburton
September 2005