On this page you'll find all the resources you need to take part in a ten part reading group which will help you get to grips with the basics of the financial crisis. Everything here is suitable for people with no prior knowledge of  economics, but there's plenty to think about for those who already know a bit. Most of the resources below are available online - just click the titles to bring them up.

PART 1: It's the economy, stupid

1. Why study economics? Jim Stanford

2. Economics and the Economy Jim Stanford

These two chapters are from Jim Stanford's Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism, 2008, London, and are offered for free with the kind permission of the publisher, Pluto Press (www.plutopress.com).

3. Film suggestion: Supersize me (2004) (1 hour, 40 minutes)

4. The story of stuff (20 minutes)


Read the blog and join the online discussion for part one >>


Suggested discussion questions: 

1. What did you think? Was it useful?

2. Anything you found particularly interesting?

3. Who would you like to see on the news talking about the economy and what kinds of things do you think they should talk about?

4. How and why are companies like McDonalds able to dominate? What impact does it have? Should governments regulate more?


PART 2: "We all spent too much"

1. Austerity has never worked  Ha Joon Chang 

2. Expert economists commenting on austerity

3. Mark Blyth on Austerity (5 minutes)

4. Film: Bringing the cuts home (3 minutes)

5. Documentary: Masters of Money on Keynes (1 hour) [now only available on youtube]


Read the blog and join the online discussion for part two >>


Suggested discussion questions:

1. Have most people heard the examples given by Ha Joon Chang before? Why?

2. Could a return to Keynesianism solve all the current problems of the financial system?

3. Why are governments forcing through austerity in the face of its historical failure?

Part 3 will look at some explanations of the financial crisis that blew up in 2007.


1. Crises of Capitalism David Harvey (11 minutes)

2. Reboot: how did we get here? A basic introduction by new economics foundation (5 minutes to read)

2. How did economists get it so wrong? Paul Krugman (20 mins to read)

3. Rising inequality as a root cause of the present crisis, Engelbert Stockhammer (Quite a long paper at 30 pages, it also gives a good overview of how the crisis happened, but the basic idea is in the introduction which takes 5 mins.)


Read the blog and join the online discussion for part 3 >>


We've tried to make all the suggested reading things that are available for free on line, but there's also a lot of books on the causes of the crisis. One that I found particularly easy to read was Whoops by John Lanchester.


Suggested discussion questions:

1. What are the main explanations of the financial crisis that you've heard before? How do politicians explain it? Or the media?

2. What did you think of the explanations given here?  

3. Krugman asks 'how did economists get it so wrong?' - what's your answer to this question?

4. Are there things that don't make sense? Any tricky questions? If there are, send them in to maddy@jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk and we'll try to answer them!

PART 3: Crash!

PART 4: What if we hadn't

                 bailed out the banks?



Your suggestions...

New comments cannot be added at the moment due to a technical problem which should be fixed soon. In the meantime you can read previous comments and suggestions below and join the discussion in the Facebook group.

Photo: Hoira Varlan, Flikr

PART 6: Is there such a thing as a 'good' bank...?

Part 4 looks at some of the different ways that debt crisis has been dealt with outside of model of bank bailouts that has been used across the Eurozone.


1. Let them default (news clip) Ann Pettifor (6 minutes long)

2. Iceland: Recovery and reconciliation Financial Times (you have to register to view this article, but it's free and only takes a minute).

3. As Greece ponders default, lessons from Argentina New York Times

4. Cristina Kirchner and Argentina's good fortune Guardian

5. Defaulting rescued Argentina. It could work for Athens too Guardian

6. Ecuador's audit commission finds illegality in debt  Bloomberg. This article looks at the outcome of Ecuador's debt audit which set out to identify whether any of the debts owed by Ecuador had been illegally run up and thus should not be paid.


Read the blog on these readings >>


Suggested discussion questions:

1. Casting your mind back to the bank bailout in the UK, how much coverage was there of other possible alternatives? What were they? (If any?)

2. What are the main 'lessons' from Argentina's experience of default? What about Iceland?

3. What is a 'debt audit'? Could this be a useful tool working for social justice? Can you imagine how this would work in the UK?

4. During the bank bailouts and subsequent austerity programme we were told that there was no other option. Was this message successful, did it convince people? Do you think we had a choice?

5. How can alternatives be effectively highlighted?

Introductory things to read:

1. The Guardian's interactive timeline of key events lets you browse through the key events in the crisis.

2. BBC what really caused the eurozone crisis?

3. Costas Lapavitsas answers your questions on Greece and the Eurozone crisis in the Guardian.

4. Everything you need to know about Greece's New Marxist Governing Party (Syriza) This situation is developing fast, so check the news for the latest! (This item posted on 11/02/15)


In a bit more detail:

4. Beggar thy neighbour and thyself Research Money and Finance Report - it's long but reading section one 'The report condensed' will give you a good idea of their points. They really go into the causes of the crisis beyond what you often hear in the mainstream media.


And a few extra on some key concepts you might want to know more about:

5 'Unhappy in their own ways' in the Economist This article looks at contagion - what is it, how would it happen, and why is it a problem?

6. Devaluation - last option to save the euro in Financial Times (you need to register to get access, but it is quick)

7. IMF makes a U-turn on capital controls Bretton Woods project makes a very short statement on the IMF talking positively about capital controls.


Read the blog on these readings >>


It wasn't easy picking the readings this week, so please do get involved by adding your own below!


Suggested discussion questions:


How did the Eurozone crisis happen? Why hasn’t it been resolved?


What are the mainstream explanations of how Greece, Spain, Portugal and others ‘got into’ the crisis?


What are the alternative explanations raised here? Any others that you know about?


Do you have any questions you can’t answer or jargon you want explained? You can contact the econowhat team via maddy@jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk for answers!




Part 5: Taking the credit -

              the eurozone crisis.

This week takes a look at green-growth recovery, and ideas around the reasons for low growth or no growth economies and what they would look like.


1. Green New Deal 'Facing the climate and energy crunches: policies and financing'. This chapter starting on page 35 looks at how 'Green Growth' could be implemented.


2. Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet by Tim Jackson. This is a short Guardian article that gives a brief intro to the idea of a no-growth economy.


For a bit more detail, try reading the introduction to this, Prosperity without Growth, Tim Jackson and the final chapter 'Steps towards a sustainable economy'. The whole thing is interesting if you have time!


Or if you prefer to watch than read, then you can hear Tim Jackson talking in a TED talk here Economic Reality Check.


Suggested discussion questions


Politicians talk about growth at every turn. Why is it such a high priority?


What do we want the economy to achieve for people?


Is growth necessary for this?


Is it possible to have an economy without growth?

Part 7 - Inequality and wage stagnation

1. Infographic: The global 0.001% 


2. Infographic: Inequality in the UK


3. Inequality in the UK: Why inequality matters – Centre for Labour and Social Studies. The introduction and Chapter 1 give a good overview of the situation in 10 short pages.


4. FILM (16 minutes) Richard Wilkinson: How economic inequality harms societies


5. Deficits, Debts and Deepening Crisis Monthly Review


6. IMF paper Michael Kumhoff - there's a 500 word summary here which looks at how inequality related to the crisis. Also it's worth looking back at the  Stockhammer article in part 3.


7. This is how we solve inequality New Economics Foundation


Suggested discussion questions


What does wage stagnation mean?


Is inequality in the UK getting better or worse? What about poverty? How do they relate?


What are the impacts of inequality on people?


Does inequality have an impact on the stability of the economy?


What do you think of the New Economics Foundation proposals?


Do you have any questions you can’t answer or jargon you want explained? You can contact the econowhat team via maddy@jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk for answers!







Part 8 - the lessons of history.

Looks at the Bretton Woods System, the development of neoliberalism and its impacts.


1. BBC A short history of the Bretton Woods System 


2. A brief history of neoliberalism, David Harvey. You can access on line here, Chapter 1 gives a short history, if you don’t have time for that then the introduction condenses some of the key points.


3. Bretton Woods Project: background to the issues. Covers some FAQs about the Bretton Woods institutions and criticisms of them.


4. Thirty years since Mexico’s default, Nick Dearden in New Statesman.


5. An interview with Naomi Klein on the Shock Doctrine in Latin America 


Suggested discussion questions


Can you do a recap on what the Bretton Woods System was?


Is there anything we can learn from the experience of debt defaults in Mexico and Argentina?


How did neoliberalism become such a dominant system?


Can we learn anything from the way in which it was promoted?


Do you have any questions you can’t answer or jargon you want explained? You can contact the econowhat team via maddy@jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk for answers!



Part 10: Is the future growing?

1. What might a cooperative economy look like? Prout Institute of Australia (PIA)


2. Co-operatise the state? Hilary Wainwright in Red Pepper


3. Think there's no alternative? Latin America has a few The Guardian


4. Peer to peer production and the coming of the commons Red Pepper


Suggested discussion quesions


What are the main ‘alternatives’ highlighted in the readings?


Are these things you’ve heard of before? Do you have others?


Which are most convincing?


Do most people think alternatives are possible?

Part 11: We are the 99%, another economy is possible.

Peter Smith 2013.8.4 11:16

I'm very excited about a new book by Martin Adams called "Sharing the Earth" which explains the philosophy and economics of Earth Sharing in a highly accessible way. You can read the first 3 chapters for free if you look it up on Amazon then click "Look Inside" : http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615791085/ref=rdr_ext_sb_ti_hist_2


Peter Smith 2013.3.24 10:20

The key to a proper understanding of economics is understanding the distinction between land, labour and capital - the 3 factors of production - as set out by the classical economists of the 19th century. From this flows an understanding of the concept of economic rent. It is the appropriation of economic rent that drives inequality and exploitation of the many by the few. This has been the case throughout history and is happening again now. Our inability to comprehend the mechanics of this, due to the corruption of economics by the neo classical school of thouht, leaves us powerless to take the necessary action to address the root causes of our problems. In addition to my suggestions below I'd also like to suggest this article which summarises very well Michael Hudson's important contribution to the field: http://www.ianfraser.org/michael-hudson-how-finance-capital-leads-to-debt-servitude/


Peter Smith 2013.3.23 23:45

Progress and Poverty by Henry George is a must read. The modernised and abridges version it is available here: http://www.henrygeorge.org/pcontents.htm and as a pdf here: http://www.henrygeorge.org/pdfs/PandP_Drake.pdf


John Rogers 2013.3.20 16:48

Essential reading:


Ecology of Money by Richard Douthwaite

Occupy Money by Margrit Kennedy

The Future of Money by Bernard Lietaer

Money & Sustainability - the Missing Link by Bernard Lietaer et al

The End of Money & The Beginning of Civilisation by Thomas Greco

Healthy Money, Healthy Planet by Deirdre Kent


Debunking Economics by Steve Keen

Economics Unmasked by Phillip B. Smith and Manfred Max-Neef

A Guide to What's Wrong with Economics ed. Edward Fullbrook


Where does Money come from? by Josh Ryan-Collins et al


Debt: the first 5000 Years by David Graeber


The Money Changers - currency reform from Aristotle to E-cash by David Boyle

The Little Money Book by David Boyle

A History of Money by Glyn Davies

The Lost Science of Money by Steven Zarlenga


Local Money by Peter North

People Money - the Promise of Regional Currencies by Margrit Kennedy, Bernard Lietaer & John Rogers (yes, I declare an interest here).

Also: videos and text at the Positive Money Campaign website, especially to understand the nature of the problem:



Mel Shaw 2013.3.18 16:58

Interesting article by Nicholas Shaxson in Vanity Fair on London's role as a tax haven, brought to my attention by the Tax Justice Network blog: http://www.vanityfair.com/society/2013/04/mysterious-residents-one-hyde-park-london


Errol Thompson 2012.12.15 18:50

Mel, I really like Michael Sandel's material. He has a way of challenging people's basic assumptions about decisions that we make. He has done a series of broadcasts with the BBC that really force you to think about your economic assumptions and whether it is justifiable to pay one person more than another. I still need to read his book "What monet can't buy".


Mel 2012.12.13 23:06

This is a quick, 5 minute piece by Michael Sandel from Harvard University on why the free market model should only be applied sparingly, and with careful forethought. He speaks well and comes up with good examples: http://youtu.be/DFVdX4Tje2E.


Mel 2012.12.12 15:54

For me, "The Big Short", by Michael Lewis, was by far the best book explaining how the '08 crash came about. He writes really well. It's entertaining, but incredibly well researched at the same time. You could probably finish it in a weekend if you get stuck into it.


Mel 2012.12.12 15:12

Sorry - the link for Tim Harford's talk is here: http://youtu.be/QeOdO9nc_bc


Mel 2012.12.12 15:11

A great short talk by Tim Harford using insight from the world of engineering and nuclear power stations to remind us that the way our global financial system is designed means that it remains vulnerable to further crashes and crises like the one in '08. Until we bite the bullet and resolve these underlying design flaws, we can look forward to more of the same, with ordinary citizens bearing the consequences and carrying the cost each time.



Peter Smith 2012.12.11 16:44

I highly recommend "A True Economics", chapter 9 of Mark Braund's book "The Possibility of Progress". It is freely available here: http://henrygeorgedevon.wordpress.com/a-true-economics/


Maddy (website editor) 2012.12.11 14:22

Hi everyone, thanks for all your brilliant suggestions. Thought I'd reply on a couple of things. On books, people have suggested some great titles - I'd particularly like to include something from the Shock Doctrine for example, but I've only put up resources on the suggested readings that can be downloaded for free. Please keep making books suggestions in the comments box!

Barbara, thanks for your thoughts, the last couple of weeks of the reading group  will include some thing around 'prosperity without growth' which seems very releavnt to what you're saying.  I would definately say that this isn't a course - just the basis for discussions, so I haven't aimed to get all opinions in the readings, but rather to represent those ideas which don't get such an airing in the mainstream. We've definately been challengign these in our reading group too!


Charles Wheeler 2012.11.29 11:29

'reigned in' ! - Freudian slip, given imperiousness of Born's opponents


Charles Wheeler 2012.11.28 19:24

I would highly recommend reading Robert Sherrill's stunning article on the Savings & Loan debacle of the 1980s - stunning because it was written in 1990 and predicts the banking collapse nearly two decades later, for which the S&L crisis acted as a dress rehearsal:

"Nevertheless, though it is obvious that the tottering commercial banking world needs tighter regulations than ever, the industry and the Administration push on pell-mell for deregulation . .  Brumbaugh, for one, is dumbfounded by what he's seeing. "The administration and Congress just don't want to acknowledge the problem," he says with a sigh. "This is déjà vu all over again. You can't believe it's happening, but there it is."


Then read McLean and Nocera's All The Devils Are Here for the denoument. And suddenly the crash seems less like a bolt from the blue tan a premeditated looting by a financial class indemnified against risk - and far removed from any notion of a 'free market'.

The warnings were there, but the Cassandras of the day were doomed to be ignored.

Further reading: The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein; A Brief History of Neoliberalism, David Harvey; The Big Short, Michael Lewis; Traders, Guns and Money, Satyajit Das; How Markets Fail, John Cassidy; The Origin of Financial Crises, George Cooper (a primer on Minsky); Inside Job, Charles Ferguson (transcript); L.T. Hobhouse's essay on the perils of laissez-fare: Liberalism, Polanyi's seminal The Great Transformation & Ha Joon Chang's corrective to the revisionist histories of capitalism: Bad Samaritans (see: Kicking Away the Ladder for a precis).

And last, but not least: The Warning - the story of Brooksley Born's ultimately futile attempt to reign in the derivatives monster in the face of opposition from Greenspan, Rubin and Summers (the career trajectories of that triumvirate tells you all you need to know about how dfficult it will be to challenge the neoliberal paradigm), and Adam Curtis's The Century of the Self and The Trap - for an insight into the ideological underpinning of the economics of individualism.

p.s. To understand where this ideology is coming from conversance with Ayn Randian 'philosophy' is a pre-requisite (Greenspan was a disciple).


Peter Smith 2012.11.8 13:54

When Lehman Bros went down back in September 2008 it became very clear to me that the emperor of capitalism and maintstream economics really didn't have any clothes. Thats when I decided it was up to me to get to grips with economics because the so called "experts" were full of sh*t. My reading eventually took me to a book called "Progress and Poverty" by Henry George. Upon reading this book it was as if the mist was lifted from before my eyes. Its a great work that provides a fundamental explanation  of the laws governing the distribution of wealth and answers the question of why we have poverty amid plenty. Although published in 1879 it is supremely relevant to the times we are living through. I can't recommend it highly enough and I have recently founded the Henry George Society of Devon (http://henrygeorgedevon.wordpress.com/) to promote this body of knowledge in my local area.


Rosalie 2012.11.5 11:37

I enjoyed Paul Krugman's article, I feel like I learnt a lot but not once in 8 pages did he mention the word 'greed', without this I find it hard to believe that he truly gets to the heart of the matter in his article, or in his economics


Nancy Bonney 2012.11.4 16:57

I have read  a number of economics books over recent months and perhaps years. I feel that one of the biggest scams is the none payment of corporation tax by many multi-nationals.  If that were all paid into governments, then deficits would be less, but the public at large fneed to know exactly what is happening and they do not.  how do we get the message out further.

Nancy Bonney


Barbara 2012.11.3 15:18

This looks like a very biased course - the cuts are bad. Full stop. In fact, there is a good reason for austerity - there was an economic model that the government could be the economy by borrowing and of course, consumers could be the economy, by borrowing. The trouble is, some point comes when no one wants to lend to you any more - and then you are in a mess. This should be looked at. By this stage, you are paying a lot of interest and unless you default it takes up a lot of tax - tax being paid by very ordinary people. Of course, all governments believe in economic growth because it is an easy fix. But from an environmental point of view, it is the last thing we need. I have been made redundant and can't afford Christmas at all this year - this is very good for the planet, I am not using up the earth's resources in stuff. The solution in austerity is sharing - and this is Christian. If you have a good job and don't need the money, give it up and work voluntarily. Encourage people to share by working part time. The economic problem is not austerity - it is distrubution and not sharing.


Chris Kennett 2012.10.31 23:13

97% owned is the story of the British banking system.which is very similar to the American documentaries about Americas Banking system.


Bob 2012.10.31 13:21

The root cause of poverty, inequality and most of our current social, economic and environmental problems lies in the way that we allow money to be created.

Make sure to check out Positive Money website:


They make the confusing world of economics much easier to understand.

They have great short videos e.g.:

Why is there so much Debt?



Diana Marquand 2012.10.31 09:53

Naomi Klein's book: "The Shock Doctrine" is also well worth reading (there is also a DVD ) - she tells the story of how the current type of "Disaster Capitalism" which lead to the rise in corporate power first began: it was an alliance between an economist called Milton Friedman and a psychiatrist called Dr. Cameron (!) who experimented in giving patients electric shocks.The theory is that if you put people into a state of shock - through exploiting natural disasters, creating unemployment, or inflicting war - then people will b ecome so shocked they are incapable of fighting back. It was the reason for "shock and awe" tactics in Iraq to get the people so disoriented that it made it easier for Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to go there and grab all the oil and other resources.


Phil 2012.10.31 12:08

http://rowans-blog.blogspot.co.uk/ (Financial Fraud blog by former Scotland Yard detective)


Phil 2012.10.31 12:06

Fraud is a central part of our financial system and that of the USA's. Rowan Bosworth Davies is a former Scotland Yard Fraud Squad Dectective. He keeps the blog above. Rowan was once button-holed by a City grandee after he had given a compliance talk. The senior banker said: ‘Oh, you’re Rowan Bosworth-Davies – I’ve read your work with some interest but you know, you’re quite wrong. People like me will never be prosecuted. We’re a protected species.” When he was a policeman in South London he could arrest and put away any murderer or bank robber off the street. When he wanted to investigate fraud in the City, he had to get the permission of a Minister of State to talk to the banker in question. And that just about says it all, doesn’t it?


Mira 2012.10.30 21:36

97% Owned - New Documentary with Nick Dearden, Jubilee Debt Campaign Director


It exposes the privatised, debt-based monetary system that gives banks the power to create money, shape the economy and cause crises.


Mira 2012.10.30 21:31

The root cause of poverty, inequality and most of our current social, economic and environmental problems lies in the way that we allow money to be created. Positive Money works to make the confusing world of money and banking much easier to understand.



Mira 2012.10.30 21:28

Why is there so much debt?  - the basics you need to know - 3 min video:



judy 2012.10.30 21:11

The Spirit Level - Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

Web of debt - E H Brown


Tina 2012.10.29 19:33

Catastroika : Another greek documentary this time on how the "crises" facilitate selling off state assets to the private sector. Plenty of global examples


Tina 2012.10.29 19:24

Debtocracy : A very interesting Greek documentary starting from the Greek crisis but explaining much more. English subtitles.



Bobby Dazzler 2012.10.29 17:31

grip of death by michael rowbotham

debt: the first 5000 years by david graeber

the ecology of money by richard dowthwaite

small is beautiful by e.f. schumacher


Patrick Sudlow 2012.10.29 17:31

I thought Tim Jackson's 'Prosperity without Growth', a useful read giving reasons for the problems and possible solutions.  Also New Economics Foundation's 'A Green New Deal' also deals with the problems and possible solutions.  The Green Economics Institute produce a book, 'The Green Economics Reader'', which is a collection of essays, articles and speeches from the Green Economics Institute.  



Crispin 2012.10.29 15:39

For those after more advanced reading (think 1st year undergraduate level), I'd strongly recommend the Economics Anti Textbook (Hill & Myatt).  It demonstrates the trouble with mainstream economic thought in its own, logical terms, rather than taking the human-focussed approach of most alternative literature.  Not that the latter is a bad thing (of course!), but some logical/mathemetical perspective is useful when trying to convince people who will only listen to an argument pitched in those terms.


Mick Sasse 2012.10.29 14:35

Can I make two other suggestions that people may find interesting: Mark Achbar's film The Corporation (examining the nature of corporate personality) - which I believe may be available from certain torrent sites on a legal quasi-shareware basis (but clearly check this first!).  

Also I would very strongly recommend Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.  There is also a documentary film version of this.  Coming from a non-economist background, her dissection of neo-liberal economics and the tactics of its proponents is brilliant.

Hope this helps!


Mohammed Ashik 2012.10.29 13:42

Rich Dad's Advisors: Guide To Investing In Gold & Silver - Protect Your Financial Future

Good history lesson of precious metals verses fiat currencies. Including lessons about economics such as inflation, interest rates, etc. Easy to read. This is not new information to this book. All in all this book offers no new information but puts alot of good existing information into an easy to read package.


Mohammed Ashik 2012.10.29 13:39

The Four Horsemen: Documentary film and book.

Four Horsemen is the debut feature from director Ross Ashcroft which reveals the fundamental flaws in the economic system which have brought our civilization to the brink of disaster.

23 leading thinkers –frustrated at the failure of their respective disciplines – break their silence to explain how the world really works.

The film pulls no punches in describing the consequences of continued inaction – but its message is one of hope. If more people can equip themselves with a better understanding of how the world really works, then the systems and structures that condemn billions to poverty or chronic insecurity can at last be overturned. Solutions to the multiple crises facing humanity have never been more urgent, but equally, the conditions for change have never been more favourable.

Part 9 (NEW!) : Is the UK economy recovering?

1. New Economics Foundation This isn’t a recovery it’s a relapse


2. New Economics Foundation Short film: The UK economy, recovery or relapse?


To know what the UK government means when is says the economy is 'growing' you need to understand what Gross Domestic Produce (GDP) is:


3. What does GDP really tell us about economic growth 


4. Why GDP isn't useful (10 minute video which looks at why GDP can't distinguish between cost and benefit)


What constitutes the recovery?


4. The economy is recovering, but productivity isn’t


5. Recovery “built on housing bubble and  consumer debt”


Are people actually getting better off?


5. IMF finds inequality is bad for economic growth


6. Growing wealth inequality in the UK is a ticking timebomb


Suggested discussion questions:


How does the government measure growth?


Is the UK economy recovering? Who is benefitting from the recovery?


What could a different recovery look like?