PERSONAL: Male. Education: University of Wisconsin, Madison, B.A., 1973; Merton College, Oxford, M.A. (philosophy, politics, and economics), 1975.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036-2188.
The Chastening: Inside the Crisis That Rocked theGlobal Financial System and Humbled the IMF, Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: Journalist Paul Blustein has done economic reporting for such prestigious publications as the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Forbes. In 2001 he published his first book, The Chastening: Inside the Crisis That Rocked the Global Financial System and Humbled the IMF, a report on the Asian financial crisis of 1997 that eventually spread to other countries around the world. When the currencies of Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, and other Asian countries began showing signs of collapse that year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stepped in with large rescue packages—$17 billion in the case of Thailand, $33 billion for Indonesia, and $55 billion for South Korea—yet their currencies failed to stabilize as expected. Blustein also traces the courses of other troubled IMF interventions of the late 1990s, including those in Brazil and Russia.
According to Lael Brainard in his Foreign Affairs review of The Chastening, Blustein "applies the craft of great storytelling to a highly deserving subject that is normally the province of technocrats, academics, and financial wizards." Although much had already been written about these financial crises, "Blustein offers a useful journalistic summary, neatly devoting a chapter to each country and generally avoiding the garbled wonk-speak typical of his subject matter," assessed Carlos Lozada in the American Prospect. Blustein also offers his own interpretation of these events, and it is a frightening one: he argues that the global financial system came precariously close to failing during the late 1990s, and the fact that it did not was due more to sheer luck than to anything that the IMF did to attempt to solve the problem. "The Chastening's main accomplishment," commented a Business Week critic, "is to clear up much of the mystery about what went on behind the scenes during the big bailouts of the 1990s," including the infighting between various government agencies and bureaucrats and the lack of solid information with which they were often working. In a review for the National Observer: Australian and World Affairs, I. C. F. Spry encouraged "economists and government policy advisers" to read The Chastening.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Prospect, February 11, 2002, Carlos Lozada, review of The Chastening: Inside the Crisis That Rocked the Global Financial System and Humbled the IMF, p. 46.
Booklist, October 15, 2001, Mary Carroll, review of The Chastening, p. 360.
Business Week, November 5, 2001, review of TheChastening, p. 20.
Choice, March, 2002, E. L. Whalen, review of TheChastening, p. 1287.
Economist, May 4, 2002, review of The Chastening.
Foreign Affairs, January-February, 2002, Lael Brainard, review of The Chastening, p. 192.
Institutional Investor, October, 2001, Deepak Gopinath, review of The Chastening, p. 216.
International Affairs, January, 2003, Justin Robertson, review of The Chastening, pp. 197-198.
Journal of Economic Literature, December, 2002, Iwan J. Azia, review of The Chastening, p. 1277.
Library Journal, November 1, 2001, Norm Hutcherson, review of The Chastening, p. 106.
National Journal, March 23, 2002, Clive Crook, review of The Chastening, p. 874.
National Observer: Australia and World Affairs, autumn, 2002, I. C. F. Spry, review of The Chastening, p. 67.
New York Review of Books, March 25, 2004, Vijay Joshi and Robert Skidelsky, review of The Chastening, p. 19.
Society, July-August, 2003, Joseph P. Joyce, review of The Chastening, pp. 76-79.
Times Higher Education Supplement, May 23, 2003, Forrest Capie, review of The Chastening, p. 24.
Brookings Institution Web site,http://www.brook.edu/ (September 13, 2004), "Paul Blustein."*