“What will not surprise you is the wisdom, wit, and insight that Alex Pollock and Howard Adler bring to this indispensable guide to financial prophecy. The future may be a closed book, but you must open—and read—this one.”—James Grant, Grant’s Interest Rate Observer
“Surprised Again! will demystify finance for students and give experts a deeper understanding of things they thought they knew.”—Christopher DeMuth, Distinguished Fellow, Hudson Institute and former President, American Enterprise Institute
About every ten years, we are surprised by a financial crisis. In 2020, we were Surprised Again! by the financial panic of the spring triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Not one of the 30 official systemic risk studies developed in 2019 had even hinted at this financial crisis as a possibility, or at the frightening economic contraction which resulted from the political responses to control the virus. In response came the unprecedented government fiscal and monetary expansions and bailouts. Later 2020 brought a second big surprise: the appearance of an amazing boom in asset prices, including stocks, houses, and cryptocurrencies.
Alex Pollock and Howard Adler lived through this historic instability while serving as senior officials of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Their book lays out the many elements of the panic and its aftermath, from the massive elastic currency operations which rode to the rescue by financing the bust with unprecedented government debt, to the consequent asset price boom, which included a renewed bubble in house prices financed by government guarantees. It considers key leveraged sectors such as commercial real estate, student loans, pension funds, banks, and the government itself. It reflects on how to understand these events both in retrospect and prospect.
“A masterful survey of the financial sector and its post-COVID dependence on easy money from the Federal Reserve. This book is the first place to turn for a clear exposition of key financial topics—housing, municipal debt, pension funds, student loans, cryptocurrencies, and more. The reader will be surprised yet again at the extent of financial problems lurking below the surface.”—Thomas H. Stanton, Johns Hopkins University
“Pollock and Adler masterfully track governments’ financial response to the global pandemic—and raise critical questions about the future implications of increasing backstops for housing, student loans, pensions, and maybe even cryptocurrencies. A brilliant and clear recounting of the last two years, and a roadmap for the next potential crisis.”—Winthrop Watson, President and CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh
“Surprised Again! is a highly sophisticated analysis of every major potential problem in the US financial system today, presented in a delightfully readable and accessible form . . . The lesson is clear: surprises can never be ruled out, but it is possible to understand where the most likely economic or financial dangers lurk. The authors lay these out with admirable clarity. Forewarned is forearmed.”—Peter J. Wallison, Senior Fellow Emeritus, American Enterprise Institute
“Tired of government bailouts with taxpayer money? Want government programs designed to maximize benefits while minimizing costs to the public fisc? Thought about risk transfers associated with federal intervention in the market? Then read this book!”—Keith Noreika, former Acting Comptroller of the Currency
Alex J. Pollock is a Senior Fellow of the Mises Institute and the author of Finance and Philosophy: Why We're Always Surprised (Paul Dry Books) and Boom and Bust: Financial Cycles and Human Prosperity. He was Principal Deputy Director of the Office of Financial Research, U.S. Treasury, from November 2019 to February 2021, and has been a fellow of the R Street Institute and the American Enterprise Institute, president and CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, and a director of CME Group, Ascendium Education Group, and the Great Books Foundation. Pollock’s work includes the study of financial systems and their recurring crises; the politics of finance, risk, and uncertainty; central banking; and housing finance. He is a graduate of Williams College, the University of Chicago, and Princeton University, and he lives in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Howard B. Adler is an attorney and former government official. From May 2019 through January 2021, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for the Financial Stability Oversight Council, where he was responsible for monitoring the financial stability of the United States during the first year of the Covid-19 crisis. He was awarded the Treasury’s Distinguished Service Award for his efforts by the Secretary of the Treasury. Mr. Adler was a partner for over thirty years in the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP law firm, where he served as co-head of both the firm’s Corporate Transactional Practice Group and REIT Practice Group. Prior to joining Gibson Dunn, he served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of The Riggs National Bank of Washington, D.C. Mr. Adler has also served as the Treasurer of the Washington, D.C. Bar and on the Board of Governing Trustees of American Ballet Theatre. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and New York University School of Law, and he lives in the Washington, D.C. area.