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Richard Vague is this century's incarnation of  Walter Bagehot, Charles Mackay, and Charles Kindelberger, all in one: a successful banker, brilliant author, and contrarian economist with an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of money and banking, and the parts of economic theory that are worth knowing--above all the contributions of Hyman Minsky. No-one else comes close to his blend of professional experience, oratorical flair, and critical insights.

Steve Keen, Economist and Author of Debunking EconomicsThe New Economics: A Manifesto, and Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis?

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About the Book

When we talk about debt and its economic impact, we usually center on “government debt”. However, this is only part of the big picture: individuals, firms, and households owe trillions and understanding this private sector debt is vital to understanding the economy.

In this iconoclastic book, Richard Vague examines the assets, liabilities, and incomes of the American economy as a whole, not just of the government. The book shows that debt growth in excess of GDP growth is a feature of modern economic systems, not a bug—and thus ever-increasing leverage is built into the very structure of the economy. Vague uses the data presented in the book to show that rising debt is the primary source of economic growth, new money creation, and wealth creation—but that it also brings heightened inequality and can bring economic calamity when left unchecked.


Vague also compares and contrasts the financial data of the U.S. to the world’s other largest economies.


As an established and independent expert on the role of private sector debt in the global economy, Vague offers an innovative set of policies to try to manage the paradox: monitoring of excessive sectoral debt, periodic debt restructuring, a training revolution, and policies to boost asset ownership for the poor.


Whether you are a policymaker looking to address this paradox of debt or a citizen looking to understand these often-confusing dynamics, this book is an indispensable guide to the underlying dynamics of the American economy.

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Order Your Copy

This is a must-read for anyone looking to understand—and fix—the deep, underlying dynamics of the American economy.

Increasing debt is what creates household growth, yet inevitably leads to economic catastrophe when occurring in excess. How can we shape policy that attempts to tame the dark side of debt while allowing it to continue to create wealth, perhaps with more equality than ever before? Secure your copy of The Paradox of Debt today, and find out how.


About Richard

Richard is the author of The Paradox of Debt, which presents a new view of macroeconomics, The Case for a Debt Jubilee, a policy exploration of debt relief, An Illustrated Business History of the United States, the story of our nation’s business progress, A Brief History of Doom, a chronicle of major world financial crises, and The Next Economic Disaster, a book with a new approach for predicting and preventing financial crises.


Richard currently serves on the University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees and the Penn Medicine Board of Trustees, and on a number of business boards. He serves a Vice Chair of PSERS, Pennsylvania’s largest public pension fund, chair of the University of Pennsylvania Press, and chair of the Innovation Advisory Board of the Abramson Cancer Center.  He also serves on the Governing Board of the Institute for New Economic Thinking and the board of the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia. He is the founder of the economic data service Tychos (, which specializes in analyzing private debt trends, and the email newsletter service, which focuses on non-fiction literature.


He previously served Secretary of Banking and Securities for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And as Chair of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. Richard served as managing partner of Gabriel Investments, an early stage venture capital company, co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Energy Plus, an electricity and natural gas supply company, and co-founder and CEO of two consumer credit card banks, First USA and Juniper Bank.

Conference Room


Purchase 200 copies of The Paradox of Debt to share with your colleagues or students, and Richard will offer a 60-Minute Keynote session with Q&A, and a book signing—FREE! 

*After purchasing, please reach out via the Contact Page so we can confirm your proof of purchase and schedule your talk!

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