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The Industrial Revolution built the foundation of our modern capitalist age. Yet the flowering of technological innovations during that dynamic period relied on the widespread adoption of two much older ideas: the creation of paper money and the invention of banks that issued credit. We take these systems for granted today, yet at their core both ideas were revolutionary and almost magical. Common paper became as precious as gold, and risky long-term loans were transformed into safe short-term bank deposits. As King argues, this is financial alchemy - the creation of extraordinary financial powers that defy reality and common sense. Faith in these powers has led to huge benefits; the liquidity they create has fueled economic growth for two centuries now. However, they have also produced an unending string of economic disasters, from hyperinflations to banking collapses to the recent global recession and current stagnation.
How do we reconcile the potent strengths of these ideas with their inherent weaknesses? King draws on his unique experience to present fresh interpretations of these economic forces and to point the way forward for the global economy. His bold solutions cut through current overstuffed and needlessly complex legislation to provide a clear path to durable prosperity and the end of overreliance on the alchemy of our financial ancestors.
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By Philo on 07-13-16
Two books in one, both very fine
Here we have a tutorial on basics of money, banking and (some) finance, and their history. All the contemporary terminology is neatly fit into the explanations. It is a great way to become widely literate and current on this. Secondly, having educated and briefed the audience, the author shares his proposal to replace the overall central banking LOLR (lender of last resort) model (dating back at least to Walter Bagehot in his book 'Lombard Street' (available here), and the origins of modern central banking), with a PFAS (pawnbroker for all seasons) model. This in effect forces a kind of insurance premiums or pre-haircuts to be baked into credit deals from the start, to pay when they default en masse as they did in '08. I have seen this model criticized, as blocking the wild experimental quality of capitalism. But it is a great try and at least a start at remodeling the system so we won't have our overall financial system keep working in straightened times as an emergency insurer after the fact (after a financial collapse), charging ex post premiums back to us peasants for decades to come, while the fat cat bankers get bailed out (as the popular trope goes), and party on, with no fundamental fix to this model offered, to date. (Let me pause and say I do see some virtues in Dodd-Frank. I believe it goes some length toward reducing the frequency and depth of these problems.) Bravo for a very interesting read, and something to be pursued. This is the first Great Recession book (of dozens I have seen, most of the major titles) where anyone has bothered to propose any sizeable substantive changes. This deserves more workup. Very enjoyable and I expect to listen through again.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
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By Cedric Hodges on 06-04-18
Well worth a listen
The main strength of this book was the sense of history that it's author posses.
By steve on 04-23-18
A good book, but maybe not the best format.
I appreciate this book and the ideas in it but it has a lot of digressions, historical examples etc. and so it can all become a bit of a blur if you're looking for a book to listen to while doing something else.
The ideas aren't complicated or hard to understand but there is just such a volume of stuff around them that it sometimes gets difficult to keep track of the point the author is making. I was doing some simple activities while listening and found I would get lost in the details and lose the main thread of the ideas. I think this is a fault of the book itself rather than me just being too dumb or inattentive (although all dumb, inattentive people probably think that!).
If you're interested in finding how money and banking work then give it a go. Maybe you're smarter than me!