Bagehot was a ground-breaking writer on things financial and economic. This work was a landmark I believe in the formation of 20th-century concepts of banking, and central banking in particular. Those who enjoyed "The Bankers Who Broke the World" might like this, though this is drier. I liked the cadence of this fine, sober English prose.
I think this is a terrific use of 35 minutes for those interested. Of course only so much can be imparted in this time. Also there is a fine audiobook here, Dead On Arrival by Roger Royce, that may be of interest to you.
I had just finished a print book on this era, A Very English Deceit by Malcolm Balen (centering on the South Seas Bubble but giving a lot of color of the times) which I think spoiled me. Having seen a bit of the depth and richness of Christopher Wren's architecture, alongside bits of squalor in London, next to the twists and subtleties of Walpole's political machinations, I found this audio a bit flat and spare in its depictions. I do intend to continue listening to this series though, as overall I find them very rewarding. I don't regret listening to it, but might expect a tad more here in both scope and detail.
(Yes, that's a rhetorical question.)
This is not for everybody, but this is probably a bookish crowd, right? (We have a second rhetorical question already? Oops, and there's another?.) If you are delighted by English words and phrases, I recommend this. The author almost dances through it, tossing jokes everywhere. The narrator is ideal -- I wonder whether my laughing aloud on my listening-walks is at the wit of the author (and his often smartly goofy portrayals of very ostensibly serious writings) or the narrator's understated puckish style that always seems casual and yet right on the edge of laughter. This is a nice trip through English poetry and literature of the last few hundred years too. There are many little deconstructions of Shakespeare, also Dickens, William Blake, a bit of Jane Austen, some Churchill, on and on.
I see the author has other books here, and I won't hesitate to snap them up.
I was dismayed. I liked other works by this author. Here was an opportunity to map out a structure of these talented people networking, climbing, digging into the lattices of this massive corporate economy and culture at top levels, yet oddly, in the manner of old fashioned merchant bankers. Instead, we hear plenty of these haughty continental type fellows as if suddenly vaulted to some high in-group club which is itself only sketchily portrayed. Then the mutual sniping and titillating parts start. This cries out for more substantive detail. We hear plenty about every superficial aspect of the culture, such as the backward (or merely continental?) barbaric approach to many of the women working there. (Grotesque, making me happy I'm not there, even now.) OK, this is a valid part of the sociological descriptive approach, but hey, this is a book on banks, a finance work, not a brothel or a work of titillation. Or is it? A little is okay, but it this level of stuff can't carry the story at all. Ditto for the media wars surroundilng the infighting. There is mild utility to learning this, as it is a feature of NYC finance and power games, OK. It did feature into the story. Again, I differ with the author's weighting of these aspects as a driver of the book. If this kind of snipy muck (some might see Shakespearean tragedy, but I would say, without the pacing and soaring language; more conducive to needing an air sickness bag) satisfies the target audience, well, congrats to the author and publishers. I am a big finance book consumer, but apparently not this target audience. (I compare "High Financier" by N. Ferguson which had some similar features but gave me a better feel for the core of the matter: the deals being done, the challenges bested. Maybe it is too slow for some contemporary listeners' tastes.) There is some useful history here, some observations of our recent times, and it's not a total waste of time. Hence two stars, not one.
One needn't agree with the thesis here (that the dollar has reasons to remain the world's primary reserve currency for some time to come) to benefit from this smart tour of big issues in global money. The US dollar's demise has been proclaimed countless times, and for a host of reasons (many reviewed here), it keeps bobbing up to the surface for another interval as the most important global currency. Much of it might be called its enduring network externalities -- it serves needs no other currency can -- and the other contenders for various reasons haven't shown themseves ready for prime time. This continues to provide Americans an "exorbitant privilege" (a French politician's onetime term of resentment), so it is worth focusing on -- as life could be quite different in a world of faded dollar hegemony. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts, while being mentally limber for what might come next. Here I also sensed a subtext -- the USA has some unique qualities of internal robustness and stability (sometimes despite what seems like our best efforts) that this enduring buoyancy reflects. We are still in many ways a haven from world chaos, for people as well as their money.
Early on, I caught myself thinking, it took all those words to explain that fairly simple philosophical point? But it grew on me. As with many professors who are somewhat passionate about their topic, the chapters tend to start with a fairly level voice delivery and to pick up in pitch and insistence as the lecture progresses, sometimes hitting my ears with a bit of shrillness. (I hope my lectures are not like that, but I'm afraid they are!) By the time we arrived at the Rhine Valley and the Christian world, I found the explanations moving quite well, with a fine mix of doctrine and events on the ground. Things were worse under some Christians from an earlier date than I had thought (not that I'm a scholar of this). Much insight is gained about more recent history and culture -- the roots go deep.
I am patching up my knowledge of some history I lived through, but pretty blithely at the time. This knit the whole story of those 20 years together terrifically, connectilng dots between what I heard back then as mere fragments. Next stop: the late 1700s. I hope it is handled as deftly. The length is just right too, to give a brisk history refresher but not to bog down, as a few lengthy British histories I've read have done.
This is my favorite Supreme Court book of several seen over the years. I have the utmost respect for the authors' careful exploration of many facets of issues of great importance. Those with pre-set knee-jerk views might be disappointed here or there, but I'll warrant they'll emerge the better for it. I found my own views challenged in the best possible ways.
This book walks through stories of a lot of individuals and their money and logistical arrangements on the way to major terror operations. The narrator has the perfect sober, rich voice and gravitas to deliver this content.
The book really shines when the author pulls back and gives us an overview of the evolving world political economy after the fall of the USSR. While the west was congratulating itself, economic infrastructure all over the former communist-dominated world was withering. Where there had been political discipline (bad as it might have been in its way) and such things as regional arrangements allocating resources such as water, now these little atomized separatist groups were falling back into their enclosed, impoverished little zones. There were huge vacuums opening up in societies, on many levels, with large numbers of low-opportunity youths milling around, with nihilism, desperation and radicalization hovering and ready to take root. Along come the "right" people with money, an ideology, and bingo! Large swaths of the developing world fall into this atomized militia type condition, a breeding ground for radicalism. This is masterfully portrayed along with lots of particulars.
This history of course lacks the very latest round of developments, but gives very meaningful history. As a part of my recent studies into money laundering and offshore finance, I was curious about the bank, BCCI, and this history goes that far back (into the 80s), This sort of context vastly improves my understanding of what is happening now.
This book delivers nicely on its title. The editing sequence was a little odd, inasmuch as we get a lot of history before, some 4/5 of the way through, we go through a flurry of actual laws and regulations. I was fascinated at the perspective of the 2008 meltdown and the responses of Paulsen, Bernanke, Geithner and company as "shotgun takeovers" and "regulation by deal." I see it, from that perspective, as a virtuoso performance by these fellows, given the situation they found themselves in. (Their arguable misfeasance on the way there is a whole different discussion, not in this book.) To think, once upon a time, it was J. P. Morgan who pulled such bravura moves, and we institutionalized that power into public servants. Very interesting stuff.
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