When the first fissures became visible to the naked eye in August 2007, suddenly the most powerful men in the world were three men who were never elected to public office. They were the leaders of the world’s three most important central banks: Ben Bernanke of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Mervyn King of the Bank of England, and Jean-Claude Trichet of the European Central Bank. Over the next five years, they and their fellow central bankers deployed trillions of dollars, pounds, and euros to contain the waves of panic that threatened to bring down the global financial system, moving on a scale and with a speed that had no precedent.
Neil Irwin’s The Alchemists is a gripping account of the most intense exercise in economic crisis management we’ve ever seen, a poker game in which the stakes have run into the trillions of dollars. The book begins in, of all places, Stockholm, Sweden, in the 17th century, where central banking had its rocky birth, and then progresses through a brisk but dazzling tutorial on how the central banker came to exert such vast influence over our world, from its troubled beginnings to the age of Greenspan, bringing the listener into the present with a marvelous handle on how these figures and institutions became what they are - the possessors of extraordinary power over our collective fate. What they chose to do with those powers is the heart of the story Irwin tells.
Irwin covered the Fed and other central banks from the earliest days of the crisis for the Washington Post, enjoying privileged access to leading central bankers and people close to them. His account, based on reporting that took place in 27 cities in 11 countries, is the holistic, truly global story of the central bankers’ role in the world economy we have been missing. It is a landmark reckoning with central bankers and their power, with the great financial crisis of our time, and with the history of the relationship between capitalism and the state. Definitive, revelatory, and riveting, The Alchemists shows us where money comes from - and where it may well be going.
©2013 Neil Irwin (P)2013 Gildan Media LLC
I enjoyed this book's narration but, having enthusiastically read the news during the period which the story covers (2007-2012, primarily), I did not learn much.
If you are still curious about the major monetary policy decisions made during the financial crisis and Great Recession, however, I would definitely recommend this book.
Say something about yourself!
Neil Irwin's history of the Financial Meltdown and the intervention of the central bankers in averting a economic catastrophe gives some great insight into the events of that period. Bernanke did not always get it right, but the decisions he and the others in the Federal Reserve made kept the economy from a complete collapse. This at a time when the politicians were capable of nothing but bluster and inaction (oh, forgot that is still the case). The interactions and interdependencies of the global economy really come to the forefront.
It provides great insight into background and personalities of the key players.
Walter Dixon's narration was first rate.
This is a must-listen-to book for anyone interested in current affairs, economics or the state of the world economy. I had a hard time turning off my Ipod.
If you are interested in economics and central banking it is certainly worth the listen. The writer has a distinct bias in favor of interventionist central banks and this occasionally detracts from an otherwise worthy historical account of the time.
It speaks about central banks in general & focuses on central bankers actions during the 2007 crises, and yet referred to some historical event.
A different narrator
I can't say a lot about this book because I couldn't get past the first 5 minutes. The narrator sounded like the computer generated voice used to convert text to audio. I was looking forward to the topic but the narrator was unbearable. I guess I will have to get the book at the library when I have some time to read it myself.
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