Something is wrong with our banking system. We all sense that, but Mervyn King knows it firsthand; his 10 years at the helm of the Bank of England, including at the height of the financial crisis, revealed profound truths about the mechanisms of our capitalist society. In The End of Alchemy, he offers us an essential work about the history and future of money and banking, the keys to modern finance.
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.
©2016 Mervyn King (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
"Mervyn King may well have written the most important book to come out of the financial crisis. Agree or disagree, King's visionary ideas deserve the attention of everyone from economics students to heads of state." (Lawrence H. Summers)
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.
Very educational and thought provoking book. Mervyn King's audience here is anyone who not only wants to understand what happened during the financial crisis, but wants to better understand why it happened and what needs to change to prevent another. Thankfully, this isn't a book about finger pointing.
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