THE DEATH OF THE BANKER

THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE GREAT FINANCIAL DYNASTIES AND THE TRIUMPH OF THE SMALL INVESTOR

Three ad rem essays from National Book Award winner Chernow on the convulsive shift in the balance of monetary power (from commercial, investment, and merchant bankers to financial conglomerates) that has marked 20th-century capitalism. Drawing on research he did for The Warburgs (1993) and The House of Morgan (1990), Chernow offers an anecdotal primer on the factors that put paid to the pivotal, frequently dictatorial role once played by bankers in allocating capital throughout Europe and North America. In addressing, even mourning, the eclipse of the banking trade, he recalls the accomplishments of larger-than-life financiers (in particular, John Pierpont Morgan and Siegmund Warburg) who granted the credit required to open the American West, underwrote transcontinental railroads, masterminded acquisition campaigns decades before merger mania became a byword on Wall Street, guided fearful nations through market panics, and otherwise left their mark on the New World and Old. The author recounts how passage of the Glass-Steagall Act by Congress during the Great Depression brought the disruptive rigors of competition to the clubby, relationship-oriented world of banking. Chernow also documents the advances in communications technology and regulatory policy that put investment intelligence within reach of all comers; these latter developments led directly to the profusion of mutual funds, which manage the billions of dollars anted up by individual investors. While today's institutional avatars may be a more cautious, risk-averse breed than their colorful predecessors, that may be in part, the author suggests, because they are subject to the pitiless collective judgments of a global marketplace that puts precious little premium on living by one's wits. If Chernow provides no breakthrough perspectives to arrest the attention of professionals, he delivers a sound, accessible account of the forces shaping capital, credit, currency, and securities markets on the eve of a new millennium.

Pub Date: July 16, 1997

ISBN: 0-375-70037-4

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more