Off the Money

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The great financial crisis of 2007–9 was no end of a lesson for the economics profession. Prior to it, hardly any economist drew attention to the global imbalances that had built up in the early 2000s and are now seen as a crucial element in the meltdown. Nor, with a few notable exceptions, did economists […]

From Barter to Barclays

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Why bother trying to summarise the whole economic history of the world, from the earliest commerce in ancient Mesopotamia to Donald Trump’s trade wars, in a single middleweight volume? The point, I suppose, is to establish, taking the longest possible perspective, what works and what doesn’t: which natural advantages, inventions, political structures and events have […]

Master Criminals of the Universe

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Sitting in a white leather armchair at a hustings event in June last year, Boris Johnson bragged that he had, more than any other politician, ‘stuck up for the bankers’ in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Earlier, while mayor of London, he described himself as ‘the champion

When Greed Was Good

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

I must admit that at first I wondered why anyone would care enough about the subject to buy a heavy volume on the recent history of Barclays. The bank’s main distinction in the last decade was managing to survive the financial crisis without being bailed out by the government. This meant that Barclays didn’t spend time […]

Après le Déluge

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Adam Tooze, who is now a professor at Columbia University in New York, has published two brilliant books of 20th-century economic history. The first, The Wages of Destruction, a highly influential analysis of the economics of Nazi Germany, revealed in particular the impact of raw material shortages on the German war strategy and highlighted the […]

Droit Du Seigneur

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

F SCOTT  FITZGERALD has a great deal to answer for. In The Great Gatsby he created the blueprint for the modern millionaire, its hero being the harbinger of twentieth-century excess and the influence behind a plethora of playboys. All have one thng in common: great wealth. In The Natural History of the Rich, Richard Conniff […]

The Buck Starts Here

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

ALTHOUGH CALLED ‘PAPER money’, the US dollar is in fact a water-resistant mixture of linen and cotton, with coloured silk fibres running through it. The word ‘dollar’ comes from the thaler, a coin first made at the silver mines of Joachimsthal in Bohemia in 1519. Today there are seven trillion dollars in the world – […]

Rise & Fall of the Numbers Guys

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Nobody could have seen it coming. That was the get-out-of-jail-free card played by bankers and banking watchdogs alike in the wake of the credit crisis that brought the global financial system to its knees. Yet that protestation actually convicts the financial community rather than excuses it. Nobody could have seen it coming because nobody had […]

Taking Gold

Posted on by Tom Fleming

This book has the shape of a mountain: you tramp up one side, looking at the preparation and run-up to the ‘battle’ for nearly two hundred pages, spend fewer than sixty on the Bretton Woods conference itself and then tramp down for another hundred, as Benn Steil considers the aftermath to the present. It could […]

Tithes that Bind

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Winston Churchill, as chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1920s, asserted the right of the citizen ‘so to arrange his affairs as not to attract taxes enforced by the Crown so far as he can legitimately do so within the law’. Most people who are in a position to do any tax planning today would […]

Fishy BISness

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The title of this book is a giveaway: no one who picks it up could reasonably expect to find a measured, judicious history of the Bank for International Settlements, universally known as the BIS. On the other hand, without such a title, relatively few would pick up the book at all. It is a polemic, […]

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Questions for Cash

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Money, according to a leading City investor of my acquaintance, should be ‘a unit of account … a medium of exchange which avoids the inconvenience of barter … and a store of value’. On that basis, my friend swears by the special virtues of gold, while decrying as dishonest the quantitative easings and other market […]

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