- Capa comum: 564 páginas
- Editora: Penguin Books; Edição: Reprint (29 de dezembro de 2009)
- Idioma: Inglês
- ISBN-10: 0143116800
- ISBN-13: 978-0143116806
- Dimensões do produto: 13,7 x 3 x 21,3 cm
- Peso de envio: 458 g
- Avaliação média: 1 avaliação de cliente
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Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World (Inglês) Capa Comum – 28 dez 2009
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The 4 LoF were frankly bizarre characters and by relating their biographies and recapping both the domestic and international scenes, Ahamed nicely sets the stage for the far-reaching financial decisions they made, some of which resulted in the economic turmoil that eventually lead from the First World War to the Great Depression to the Second World War. The eventual "rationalization" of international finance, undertaken in light of the debacles of the late 19th and early-through-middle 20th centuries have, evidently, failed to avert another catastrophe.
If one is searching for the "hero" of the tale, that role has been given to three men: First is John Maynard Keynes. From Ahamed's perspective, Keynes appeared to be almost invariably right in his analysis over the years of turmoil, although his prescriptions (and proscriptions) were rarely accepted (than as now). He characterized the Depression era as "The Dark Ages". Second is FDR. Roosevelt is credited with taking the bold steps required to reverse the Depression beginning in March, 1933 (abandoning the gold standard through a "small" amendment to the AAA that allowed the president to devalue US currency, thereby driving up prices and lowering the cost of borrowing). Third is the lesser-known Eugene Meyer who, at one time, was in charge of both the Fed and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. His 1932 efforts to convince Congress to allow government securities to serve as eligible assets to back currency permitted the Fed to "...embark on a massive program of open market operations, injecting a total of $1 billion of cash into banks". These were bold moves by bold men, often acting against conventional wisdom. They are contrasted starkly by the author with the many bad decisions and indecisive maneuvers undertaken by the economic "establishment".
I suspect that many readers are drawn to this book not in search of an economic history, but rather in quest of parallels to the "Less Great Depression" which began with the collapse of Lehman and Bear Stearns in 2007-2008. You'll find those nicely catalogued in the epilogue. The bulk of the text was, however, written well before the recent financial upheaval. The author's introduction was written in October, 2008, during which time he notes, "...the world is in the middle of one such panic-the most severe for seventy-five years, since the bank runs of 1931-1933 that feature so prominently in the last few chapters of this book. The credit markets are frozen, financial institutions are hoarding cash, banks are going under or being taken over by the week, stock markets are crumbling." While historical analogy is a crude instrument in the hands of moral certainty, especially when applied retrospectively, one cannot help but regard the current situation through the lens of past mistakes. Ahamed's book is a brilliant, understated, elegant recounting of events, adroitly interlaced with analysis that is always pithy and never pedantic.
The author notes that then as now, a search for the "villains" was undertaken. In March, 1933 the US Senate Banking and Currency Commission recruited New York Assistant DA Ferdinand Pecora as Chief Council investigating the cause of the 1929 crash. The Pecora investigation resulted in reforms and, as Ahamed notes, "The public was soon rivieted by the tales of financial skullduggery in high places." I should state that, although not mentioned by Ahamed for obvious reasons, lessons were learned by modern economists, including as prominent examples, Ben Bernanke, Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman. Unfortunately, these lessons have also been forgotten by many leaders over many years many times, right through the present.
As I understood the text, the most egregious blunders leading to the Great Depression were:
1) fantastic speculative "bubbles" (e.g., the US stock market, Florida real estate),
2) adherence to the gold standard,
3) unsound financial speculation by several large banks,
4) WW-I reparations (and, most significantly, the War itself),
5) lack of a coherent national (and international) financial policy,
6) the actions of the 4 LoF, themselves
Of course, the bankers and economists of the era were no more or less smart (or dumb) than their present day counterparts and they recognized these issues and more. However, dealing with the matter in a rational manner sometimes eluded them, this for a variety of reasons. A few salient events which Ahamed indicates further aggravated matters are worth noting. For example, in mid-1927, the US Federal Reserve cut interest rates (by only 0.5%, which was then reversed within 6 months). Ahamed believes that, "The Fed's move was the spark that lit the forest fire (of stock market speculation)." The author also notes that rising interest rates in the US "...functioned as a magnet, drawing money from all corners of the globe, evey country in Europe, except France, struggled to prevent its gold from escaping across the Atlantic...With the steady erosion in commodity prices, the effect of the rate hikes was to raise the real cost of money in many places to over 10%, bringing with it the first signs of worldwide economic slowdown...The US stock market meanwhile refused to pay attention to either the rising cost of money around the world or the first signs of slowdown abroad."
In 2011, the economy remains in precarious condition, domestically and worldwide. Voltaire has been credited with the acerbic observation that, "History never repeats itself; men always do." That pithy axiom seems to hold true today and the consequences may still prove economically cataclysmic. For instance, emerging from some quarters are calls to "re-establish the gold standard", "abolish the Fed", "curtail government spending", "no more bail-outs", "cut taxes on the wealthy (presumed "job creators")", etc, etc. The errant stupidity of these cure-all nostrums (falling under the general catchphrase of "fiscal conservatism") could not be better illustrated than the recounting given in LoF. These mistaken notions have been further reinforced by the hallowed "myth of the market", reinforced by legislative blocking of prudent regulatory controls, possibly beginning with the 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagal). In some circles, these shibboleths have achieved the near-religious status accorded gold in the not too distant past. Ahamed offers the following terse summary: "...while most of the time the economy works very well left in the care of the invisible hand, during panics, that hand seems to lose its grip...To reestablish sanity and restore some sort of equilibrium in these circumstances required a very visible head to guide the invisible hand." Let's hope the next heads perform better than those of the 4 Lords.