Monday, April 27, 2009

Book Review - London Times - Bankers Leading Us Into The Great Depression

Lords of Finance: 1929, the Great Depression and the Bankers who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed review
Norman became a broken man when ­sterling was forced off the gold standard by a run on the pound and — perhaps more inexplicable to Norman — after a new American president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, chose to devalue the dollar when he didn’t have to. In 1948, a couple of years before he died, Norman wrote: “As I look back, it now seems that, with all the thought and work and good intentions, which we provided, we achieved absolutely nothing… Nothing that I did, and very little that old Ben [Strong] did, internationally produced any good effect — or ­indeed any effect at all except that we collected money from a lot of poor devils and gave it over to the four winds.”

It would be tempting to dismiss the interwar years as a period of collective insanity, when there were no voices of common sense and reason among the world’s political, economic and intellectual leaders. But that would not be right. The great British economist, John Maynard Keynes, routinely saw the elephant in the room and was ­ignored until it was too late. Keynes was eventually invited to be a member of the Court of the Bank of England, where he regularly lunched with Norman. “I do enjoy these lunches at the Bank,” said Keynes. “Montagu Norman always absolutely charming, always absolutely wrong.”

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