The Alchemists

The Alchemists

Three Central Bankers and A World on Fire

Book - 2013
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When the first fissures became visible to the naked eye in August 2007, suddenly the most powerful men in the world were three men who were never elected to public office. They were the leaders of the world's three most important central banks: Ben Bernanke of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Mervyn King of the Bank of England, and Jean-Claude Trichet of the European Central Bank. Over the next five years, they and their fellow central bankers deployed trillions of dollars, pounds and euros to contain the waves of panic that threatened to bring down the global financial system, moving on a scale and with a speed that had no precedent.

Neil Irwin's The Alchemists is a gripping account of the most intense exercise in economic crisis management we've ever seen, a poker game in which the stakes have run into the trillions of dollars. The book begins in, of all places, Stockholm, Sweden, in the seventeenth century, where central banking had its rocky birth, and then progresses through a brisk but dazzling tutorial on how the central banker came to exert such vast influence over our world, from its troubled beginnings to the Age of Greenspan, bringing the reader into the present with a marvelous handle on how these figures and institutions became what they are -- the possessors of extraordinary power over our collective fate.  What they chose to do with those powers is the heart of the story Irwin tells.

Irwin covered the Fed and other central banks from the earliest days of the crisis for the Washington Post , enjoying privileged access to leading central bankers and people close to them. His account, based on reporting that took place in 27 cities in 11 countries, is the holistic, truly global story of the central bankers' role in the world economy we have been missing.  It is a landmark reckoning with central bankers and their power, with the great financial crisis of our time, and with the history of the relationship between capitalism and the state. Definitive, revelatory, and riveting, The Alchemists shows us where money comes from--and where it may well be going.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Group, 2013.
ISBN: 9781594204623
1594204624
Branch Call Number: 332.11 Irw
Characteristics: xvii, 430 p. : ill.

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beetle101
Oct 11, 2013

An eye-opening book to just how much of our financial well-being is beyond our control. I wish it hadn't been forty years since my last econ class, but the book was still a fascinating chronology of central banking and the guess work involved in trying to fix the economy.

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johnsankey
Aug 06, 2013

This will be a difficult and unsettling read for most. The staggering influence these mostly secretive unelected people have over our lives shows just how little power our elected representatives actually have. It's uncomfortable to hear the all too well substantiated argument that the best way to run a supposedly free market economy is diametrically opposite to the best way for us to run an individual household or business.

s
StarGladiator
May 28, 2013

Horrible book, and what was Jean-Claude Trichet indicted for some time ago? Ever read Bernanke's highschoolish papers on the supposed underlying factors of the Great Depression? Have any confidence in Mervyn King, because many of us sure don't! Garbage in and garbage out perfectly describes this poop! Reminds one that before going to testify before congress, Bernanke had to be given a tutorial or seminar in credit derivatives as he had no idea what they were about - - and if you don't understand credit derivatives (and by extension, their subcategory of credit default swaps, and securitization and its history - - Great Crash of 1929 and Great Depression) and rehypothecation, and so forth, you don't understand the basics - - which perfectly describes bankster lackey, Bernanke!

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