'...takes the reader on a journey through more than two centuries of monetary and fiscal policy and banking.' (The Economist, December 2010).
From the Inside Flap
When it comes to matters of money, most Americans tend to view themselves as reasonably prudent people, reflecting the puritan roots of their European ancestors. Yet, at the same time, Americans also seem to feel entitled to a lifestyle, individually and nationally, that is well above the rest of the world's, and well beyond our current means. Inflated: How Money and Debt Built the American Dream explores more than two hundred years of American politics and monetary policy to examine this conflict. In doing so, it asks whether the current understanding of the American Dream, one of entitlement, is so ingrained that to expect Americans willingly to live in a "deflated" world is unrealistic. This book simply and directly tells the story of inflation and public debt as enduring, and perhaps even endearing, features of American life. It describes:
- The Gold Rush and how dreams of instant wealth replaced the notions of hard work and saving as the national ideal
- How Congress's deficit spending is a direct legacy of Abraham Lincoln's presiding over the first legal tender laws, which gave the federal government control overthe issuance of "money"
- How the financial crisis of 1893 led to the creation of the Federal Reserve System, ultimately confirming the cautionary views of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson that a central bank would prove antithetical to democracy and individual rights
- The rise of investment trusts during the 1890s, and how those trusts were the precursors of hedge funds and complex financial derivatives
- How the dollar's role as the world's currency after WWII encouraged America's tendency to demand immediate gratification of national wants and needs
- Why the Gold Standard Act of 1900 was the high watermark for sound money in the United States, and why Richard Nixon's decision to end the dollar's gold convertibility in 1971 opened the door to vast inflation and debt in the decades that followed
Whether taming the frontier in the 1800s, fighting poverty during the Great Depression, or bailing out private corporations deemed "too big to fail" in the twenty-first century, America's tendency to borrow from the future is a core ethic of American society. In the post—market meltdown economy, Inflated explores the rich history of living beyond one's means, and whether Americans—an instinctively self-reliant, isolationist people—are more likely either to embrace fiscal stringency if other nations demand it or turn their backs on the rest of the world.