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Other People's Money and How the Bankers Use It (The Bedford Series in History and Culture) First Edition Edition

18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312103149
ISBN-10: 031210314X
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Melvin I. Urofsky is professor of constitutional history at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He is coeditor, along with David W. Levy, of the multivolume Letters of Louis D. Brandeis and has also written biographies of Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, and Stephen S. Wise. His most recent works include A Conflict of Rights: The Supreme Court and Affirmative Action (1991) and Letting Go: Death, Dying, and the Law (1993).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's; First Edition edition (March 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031210314X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312103149
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,596,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Stephen R. Laniel on June 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a book that we all ought to be reading right now. Today, investment banks' primary mode of self-defense is to argue that capitalism needs them. Brandeis argues vigorously to the contrary, and it's not at all hard to carry his arguments from the nineteen-teens directly to now.

When we tip our hat to bankers, we typically honor their role as intermediaries: they direct money from depositors to valuable investment opportunities. Most depositors cannot be expected to evaluate the claims of businessmen, so bankers function as a vehicle for judging risk and establishing reputations. Hence the now-famous dialogue between J.P. Morgan and Samuel Untermyer:

'Untermyer: "Is not commercial credit based primarily upon money or property?"

Morgan: "No sir. The first thing is character."

Untermyer: "Before money or property?"

Morgan: "Before money or property or anything else. Money cannot buy it...because a man I do not trust could not get money from me on all the bonds in Christendom."'

You will presumably find few people today who view bankers as this sort of lantern-jaw-held-steady, coldly-responsible übermenschen.

On the other side of the risk-judging coin, bankers are supposed to finance the little guy. The entrepreneur just starting out who needs a few dollars at the right moment -- this man is capitalism's hero, and he's the one to whom bankers are supposed to direct money. As the entrepreneurs' hero, the banker is supposed to be our hero as well.

Think again, says Brandeis; bankers only give money to enterprises which have proven that they hold no risk whatsoever.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By J. Colbert on April 22, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been reading dozens of books within the past 2 years on investing and the stock market / US business history. I read this book after Galbraith's The Great Crash 1929 [really excellent!] and am currently reading Josephson's The Robber Barons [also excellent]. All three of these books are over 50 years old, and can seem dated in their prose style [not a problem for me - maybe since I am also over 50], but the material is very fresh and timely, if a bit depressing. The rigging of our financial system to fleece the many in favor of the few did not start in the era or with the junk bond kings.

I highly recommend the edition of Other People's Money edited by Urofsky because his introduction adds a great deal to this slim volume which began life as a series of even shorter magazine articles.

Overall, Distressingly familiar [even many of the names have not changed after 100 years]!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By L. Howard on May 25, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
That this book was written nearly 100 years ago makes it somewhat harder to read due to style and useage differences. However, this is a small caveat. What I found rather unnerving was how much of what Justice Brandeis said then about a different crisis, sounded like it could have been written about our current financial crisis.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the financial history of the country. And to anyone who enjoys an excercise in "the more things change...".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brian G. Ruschel on September 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
I signed out Urofsky's 1995 edition from the library. Brandeis first published 10 articles in Harper's Weekly starting in late-1913 (which was published as a book in March 1914) which are available online for free (but I'm not allowed to post the link here). The chapters are: "Our Financial Oligarchy," "How the Combiners Combine," "Interlocking Directorates," "Serve One Master Only," "What Publicity Can Do," "Where the Banker Is Superfluous," "Big Men and Little Business," "A Curse of Bigness," "The Failure of Banker-Management," and "The Inefficiency of the Oligarchs."

Everyone learns in high school that Mr. J. P. Morgan was some towering presence of "good character" on Wall Street who intervened in the Panic of 1907, and whose company likewise stepped in during the 1929 Crash. But Brandeis shows that Mr. J. P. Morgan was basically just one big clever, greedy, slimeball who put on a good front. I bet nobody ever read in any history book that someone from J.P. Morgan was a director of American Bank Note Company (and Mr. Morgan one of its largest shareholders) which had "the exclusive privilege granted . . . by the New York Stock Exchange. A recent $60,000,000 issue of New York bonds was denied listing on the Exchange, because the city refused to submit to an exaction of $55,800 by the American Bank Note Company for engraving the bonds, when the New York Bank Note Company would do the work equally well for $44,500." Today, this would be called a controlled entity arrangement (a kickback arrangement for inflated pricing).

Also, back then, underwriting commissions were grossly too much and the banks made sure of this by placing friendly directors on the boards of companies who made sure commissions and other shanagans were not questioned.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Clearpoint on June 10, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A must read for anyone who questions the necessity of our fractional reserve fiat monetary system. More relevant today than when written in 1914 for one simple reason...the Federal Reserve was only just beginning then, and the bankers' global fiat monetary system was not yet unleashed upon the world. Yet even with their somewhat limited powers, as compared to today, the bankers of that day still had an amazingly large and adverse impact on our free market economic system. Brandeis's analysis of the monopolistic money trust is incredible and deserves 5 stars all by itself. He was truly a brilliant man, and an incorruptible champion of the people. That being said, what held me back to 4 stars is the progressive big government solutions he championed. The impact that this brilliant and incorruptible man had on the justification for big government as the check on the power of the money trust cannot be underestimated. Sadly, even though many see themselves capable of the greatness of a Brandeis, very few are. And greatness was what was needed to carry out the progressive big government solutions he championed. Given the current state of the bankers' monetary system, even after the mega-trillion dollar bailouts and "quantitative easing" funded by savers alive and savers not yet born, clearly what came after Brandeis was not greatness, but hubris --- and a highly compensated, morally bankrupt, deceptive, and corrupt hubris at that.

It's worth repeating that Brandeis's analysis, especially his analysis on wave after wave of purposeless business consolidation and the failures of banker management, was absolutely brilliant. Multiply what he wrote about the money trust and the monopolies they created back then by about a thousand, and you get a general idea of the trouble we face today in breaking the death grip the money trust and their political enablers have on our economic and political freedom.
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