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The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire Hardcover – April 4, 2013
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The New York Times:
"[Mr. Irwin] has provided an accessible, engrossing account of the tribulations that Mr. Bernanke, with Mervyn A. King of the Bank of England and Jean-Claude Trichet of the European Central Bank, endured in pulling the world financial system back from collapse... Mr. Irwin seems to have talked with everyone, read the right scholarly papers and interviewed important dissenters in the Fed, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Bundesbank... He has a nice touch for translating central banking’s mysteries, opaque and forbidding, into understandable English. He is astute in describing the internal and external politics of institutions traditionally expected to remain above politics of the usual sort."
Adam S. Posen, Foreign Affairs, President of the Peterson Institute for International Economics and member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee from 2009 to 2012:
"An excellent account...scrupulously reported and full of clear explanations of events and economic concepts....an incredibly valuable book for all economically concerned non-economists. As someone who knows well the three central bankers that the book features...I can attest that the narrative has more than just a ring of truth. It gets the individuals, the circumstances surrounding their decisions, and their motivations right and also presents them fairly. Irwin’s volume will have lasting value for a wide range of audiences, including students and elected officials, but it will make its greatest contribution as a corrective to the many unfounded or simply crazy ideas about monetary policymakers’ intentions and impact."
The Wall Street Journal:
"A detailed and fast-moving account of these perilous years. This is the crisis as told through emails, phone calls, meetings and one very fateful walk along the beach in Deauville, France."
"The most complete and authoritative account to date of the response of the central bankers to the global financial crisis."
About the Author
Neil Irwin is a Washington Post columnist and economics editor of the Post’s Wonkblog web site. From 2007 to 2012, he led coverage of the global financial crisis, recession, and aftermath as the Post’s beat reporter covering the Federal Reserve and other central banks. He has an MBA from Columbia University, where he was a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism. Irwin appears regularly on television analyzing economic topics, including on MSNBC, CNBC, and the PBS Newshour. He lives in Washington.
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The Great Recession forced me to figure out what in God's name went wrong and I could only do that by learning the facts minus the numbers of what it was about and how did the middle class get crushed but the barons of Wall Street make billions. How did THEY get what the middle class lost. The middle class of this nation did all the right things but because they were not a member in good standing of the the 2% money club they ended up living out of their cars or motels or even took their own lives as they could not survive. How could this have happened seemingly under our naive or ignorant noses. How did this 2% get to be and why has this house of cards we call a capitalist economic system fail us so many many times throughout history.
I began to ask questions like what is the Fed and when I was told by those close to me in the know that it was NOT government owned that it was a private entity run by just a few governors of it I needed to know more. Where did it come from and why do some think it responsible for the trillions of debt our government owes BUT others think it has saved the world? I needed to know the etiology of our perils, where fiat currency came from who gets to print money and I needed to know why so many of supreme intellect say takes us seemingly out of these perils saving the nation from another 1929 Great Depression. This book is historically fascinating to explain our contemporary economic structure . I, though, have on my KIndle more books to explain more.
I have been told to read Schiller's "Finance and the Good Society" and I have been told to read "The Creature from Jekyll Island" by G. Edward Griffin (although the author of this is in my opinion too extremist right wing biased.) Albeit the book is good. The Alchemists is feeding my yearning to know and understand the essence of the US economic system. I only wish I took the interest twenty years earlier.
The Alchemists seems to be for me fascinating because of my basic need to know.
In all fairness, I am an experienced financial person. I have studied for many years the events surrounding the multiple financial problems, starting with the events surrounding the Great Depression. This book lays out the issues in a well balanced fashion without the dramatic exagerations so common in today's media presentations. I have read the six or seven major books written on this subject, starting with Hank Paulson's, and I find that The Alchemists is the best of the lot. Suggested reading to those that want to understand the events and the mistakes made during the period.