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Inflated: How Money and Debt Built the American Dream 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470875148
ISBN-10: 0470875143
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Editorial Reviews


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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 393 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (December 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470875143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470875148
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #854,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brandon G. Adams on December 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read an insane number of books on the current economic crisis (I was Michael Lewis' research assistant for The Big Short) and this is one of the few that I would put in the "must read" category.

Very few of the recent published books on the US economic crisis have an adequate historical perspective. In Inflated, Chris gives us a very full history -- he starts at the founding of the Republic! The book is nonetheless extremely entertaining. I found myself captivated by it, and finished it fairly quickly.

Chris is an endearing narrator who is obviously more detail-oriented than many of his fellow commentators -- he clearly brings a high level of understanding to this work.

The book is very much of the Austrian School. I don't fully agree with some of Chris' views -- I think I'm generally more tolerant of inflation and inflation risk than he is.

Chris is quite pessimistic about the long future of the American economy, but I think I'm more pessimistic. He believes that austerity measures are required in the US and that the US will be able to weather these austerity measures fairly well socially and politically. I believe that the US cannot deal with austerity measures socially or politically -- therefore, they will not occur. The consequences of a lack of austerity are anyone's guess. Chris believes that high rates of inflation are inevitable without austerity -- I think high inflation and declining living standards are likely but not inevitable.

I find Chris overall views on debt and inflation quite similar to those of Peter Warburton, author of the truly incredible book, Debt and Delusion. The views of both of these authors are wholly different than the New Keynesian thinking of Ben Bernanke. I tend to slightly favor the Warburton/Whalen side of the debate.

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Format: Hardcover
I first noticed the brains and talent in R. Christopher Whalen in 2007. I was a trader at Lehman and every time I saw Chris on CNBC I was blown away by his straight forward common sense approach to the inner workings of the world of modern finance. Chris called many ills of the financial crisis over a year before they happened. He's made me a lot of money on more than one occasion. His book is much like his personality and intellect. He traces the deep roots of our financial system soiled years ago and brings them right into the 21st century. The book is a MUST read for anyone in finance or someone who wants to learn how we got here. I really like the way the book ties together a behind the scenes look in Washington and Wall St. The book should be required reading for every Federal Reserve board governor as well, lets learn from history instead of repeating it.

Buy "Inflated" it's a great read.

Lawrence G. McDonald

New York Times Best Selling Author of "A Colossal Failure of Common Sense - The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers"
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As usual, this was first posted on another site, which explains reference to Amazon reviews in the last paragraph....

I thought this was going to be another crisis book--I must have read 20 of them--but it turned out to be an exceedingly pleasing historical treatise on intersection of money, debt, politics, and monetary policy over the two centuries. (I decided to read it out of my deepest respect for Chris' analytical skills.) Although much of the material will not be new to connoisseurs of fine economic history, I thought it was tied together very nicely. I, for example, found the discussion of bimetallism and the underlying political currents fascinating. (I realized that I had failed to understand William Jenning Bryan's famous "cross of gold" speech.) Chris generally does an excellent job of describing the political cross currents underlying important political events. I also think this book dovetails nicely with Reinhart's and Rogoff's "This Time is Different" in that it delves into the slow, methodical undermining of our monetary system--a single case study of sorts.

As I was nearing the end of the book, I began to see what I would call the "praying mantis model." We got handed the reserve currency and a globally profound position. We got to run the world. As debts accrued, our creditors kept assuring us that, as masters of the universe, we were good for it. ("You guys just keep spending.") We didn't understand the end game: It's a suicide mission. (The male praying mantis gets eaten after copulating.) Whalen finishes with a few words of encouragement, but I am not convinced he believes them. To use Mauldin's term, we are going to muddle our butts off.

As usual, I went to Amazon to see what others had to say.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I struggled somewhat over how many stars to give this book, but given the amount of suffering and frustration I went through to finish the book, I felt that I couldn't give it more than two stars. It's unfortunate, because I've read other articles written by Whalen, as well as seen interviews he has given on TV on several occasions, and I have a great deal of respect for his intelligence and financial acumen. If you're looking for ideas on how we as a country should extricate ourselves from the mess in which we find ourselves, I think Mr. Whalen has a great deal to say that is worth listening to. He gives us some of his insight in the final chapter of this book, which I found to be by far the most interesting and insightful section of the book. Where Mr. Whalen's book falls short is in the quality of the writing and editing throughout, as well as certain instances of editorializing in which the author indulges.
I purchased this book with the hope that not only would it provide me an introduction to the financial history of the United States, but also a great deal of the author's opinion on the future path that we as a nation must take. Prospective readers must be aware that this is much more of a history than it is an analysis of present day financial issues. Furthermore, the financial and economic history as provided is poorly written, and as a result, confusing. I fully understand that in economic history, cause and effect can be difficult to trace, and it's not always obvious, even many years later, why exactly events transpired as they did. Nevertheless, Mr. Whalen's consistent habit of looping back and forth between years, while telling what appears to be a chronologically linear economic story is extremely confusing.
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