This is a really readable history of America's financial disasters and the bankruptcies and panics that followed them. Included between an introduction and postscript are twelve intriguing chapters with titles such as "Duer's Disgrace, A Botanizing Excursion, Monkey Jackets, the Uncorked Mississippi, and the Birth of Caterpillar Banks, The Politics of Panic, the Economics of Rags, A Storm of Wheat, Crosses of Gold, Who Put the Roar in the Roaring Twenties" and "Here Be Dragons: What's Wrong with How Historian and Economists Have Written About Financial Panics." Most Americans know little about this country's numerous financial panics other than what they may have heard about the Great Depression.
Fact is, most economists don't know much about this nations various financial panics either. As far as most of them know, there really hasn't been a true panic since the early 1900s. Most professional economists had pretty much ignored the subject because they thought America had somehow figured out how to avoid them mainly through the creation of the Federal Reserve that was developed after the Panic of 1907.
"The 1908 response to the 1907 crisis again raised the fundamental question that every panic had posed: What was American currency? Was it backed by gold? Could it be an international currency with the status of the British currency, British sovereigns, and the sterling bills of exchange?"
"The banker's acceptance, or BA, was the Fed's solution to the problem of how to create an American promise that could earn interest and be spent everywhere. Economists seldom mention objects, but this little American object laid the groundwork for the triumph of American money in the world."
"Every crisis is unique, with origins that differ one from the other. There are no and never have been 'cycles' dictated by an inexorable ebb and flow of investments. When financial instruments break--usually because of poor construction, weak oversight, and miscalculations of risk--they break everything."
One other point made by the author of this book is that the Great Depression was very different from all the other financial panics in America. So, examining this book will greatly enhance the reader's knowledge of American Financial history that has gone wrong.
While the book is very readable, it was very slow reading for this particular reviewer, but it covered a lot of material about which I was totally ignorant. I suspect most readers will experience the same sort of reaction?