Monday, September 07, 2015

America's Bank: A Book Review

With all the current chatter about banks and bank bail-outs, Roger Lowenstein's AMERICA'S BANK is a timely read.

The book is not for everyone, diving into the deep end of the financial pool as it does, but for those who wonder how America's banking system got to where it is today, the book is highly informative. Mr. Lowenstein presents the decade-long political struggle to re-introduce a federal bank, something that Europeans take for granted but one that was lacking in America for most of its existence.

On the heels of yet another financial panic in 1907, a regular occurrence in a nation that was adamantly anti-centralism, several influential bankers and politicians came together to battle against that attitude. The author does a fine job of showing how big egos collided as financiers wrangled with America's elected representatives to bring about a central bank to organize monetary policy in the European mold. The story is intriguing, although perhaps too inclined to look to our modern era as the backdrop for the Edwardian period prior to the First World War.

In general, I found the book fascinating, with its explanation of how disparate lines of thought were brought together for disparate reasons, with all the give and take expected of legislative combat. The drive to win credit after the successful introduction of the Federal banking system is not forgotten in the epilogue, and caps off a tale of ambition and a burning desire for acclaim that saw the many authors of the bill all proclaiming themselves the sole winner who had to vanquish his foes.

I am left with one question, however, that Mr. Lowenstein does not address. With so much of the anti-central bank animus ascribed to President Andrew Jackson, why, then, is it Alexander Hamilton's image that's suggested to be removed from the currency to make room for a woman?  

Disclaimer: Penguin provided a free copy of the book through the First to Read programme, so there you go.

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