Monday, August 24, 2009

Book Review: Lords of Finance

The Economist magazine published a book review of Liaquat Ahamed's Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World (2009). Theorizing aside, Ahamed provides a colorful historical account of the tumultuous period of the 1920s and early 1930s, and it seems like a redux of Barry Eichengreen and Peter Temin's "The Gold Standard and the Great Depression" (1997).

However, I would disagree that the discipline of a monetary gold standard acts as a negative straightjacket paralyzing government policymakers. The last eight decades have clearly shown the perils and instability of an unparalyzed fiat monetary policy. It is naive to claim that a restrictive gold standard is what caused and exacerbated the Great Depression, because the gold standard of the time was mismanaged by the authorities who increased interest rates to protect reserves, thereby leading to unnecessary levels of contraction and deflation across countries.

An Austrian analysis of the period's economic events is available in Murray Rothbard's America's Great Depression as well as Banking and the Business Cycle by C.A. Phillips, T.F. McManus, and R.W. Nelson. More important than adherence to a commodity monetary standard or not, and why this book is relevant to readers of The Monetary Future, is why central bankers possess the anointed capability to make those overriding decisions in the first place.

For further reading/listening:
"The Myths About a Return to the Gold Standard", John Tamny, May 5, 2009
"Gold-Exchange Standard, Gold, and Monetary Freedom", Michael S. Rozeff, May 4, 2009
"Heroes and Zeroes", The New Yorker, February 2, 2009
"Did Hayek and Robbins Deepen the Great Depression?", Lawrence White, Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Volume 40 Issue 4, 2008
"Is the Gold Standard Still the Gold Standard among Monetary Systems?", Lawrence H. White, Cato Institute, February 8, 2008
"Gold Standards and the Real Bills Doctrine in U.S. Monetary Policy" (plus audio), Richard H. Timberlake, Econ Journal Watch, Volume 2 Number 2, August 2005"Two Kinds of Gold Standards", Gary North, August 26, 2003
"The Austrian Analysis and Solution for the Great Depression", Richard M. Ebeling, December 1997
"Austrian Business Cycle Theory and the Causes of the Great Depression", Richard M. Ebeling, October 1997
"Did the Gold Standard Cause the Great Depression?", Mark Skousen, May 1995
"The 'Costs' of a Gold Standard", Roger Garrison, The Gold Standard: An Austrian Perspective, 1985
"The Political and Economic Agenda for a Real Gold Standard"
, Ron Paul, The Gold Standard: An Austrian Perspective, 1985

1 comment:

  1. A straitjacket on the economy is a negative; one on profligate government spending is a positive.
    There is much confusion about the "gold standard."
    The use of gold as a measure of value and unit of account might be a good thing, if the market for gold were a free one.
    The use of gold as the payment medium, however, is a throttle on economic activity.
    It is entirely possible to have a sound system of credit money based on gold measurement, if the credit money is not forced to circulate at face value. this was proven in Germany many decades ago in the wake of the Weimar hyper-inflation.
    Eliminate legal tender laws that force circulation of debased national currencies and myriad problems are solved.