In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on the Great Panic
What We're Saying
The article below was printed in last year's In the Books—our annual review of the best in the business genre. It my (possibly ill-advised) attempt to look at how some of the books published in 2009 tackled the macroeconomic issues, with a (possibly ill-advised) splash of Candide thrown in awkwardly, for emphasis. If you don't feel like reading the entire essay on the topic, you can skip to the end of the post and see F. READ FULL DESCRIPTION
The longlist for the 2009 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award has been announced. The press release states that "The award is designed to highlight the book that provides the most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues, including management, finance, and economics. " The books on the longlist are: Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism by George A Akerlof, Robert J Shiller Clever: Leading Your Smartest, Most Creative People by Rob Goffee, Gareth Jones Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality and an Uncertain World by Stephen Green House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street By William D Cohan (Cohan won the award two years ago for his first book, The Last Tycoons. READ FULL DESCRIPTION
The strategy + business annual books list is always one of the finest and most anticipated of the year. They get really smart and talented people who know how to pick 'em, and have them write (always highly intelligent and insightful) essays on their category—and, of course, the books in it. I've listed the picks below, but it really is worth heading over to strategy + business for the essays. READ FULL DESCRIPTION
You may know David Wessel as the white bearded journalist from Washington Week. What you may not know even if you watch that show is how great a writer he is. He is the Wall Street Journal economics editor, has multiple Pulitzer Prizes, and when we were still reeling from financial catastrophe in 2009 he wrote a brilliant book, In Fed We Trust, about the folks putting out the fire that made me feel as the world might not end after all. READ FULL DESCRIPTION
Michael Lewis's latest book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, was released this week to a lot of media attention and bestseller lists. We'll review the book more in depth on this site and elsewhere over the coming weeks, but its very release is what's giving me hope this week. You see, for all the doom-and-gloom surrounding publishing these days, publishers themselves have done a quietly masterful job of finding books that put the Great Recession, and what caused it, in focus over the last year and a half—Michael Lewis being but the latest (albeit one of the finest) voices in the choir that publishers have been directing. READ FULL DESCRIPTION
Time magazine has picked its person of the year, beginning their description of him thus: A bald man with a gray beard and tired eyes is sitting in his oversize Washington office, talking about the economy. Hooked yet? Try this: He's shy . READ FULL DESCRIPTION
Amazon does an interesting thing every year, putting their best selling books in each genre on the same page as their editors' pick so you can easily compare the two. I am sure that, were I an author, I'd hope to see my name on the bestsellers list. It would mean that I had not only done well financially for the year but, more importantly, that my book had made it into the hands of more readers—my ideas into the minds of more people. READ FULL DESCRIPTION
That was Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's vow as the worst financial panic in more than fifty years gripped the world and he struggled to avoid the once unthinkable: a repeat of the Great Depression. Brilliant but temperamentally cautious, Bernanke researched and wrote about the causes of the Depression during his career as an academic. Then when thrust into a role as one of the most important people in the world, he was compelled to boldness by circumstances he never anticipated.
The president of the United States can respond instantly to a missile attack with America's military might, but he cannot respond to a financial crisis with real money unless Congress acts. The Fed chairman can. Bernanke did. Under his leadership the Fed spearheaded the biggest government intervention in more than half a century and effectively became the fourth branch of government, with no direct accountability to the nation's voters.
Believing that the economic catastrophe of the 1930s was largely the fault of a sluggish and wrongheaded Federal Reserve, Bernanke was determined not to repeat that epic mistake. In this penetrating look inside the most powerful economic institution in the world, David Wessel illuminates its opaque and undemocratic inner workings, while revealing how the Bernanke Fed led the desperate effort to prevent the world's financial engine from grinding to a halt.
In piecing together the fullest, most authoritative, and alarming picture yet of this decisive moment in our nation's history, "In Fed We Trust" answers the most critical questions. Among them:
- What did Bernanke and his team at the Fed know-and what took them by surprise? Which of their actions stretched-or even ripped through-the Fed's legal authority? Which chilling numbers and indicators made them feel they had no choice?
- What were they thinking at pivotal moments during the race to sell Bear Stearns, the unsuccessful quest to save Lehman Brothers, and the virtual nationalization of AIG, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac? What were they saying to one another when, as Bernanke put it to Wessel: "We came very close to Depression 2.0"?
- How well did Bernanke, former treasury secretary Hank Paulson, and then New York Fed president Tim Geithner perform under intense pressure?
- How did the crisis prompt a reappraisal of the once-impregnable reputation of Alan Greenspan?
"In Fed We Trust" is a breathtaking and singularly perceptive look at a historic episode in American and global economic history.