Bankers, Bailouts, and the Struggle to Tame Wall Street
Yale University Press 2019
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Think that today’s debates about the role of the Federal Reserve Bank, financial regulation, “too big to fail”, etc. are new? Think again. Who should control banks, who should regulate banks, what should banks even do–these questions have been debated since the founding of the Republic. Replace CNBC’s David Faber with Alexander Hamilton, and Joe Kernan with Thomas Jefferson (or James Madison) and the arguments about banking, moral hazard, and regulation would be largely the same, though the attire would be quite different.
Kathleen Day‘s new book Broken Bargain: Bankers, Bailouts, and the Struggle to Tame Wall Street (Yale University Press, 2019) provides a detailed two-century history of the give and take between government authority and financial institutions (and the individuals caught between them). The challenges over time have changed–the absence of a single currency in the early 19th century, insufficient credit in the late 19th century, the roaring and patently stupid 1920s, and then the whole range of financial innovations in the postwar period–but the key issues recur over and over again. Day sides in the end with the need for consistent regulation from impartial and empowered bureaucrats, but alas, the last two centuries have shown that they are hard to come by. Not everyone will agree with her take on banks and regulation, but there can be no doubt about the underlying “capitalism is messy” theme running through our history and this book.
Daniel Peris is Senior Vice President at Federated Investors in Pittsburgh. Trained as a historian of modern Russia, he is the author most recently of Getting Back to Business: Why Modern Portfolio Theory Fails Investors. You can follow him on Twitter @Back2BizBook or at http://www.