Mervyn King’s recent tome, “The End of Alchemy”, is an engaging but mysterious endeavour. It is a mix of real insights and at times hinting at fairly radical thinking, but intermingled with some ambivalence and contradiction. Big questions are raised, some important proposals put forward, but his conclusion on future macroeconomic policy in particular is a huge disappointment.
King’s proposals for reform – though interesting – assume that it is the “alchemy” in the banking system that we need to contend with. Yet the major problem to be addressed is surely how to control the huge flows of footloose capital which are endemic to the post 1970s era of financial liberalization.
William Allen has researched and written a fascinating and valuable review of monetary debates in an era normally associated only with fiscal policy. Two thirds of the book details events, beginning with a review of the position inherited from the Labour Government and ending with Harold Macmillan’s General Election victory in 1960. Then more discursive chapters follow up relevant issues on the technique, management and communication of monetary policy, as well as a look to the future. The book includes detailed and useful tables of economic statistics (though the charts are not well done).
Within certain communities, Between Debt and the Devil must qualify as eagerly awaited. Over the post-crisis period Adair Turner has emerged as one of the most prominent and respected figures in debate around the theory of money and debt, engaging with both radical and mainstream views. He emerges with two main targets: an economics profession that has failed to understand the nature of money and the manner of its creation, and the liberalisation process that led ultimately to the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the ongoing economic crisis.
I was privileged to be invited by the St. Paul’s Institute to discuss (on the 3rd November, 2015) the thesis in Paul Mason's recent book PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future with a keynote speech from the author. Mason’s book is both a riveting and intellectually exhilarating read. It challenged me at a range of levels, and has added considerably to my list of must-read books.
In this review of Diane Coyle's GDP: A Brief But Affectionate History (Princeton University Press, 2013), Tily asks, when and how did GDP growth become the central focus of policymaking? Younger readers may be more surprised by the answers than older ones...
In this review of Piketty’s Capital (Harvard University Press, 2014) Pettifor and Tily argue that Thomas Piketty’s determinism (which suggests that inequality is set to continue to rise indefinitely and that interest and growth are on a preordained trajectory) is wrong. Things don’t have to be this way. Piketty’s approach arises from his fundamentally neo-classical approach to interest as the marginal product of capital.
Ed Conway'sThe Summit (Little, Brown, 2014), tells a gripping human tale about the July 1944 Bretton Woods Conference - “the biggest battle of the Second World War – fought behind closed doors”. He provides remarkable insights into the personal, geopolitical and intellectual dynamics that played out that summer within the confines of the Mount Washington Hotel, nestled within New Hampshire’s Bretton Woods.
The Power to Create Money out of Thin Air is a review of Geoffrey Ingham’s book, Capitalism (Polity Press, first published 2008). However, like all the best reviews, it has become a hook on which to hang discussion of the author’s contemporary pet themes. Here, these include primarily, capitalism’s ‘elastic production of money’.