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The End of Alchemy


society & culture

The End of Alchemy

Mervyn King

What is the book about?

The book The End of Alchemy (2016) is about the thrilling exploration of how the financial system can be fundamentally transformed to prevent future crises. Mervyn King presents a compelling argument for the need to break the shackles of traditional economic thinking and embrace a new approach based on the principles of alchemy.

Who should read the book?

This book is a perfect read for individuals, that are interested in understanding the fundamental flaws of the banking system and how it can be reformed to prevent future financial crises. It is written for both experts and non-experts, who are looking for a comprehensive and insightful analysis of the financial system.

About the Author:

Mervyn King is a British economist and former Governor of the Bank of England. He held the position from 2003 to 2013, during which he oversaw the Bank's response to the financial crisis of 2008. King has also been a professor of economics at both the London School of Economics and Harvard University. He is known for his expertise in monetary policy and has been a vocal advocate for greater transparency in central banking. King was knighted in 2011 for his services to banking.

Book Summary

Three Key Ideas - find more in our App!

Are you ready to discover the secrets of our monetary system and how it affects our daily lives? Look no further than "The End of Alchemy" by Mervyn King. In this eye-opening book, King takes us on a journey through the history of money and the flaws in our current economic system. You'll learn how we got to where we are today and what we can do to create a more stable and prosperous future. King's insights will challenge your assumptions and leave you with a deeper understanding of the complexities of our global economy. Whether you're an economist or simply curious about the world around you, "The End of Alchemy" is a must-read that will inspire you to think critically about the role of money in our society.

The Alchemy of Modern Banking System

Delving into the alchemy of the modern banking system, Mervyn King reveals how financial institutions have evolved into a complex web of risky practices and questionable stability. He explains how banks are able to create money out of thin air, by lending out more funds than they hold as deposits, a process known as fractional reserve banking. This magical transformation of liabilities into assets has fueled economic growth, but at the cost of exposing the system to potential crises.

King highlights the inherent flaw in this model, as it relies on trust and confidence among banks, depositors, and borrowers. When that trust is shaken, as it was during the 2008 financial crisis, banks can become vulnerable to runs, leading to widespread panic and economic collapse. He recounts the history of banking crises, from the South Sea Bubble to the Great Depression, demonstrating that this alchemy has been a recurring theme throughout history.

To illustrate the perils of the modern banking system, King shares anecdotes about the fall of Lehman Brothers and Northern Rock, two institutions that succumbed to the dangers of excessive leverage and reliance on short-term funding. He argues that these cases were not isolated incidents, but rather symptomatic of a broader problem within the financial industry.

The author also draws on insights from prominent economists, such as Hyman Minsky and Charles Kindleberger, who have long warned about the instability of the banking system. Their theories, once dismissed as overly pessimistic, have gained renewed relevance in light of recent financial turmoil.

By shining a light on the alchemy at the heart of the banking system, this key idea encourages us to question the foundations of our monetary order and consider whether it is truly sustainable in the long run. Ultimately, King suggests that a new approach to banking is needed, one that prioritizes stability and resilience over short-term profits and growth.

Central Banks: History and Importance

The fascinating history of central banks and their vital role in shaping the global economy is the focus of this key idea. The author explores the origins of central banks, noting that they were first established to fund wars and later evolved into lenders of last resort, tasked with maintaining financial stability.

He stresses the significance of central banks in managing inflation and interest rates, which in turn affect economic growth and employment. The author offers an engaging account of the Bank of England's founding in 1694, laying the groundwork for the modern central banking system. Additionally, he investigates the establishment of the Federal Reserve in 1913 in response to the financial panic that gripped the United States in 1907.

Through a series of anecdotes, the author showcases the tremendous power central banks possess during times of crisis. For example, in the midst of the 2008 financial meltdown, central banks around the world served as a stabilizing force by infusing liquidity into the financial system to avert total collapse. This demonstrates their crucial role in preserving economic stability.

The author also draws attention to the limitations faced by central banks, such as their inability to foresee or avert financial crises. He contends that central banks must adapt to the constantly evolving global economy, underlining the necessity for enhanced transparency, communication, and accountability in their operations.

In summary, this key idea sheds light on the prominent role central banks have played throughout history and their ongoing importance in the current global economy. By comprehending their beginnings, functions, and limitations, we can better appreciate their impact on our lives and their potential to shape the future of the financial system.

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