Monday, April 5, 2010

Popes & Bankers by Jack Cashill

Only Jews and Christians, of all ancient people, said usury (lending at interest) was sinful. Yet from their heritage has risen the West’s extraordinary economy.
Cashill takes the reader on a historical review of the people and groups who have influenced finances: the Templars, fourteenth century Italians, Calvinists (the first major Christian movement to accept usury as normative), the Rothschild family, Benjamin Franklin, J. P. Morgan, Charles Ponzi and more.
Cashill concentrates on the U. S. It had inherited the Christian distaste for usury but that was set against the American dream and the bent to prodigality. There is a review of the history of the U. S. banks and lending agencies, including the origin of home loan, installment buying, the secret meeting that spawned the Federal Reserve, the private meeting in 1927 of international bankers that may have led to the crash of 1929, Roosevelt and the Emergency Banking Act (seizure of privately held gold) and Glass-Steagull Act (separating banks into investing or deposit) of 1933.
Cashill moves through the creation of the Federal National Mortgage Association in 1938, the introduction of the first credit card (1946/1947, Flatbush National Bank of Brooklyn), and the rise of the divorce rate after the introduction of the no fault law (the first state, CA, in 1970.
In 1979, Paul Volcker, the newly appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve, announced that the Fed would fix the money supply and allow interest rates to float. Within three years nearly 25% of the nation’s thrifts had collapsed.
Cashill covers the creation of the collateralized mortgage obligation by First Boston in 1983. A Wall Street veteran said “these products were ‘too complex to be understood by those who trade them.’” (P. 179) They were bonds that could be priced and traded on the open market. Salomon later originated credit default swaps (types of insurance policies) to minimize the investor’s risk.
With the same clarity and description of essential individuals, Cashill takes us up through the recent lending crisis.
Cashill ends his book with comments from Dave Ramsey - a reminder that character counts. There is a direct relationship between the character of the individual and the success of the economy.

Cashill's book is very informative and easy to read. His inclusion of stories of the people involved helps the history come alive.
This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publishers.


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Stacy said...

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