Over the course of nearly half a century, five American presidents-three Democrats and two Republicans-have relied on the financial acumen, and the integrity, of Paul A. Volcker. During his tenure as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, when he battled the Great Inflation of the 1970s, Volcker did nothing less than restore the reputation of an American financial system on the verge of collapse.
After the 2008 financial meltdown, the nation turned again to Volcker to restore trust in a shaky financial system: President Obama would name his centerpiece Wall Street regulation the Volcker Rule. Volcker’s career demonstrated that a determined central banker can prevail over economic turmoil-so long as he can resist relentless political pressure. His resolve and independent thinking-sorely tested by Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan-laid the foundation for a generation of economic stability. Indeed, William L. Silber argues, it was only Volcker’s toughness on monetary policy that “forced Reagan to be Reagan” and to rein in America’s deficit.
Noted scholar and finance expert Silber draws on hours of candid personal interviews and complete access to Volcker’s personal papers to render dramatic behind-the-scenes accounts from Volcker’s career at the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve: secret negotiations with European ministers; confrontations with the White House; crisis conferences with Wall Street titans, and even tense boardroom rebellions within the Fed itself. Filled with frank commentary from Volcker himself-including why he was personally irked with the “Volcker Rule” label-this will be the definitive account of Volcker’s indispensable role in American economic history.
About William L. Silber
William L. Silber is one of America’s most respected experts on finance and banking. He is currently Marcus Nadler Professor of Finance and Economics and Director of the Glucksman Institute for Research in Securities Markets at the Stern School of Business, NYU. His many books include When Washington Shut Down Wall Street: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 andthe Origins of America’s Monetary Supremacy. He is co-author of the standard textbook Money, Banking and Financial Markets and, with Lawrence Ritter, of the classic Money.
orn in 1927, Volcker attended Princeton and eventually landed in the U.S. Treasury Department as an influential policymaker. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed him chairman of the Federal Reserve, making the imposing man the most visible banker anywhere; Ronald Reagan retained Volcker as chairman. In some respects, Silber (Finance and Economics/New York Univ., Stern School of Business; When Washington Shut Down Wall Street: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 and the Origins of America’s Monetary Supremacy, 2007, etc.) delivers a conventional chronological biography light on Volcker’s personal life. The author focuses instead on three daring policy battles that changed the world economic order: removing the U.S. dollar from its link to the gold supply; using fresh fiscal policies to tamp down high inflation rates; and President Obama’s involving the octogenarian Volcker in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Obama hoped, not entirely in vain, that the combination of Volcker’s brilliant mind and untarnished reputation would lead to a more secure banking system through a combination of moral suasion, executive branch regulation and congressional legislation. While Silber is admiring, he provides copious evidence that Volcker is worthy of his credibility. Without Volcker in charge at certain intervals, he writes, the American financial system might have tipped from the verge of collapse into total meltdown. – Kirkus Reviews
Central Banker - ‘Volcker,’ by William L. Silber
The New York Times Book Review – October 19, 2012 (Excerpt)
The global financial crisis destroyed reputations as effectively as it destroyed wealth. Alan Greenspan, Robert E. Rubin, Sanford I. Weill, Richard S. Fuld Jr., James E. Cayne — the list of the humbled is almost endless, while the number of heroes is minuscule. One man, however, bucked the trend and almost alone emerged from the crisis even more revered and admired than he had been already. And now, with the arrival of “Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence,” Paul A. Volcker has finally been awarded a meticulous historical account of exactly how he reached his exalted position.
William L. Silber, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, is more technocrat than traditional biographer, and his detailed book — he calls it a “biography of Volcker’s professional life” — concentrates almost exclusively on Volcker’s years in public service. There’s almost nothing here about Volcker’s private life: his marriages, for instance, and the births of his two children warrant scarcely a mention. Even the eight years he spent as a high-powered investment banker for Wolfensohn & Company, first as chairman and then as chairman and chief executive, are dispatched in just a couple of paragraphs. If you’re looking for a portrait of Volcker the man, this is not the book for you: you’ll be much better off with Joseph B. Treaster’s breezy and easily digestible 2004 biography, “Paul Volcker: The Making of a Financial Legend.” [Read the full article...]
“Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence” by William L. Silber
The Washington Post Book Review – November 9, 2012 (Excerpt)
To read William L. Silber’s engaging biography of Paul Volcker in the fall of 2012 is to be reminded of a time, not so long ago, when a cadre of public servants, respected for their knowledge, integrity and practical experience, were allowed to guide government policy even as presidents, partisans and ideological fashions swept in and out of Washington.
It’s hard to imagine what today’s partisans and ideologues make of someone like Volcker. He is a graduate of Princeton and the London School of Economics who admired the libertarian Austrian economics of Friedrich von Hayek but voted for Adlai Stevenson for president; a Democrat first recruited to Washington by the Kennedy Treasury who played the key role in Richard Nixon’s decision to break the link between dollar and gold; an inflation hawk who was appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve Board by Jimmy Carter but won reappointment and respect from Ronald Reagan after pressuring the famously anti-tax president to undo some of his tax cuts. [Read the full article...]
THE LONDONDERRY AIR
Testament of an Ulster Gunman A Novel by Garrad Gawler
It all changed for Charles Cunningham, a Physics teacher at the local College of Technology in the County Derry town of Maddenstown, on a June afternoon in 1973 when a bomb exploded in his neighborhood. He answers an advertisement by the UDR, the Ulster Defence Regiment, but, in the time to come, he will experience the consequences of his decisions, and how his involvement complicates matters with family and friends, Protestants and Catholics alike, to an unexpected degree.
With “The Londonderry Air – Testament of an Ulster Gunman” Garrad Gawler describes in minute detail and with an astonishing level of authenticity not only the inner workings of the Ulster Defence Regiment, but also the activities of underground paramilitary groups of regular citizens who planned and carried out the assassination of suspected Republican terrorists in their neighborhood.
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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