Money of the Mind – Book Review

by 4P and Mr. C

I’m off on holiday for the next week so there will be no posts until Monday, July 23.

On with the review…

This rather long book by James Grant is another in Bernstein’s recommended reading list which I am determined to work through.

Basically this book is about the history of American banking from around 1850 to the mid-1980s. I found the first half quite fascinating as it detailed the “wild west” of banking in the 1800’s with numerous bank runs, bank failures, bank startups and lots of colourful characters. The book explains that before the US government had a federal currency, each bank would print its own currency (backed by gold) and people would trade the currencies at some relation to par value based on how solvent they thought the bank was or how far away the bank was. The other thing I learned was that personal bank loans were not made popular until the 1920’s. Before that banks only lent to people and businesses “who didn’t really need the money”. Real estate loans were another item that proper banks didn’t stoop to. Perhaps way back when, real estate values were not as well defined as they are today?

The second half of the book I found quite boring as it kept moving further along in history into the 1980s but using the same ideas that banks would go overboard with lending in the good times and then get too conservative after a crash. Without the historical aspect I just wasn’t interested. I recommend reading this book but if you get to a point where it starts to get boring then just put it down – you’ve gotten all you’re going to get out of it at that point.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Canadian Capitalist

I couldn’t find this book in our local library. I am trying to work my way through Bernstein’s list too but I find myself borrowing the books, renewing them a few times and returning them unread.

From your review though, I’m pushing this book to the bottom of the list 🙂

2 FourPillars

I’ve read a few books from the list so far and I’m starting to think that there might not be a lot of value in trying to read every single book from it.

There is a lot of duplicate material in the list ie low cost investing, madness of crowds etc. I suspect Bernstein created the list from books that he agreed with, regardless of how interesting, original or well written they are.

Mike

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