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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Societies ... get the banking system that their political institutions and dominant coalitions permit."
The first good thing I could say about this 506 page book, was that I bought it with the intention of skipping past the sections which I was less interested in, ... but never found any such sections.

We have recently learnt the hard way that banks (or the financial sector in general) are a special and important part of our economies. This book highlights how...
Published 7 months ago by Rob Julian

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3.0 out of 5 stars Better Banking?
A massive, detailed, study that combines political history and economics to demonstrate that chronic banking crises and scarce credit are not accidents, but they are the result of complex bargains between the various stakeholders. Long on history, but pity not more on the distorting (bonus driven) incentive systems, as well as where we might go from here.
Published 1 month ago by Bruce Lloyd


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Societies ... get the banking system that their political institutions and dominant coalitions permit.", 27 April 2014
By 
Rob Julian (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
The first good thing I could say about this 506 page book, was that I bought it with the intention of skipping past the sections which I was less interested in, ... but never found any such sections.

We have recently learnt the hard way that banks (or the financial sector in general) are a special and important part of our economies. This book highlights how and why. Banks are central to the needs of all governments and their populations, while at the same time the nature of the countries politics and government are key to how that countries banking system develops and behaves. This does not apply to the same degree to any other non state sector of industry or commerce.

A concept of "bargains" made between banks and governments alongside other sectors of society, can at first come across as a bit of an esoteric pet academic theory. But the more you read, the more you realise it is in fact a very effective way of describing the shabby and messy reality of how this codependency and co-evolution between banks and their host countries happen.

For the main body of the book they create a collection of insightful and instructive case studies, or I would say banking fables, based on the situations and histories of a variety of countries. In common with the best kind of economic history writing, so many times I was left thinking things like: Yes of course that is why Brazil had high inflation; Yes, of course that is how banks and autocratic governments would rub along together; Yes, of course that is how that group would have bargained given that situation. You get the picture.

The authors fall neither into the outraged banker bashing camp, or the stubborn 'there is no alternative' free market camp. Instead, like a David Attenborough nature documentary, this book dispassionately shows and explains the reality of how the species of bankers evolve and behave in different environments. Little hot air is wasted here in being outraged at bankers predictable self interested greed, just as Mr Attenborough does not emote over the mauling of yet another wilder beast. Instead solid points are made as to how to shape or constrain bank bargaining, so as to reduce bankers scope for inevitably greedy behaviour.

As well as the more obvious negative impacts of authoritarian or corrupt regimes on bargaining outcomes, the vulnerability of certain political systems, such as even the US, towards making short termist populist errors of financial policy due to coalitions of self interests, is a pointed thread of discussion different sections of this book. It is convincingly explained that short sighted bargains, even by groups with progressive and redistributive intentions (such as most significantly wider home ownership and deposit account guarantees) can contribute to undesirable and unforeseen outcomes.

Like a classic fable or a good Attenborough episode, the learning through case studies and context was effective and painless. There are few books from which I feel I have learnt so much, not just about banking, but also the political and economic history of the countries described. Do not be put off by the length or the appearance of being a dry subject.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A clear and very readable analysis!, 21 April 2014
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A clear and very readable analysis! The book is broken down into easy to read chapters centered around the banking history of the country in question.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Better Banking?, 1 Nov 2014
A massive, detailed, study that combines political history and economics to demonstrate that chronic banking crises and scarce credit are not accidents, but they are the result of complex bargains between the various stakeholders. Long on history, but pity not more on the distorting (bonus driven) incentive systems, as well as where we might go from here.
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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shame on Calomiris-- Timeline and facts are all messed up., 17 Jun 2014
I have worked in the subprime industry on all sides (Issuer, rating agency and investor) over the last 15 years. Most facts and timeline are twisted to justify the conclusion author wants to support... Normally I never write a review but this book is so twisted and wrong I cannot stop myself.
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