When the first fissures became visible to the naked eye in
August 2007, suddenly the most powerful men in the world were three men who
were never elected to public office. They were the leaders of the world’s three
most important central banks: Ben Bernanke of the US Federal Reserve, Mervyn
King of the Bank of England, and Jean-Claude Trichet of the European Central
Bank. Over the next five years, they and their fellow central bankers deployed
trillions of dollars, pounds, and euros to contain the waves of panic that
threatened to bring down the global financial system, moving on a scale and
with a speed that had no precedent.
Neil Irwin’s The
Alchemists is a gripping account of the most intense exercise in economic
crisis management we’ve ever seen—a poker game in which the stakes have run
into the trillions of dollars. The audiobook begins in, of all places,
Stockholm, Sweden, in the seventeenth century, where central banking had its
rocky birth, and then progresses through a brisk but dazzling tutorial on how
the central banker came to exert such vast influence over our world, from its troubled
beginnings to the age of Greenspan, bringing the listener into the present with
a marvelous handle on how these figures and institutions became what they are—the
possessors of extraordinary power over our collective fate. What they chose to
do with those powers is the heart of the story Irwin tells.
Irwin covered the Federal Reserve and other central banks
from the earliest days of the crisis for the Washington Post, enjoying privileged access to leading central
bankers and people close to them. His account, based on reporting that took
place in twenty-seven cities in eleven countries, is the holistic, truly global
story of the central bankers’ role in the world economy we have been missing.
It is a landmark reckoning with central bankers and their power, with the great
financial crisis of our time, and with the history of the relationship between
capitalism and the state. Definitive, revelatory, and riveting, The Alchemists shows us where money
comes from-and where it may well be going. Download and start listening now!