This book is a rambling and anecdotal but enjoyable account by a participant-observer of the vital role the financial system has played in the huge growth in global prosperity over the past 25 years. The account ends in the spring of 2008 and thus includes the early global ramifications of what now is quaintly known as the subprime mortgage crisis, but it does not cover the dramatic financial developments of the late summer and early fall, nor the subsequent slide into global recession. The book displays a great ambivalence. It offers a paean to financial innovation and vitality but also expresses deep concern over the incomprehensibility, vulnerability, and fragility of the global financial system, which is beyond the control of any central bank or even all of them acting together. Smick is unambiguous in holding private-sector players responsible for the emerging debacle, but he is concerned that political overreaction might stifle future innovation, which he sees as the key to future prosperity. He insists on the need for major reforms in the global financial system but, beyond greater emphasis on transparency, fails to tell his readers what they should be.
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