The Chicago Plan & New Deal Banking Reform

M.E. Sharpe
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This work presents a comprehensive history and evaluation of the role of the 100 percent reserve plan in the banking legislation of the New Deal reform era from its inception in 1933 to its re-emergence in the current financial reform debate in the US.
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Publisher
M.E. Sharpe
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Published on
Dec 15, 1994
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Pages
258
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ISBN
9780765632678
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Banks & Banking
Business & Economics / Economic History
History / United States / 20th Century
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This content is DRM protected.
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IN THE UNITED STATES, the idea of national planning has long been understood as a product of the Great Depression, part of the more general expansion of federal authority that characterized the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. Yet as Patrick D. Reagan shows in this well-researched study, the origins of New Deal planning reach back much further than that. Beginning as early as 1890, a combination of intellectual and institutional developments -- from the emergence of the social sciences as a guide to rational management to the reform efforts of the 1920s -- prepared the way for the creation of the National Resources Planning Board (NRPB) in 1933.

Reagan centers much of his analysis on the careers of five individuals who served on the NRPB during its ten years of existence: city and regional planner Frederic A. Delano; political scientist Charles E. Merriam; economist Wesley Clair Mitchell; business leader Henry S. Dennison; and philanthropic manager Beardsley Ruml. Drawing on their experiences in Progressive politics, mobilization for World War I, and the reform initiatives of the 1920s, these men steadily expanded the scope of national planning as advisers to the Roosevelt administration. During the Depression they joined in key debates over economic policy and executive branch reorganization, and during World War II they helped with plans for economic mobilization and proposed a vision for postwar America.

Although abolished by Congress in 1943, the NRPB remains a symbol not only of New Deal hopes and ambitions but of an enduring if ambivalent American faith in professional social and economic management.

The story of America is a story of dreamers and defaulters.  It is also a story of dramatic financial panics that defined the nation, created its political parties, and forced tens of thousands to escape their creditors to new towns in Texas, Florida, and California.  As far back as 1792, these panics boiled down to one simple question: Would Americans pay their debts—or were we just a nation of deadbeats?

From the merchant William Duer’s attempts to speculate on post–Revolutionary War debt, to an ill-conceived 1815 plan to sell English coats to Americans on credit, to the debt-fueled railroad expansion that precipitated the Panic of 1857, Scott Reynolds Nelson offers a crash course in America’s worst financial disasters—and a concise explanation of the first principles that caused them all. Nelson shows how consumer debt, both at the highest levels of finance and in the everyday lives of citizens, has time and again left us unable to make good. The problem always starts with the chain of banks, brokers, moneylenders, and insurance companies that separate borrowers and lenders.  At a certain point lenders cannot tell good loans from bad—and when chits are called in, lenders frantically try to unload the debts, hide from their own creditors, go into bankruptcy, and lobby state and federal institutions for relief.

With a historian’s keen observations and a storyteller’s nose for character and incident, Nelson captures the entire sweep of America’s financial history in all its utter irrationality: national banks funded by smugglers; fistfights in Congress over the gold standard; and presidential campaigns forged in stinging controversies on the subject of private debt. A Nation of Deadbeats is a fresh, irreverent look at Americans’ addiction to debt and how it has made us what we are today. 
“Mervyn King may well have written the most important book to come out of the financial crisis. Agree or disagree, King’s visionary ideas deserve the attention of everyone from economics students to heads of state.” —Lawrence H. Summers

Something is wrong with our banking system. We all sense that, but Mervyn King knows it firsthand; his ten years at the helm of the Bank of England, including at the height of the financial crisis, revealed profound truths about the mechanisms of our capitalist society. In The End of Alchemy he offers us an essential work about the history and future of money and banking, the keys to modern finance.

The Industrial Revolution built the foundation of our modern capitalist age. Yet the flowering of technological innovations during that dynamic period relied on the widespread adoption of two much older ideas: the creation of paper money and the invention of banks that issued credit. We take these systems for granted today, yet at their core both ideas were revolutionary and almost magical. Common paper became as precious as gold, and risky long-term loans were transformed into safe short-term bank deposits. As King argues, this is financial alchemy—the creation of extraordinary financial powers that defy reality and common sense. Faith in these powers has led to huge benefits; the liquidity they create has fueled economic growth for two centuries now. However, they have also produced an unending string of economic disasters, from hyperinflations to banking collapses to the recent global recession and current stagnation.

How do we reconcile the potent strengths of these ideas with their inherent weaknesses? King draws on his unique experience to present fresh interpretations of these economic forces and to point the way forward for the global economy. His bold solutions cut through current overstuffed and needlessly complex legislation to provide a clear path to durable prosperity and the end of overreliance on the alchemy of our financial ancestors.

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