India’s Indigo Crash

           Exporting commodities can be a precarious source of riches. From the 20th century to today, oil has been a blessing and a curse to nations that rely on it to sustain their standards of living. In the 17th and 18th centuries, colonialism added an extra dimension to the commodities curse, shaping raw materials booms and

Confessions of a Stockjobber

           Published almost a hundred years ago now, Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefèvre is more than an investment book. It is something of a novel, set in fin de siècle New York and revolving around a certain stock trader named Larry Livingston. This Larry Livingston did not exist, at least by that name,

Silvio Gesell and the Wörgl Experiment

        In the last decade of the 19th century, a hitherto unheard-of German immigrant in Argentina published a book proposing a radical new monetary system. The author, Silvio Gesell, had no training in economics and so his ideas could very easily have been dismissed, but they were not. They caught the attention of economists, governments, and

New York’s Near Bankruptcy

          Almost fifty years ago, America’s largest city was on the brink of bankruptcy, about to default on a massive debt repayment with only one-tenth of the cash on hand required to make good on it. The day of reckoning had come after years of high spending relative to depressed revenues. New York City was billions

Old Genoa’s Universal Bank

           What banking and public finance have in common might not be obvious. However, in their histories, the two are joined at the hip. Indeed, some of the oldest banks have their origins in public finance. Counterintuitively, this includes central banks with roots as private organizations. The Bank of England, for example, was founded as little

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