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

Disappearing Brokerage Commissions

           Few dates are as important in the history of the American stock market, at least for ordinary retail investors, as May 1, 1975. “May Day” brought about the abolition of fixed commissions, the high charges for trading in ordinary stocks and mutual funds defended by the keeper of the kingdom, the New York Stock Exchange.

Quebec’s Card Money

           Though invented in China a millennia ago, paper money was viewed with suspicion for centuries thereafter. With its issuance potentially unlimited, how could its value be maintained? The question was grappled with in colonial Quebec, which resorted to using paper money made from ordinary playing cards in order to make up for a chronic shortage

Railroads and the Bond Market

           Companies in the United States are peculiarly reliant on capital markets to obtain debt financing. Whereas large firms elsewhere often turn to banks for loans, even mid-sized companies in America find it easier to float bonds. Many cite the relative lack of large ‘universal banks’ in the United States, at least up until the recent

Trade Dollars

           American coinage, much like its paper banknotes, have changed little in decades, at least in regard to their design. This continuity, surely along with the US dollar’s role as a reserve currency, have made American money recognizable to many around the world for generations, especially those engaged in trade or finance. There was however, an

Benjamin Franklin, a Serial Entrepreneur

           Americans know Benjamin Franklin for his civic and diplomatic work spanning the first few years of the country’s history. Old enough to be the grandfather of some of the other American ‘Founding Fathers’, he was a national treasure even before playing his part in the struggle for independence from Britain. In addition to being a

Henry George and the Land Value Tax

            Few economists are as broadly appreciated today as Henry George. Economic thinkers and ideologues of different stripes – conservatives, liberals, and leftists alike – usually look approvingly on at least some of his ideas. Over a century ago, he sought to explain the paradox of how prospering societies can leave so many in poverty;

Mr. Morgan’s Other Intervention

           Early in 1893, the American economy entered a prolonged economic slump from which a recovery would only truly get underway two years later. The financial panic ushering in this depression was global, but what was a mild downturn elsewhere was particularly severe in the US. The American economy, still largely agrarian, was hit by falling

Silver Thursday

           Inflation erodes the buying power of money and consequently the real value of income producing investments. In the 1970s, rates of inflation rose precipitously around the world. This reduced not just the value of money and long maturity fixed-income securities but even hurt economic performance and an array of other financial assets, including stocks, which

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