America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve by Roger Lowenstein is a fascinating book about politics and how the Federal Reserve was started. Below is an excerpt from the book:
However, if the war temporarily thrust the Fed into a subservient role, it also broadened its field of action. Many people had envisioned that, apart from emergencies, the agency would play a passive role– as the Act put it, simply” discount[ing] notes, drafts, and bills of exchange arising out of actual commercial transactions.” Harvard’s Oliver Sprague had predicted an extreme degree of passivity, testifying just before enactment, “After the institution has been going ten or fifteen years it will almost run itself” This would soon seem ludicrous. In fairness, centralizers such as Warburg always wanted a more dynamic agency. Within a year of the Fed’s founding, so did the board. In its first annual report, the board signaled its disposition to be proactive. Its duty, it asserted, “is not to await emergencies but by anticipation to do what it can to prevent them.”
Just as Wall Street had hoped, the Fed’s emergence, coupled with the war, catapulted America’s standing in world finance. By keeping Britain and France afloat, the United States, long a debtor nation, suddenly became a significant creditor. In return for exports of food, arms, and other supplies, gold poured into American harbors. After America’s entry into the war, Congress fulfilled Warburg’s insistent demands and amended the Act to widen the board’s powers. The amendments greatly increased the Fed’s note-issuing capacity; notes in circulation doubled within months. And the Reserve Banks, by issuing more notes, were able to soak up much of the bullion previously stashed in people’s pockets and in the vaults of member banks. The Fed’s enlarged and unified gold cache elevated the dollar’s status as an international currency.
The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway by Doug Most is an excellent book. I can’t imagine how much lumber and steel when into building these two subways. Below is an excerpt about Manhattan.
The Race Underground
FOR AN ISLAND THAT STRETCHED only seven miles long, Manhattan presented an unusual array of engineering nightmares. The softer rock had a grainy texture, almost like sugar, and was known as dolomitic marble. It was mostly at the island’s northern end. The more solid, challenging rock, Manhattan schist, was dangerous to bore into because it could fracture more easily and collapse on workers. It was at the southern portion. The island’s widest point stretches only about two miles, from river to river, near 125th Street, but just north of that it narrows quickly like a soda bottle. And though it appears flat to pedestrians, most of the city’s terrain is actually quite rolling and rocky, especially between Twenty-Third Street and the northern tip of Central Park. North of 110th Street the island has a steep rise in elevation that tops out at 268 feet above sea level, Manhattan’s peak, in Inwood near Fort Washington Avenue and 185th Street. In this northern portion, there were two hurdles for major digging. The bedrock of Manhattan has two major cracks, or fault lines, one at 125th Street and the other further north near what is now Fort Tryon Park, that have existed for millions of years. Although gravel, sand, and silt deposits have mostly filled them in, the faults weaken the structure of the bedrock hundreds of feet beneath the sea.
I just started reading Inside Drucker’s Brain by Jeffrey A. Krames. I would recommend buying this book. It is a quick read and is worthy of note taking. Below is an except about Drucker’s leadership idea.
Just as there are “no leadership qualities,” there is no one critical factor. “Leadership is doing the right things,” and that entails many factors. We do know that Drucker’s ideal leader had the following traits and habits:
Possesses character and courage: these are two of the most fundamental characteristics of a leader.
Creates a clear mission: a leader paints a clear picture of the finish line.
Instills loyalty: a leader understands that loyalty is a two-way street.
Focuses on strength: a leader makes “strengths effective and weaknesses irrelevant.
Does not fear strong subordinates: their successes are your successes.
Is consistent: leadership is not a function of being clever, it is based on consistency.
Develops tomorrow’s leaders: the best leaders understand that it is their responsibility to develop leaders who will guide their organization in the years ahead.
I read The Gridlock Economy: How Too Much Ownership Wrecks Markets, Stops Innovation, and Cost Lives by Michael Heller. What attracted me to this book was the subtitle about ownership. The last chapter is the best part of the book: Chapter 8 – A Solution Tool Kit. An excerpt below is an example of gridlock.
“By now, this type of gridlock should be familiar. When private negotiations failed, the Conservation Fund stepped in. One recent beneficiary of this market-maker philanthropy, International Paper, owned seventy-five thousand acres of prime Tennessee timberland that was tied up in a “foot-deep thicket of deeds, buyback rights, and other legal paper.” Sound familiar? International Paper owned the land and timber rights; Tennessee Mining Company claimed the coal, oil, and gas reserves underneath. Neither could agree on how to proceed without interfering with the other.”
If you go to the website http://www.gridlockeconomy.com/ , you will find more information.
I enjoyed reading Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely. Dan is a behavioral economist. His website has great videos and excerpts from his book. www.predictablyirrational.com This book is one of my top books of the year.
Check out this video about the power of price. http://www.predictablyirrational.com/?page_id=223
I finished reading Bacardi and the long fight for Cuba: the biography of a cause by Tom Gjelten. This book is about Bacardi’s rum history with biographical references. I enjoyed reading this book about the Bacardi family and their business. One lesson I walked away with is the importance of being a corporate citizen. Here is except from the book:
“… the company’s (Bacardi) established progressive ideals and long record of civic activism. From Cuba to Puerto Rico to Miami to Brazil, Bacardi had been known as a fair employer, a responsible corporate citizen, a patron of the arts, and a friend of the environment.”