Book review: Lords of Finance — The Bankers Who Broke the World

So you're not an economist, not in the finance or banking business; you dump your 401K money into generic funds. You don't care too much for money, just that it can buy you stuff. You're like me, like a lot of us.

So why would you ever consider reading Liaquat Ahamed's Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World (The Penguin Press, $32.95)?

I could tell you that this 500-page tome about the myriad factors that caused the 20th Century's Great Depression mirrors the economic quagmire we are in today. I could say it's a cautionary tale. These things are true, but it makes the book sound like medicine.

Why would you want to read Lords of Finance? Because it's fascinating.

The book's narrative is built around four unique characters: the heads of the central banks of the United States, England, France and Germany. The complex interactions between these men (colleagues of a fashion, but always looking for ways to gain advantage over each other), their strongly held and often wrongheaded beliefs, their constant tussle between nationalism and the increasingly global-based economy, and, ultimately, their blunders, give us invaluable insights into behind-the-scenes machinations, starting from the run-up to WWI through the height of the Great Depression — and, in the process, the rise of Hitler.