Friday, June 14, 2019

COMING SOON: "Bagehot: The Life and Times of the Greatest Victorian"

James Grant's latest book, Bagehot: The Life and Times of the Greatest Victorian, is scheduled to be released July 23.

From the blurb:
The definitive biography of one of the most brilliant and influential financial minds―banker, essayist, and editor of the Economist.

During the upheavals of 2007–09, the chairman of the Federal Reserve had the name of a Victorian icon on the tip of his tongue: Walter Bagehot. Banker, man of letters, inventor of the Treasury bill, and author of Lombard Street, the still-canonical guide to stopping a run on the banks, Bagehot prescribed the doctrines that―decades later―inspired the radical responses to the world’s worst financial crises.

Born in the small market town of Langport, just after the Panic of 1825 swept across England, Bagehot followed in his father’s footsteps and took a position at the local family bank―but his influence on financial matters would soon spread far beyond the county of Somerset. Persuasive and precocious, he came to hold sway in political circles, making high-profile friends, including William Gladstone―and enemies, such as Lord Overstone and Benjamin Disraeli. As a prolific essayist on wide-ranging topics, Bagehot won the admiration of Matthew Arnold and Woodrow Wilson, and delighted in paradox. He was also a misogynist, and while he opposed slavery, he misjudged Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. As editor of the Economist, he offered astute commentary on the financial issues of his day, and his name lives on in an eponymous weekly column. He has been called "the Greatest Victorian."

In James Grant’s colorful and groundbreaking biography, Bagehot appears as both an ornament to his own age and a muse to our own. Drawing on a wealth of historical documents, correspondence, and publications, Grant paints a vivid portrait of the banker and his world.
But will this be a litmus test of how free market Grant is? Does he tell us the full story about Bagehot?

Here's Murray Rothbard on the semi-statist Bagehot:
Two young economists who hailed the Principles in book reviews, became strongly influenced by Mill. One was insurance executive William Newmarch (1820-82), who collaborated in the last volume of Thomas Tooke's History ofPrices; and the other was Walter Bagehot (1826-77), who would become an extremely influential journalist and financial economist. Bagehot was particularly happy to see Mill weaken the laissez-faire precepts of political economy by making his mischievous distinction between 'production' and 'distribution'. It is particularly unfortunate that this cynical semi-statist, an attorney who joined the business of his banker-father, became the son-in-law
of James Wilson, and succeeded Wilson as editor of The Economist shortly before he died in 1860. This change meant a fateful shift from a militant laissez-faire policy to a statist advocacy of, among other things, the aggrandizement of the Bank of England over the monetary system. Along with the abandonment of laissez-faire by Bagehot came an increasing abandonment on his part of even Millian economic theory, and a shift toward a nihilistic and historicist institutionalism.

Pre-order now:


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