Publication Date: 07/09/2023 ISBN: 9781802060157 Category:

The Price of Time

Edward Chancellor

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication Date: 07/09/2023 ISBN: 9781802060157 Category:
Paperback / Softback


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The first book of the next crisis. A history of interest rates by a leading financial commentator, updated with a new postscript.

*Winner of the 2023 Hayek Book Prize*
*Longlisted for the 2022 Financial Times Business Book of the Year Award*

All economic and financial activities take place across time. Interest coordinates these activities. The story of capitalism is thus the story of interest: the price that individuals, companies and nations pay to borrow money.

In The Price of Time, Edward Chancellor traces the history of interest from its origins in ancient Mesopotamia, through debates about usury in Restoration Britain and John Law ‘ s ill-fated Mississippi scheme, to the global credit booms of the twenty-first century. We generally assume that high interest rates are harmful, but Chancellor argues that, whenever money is too easy, financial markets become unstable. He takes the story to the present day, when interest rates have sunk lower than at any time in the five millennia since they were first recorded – including the extraordinary appearance of negative rates in Europe and Japan – and highlights how this has contributed to profound economic insecurity and financial fragility.

Chancellor reveals how extremely low interest rates not only create asset price inflation but are also largely responsible for weak economic growth, rising inequality, zombie companies, elevated debt levels and the pensions crises that have afflicted the West in recent years – conditions under which economies cannot possibly thrive. At the same time, easy money in China has inflated an epic real estate bubble, accompanied by the greatest credit and investment boom in history. As the global financial system edges closer to yet another crisis, Chancellor shows that only by understanding interest can we hope to face the challenges ahead.

Publisher Review

The Price of Time is highly readable. The timing and telling of this economic horror story make it gripping and persuasive. -- Emma Duncan * The Times * Is it possible to write a highly engaging history of the world going back to Hammurabi, unfolding along the way a bitingly comprehensive explanation for its problems today, all told through a single character? Apparently yes. Edward Chancellor has done it, an achievement all the more notable since his drama is built around a character so unheroic on its surface: his "price of time" is interest rates. This is a timely, vitally important and hugely readable book. -- Ruchir Sharma * Chairman, Rockefeller International and New York Times bestselling author * Edward Chancellor has produced not just a brilliant explainer of the value of money and time but a hugely engaging history of the greatest problem confronting markets today. The Price of Time is a must read - a copy should be on the desk of everyone who has anything to do with financial markets or wondered why things work as they do. -- Merryn Somerset Webb * Editor-in-Chief, MoneyWeek * In Chancellor's terrific new book The Price of Time, he argues that well-meaning attempts by central bankers to manage interest rates have brought disaster ... It is no mean task to turn such a dry topic into a lively read, but Chancellor pulls it off. This is not just a worthy successor to his history of financial speculation, Devil Take the Hindmost, but an urgently needed warning. Rock-bottom interest rates were imposed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and have now lasted so long that they have started to seem almost tolerable. To read this book is to be reacquainted with the bizarre, Alice-in-Wonderland condition of modern finance. ... Anyone who wants a fresh perspective on today's problems - and anyone in Westminster hoping to chart a new economic course as Boris Johnson's successor - needs this book on their summer reading list. -- Marc Sidwell * Sunday Telegraph * Interest rates haven't simply fallen - they were pushed. And by their pushing, the world's central banks have constructed the hall of mirrors in which every investor has become, of necessity, a speculator. So argues Edward Chancellor in this brilliant chronicle of the most important prices in capitalism. You must read it. It is a masterpiece of history, analysis-and properly understated outrage. -- James Grant * editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer * I wish The Price of Time were the book that I had written. I am reminded of Keynes' letter to Hayek after reading The Road to Serfdom where he said "In my opinion it is a grand book. We all have the greatest reason to be thankful to you for saying so well what needs so much to be said. .... I find myself in agreement with virtually the whole of it, and not only in agreement but in a deeply moved agreement" -- William White * former Chief Economist, Bank for International Settlements * Besides being a first-rate economic historian, Chancellor is also a master wordsmith; almost unique among serious finance books, The Price of Time serves well as bedtime reading. ... More than 20 years ago, Edward Chancellor's Devil Take the Hindmost supplied readers with one of the most engaging and incisive descriptions of financial manias ever written. That was a hard act to follow, but The Price of Time nicely fills the bill; it is a serious work of political economy that is part comprehensive guide to the world financial system's greatest peril and part literary chocolate torte. -- William J. Bernstein * Enterprising Investor, Chartered Financial Analysts Institute * Well I'll be darned! Chancellor has done the nearly impossible: he has made a potentially dreary topic - interest rates - into a witty, philosophical and highly entertaining story crammed with historical anecdotes starting with the Babylonians and ending yesterday. At the same time the obvious weight and breadth of his research leads us to his important conclusion: for Heaven's Sake leave interest rates to market forces; manipulation by Central Banks leads to chain linked disasters, another of which may well be imminent. -- Jeremy Grantham, Founder and Chief Investment Strategist, GMO LLC a scholarly perspective of the history of interest and credit since their known origins in ancient Mesopotamia ... a rollicking read in comparison with Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century ... The Price of Time is leavened throughout by touches of humour and an eye for historical curiosities drawn from a huge range of sources. -- Martin Vander Weyer * Spectator * the book is magisterial in its scope. He describes the reasons for the current distortion of the markets and why wealth and income disparity were so pronounced in the last 20 years. He lays blame on the Federal Reserve and central banks around the world distorting the markets with low interest rates. You'll want to buy this book and get it the first day available. -- John Mauldin * Thoughts from the Frontline * Edward Chancellor argues that low interest rates, of the sort that prevailed since the financial crisis and until this year, are a catastrophic mistake because, as the great financial journalist Walter Bagehot wrote, they lead people to "invest their savings in something impossible - a canal to Kamchatka, a railway to Watchet, a plan for animating the Dead Sea, a corporation for shipping skates to the Torrid Zone". Cryptocurrencies are the Kamchatka canals of today. Their collapse, in Chancellor's view, is just the beginning of a great unravelling. The book is persuasive, perfectly timed and, for a work on such a nerdy subject, gripping. -- Emma Duncan * Times Writers' Favourite Books of 2022 * a blistering polemic against the evils of artificially low interest rates. Right on cue, the gravy train of ultra-loose monetary policy has come to a halt. Perhaps you should therefore not just buy this book but sell all your stocks ... The Price of Time addresses the biggest economic question of the past 15 years. Have the experimental monetary policies pursued by the world's leading central banks since the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 been a miracle cure or an epochal mistake? It situates this contemporary dilemma in a rich historical context. For this is just the latest instalment of an ancient debate over the nature and role of interest in a well-functioning economy. ... Capital allocation has been distorted; investment risk mispriced; pensions systems destabilised; social mobility fossilised; and moderate investors polarised into idle rent-seekers or you-only-live-once speculators. Chancellor makes a compelling and disturbing case that excessively loose financial conditions lie behind them all. ... The carnage being wrought by even the modest increase in borrowing costs so far in 2022 is not encouraging. At least if you've read this scintillating book and heeded the infamous Chancellor signal, you'll know what needs doing when we emerge from the wreckage. -- Felix Martin * Reuters * Chancellor's panoptic survey of the history of interest, and what classical economists said about it, will not fail to dazzle * Economist * a sweeping historical analysis of how our financial system once again became untethered from the world it is supposed to serve. At the heart of such derangement, Chancellor argues, is a single factor: artificially low interest rates. As he reminds us, interest rates are the most important signal in a market-based economy, "the universal price" affecting all others. Interest is best defined as the time value of money, which Chancellor artfully renders as "the price of time." It is the price that informs every key financial decision-saving, spending, investing. Suppressing the rate of interest is a powerful way to boost an economy otherwise bound for recession, but it is a dangerous one. It is to finance what opiates are to medicine, a distortion of perception disguised as a cure. ... Chancellor's learned and engrossing history concludes with a somber warning. Compared with more heavy-handed forms of government intrusion, central bankers' manipulation of interest rates may seem rather innocuous, and it is much less likely to provoke howling objections from ordinary citizens. But more than any other, it threatens the efficiency and integrity of the free-enterprise system. Behind the price of time is the priceless right of freedom. -- Adam Rowe * Wall Street Journal * every bit as gripping as any science fiction novel. It's an amazing book ... truly magisterial in scope -- John Mauldin * Thoughts from the Frontline * Superb! A worthy successor to Devil Take the Hindmost. -- William Bernstein * author of The Delusion of Crowds * Praise for Devil Take the Hindmost * --- * An admirably researched and very well written account of speculative insanity from the earliest times to, let no one doubt, the present. -- J.K. Galbraith Entertaining, useful, admirable scholarship... Chancellor seems to have read everything. -- New York Times Book Review Praise for Crunch-Time for Credit? -- --- There was no single, dominant, astonishing voice in the wilderness in the debate on the credit crunch, but... Edward Chancellor, an economic historian, foresaw almost everything. -- Charles Moore * Daily Telegraph *

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