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Boom & Bust
41 minutes | Oct 14, 2021
Bonus Episode: An interview with Chris Jarvis, who was closely involved in the events around the collapse of Albania's pyramid schemes.
Chris Jarvis was a member of the IMF mission to Albania at the time that nation's pyramid schemes imploded. In this interview he gives us some background to the events, as well as detailing what went wrong. Jarvis wrote a pretty definitive account of the events that led up to the collapse, which formed the basis of much of the Albania episode. He discusses the rise of these schemes in transition economies and the ways in which they might be contained. This replaces the unedited file I inadvertently uploaded earlier. My apologies any listeners who downloaded the thing.
42 minutes | Jul 20, 2021
The Pyramid Schemes that Devoured a Nation
In late 1996, the pyramid schemes that had taken off after Albania began life as a post-communist, transitional state, began to collapse. Less than six months later, the meltdown would leave thousands dead, the nation on the brink of civil war and huge questions about how some 40% of the country's wealth had been swallowed up in what amounted to little more than Ponzi schemes. This is the story of what happened, why it happened and of the lives that were runined by it.
46 minutes | Jul 6, 2021
Super Swindle: The Panic of 1825 -- The Bank of England on the brink of collapse, an imaginary borrower, and too much money
This is an account of what some have called the first emerging markets crisis. It features a hero of the war of Venezuelan independence who’s really, really good at retreating, mostly without his troops; then there's the fall of Napoleon and the fallout from that, the hassles involved in moving on to a gold standard, hot IPOs from the era’s hottest industries, and the Greeks. (They defaulted, of course they defaulted.) How could we forget the Greeks?
32 minutes | May 24, 2021
Debt, Default & Depression -- The End of the Second Bank of the United States
The US's second attempt at setting up a central bank ended with Pres. Andrew Jackson's veto of the renewal of its charter. In this episode we look at the events leading up to Jackson's decision and at the fallout from it, including a depression on the scale of the Great Depression of the 1930s, several states defaulting and changes to their constitutions. Along the way there's fake news, a trade war, a bank war, high finance and low tricks. We end by bringing Moby Dick into the mix. Enjoy it.
28 minutes | May 10, 2021
Duelling, Deaths, and Depression: The Second Bank of the United States (Part 2 of 3)
Following the Panic of 1819 and the subsequent recession, the US's second attempt at a central bank got on with the job of holding the Treasury's money, controlling the currency and regulating the nation's banks. It had some success, though it was widely blamed for causing the Panic and the pain that ensued. Then, in 1824, thanks to what he called the "corrupt bargain," the sort-of-populist candidate Andrew Jackson lost the presidential election and immediately started campaigning for the 1828 rerun, taking aim at elites, banks, bankers and so on. Sound familiar? The Bank of the United States was drawn into the conflict, triggering the "bank war," which of course got personal very fast, and involved horsewhipping (why not?) a duel or two, fake news and other types of skuldggery, as the bank and its boss fought to have its federal charter renewed in the teeth of opposition from the nation's President. Oh, and Leonard Cohen makes an appearance. This is the second part of the series. In the third and final part, which will drop in the next fortnight, we will deal with the outcome of that battle and the fallout from the "bank war."
41 minutes | Feb 8, 2021
PANIC! 1819, the Prelude: The Short Life and Early Death of the Second Bank of the United States
This is Part 1 of a two-part series on the US's second attempt at installing a central bank, setting the scene for the Panic of 1819, a serious depression for which the Second BUS took most of the blame. This was somewhat unfair, but politically toxic. This was to become apparent some years later when the fledgeling central bank's management miscalculated and took a step that was to prove much like handing hostile interests a loaded gun, placing the barrel in its own mouth and inviting them to press the trigger. In this episode I set the scene, going through its birth after the War of 1812, a monster volcanic explosion, what lay behind the speculative boom that led to the Panic of 1819 and the bust -- a depression that lasted until 1821 -- that followed.
46 minutes | Nov 18, 2020
A Parcel of Rogues and the Darien Bust: How a Failed Attempt at Empire Bankrupted a Nation and Cost It Its Independence
At the end of the 17th Century, Scotland was in a bad place. Failed harvests combined with what amounted to economic sanctions against it by its larger, more powerful English neighbour, part of a more general mercantilist approach to international trade, were strangling its economy. That prompted the Scottish elite to attempt the founding a Scottish colony that would act as an entrée into international trade. Instead, it all went catastrophically wrong, bankrupting the nation and opening the door to union with the neighbour that had helped cause the disaster. This is the story of the Darien Scheme, which cost a small nation its independence. (The audio has been edited to remove a minor inaccuracy.)
32 minutes | Oct 6, 2020
Emperor Tiberius, Financial Crisis Wrangler
Ben Bernanke, eat your heart out. In the year 33 CE the Emperor Tiberius, was forced to take a break from assorted depravities on the island of Capri (not for nothing was he dubbed "the old goat of Capri" by less than objective chroniclers) to head off a financial crisis that threatened the stability of the Roman Empire. He succeeded. The crisis had deep roots in Roman history and in Roman politics, roots that included the death and disgrace of the man Tiberius had left in charge when he retired to Capri to indulge his worst instincts. Download the podcast and find out what went down in Rome in the year 33, not long after Christ was crucified.
36 minutes | Sep 22, 2020
The Panic of 1792: Alexander Hamilton and the First US Financial Frenzy
In 1792 the antics of an English-born speculator called William Duer sent the newly born US's ramshackle financial system into meltdown as an ill-fated attempt to corner the market in government bonds blew up, ruining the speculators and those who had lent them money, including the Madame of a brothel. The attempt at cornering was made possible by the process of setting up the nation's first central bank. Alexander Hamilton managed to contain the immediate fallout but his arguments in favour of setting up a central bank were weakened and its charter expired after 20 years. However, a mostly modernized financial system was in place by then, which had allowed the nation to go through with the Louisiana Purchase without lasting damage to its finances.
42 minutes | Sep 9, 2020
The South Sea Bubble, Part 2: Knight Flight and Cover Up.
In this episode, we cover the implosion of the South Sea Co. amid an outbreak of the plague in France, and put it into its context internationally. The affair threatened the throne of George I and prompted a frantic cover-up on the part of the government after the man who was potentially a star witness fled with a green-covered ledger containing the names of those who’d benefitted illicitly. The affair was also the key to the return to the top of Robert Walpole, who used it to devastating effect.
35 minutes | Aug 24, 2020
The South Sea Bubble, Part 1: The Hollow Sword Blade Company
John Blunt, Robert Knight and their associates used the Hollow Sword Blade Co. as the vehicle driving the South Sea Co., an entity that was set up to rationalize the British government's debts but which turned into a gigantic fraud that almost brought down the ruling dynasty. The story is well known but how many people know what really happened and how it all blew up? Join me as we find out what really went down and try to put some flesh on the bones of a story of financial greed and political ineptitude.
34 minutes | Aug 10, 2020
The Mississippi Bubble Part 2: John Law and His Fall From Grace
This episode picks up the story of John Law as he reaches the height of his success and power and follows him through his fall from grace as inflation explodes and France descends into chaos. It follows on from Part 1, which introduces many of the characters and sets the scene for the story of the Scottish adventurer who became the most powerful man in France before it all went wrong. I have tried to keep things as simple and non-technical as possible, although it's impossible to avoid occasionally using words like "economy," "inflation," and the like. Please subscribe on whatever is your favorite podcatching platform. Reviews are not only appreciated, they are welcomed with open arms.
29 minutes | Jul 26, 2020
The Mississippi Bubble Part 1: The Life of (John) Law
This is part 1 of a two-part series on John Law and the Mississippi Bubble. Law was a Scottish murderer, gambler, economist, banker and author who, while under sentence of death in Britain, rose to become the most powerful man in France, before falling from grace and fleeing after the financial system he had put in place imploded dramatically. This episode deals with his adventures before he achieved power and was able to put his ideas into practice, and with his rise to power.
37 minutes | Jul 13, 2020
Nuts for Flowers: The Dutch Tulip Mania
In this episode we journey back to 17th century Holland where the locals have gone crazy about flowers -- tulips, to be precise -- and are trading them for crazy sums of money. We look at what actually happened and whether things really were as nutty as the popular story holds, and discover that while there is a grain of truth lurking in the flowerbeds of the Dutch Republic, it's all a bit more complicated than that. On the way to a conclusion, we learn about tulip horticulture, living conditions at the time, and the beginnings of an early modern financial system. And, of course, we see how the lure of leverage was as irresistible 400 years ago as it is today.
1 minutes | May 19, 2020
Trailer: Nuts for Flowers: The Dutch Tulip Mania
Those whom the Gods would destroy, first they give leverage. 400 years ago, the Dutch people went mad. In a search for easy wealth, they traded tulips. Then it all went horribly wrong. The boom turned to bust and people were ruined, and with them the economy. It's a well-known tale of greed and hubris. But is that what actually happened? What went on? What was the outcome and why? Join me on the Boom & Bust podcast to find out. Subscribe on all major platforms.
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