The Price of Time

The Price of Time

The Real Story of Interest

Summary

The first book of the next crisis.

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.

Reviews

  • 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

About the author

Edward Chancellor

Edward Chancellor is the author of Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation which has been translated into many languages and was a New York Times Book of the Year. After reading history at Cambridge and Oxford, he worked for Lazard Brothers and until 2014 he was a senior member of the asset allocation team at GMO. He is currently a columnist for Reuters Breakingviews and has contributed to the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, MoneyWeek and the New York Review of Books. In 2008, he received the George Polk Award for financial reporting for his article "Ponzi Nation" in Institutional Investor.
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