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Inflated: How Money and Debt Built the American Dream



"A thorough, highly readable history of the politics that have controlled banking, currency, monetary gold, and government debt since the founding. I am going to put Inflated on the short list of books that are given to our new traders and analysts."

"From the revolutionary-era origins of the national debt, through Civil War era greenbacks, New Deal deficit finance, and Richard Nixon's severing of the dollar's link to gold, Chris Whalen's Inflated offers a wry, often comical account of America's long, crisis-prone love affair with inflation, debt, and the amazing dwindling dollar. His take-no-prisoners account of our latest financial crisis brings the story close to home. So does his timely conclusion: Americans must either find their way back to fiscal sanity and real, investment-driven growth, or risk a financial debacle that could make the 'Crash of 2008—2009' seem like the good old days."
BOB REYNOLDS, Chief Executive Officer, Putnam Investments

"Chris Whalen leads a fast and insightful tour through the historical and current battlefields of U.S. fiscal and financial class warfare. A fascinating and rewarding read."
EDWARD J. KANE, Boston College

"Chris Whalen is already famous for his stellar work articulated in his bank rating service and in the Institutional Risk Analyst. This book captures another dimension. He uses his family history, which starts in the Nixon administration. He embellishes on his personal interviews with prominent persons like Paul Volcker and Josh Rosner. His book documents the 'too big to fail' syndrome. Finally, he presents a view of the future and articulates what the confluence of central banking, government fiscal policy, and market vigilantes must confront ahead."
DAVID R. KOTOK, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer, Cumberland Advisors

"In the Rothbardian tradition, Christopher Whalen fingers the bad guys and follows the money in his fast-paced history detailing the U.S. government's continual monetary debauchery. For those wanting the real story of why America teeters on the edge of a financial cliff, Inflated is the book to read."
DOUGLAS FRENCH, President, Ludwig von Mises Institute

R. CHRISTOPHER WHALEN is cofounder and Managing Director of Institutional Risk Analytics, a Torrance, California, bank rating agency and consulting firm. He is editor of IRA's popular newsletter, the Institutional Risk Analyst, and heads IRA's advisory practice. Whalen is among one of the most frequently quoted financial analysts in the United States and appears regularly on Bloomberg, CNBC, and National Public Radio. He worked for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as a Mexico analyst during the 1990s, and as an investment banker for firms such as Bear Stearns & Co., and Prudential Securities. During his three decades as an investment banker and writer, Whalen contributed to publications such as Barron's, American Banker, the New York Times, Financial Times, and many others. He has testified before both the U.S. Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission on issues ranging from financial regulation to OTC derivatives to XBRL to the federal rescue of GMAC. For more information, visit



Chapter 1 Free Banking and Private Money.

The Bank of the United States.

State Debt Defaults.

The Age of Andrew Jackson.

The Panic of 1837.

The Gold Rush.

The Rise of Bank Clearinghouses.

Chapter 2 Lincoln Saves a Nation by Printing Money.

The Lincoln Legacy.

Financing the War.

Salmon Chase and Jay Cooke.

Fisk and Gould Profi t by Infl ation.

The Panic of 1873.

Gold Convertibility Restored.

The Battle Over Silver Money.

A Changing American Dream.

The Silver Compromise.

Chapter 3 Robber Barons and the Gilded Age.

The Age of Speculation.

Republicans Embrace Inflation.

The Panic of 1893.

The Cross of Silver.

The Evangelical Silverites.

The Turning Point: 1896.

Chapter 4 The Rise of the Central Bank.

The Progressive: Theodore Roosevelt.

A Flexible Currency.

The Crisis of 1907.

The National Monetary Commission.

The Passage of the Federal Reserve Act.

Roosevelt, Wilson, and the Politics of Reform.

Chapter 5 War, Boom, and Bust.

The Fed During WWI.

A Return to Republican Normalcy.

The Roaring Twenties.

A New Era of Debt and Investing.

The Rise of Consumer Finance.

America Transformed.

Prelude to the Depression.

Bust: Stocks Fall and Tariffs Rise.

Inflation versus Defl ation.

Ford, Couzens, and the Detroit Banks.

Chapter 6 New Deal to Cold War.

FDR and the Era of Broken Precedent.

The Seizure of Gold and Dollar Devaluation.

Dollar Devaluation Hurt World Trade.

The Rise of the Corporate State.

The Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

Central Planning Arrives in Washington.

FDR Embraces Federal Deposit Insurance.

The Legacy of FDR.

The Fed and the RFC.

Corporativist Reform at the Fed.

America Goes to War.

Wartime Inflation and Debt Finance.

Bretton Woods and Global Infl ation.

Chapter 7 Debt and Infl ation: A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.

Federal Revenues Grow.

The Fed Regains Independence.

The Post-War Economy Soars.

The Legacy of War.

Cold War, Free Trade.

The Dollar's Golden Age.

Global Imbalances Return.

Richard Nixon's Betrayal.

The End of the Dollar Peg.

The Return of Sovereign Borrowing.

Chapter 8 Leveraging the American Dream.

The New Uncertainty.

Humphrey-Hawkins and Full Employment.

Balanced Budgets and Inflation.

Volcker's Shock Treatment.

The Crisis Managers.

The Latin Debt Crisis.

Reagan Reappoints Volcker.

The Neverending Crisis.

Volcker Exits, Volatility Returns.

From Excess to Delusion.

The Greenspan Legacy.

Chapter 9 A New Monetary Order.

The Growth Challenge.

Jobs versus Infl ation.

Changing Places.

Triffin's Dilemma and the Dollar.


Selected References.

About the Author.