Wealthy, powerful, and potentially dangerous, hedge-find managers have emerged as the stars of twenty-first century capitalism. Based on unprecedented access to the industry, More Money Than God provides the first authoritative history of hedge funds. This is the inside story of their origins in the 1960s and 1970s, their explosive battles with central banks in the 1980s and 1990s, and finally their role in the financial crisis of 2007-9. Hedge funds reward risk takers, so they tend to attract larger-than-life personalities. Jim Simons began life as a code-breaker and mathematician, co-authoring a paper on theoretical geometry that led to breakthroughs in string theory. Ken Griffin started out trading convertible bonds from his Harvard dorm room. Paul Tudor Jones happily declared that a 1929-style crash would be `total rock-and-roll' for him. Michael Steinhardt was capable of reducing underlings to sobs. `All I want to do is kill myself, ' one said. `Can I watch?' Steinhardt responded. A saga of riches and rich egos, this is also a history of discovery. Drawing on insights from mathematics, economics and psychology to crack the mysteries of the market, hedge funds have transformed the world, spawning new markets in exotic financial instruments and rewriting the rules of capitalism. And while major banks, brokers, home lenders, insurers and money market funds failed or were bailed out during the crisis of 2007-9, the hedge-fund industry survived the test, proving that money can be successfully managed without taxpayer safety nets. Anybody pondering fixes to the financial system could usefully start here: the future of finance lies in the history of hedge funds.
Many theorists believed a hundred years ago, just as they did at the beginning of our twenty-first century, that the world had reached a state of economic perfection, a never before seen condition of beneficial human interdependence that would lead to universal growth and prosperity. And yet the early years of the Weimar Republic in Germany witnessed the most complete and terrifying unravelling of a major country's financial system to have occurred in modern times.
The story of the Weimar Republic's financial crisis has a clear resonance in the second decade of the twenty-first century, when the world is anxious once more about what money is, what it means and how we can judge if its value is true. The Downfall of Money will tell anew the dramatic story of the hyperinflation that saw the once-solid German mark, worth 4.2 to the dollar in 1914, trading at over four trillion by the autumn of 1923. It is a trajectory of events uncomfortably relevant for today's uncertain world.
The Downfall of Money will reveal the real causes of the crisis, what this collapse meant to ordinary people, and also trace its connection to Germany's subsequent catastrophic political history. By drawing on a wide range of sources and making sense for the general reader of the vast amount of specialist research that has become available in recent decades, it will provide a timely, fresh and surprising look at this chilling period in history.