September 1, 2023

The Price of Time: The Real Story of Interest

Edward Chancellor

As interest rates have staged a historic rise from 5,000-year lows over the past approximately 18 months, investors will be well served reading this book. The author traces the history of interest back to the ancient world and provides timely context as to what higher rates may mean in the future. For instance, noted English philosopher John Locke foreshadowed the past 15 years when he wrote in 1691 that low rates could lead to hoarding, declining money velocity and deflation, wealth distribution from savers to borrowers, and a misallocation of capital. The esteemed editor of The Economist, Walter Bagehot, seemed to sum up the past 15 years when he wrote in 1852 that “John Bull can stand many things, but he cannot stand two per cent.” Will higher rates lead to higher velocity, stronger productivity, and economic growth? Or will it follow the U-shaped curve of interest rates in ancient Babylon, Greece, and Rome that declined as each civilization prospered and then rose sharply during periods of decline and fall?

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