Volcker | William L. Silber

Summary of: Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence
By: William L. Silber


Embark on a fascinating journey through the life and career of Paul Volcker, the man who conquered inflation and helped shape the US economy under five different presidents. In the book ‘Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence’ by William L. Silber, you will explore the legendary figure’s early life, his steadfast dedication to public service, and the critical moments that defined his time as both the undersecretary for monetary affairs and the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Guided by his unyielding principles and phenomenal crisis-management skills, Volcker forged relationships with international bankers and world leaders, leading the charge to tame soaring interest rates, combat inflation, and stabilize global financial markets. As you delve into this comprehensive summary, you will uncover the driving forces behind the man who not only battled powerful adversaries but also became the face of banking regulatory reform.

Paul Volcker’s Moral Authority

Paul Volcker’s distinguished public service career is shaped by his sense of duty, integrity, and propensity to speak the truth, regardless of consequences. As a public servant for five US presidents, Volcker demonstrated his methodical reasoning and crisis control expertise. He formed alliances with international bankers and heads of state during economic crises and exhibited consistent moral authority by pursuing effective solutions despite being unpopular. Paul Volcker was a man of integrity whose leadership style set him apart and made him an icon in public service.

Volcker’s Monetary Legacy

This summary discusses Paul Volcker’s contributions to the US monetary system and global economy during his time in public service.

Paul Volcker was a key player in the US monetary system during the 1970s. As a deputy undersecretary of the treasury, his first task was to protect the “gold cover” and enforce the law forbidding Americans from owning gold. He later returned to the capital in 1969 as undersecretary of the treasury for monetary affairs in the Nixon administration.

When the US was forced to suspend the convertibility of the dollar into gold, Volcker came up with a plan to substitute the dollar as the global benchmark of value. He traveled the world to persuade and reassure foreign finance ministers and government leaders, earning himself the title of “the Henry Kissinger of monetary diplomacy.”

Despite political pressure from the White House to keep interest rates down during the 1972 elections, Volcker believed in the fixed-exchange-rate regime of the post-World War II Bretton Woods agreement and appreciated the dollar’s role in bringing stability back in a floating exchange rate environment. However, when Nixon did not appoint him secretary of the treasury in 1974, Volcker resigned.

Inflation gripped public attention during this time, raising prices by 12% that year, in part spurred by soaring oil prices, but also by the Federal Reserve’s passivity. Volcker’s legacy was his ability to find fault and make those who viewed the glass as half-empty seem like wild-eyed optimists.

Volcker’s Battle Against Inflation

Paul Volcker, a former president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, became the chairman of the Federal Reserve in 1979 amidst a crisis of confidence in America caused by 13% inflation. Volcker believed in the strong currency/strong country connection and raised interest rates to combat inflation, despite opposition. He realized the danger of inflationary expectations and tightened monetary policy to break the link between spending today and anticipating higher prices tomorrow. Volcker’s family faced financial struggles, and his circumstances dictated his love of cheap cigars, which he puffed incessantly. Volcker’s efforts were successful, and inflation rates dropped, confirming the power of his approach.

Paul Volcker’s Battle Against Inflation

In the late 1970s, inflation was plaguing the US economy. Paul Volcker, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve at the time, proposed a bold plan to target money supply and allow short-term interest rates to fluctuate. The plan faced criticism from all sides, but Volcker stuck to it and successfully lowered inflation from 12% to 4% by the end of 1981. His success revived trust in the Federal Reserve System and kept the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. However, Volcker’s conflicts with President Reagan over budget deficits and interest rates would lead to his eventual departure from the Fed. Despite this, Volcker’s nonpartisan efforts to combat inflation remain a crucial part of US economic history.

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