Irwin’s reporting enlivens what can easily be a dry subject. He recounts, for example, how then White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (now the mayor of Chicago) responded, shortly after President Obama took office in January 2009, when a staffer told him that it could take weeks to draft a financial reform bill. Emanuel, Irwin relates, said, “Sit down and start fucking typing.”
The book answers many questions authoritatively, but some of the biggest and most important ones are outside The Alchemists’ scope. One is how successful central bankers will be in unwinding the current era of cheap money without unleashing inflation or causing recession. Another is how Europe will be able to preserve its common currency while serving the needs of its economically diverse members. Finally, it’s difficult to put The Alchemists down without asking whether enough re-regulating of the banking industry has been done to ensure that it won’t all happen again.
- Rob Norton is a freelance writer and editor, and an adjunct faculty member of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Previously, he was executive editor of s+b and Fortune magazine.