Paul Volcker, who died this last December at the age of 92, is some sort of almost demi-god among people interested in central banking, monetary policy, and banking regulation; in other words, people like me. I was hence extremely interested to read his memoir. In Keeping at It: The Quest for Sound Money and Good Government, Volcker explains how he lived episodes such as the fall of Bretton Woods, the fight against inflation in the late 70s and early 80s, the Latin America crisis in the 80s, the 2007-08 financial crisis and the subsequent regulatory reform—including the so-called Volcker Rule.
It is not that Volcker lived throughout these moments; he was actually the main character in many of them. But apparently he did more, much more. For instance, he chaired one of the investigations to determine the number Jewish dormant accounts in Swiss banks. Jews fleeing due to the Holocaust deposited money in the Swiss banking sector taking advantage of its position as a neutral country; however, after the war, they faced a lot of obstacles—mostly bureaucratic imposed by banks—to get the money back. He also chaired an investigation into the United Nations’ Oil-for-Food program in Iraq. He chaired the foundation of the IFRS, the body that sets accounting standards worldwide. And he went to become economic adviser of Obama. Not too bad.
The memoir is focused mainly on the professional side of Volcker, and while it is not a brilliant literary piece, it is sufficiently well written, and his professional life was incredible, so this turns out to be a wonderful—and relatively fast—read.