cover image The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power

The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power

Nomi Prins. Nation, $32.99 (544p) ISBN 978-1-56858-749-3

The intricate connections between finance and politics add up to less than their parts in this unfocused history of Oval Office interactions with the banking industry. Drawing on exhaustive archival research, journalist and former Wall Street executive Prins (Other People’s Money) presents a sprawling, haphazard, eye-glazing account of interactions between presidents and leading bankers from the Panic of 1907 to the Crash of 2008. Bankers pop up everywhere in her narrative, lobbying presidents, holding cabinet positions, leading foreign-affairs missions and staking out policy positions. Prins styles all this as a sinister “hidden alliance” underpinning a nebulously undefined global “power,” “control,” and “hegemony,” but her revelations are neither original nor surprising: she mainly demonstrates that bankers are part of the Establishment, with special interests—less regulation, more bailouts and foreign business—that they hope to see advanced through government action—or inaction. Unfortunately, her (often well-merited) populist ire never builds its critique of bankers’ opportunism into a coherent account of policy-making, wallowing instead in cynical conspiracy-speak—“there are no accidents in global influence”—and contentless Theories of Everything. (“Bankers had a propensity to capitalize on wars, but they were equally adept at profiting from peace.”) The nexus of money and government deserves a more systematic and thoughtful treatment than Prins’s. Agent: Andrew Stuart. (Apr.)