NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t


As the U.S. economy struggles to recover from the financial crash, and Europe is buffeted by a series of banking crises, attention has focused on the presidents and prime ministers who’ve tried to cope with it all. Journalist Neil Irwin, an economics writer for The Washington Post, says there’s an elite group of policymakers who can make enormously important decisions on their own, often deliberating in secret, and in many ways unaccountable to voters. In his new book, The Alchemists, Irwin profiles the central bankers — the men and woman who control the money supply in their national economies. Irwin compares these bankers to the alchemists of yore. Charlatans, cranks and serious scientists alike once dreamed of turning routine materials into gold or silver. But since the invention of paper money in the 1660s, no such elaborate pseudosciences have been necessary to create money. “You don’t need a crazy potion to create value where there was none,” Irwin tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies. “It you have a central banker and you have a printing press and you have the authority of the state imbued in both, you can create money from thin air.” MORE