Money Makes the World Go Around: One Investor Tracks Her Cash Through the Global Economy, from Brooklyn to Bangkog and Back


Amid all the globo-babble touting the virtues of the new world economy, it's hard to answer one crucial question: How much is each of us actually affected by the free flow of capital around a world without barriers? Barbara Garson set out to see for herself, and the result is this hilarious and instructive gallop through international finance.

Garson begins simply by depositing a modest sum in a one-branch, small-town bank. With a second sum, she buys shares in an aggressive ...

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Amid all the globo-babble touting the virtues of the new world economy, it's hard to answer one crucial question: How much is each of us actually affected by the free flow of capital around a world without barriers? Barbara Garson set out to see for herself, and the result is this hilarious and instructive gallop through international finance.

Garson begins simply by depositing a modest sum in a one-branch, small-town bank. With a second sum, she buys shares in an aggressive mutual fund. From those points of departure, she tracks her money's every stop as it races digitally around the world for loans, speculation, and investments. The trail takes her to, among other places, the Federal funds trading desk of a Manhattan mega-bank, a Brooklyn shrimp importer, a new oil refinery in Asia, and factories in Tennessee and Maine.

All along the way she talks to the people who touch, use, or are touched by her money. Her encounters with Wall Street bankers, Chinese labor contractors, Texas oil company treasurers, Bangkok street vendors, Thai welders, American workers, owners, and union representatives, and George Soros -- all of whom get a piece of her investment -- transform our understanding of money. Garson watches the amazing trickle-down of the Asian boom as well as the instantaneous drought brought on by the currency crash. Her investments produce exhilarating change and disturbing insecurity for "first world" people too, as she measures who profits and who doesn't in restructuring, downsizing, and outsourcing.

Few of the people Garson meets know or care about capital flows, but by the time the tour is over, the mechanisms of global finance are no longer obscure or abstract -- we understand just how money does, or doesn't, make the world go around. Part detective story, part business report, this is a primer on today's dizzying economic dynamic and a surprising account of modern life.

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Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Harris
The hypotheticals Garson comes up with are just as engaging as the confirmable facts in this story.
San Jose Mercury News
Garson is a delightful traveling companion, both bold and curious.
Wall Street Journal
...Ms. Garson recounts her travels with a disarmingly balanced combination of amazement and social concern.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this high-concept book, Garson (The Livelong Day) puts her publisher's advance against royalties into a local bank account and a mutual fund, then sets out to trace "a few representative uses" of the money around the world as it flows into large financial centers and out to developing countries. Garson, who has written for Newsweek, the New York Times and Harper's, brings a sharp and sympathetic reporter's eye to the effects of the global banking system on real people. In a conversation with a Thai laborer at a Singapore oil refinery in which her money is invested, she learns the costs and benefits of his situation: due to strict migration laws, he cannot leave Singapore to visit his family, but he makes twice what he would at home and is saving money. In another passage, Garson investigates a building permit granted to Caltex, an oil company to which her bank lent money, for a fifth refinery in Thailand, when government policy only allows for only four. While the regional manager insists truthfully that his office does not engage in bribery, she finds that the policy was suddenly reversed and that "some of [her] deposit went into a Thai minister's son-in-law's salary, and some went into U.S. political-campaign funds." From corporate boardrooms and government offices to the streets of Singapore and Penang, Garson navigates disorienting details with skill. Her spirit of adventure and compassionate character sketches elevate the book from a painless lesson in global economics to a minor masterpiece.Agent, Joy Harris. (Feb. 12) Forecast: If Garson is as engaging in person as she is on the page, and her publisher succeeds in booking her widely, this entry will cut a wide swath. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Money does indeed make the world go round, but it shapes the world as well. Journalist, author (All the Livelong Day: The Meaning and Demeaning of Routine Work), and playwright Garson took her advance for writing this book and deposited half in a one-branch bank in Millbrook, NY; the other half went into an aggressive mutual fund. She then followed the paths of the money as it is used by these two institutions. Of course, she could not follow each dollar; she chose representative loans from the Millbrook bank and representative investments by her mutual fund. While she generally approved of the local loans made by the bank, she learned that much of its deposit base is loaned to other banks, which make their loans differently. Conversely, she saw the mutual fund as maximizing shareholder return to the detriment of workers and even national economies. Garson spent some time at corporate meetings, but the bulk of the book concentrates on her observations of and conversations with workers. She makes astute observations, stressing that a concern with maximizing rates of return can lead to great harm at the individual level. Her point is well taken, but the treatment is a bit unbalanced; like William Greider in One World, Ready or Not (LJ 1/97), she downplays the long-term self-regulating effects of the global economy. She concludes with suggestions that the global financial community pay more attention to the local effects of investment strategies. Recommended for larger public libraries and academic libraries A.J. Sobczak, Santa Barbara, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Matthew Rothschild
All in all, this book is a fun ride.
The Progressive
Kirkus Reviews
A smart reporter with an instinctive tilt to the left, Garson (All the Livelong Day, not reviewed, etc.) follows her money around the world in this perceptive financial odyssey. First Garson deposited half of her book advance ($29,500 net) in a charming one-horse bank in New York State. Part of that hoard proceeded, through the Fed Funds desk at Chase, to finance a letter of credit for a seafood wholesaler to an Asian shrimp distributor. Chase moved more of the reporter's capital from rustic New York to rural Thailand, where Caltex used it to construct a refinery. On the spoor of her dollars, the intrepid author got to know the earnest engineers and the indentured laborers among the cadres of visiting workers. From Hong Kong to uptight Singapore, she learned the ways of East Asia. The other half of the advance was lodged with a mutual fund managed by the redoubtable Michael Price, who pushed Chase into the encompassing arms of Chemical Bank. The result was lots of pink slips and extra moolah for the mutual-fund investors. Garson's fund, to wring cash out of Sunbeam (which it controlled), called in"Chainsaw Al" Dunlap to restructure the venerable appliance maker. Dunlap publicized himself, outsourced, jiggled the books, fired executives and line employees alike, and, finally, utterly destroyed Sunbeam. Following her dollars, the author attended plant closings in Tennessee and Maine, painting sympathetic portraits of displaced workers. Without charts or graphs or technical jargon, her text puts a human face on capital development loans, Malaysian labor policies, and IMF strictures. Unreconstructed liberal as capitalist and investor, the author takes a proprietary, personal approach toherrefinery, her lawn-furniture factory, and her prawn farm. At the end, she longs"to see the bankers and investors suffer, just once, some of the personal insecurity and loss that their schemes inflict upon others." The dismal science is no longer quite so dismal with the arrival of this wonderfully instructive report. Author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142000502
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/1/1902
  • Edition description: REISSUE
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue 1
The Bank Deposit
It's a Wonderful Life 7
The Sun Never Sets 25
Looking for Loans in All the Wrong Places 41
Striking Oil 66
Gone Fishing 100
Honesty Is the Best Policy 137
The Investment
Plunging into the Market 177
Now There's a Bright Idea 191
Restructuring 207
Outsourcing 229
Six Months Later 244
Fellow Shareholders 253
"Sunbeam Audit Finds a Mirage, No Turnaround" 263
Restructuring Hits Home 272
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2003

    Highly Recommended!

    Some books set out to accomplish the impossible and come admirably close. Barbara Garson¿s volume is a prime example. Can you deposit money in a little rural bank and really trace its spread across the global monetary system? How do you know that a multi-million dollar loan to, say, shrimp exporters in Thailand, really has anything to do with the actual dollars you deposited? But that¿s not the point of this book. The author embarks on a whirlwind, worldwide tour of the global financial juggernaut, and shows how money falls like a drop in a pond and emits waves of disruption that seemingly spread out forever. Garson concludes that deregulation needs to be reigned in, a reasonable anticipation of the Enron mess. We from getAbstract highly recommend her book to business people and consumers who want a better feel for what the ¿global economic order¿ is all about, why people are protesting at each meeting of the WTO and whether you should be steamed as well.

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