James Grant in his new book, Money of the Mind: Borrowing and Lending in America from the Civil War to Michael Milken, documents the evolution of American credit. His book's subtext is the federal government's destruction of banking.

First, he says, the government encouraged banks to abandon what had been their franchise: the safety, prudence, and conservatism epitomized in the architecture of the grand old bank buildings which yet dot the landscape. Then it regulated them into irrelevance.

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