Don Watkins: Why Finance Is Cool
“The most surprising thing I learned from working with Yaron Brook on this book was just how cool finance is,” says Don Watkins, co-author of In Pursuit of Wealth: The Moral Case for Finance. “Think about it this way. We live in a world where strangers happily give us hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a house. We live in a world where strangers will give us millions of dollars to start a business — and if the business fails, we don’t have to pay them back, but if it succeeds, we get to become rich. How incredible is that?”
The new book, just released in paperback and Kindle editions, was co-authored by Yaron Brook, executive chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute. Its goal is to dispel prevailing negative myths about finance and clearly lay out the industry’s virtues within a moral framework.
“This book is really the product of the enormous thought Yaron Brook has given to the subject of finance over a period of decades,” Watkins observes. “Yaron has spoken and written on the vital importance — and disgraceful smearing — of the financial industry for years. And one of the things he helped me understand was that people will never grasp that capitalism is moral so long as they see the fundamental industry that allows markets to function as immoral.
“For example, if you look at times when government powers expand the most rapidly, it is often after financial crises and controversies. These crises and controversies are inevitably blamed on greedy bankers and used to justify government interventions that set us up for future disasters leading to further interventions, and so on. In the book, we show how government-caused banking panics in the nineteenth century led to the interventions that caused the Great Depression, which led to interventions that led ultimately to the 2008 financial crisis.”
Watkins, who worked at ARI from 2006 until 2017, left his position as an Institute fellow this year to become director of education at the Center for Industrial Progress. “Although I’ve gone on to work on other projects,” he says, “I’m super-excited to see this book come out. The financial industry has been unfairly maligned, and when you combine Ayn Rand’s crucial philosophic insights with Yaron’s deep understanding of finance and his powerful ability to communicate these ideas with passion and clarity, I think we’re going to see people inside and outside the financial industry change the way they think.”