Global History of Capitalism Project – Discounting Gold


Dr. Tiemann continues to serve as an invited lecturer for Professor Christopher McKenna of the Oxford Centre for the Global History of Capitalism Project. In support of this teaching center, Dr. Tiemann has written a second teaching note Case Study, in conjunction with Dr. McKenna, that he will be teaching for Oxford in June, 2021. This Case Study covers the issue of the “resource curse” and endeavers to address whether and why that did or did not apply to California as a result of the California Gold Rush. Gold attracted thousands of emigrants to the state. At the height of the rush, California suffered from the worst symptoms of the resources curse: a speculative, land-grab atmosphere, poorly-developed agriculture and manufacturing, and an almost total reliance of imports paid for by exports of the natural resources—gold—and corruption and crime.  Yet, despite these factors, California benefitted from the gold rush, turned the curse into a blessing and remains a hotbed of innovation, economic activity and adventure.  This case study is made available by Oxford under a Creative Commons Copyright.

Global History of Capitalism Project – Leidesdorff


As an invited lecturer for the Oxford Centre for the Global History of Capitalism Project, Dr. Tiemann has written a teaching note Case Study, in conjunction with Dr. Oenone Kubie, that he will be teaching at Oxford in October, 2020. This Case Study covers much of the history that Dr. Tiemann has been studying around the period of the American Gold Rush, which catalyzed the transformation of California into an economic power by the end of the 19th century. In particular, the note takes a look at William A. Leidesdorff, who arrived in the area in the early 1840s and built a successful business as a steamboat operator, hotel owner and merchant, despite a dire lack of cash, coins, checks, banks, or banking services. This case study is made available by Oxford under a Creative Commons Copyright.

Monetary Stimulus


Can an injection of liquidity — even a temporary one — into an economy where money is tight produce a meaningful improvement in economic conditions? This is the question that Dr. Tiemann addresses using an economic fable and analysis involving the economic stimulus being offered by the Congress in response to the dislocations caused by the coronavirus.

Ode to Spring: The Baseball Subjunctive


With the start of the baseball season, Dr. Tiemann reflects on the wonders of the language favored by baseball commentators and others in love with the sport.  The Baseball Subjunctive, he writes, “sounds natural, knowledgeable.  The Standard construction sounds stilted.  Some few great writers and announcers could describe the game in Standard English and excel the rest of us.  But those few — Vin Scully, Ring Lardner, Roger Angell — possessed the gift of poetry. . . .”

Contagion 1855: How the Crimean War Felled San Francisco’s Largest Banks


When policymakers analyze banking crises, they often search for diagnostic clues in the specific environment in which they occurred. This paper analyzes the 1855 failures of the largest banks in Gold Rush San Francisco, arguing that the antecedents of those failures — excessive leverage, interlocking ownership, inadequate segregation of assets, and concentration of risk in non- banking enterprises — were independent of the monetary and economic regime in place at the time. Those antecedents exposed Gold Rush bankers to external risks originating in events in which they had no involvement, and over which they had no control. The external events that felled the largest banks in San Francisco emerged from the Crimean War.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson,
“The Charge of the Light Brigade”, 1854

Click the image to download “Contagion” by Dr. Tiemann



Banking without Banks


In recent months, Dr. Tiemann has been conducting research into the socio-economic and banking history of the California Gold Rush. He plans to produce a series of articles and, possibly, a book from that work. In this article, though, Dr. Tiemann examines the fascinating period just before the Gold Rush, when California’s economy suffered a severe shortage of cash and an absence of banks. Read about William A. Leidesdorff, a San Francisco merchant in the 1840s, who dealt with those handicaps by becoming, in effect, his own banker.

(Click to download PDF)

The New Industrial Policy


Dr. Tiemann takes a look at three specific instances of actions relating to U.S. industry which suggest that Trump is making a dramatic shift in both the style and substance of national industrial policy and answers the question of what these say about the type of Industrial Policy we can expect to see out of the Trump Administration. (Click the image to read Dr. Tiemann’s viewpoint on this topic.)

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The Purpose of Monetary Policy


The Federal Open Market Committee is scheduled to have one of its regularly-scheduled meetings with Fed Chair Janet Yellen making an announcement on interest rate policy.  Most observers expect the Fed to leave short-term interest rates unchanged for now, but the FOMC’s likely actions in the near future could be to raise rates.  Dr. Tiemann reviews the purpose of Monetary Policy in the context of the functioning of our banking system, the history, thinking and goals that animate the Fed’s actions.

Tom Brady’s Victory Pumps up Organized Labor


Overturning NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s imposition of a four-game suspension on Patriots uber-star quarterback Tom Brady provides organized labor with a bigger gain from the ruling than Patriots fans received.  Leaders of organized labor should see in the ruling a strengthening of both the role of collective bargaining agreements and protections for workers facing arbitrary and capricious workplace disciplinary action. The Patriots’ apparent use of under-inflated footballs nevertheless pumps up existing collective bargaining principles and protective statutes in employment law. Read more at the link.

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