If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times

Wriston, Walter B.


Fashions in Country-criticizing


In your foreign operations do you see any need to change the bank's policies toward, say, South Africa or Iran?

There's always pressure from a lot of different groups about a lot of different countries. It varies more or less by fashion.

Today, its fashionable to be enthusiastic about China. This is the same China that took 12 million students out of universities, gave each a hoe, and said go grow Chinese cabbage. They're still out there. Chinese officials just released 132,000 political prisoners, which they said was a fair proportion of the total. Nobody over here cares. We entertain their head guy in the White House.

You could read aloud or listen to Solzhenitsyn and fill this room with protest, but nobody will say anything against China.

Anytime the spotlight swings toward one particular country, like Iran now and the Shah, people say that commercial institutions should form foreign policy. I don't believe that.

President Carter was in Brazil a while ago. After he criticized the Geisel government, somebody asked him whether banks should continue making loans in Brazil. He said the United States had consciously decided that commerce was separate from foreign policy and that he would oppose any banks or commercial institutions that attempted to exercise foreign policy. It's a good decision.

  • The document was created from a compilation of interviews and question and answer segments with Walter B. Wriston which was later compiled into "If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times" in 1980. The original speech is located in MS134.001.034.00018.
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 Title Page
If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times
I: Getting Down to Fundamentals
The Big Cop-out
You Can't Go Bail for Everyone
Risk Is What It's All About
II: Some Basic Ills of the Body Politic
Lincoln Wouldn't Have Made It
Unpredictable Is a Dangerous Country
The Pitfalls of Single-issue Politics
Expect To Get Zapped
The Perils of Legal Pollution
The Injustice of Our Tax System
Those Wonderful People Who Bring You Inflation
Stop the Presses
Silly Premises Lead to Nutty Conclusions
Easier Said Than Done
III: New York, New York
New York City Is Alive And Well
The Road Back
IV: Careers
Rx for Happiness
Good Forward Planning
Dull Job?
A Simple Matter of Survival
Making It at Citibank
What Fast Track?
No Hiding Place
V: Once Around the World Quickly
South Africa
China: A Matter of Timing
The Real Significance of Iran
Iran and the Money Markets
Fashions in Country-criticizing
VI: The Global Financial Scene
The Elusive Eurodollar
De Facto Payments Mechanism
Too Big To Move
The Foreign Exchange Game
They Can't Leave the System
Baskets of Money
Swiss Francs
The Value of a Dollar
Not a Loss Since 1897
A Rational View of LDC Loans
Free Trade Benefits Consumers
The Destructive Costs of Regulation
The Big Rip-off
A Real Entitlement
Can Regulations Prevent Bum Loans?
The Insidious Side of Controls
Competition in Regulation
VIII: The Shape of Things To Come
Not As Big As You Think
What Lobby?
Armageddon Is Late, as Usual
Some Simple Facts about Interest Rates
An Expensive Luxury
How Big Is Big?
What We Did Yesterday Won't Work Tomorrow
A Matter of Semantics
Unpredictable Is a Dangerous Country
Privacy: A Serious Problem
The Unseen Revolution
Things Are Going To Be Different
Take the Handcuffs off Everybody
The Gray Areas of Lending
No Mouse under the Rug
Thank God We Don't Have National Banking
Competition Keeps You Awake
Accounting for Loan Losses
Not a Utility
People Like It
Computer Frauds
Some Final Words on Responsibility
About the Author