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

Wriston, Walter B.


Unpredictable Is a Dangerous Country


In an interview with Euromoney magazine on global issues, you stated that "failure of political will is the crucial question" facing the world. Would you please give us your overview of the dynamics of the relationships between the major power blocs?

I was referring to the fact that there isn't a single government in the Western World supported by a large majority of its own people. At the time that was printed, the British government was skating along from crisis to crisis and about to call an election.[2]  The French election had not occurred. All the Scandinavian countries were within one or two votes of going either way. The Italian government could not be described as robust. The West German government was in deep trouble. There wasn't one in Lebanon. The Japanese government had just changed, with a new Prime Minister coming in.

So the ability of national leaders to act with decisiveness on some major problems has been hindered by the fact that there isn't any strong political will behind anything. There isn't a Franklin Roosevelt or a Winston Churchill or a Charles De Gaulle.

When the world perceives that there is no effective leadership, it becomes a very dangerous place in which to live because it becomes far more unpredictable.

I gather that you would place the United States Government in that same category?

I would indeed. In fact, on the Nevada ballot recently, they had the candidates listed, and below them was a box to check if the voter wanted "none of the above."


[2] Margaret Thatcher subsequently was elected by 33 percent of eligible voters.

  • 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