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Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went Hardcover – December, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Hardcover, December, 2001
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From Library Journal

The inimitable Galbraith here offers a history of money and inflation, which LJ's reviewer dubbed "lively." This edition has been updated with a new closing chapter and afterword. This remains "highly recommended" (LJ 9/1/75).
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"In the decades since World War II, no American writer has done more to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable than John Kenneth Galbraith." (USA Today) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (T) (December 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0735100705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0735100701
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,027,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By James R. Mccall on January 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is JKG holding forth on that most perennially fascinating of topics. The subtitle ("Whence it Came, Where it Went") may bear a relation to the question on everybody's mind during the early and mid-seventies: why is our money behaving so badly?
"In the twenty years before the founding of the [Federal Reserve] System there were 1748 bank suspensions; in the twenty years after it ended the anarchy of unstable private banking, there were 15,502."(p144)
"...the Democrats...could authorize it [the central bank] without being suspected of evil."(p239)
"...the [German] inflation of 1923, with its euthanasia of the "rentier" class...had almost certainly a far greater [than the 1945 inflation] effect on relative wealth. ...The loss of assets makes a deep impression on an impressionable class of people. The loss of jobs is accepted more philosophically."(p303/304)
"... the higher oil price [in 1973] was considered highly inflationary ... in fact, it was deflationary ... the revenues... accumulated in unspent balances. Thus they represented a withdrawal from current purchasing power..."(p363) (The rest of the paragraph is relevant. The basic point is that the oil producers took money out of circulation, since they made it far faster than they could spend it.)"
And the piece de resistence: "To see economic policy as a problem of choice between rival ideologies is the greatest error of our time."(p368)
OK, do I have your attention? Well, this book will not demystify money - like love it is resistant to that, but like love we can't let it go. And its progress through our culture is a fascination, attended by hopes, frauds, inventions, and, not least, desperate invocations.
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Format: Hardcover
On one side of the world is a broad swath of professional mystery-makers, who stand in awe at the world's complexity, quite often view it as unanalyzable or irreducible, and let it stand pretty much as it was before. Then there are people in this world who want very much to take apart all the world's complex systems and machines, show you what they're made of, and say, "See? It's not all that awe-inspiring after all." I've decided that John Kenneth Galbraith, on the basis of "Money", is one of the latter.

Among those peddling mystery rather than clear thinking around money are some of Galbraith's own economist colleagues, who enshround the topic in hefty terminology and bestow upon money men an authority that, as it turns out, they don't deserve. Here's Galbraith clarifying a couple often-heard terms from the world of finance (after another connected paragraph that I've had to leave out for brevity):

"Few phrases have ever been endowed with such mystery as open-market operations, the bank rate, the discount rate. This is because economists and bankers have been proud of their access to knowledge that even the most percipient of other citizens believe beyond their intelligence. Open-market operations are the sale of securities just mentioned by the central bank which removes the loanable cash or reserves from the commercial or ordinary banks. The bank rate and the discount rate are the same; they are what prevent the banks from too painlessly recouping their cash by borrowing from the central bank. This is it. Viewed in the context of their development in the last century it is hard to regard these mysteries as anything but a simple, even obvious, accommodation to circumstance."

That same tone, in a couple of particulars, is what makes "Money" such a tremendous book.
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Format: Hardcover
"Money" is an easily read and easily comprehended history of how the western industrialized countries have created, adapted, and managed their monetary systems. Written by one of the post-WWII-era's most famous economists, John Kenneth Galbraith, "Money" is as much a lesson in American history and politics as it is in economics. Galbraith seeks to show how the management of monetary systems, driven by the interests of the rich and supported at times by conservative ideology, has been fraught with error, corruption, and more commonly--simple incompetence. But he protests the inefficacy of monetary management too much. Published in 1975, Galbraith's book can be seen as a response to the rise of the "monetarist" school of economics which, in many ways, was a challenge his economic philosophy.

An ardent supporter of the Keynesian school of economics, Galbraith rose to prominence during the late Depression era and especially during WWII as a government official in charge of controlling prices (He later served in the several Democratic administrations including a post as Ambassador to India for Kennedy). With the Depression still in full force just prior to WWII, he was chosen specifically to help implement a Keynesian economic policy which emphasized the use of fiscal policy--government spending and more activist management of the economy--to bring about full employment.

In 1963, Milton Friedman and Ann Schwartz published the now famous "Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1963". Friedman and Schwartz laid out, in convincing empirical fashion, what became known as the "monetarist" school of economics which emphasized the management of the monetary system as the key to macroeconomics stability and growth.
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