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The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession Paperback – April 10, 2012

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Bernstein's book is a fascinating read, especially in light of the recent run-up in the price of gold. Should gold once again be viewed as a currency, as so many commentators have suggested? Were he still alive, Bernstein might laconically answer, 'Read my book.'" (Seeking Alpha, May 2012)

From the Back Cover

Praise For The Power of Gold

"Mr. Bernstein has turned this story—not an obvious golden opportunity for even a writer of Mr. Bernstein's skill—into a real page-turner."
The Wall Street Journal

"Bernstein . . . does full justice to his material. Almost every chapter contains some detail to surprise or delight. "
Financial Times

"There are sugarplums throughout the book. . . .The pleasure of the bookis in its sheer number of unknown places and interesting episodes."
The New York Times

"Bernstein's volume is a tour de force with a satisfying conclusion: The charactersin this drama prove themselves 'fools for gold, chasing an illusion.'"
Business Week

"Admirably written . . . a wonderfully interesting view—not alone of gold but of thegreater economic history. Like other of his work, it is assured of a wide readership."
John Kenneth Galbraith, Professor of Economics Emeritus, Harvard University

"The triumph of Peter Bernstein's book is that in the end you understand why and how it happened that the golden dog no longer barks. "
The Boston Globe

"The range of research evident throughout the book is staggering. . . . Bernstein's ear for the telling quote is pitch perfect."
USA Today

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 2 edition (April 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 111827010X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118270103
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #706,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter L. Bernstein's nine books include the worldwide bestseller Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk. Bernstein is also an economic consultant and publisher of Economics and Portfolio Strategy, a semimonthly letter for institutional investors.

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Format: Paperback
With all due respect to Ron Paul, one of the few living American politicians who can righteously be described as true leader, and his role as today's foremost convincing advocate of the specie backed currency; in spite of his wisdom in educating the public and addressing the faults of our system, nonetheless, fiat money is here to stay and will endure because it is useful. Fiat money combined with state monopoly on it, gives the state a tool more powerful even than conscription, in the game of thrones. The ability to devalue currency, the ability to steal from the population's savings by inflation, the ability to give the national economy a short term stimulus, all those are irresistable powers to the Solons of today. States do not voluntarily surrender novel ideas that help them compete with other states. Nobody gave up firearms once they had them. It is most unlikely that events will ever force the fiat money genie back into the bottle.

This book tells you why. The book is not advocacy, it is sound economic history. It appreciates the "power of gold" as money and tells the story fairly. The best part concerns the gold standard as it operated in the 20th century and why that fell apart and did not resume for all the efforts to extend it.

I have the 2004 version and I don't have the Volcker intro. I should like to read it. To me, the events of the Eurozone demonstrate the difficulties that states have in trying to hold to hard money standards and why a multistate approach to currency discipline is unlikely to hold over the long term. The problem is much like the old gold standard problem. We can see it unfolding again in different guise with the Eurozone. Anyhow, much to like about this book, and with its easy and captivating narrative style, I freely recommend it to all.
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My Grandfather came from Ireland in the 1870's and headed for the California Sierra's and spent his life working in the Gold mines and had many claims and one of his sons worked in the Gold Mines until they were shut down because it was too costly to mine, so I've always had in interest in the mining of it. This book gives us excellent history of Gold down thru the ages! It is absolutely amazing what the effects that Gold had from the early BC up til the 21st Century and what affect it had on early Kingdom's and countries and how it was used down thru the ages. An enjoyable read. Can you, for example, think of exchanging an ounce of gold for an ounce of salt!!?? It is loaded with Trivia regarding its' value to certain tribes/civilizations and the writer brings Golds history up to the late 1990's!
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Format: Paperback
It is a very interesting journey from the early days when gold was a symbol of power and was used solely as an ornament. Then appears the currency in Lydia and from that moment on gold is consolidating as Money back. But there comes a point in the historical narrative, just in time to enter the modern age, with the creation of the Bank of England, where the story becomes a general history book for economists. It is quite difficult to understand what is explained thereafter by the desire of the author to explain the specifics. But if you make an effort you can get the most important information and understand the milestones in the history of gold and its close relationship with the current economy.
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God bless Peter Bernstein, may he rest in peace. No one else could make arcane and seemingly dull topics (e.g. the history of gold or of statistics) so fascinating and accessible. In 2009, the year of Bernstein’s death, the celebrated academic economist Niall Ferguson published a bestseller, “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.” In my humble opinion, it was a dud. But this book, “The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession,” first published in 2000, is the real financial history of the world for the layman. It is brilliant, penetrating, concise, and convincing.

There is much to commend about this book. And there is a lot that it covers. Allow me to distill it down to half-a-dozen central highlights, although that is a rather arbitrary number.

First, why gold? What is it about this element that has made it such an enduring part of the world’s monetary system, regardless of time period, location, or economic system? Bernstein explains that gold, alone among natural elements, shares the following characteristics: 1) it is universal (gold has been discovered on every continent other than Antarctica); 2) is it enduring (gold never rusts or tarnishes); it is malleable (gold can easily be crafted into almost any imaginable shape); and it is extremely dense (an equivalent monetary weight for gold in silver is enormous).

In some historical circumstances gold was easily obtained (e.g. the chunks of pure gold in the river Pactolus or at Sutter’s mill), but historically gold is difficult to produce.
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