on November 12, 2004
Having read numerous books on the issues of money systems I can say without equivocation this is the best by far of any I have come across including many of the Austrian economics books and those by Rothbard. All of them have their perspectives but Zarlenga's work and conclusions are a synthesis from history, well documented, and ring true on deep gut level. He makes his case very well and there is no hype or misplaced emotion as there are in many works on the money issues. Taken as a history book alone I would give the book 5 stars. Too many people, including me, have been ignorant of the historical roots of money and Zarlenga helps us to learn the dramas, political games, and debasement of money systems through the ages. It is fascinating and shocking story. What is taking place in the world now, including the Federal Reserve and World Bank is a slight variation of the historical power struggles over the control of money that go back thousands of years. The most informative issues that come out of this work is the history of gold and silver as money and how they are fiat currencies just like any other proclaimed currency. The money powers, governments, and kings have at various times decreed gold to be money (fiat) as they stood to benefit from it. Yes, gold can't be created out of nothing but it is just as fiat as a dollar bill. As a defender of the gold standard I have to admit that my notions of the gold standard have been flipped upside down even though I have read many of the Mises Institutes books. I can't say that a commodity-based money may not be useful or that the connection between paper money and its basis in gold adds integrity to the system but I do believe now that the issues is not black and white, gold or paper money. What Zarlenga elegantly makes clear is that all money, short of direct barter of goods, has always been a creature of law, i.e. someone decrees it so. As such it is open to abuse and perversion. The book, Subtitled " The Mythology of Money, the Story of Power", does a great service in taking the mythology issues and presenting them in a factual and understandable way. What I like about this book is it is common sense, down to earth, expertly researched and presented in a way that avoids the curse of too much economics jargon and pseudo-science. Money is not particle physics and it is an issue that touches each and every one of us every day. Money has, and continues to shape culture and the direction of life. Leaving the control of money, which seems to me to function as a sort of cultural economic DNA, to a private and secretive group of world elites is a recipe for life out of balance on all levels. It invites exploitation and abuse and as history show there has been much of that concerning the control of money.
Regarding the comments from a prior reviewer of the book who was somewhat critical of the work I disagree with his comment that the book does not give specific solutions. I got the sense that the reviewer wanted economic equations and esoteric pogroms that he could espouse as a scientific look at money. Money, at its roots is no more scientific than sex. Sure, you can define sex with all the science in the world but the gist of it is personal and well known to all of us. People get heated up over the issue of sex and everyone has an opinion. Money is no exception and taking the understanding and control of money and wrapping it up in academic polemics is simply a way to convince us that we need accredited experts to help us. Try that with sex and see what happens. The kinds of solutions that are needed are social and political. Zarlengas effort was not to micro-manage the topic but to show us the lay of the land and give us the broader concepts and tools to regain the control of societies money. It belongs to all of us and is part and parcel to human life and commerce. Just as "We The People" are the foundation and source of the authority for our constitution, we should also be the foundation and final arbiter of our money system. There is little difference between a dictatorship of the societal political process or the societal money process. Concentrated in the hands of the few leads to perverse distortion and societal destruction.
In my 50 years or so of life I have only a handful of books that I think are must-reads and this is one of them. With three sons all out of college and in their twenties this is one of the books I am getting for each of them to read. It is that important. I give this book 5 stars. It is a tour de force of excellent research and common sense analysis.
on November 17, 2004
This book provides a huge service to understanding one of the most central and powerful artifacts in human civilization: money. The brilliance of Zarlenga's treatment of this subject and what makes it stand out from others, is that while including massive historical detail and richness, he brings a cogent message about money that anyone (viz. the non-specialist) can walk away with. And it is, that money systems are designed by the intelligence of humans and established and empowered through a collective authority. Thus, the more all of society understands money and willingly participates in backing its authority, the greater the possibility that it will serve all people, and not private elites who may be tempted to structure its design in their favor. This single human innovation - money - has many alternative ways of being socially constructed and politically established as a means of exchange. Get the design right, and the quality of life for all people can be dramatically altered. The structural design of money will directly affect the degree to which individual market action will be morally and socially responsible. Getting the money system right can lead to the alignment of individual and collective action of people. This understanding that money is a human-specified tool (and not some mystical object that we all use but don't really know where it came from or how it works) is so important in birthing a new awareness around emergent economic and market behavior. To me, this kind of writing is a great examplar of how economics should be performed: taking a historical perspective to see what worked and what didn't work. The metaphysical clap-trap around money, as well as the professional economist's mathematical obfuscations are avoided. Seeing it for what it truly is - a designable artifact - is really the gift of this study. Highly recommended, and in my recent reading, complements Kevin Phillips', Wealth and Democracy.
on July 4, 2003
This book is a "keeper"! It offers a wealth of valuable information about the history of money and banking in Western Civilization that will be indispensible for all students of history, particularly those interested in the reform of money and banking systems. It offers information that is very difficult to find elsewhere, and is the key to an in-depth understanding of history, in terms of the power exercised through the control of money. Despite all this, it is quite readable.
I recall my "honors" course in the humanities at Ohio State in which I was assigned to write a paper on some aspect of ancient history. I chose the subject of money, as I thought this would offer the perfect opportunity to explore a subject which had been the object of my curiosity for some years. I spent hours searching the resources of the university library, with precious little result. I remember discovering information about the silver mining efforts of the Romans, but being generally frustrated in my search. When the dust settled, I had learned very little, and my focus returned to the physical sciences for the remainder of my college days. Much later, I came to read history as a hobby, but continued to be frustrated in my search for information about the role of money in history. With this background, reading Mr. Zarlenga's book was like drinking nectar. If only it had been available during my college days! It answered nearly all the questions about monetary history I've harbored since college.
Every citizen should read this book; it has the potential to light the path to reforms that might save the present incarnation of Western Civilization from self-destruction. It will be a classic.
on October 5, 2008
I teach Advanced Placement Macroeconomics for California's third-highest test-scoring school district, La Canada. Mr. Zarlenga's historical analysis leading to current legislative proposal (The American Monetary Act - [...] ) is a brilliantly comprehensive description of money. It's the best book I've seen on understanding this topic worth (literally) trillions of dollars of public benefits through monetary reform.
Without knowing how money is created and managed, all other topics concerning money are out of context. This is crucial: regarding trillions of dollars of economic power, most Americans have no idea where money comes from. It's time for us to learn. When people don't know how money is created and managed, the only thing between them and tyranny is trust in ethical government. American democracy is dependent upon our taking personal responsibility for understanding our most important economic and political issues. This is one of them.
When banks lend money, the interest charge can double the amount of money the customer must repay. Through fractional reserve banking, only the amount leant is created (principle) but not the interest. Because our US money is only created as debt, and the interest is never created, we can now explain some extraordinary but predictable outcomes of this monetary system. Money is debt, created out of nothing by private banks, and then leant to us to repay at interest. The debt will always be greater than the money supply. It's impossible to ever repay total debt; we are in debt forever in this monetary system.
To put this in numbers, the total debt of the US public is currently over $50 trillion (Washington Post. Phillips, K. The Old Titans All Collapsed: Is the US Next? May 18, 2008: [...] The total US money supply is somewhere around $13-15 trillion ([...] ). We don't know the exact amount anymore because the Federal Reserve stopped publishing that figure in 2006, claiming it was unimportant and "too expensive to tabulate and print." This decision was made without consultation from Congress or opportunity for comment from professional economists or the public.
Monetary reform would nationalize the Federal Reserve (this name is deceptive so the public would perceive it as a government entity) and retain its use for bank administrative functions. Fractional reserve lending would be made illegal, with the US Treasury having sole legal authority to issue new money for the benefit of the American public rather than the benefit of the banking industry. About 45% of the national debt is held by the Fed and intra-governmental transfers; this debt would be cancelled as it becomes a bookkeeping entry with nationalization. Of the publicly-held debt of various parties holding US Securities, the US Treasury would monetize (pay) the debt in proportion to fractional reserves being replaced with full reserves over a period of one to two years to monitor money supply and avoid inflation.
The governmental cost of this reform is negligible. The benefits are astounding: the American public would no longer pay $450 billion every year for national debt interest payments. If lending is run at a non-profit rate or at nominal interest returned to the American public (for infrastructure, schools, fire and police protection, etc.) rather than profiting the banks, the savings to the US public is conservatively $500 billion (of $50 trillion total debt, a conservative current interest cost of 5% is $2.5 trillion every year. The academic estimate of the true cost of borrowing is about 3%. A $500 billion savings if the profits are transferred to the American public rather than to the banking industry is probably low). If the US Federal government increased the money supply by 3% a year to keep up with population increase and economic growth, we could spend an additional $400 billion yearly into public programs or refund it as a public dividend (the US GDP is ~$13 trillion every year. Three percent growth is moderately conservative). This savings would allow us to simplify or eliminate the income tax (of the US Federal government's ~$2.5 trillion annual budget, about $1.2 trillion is received from income tax). The estimated savings of eliminating the income tax with all its complexity, loopholes, and evasion is $250 billion/year (Tax Foundation. Hodge, S, Moody, J, Warcholik, W. The Rising Cost of Complying with the Federal Income Tax. Jan. 10, 2006: [...] ). The total benefits for monetary reform are conservatively over a trillion dollars every year to the American public. One trillion is $1,000,000,000,000. The private sector economic costs of monetary reform are transfers of wealth from the banking industry to the American public.
For immediate learning, watch the 47-minute video, "Money as Debt." Of many sources: [...] , or in 5 parts: [...] . For background: [...] . For an excellent overview of our monetary system, Want to Know.info's: [...] .
on November 1, 2004
After a decade-plus of intensive research in the monetary arena, Stephen Zarlenga has authored a book titled "The Lost Science of Money." It is a truly monumental work that, I believe, reconstitutes the history of money, and the essence of its nature, in a way that does not, and might not ever, otherwise exist. It documents this crucial, but long neglected field of study, in a manner that does justice to the finest standards of scholarship, while at the same time rendering in a subject that in lesser hands might produce a tedious tome, a lively narrative that is accessible to the interested layman. It is a good read; a page-turner even. It paints a sensitive and intelligent historical panorama that transcends the gaudier narrations of wars, rulers and empires commonly proffered by more orthodox historians. To state that it constitutes an urgently needed service to the human race is more understatement than hype. It provides the intellectual basis for comprehending the monetary undercurrent that has shaped and driven civilization. It is simply not possible to realize who we are, how we got here, and the options for the future without an understanding of what is delineated in this epic work.
on August 1, 2009
I run out of superlatives for this book. In a saner world, no student would be allowed to start an economics course without a knowledge of this work. It's a tour de force of scholarship, looking at over 2000 years of monetary history right up to the present day. And dry and boring it most definitely is not, thanks to the knowledge, skill and humour of its author, who knows the system from the inside out. I felt reading it that I could not truly understand human history without this perspective, and that conviction is now reinforced. Our monetary system, shrouded in confusion and ignorance, sits at the heart of all that is human and is of course the key factor in recent events. This book contains wise advice (and even draft legislation) on how to resolve our current mess in the interest of us all. The Lost Science of Money is now a treasured item on my bookshelf.
on November 3, 2007
Why does this priceless masterpiece remain "unavailable"? I happen to personally know the author and publishers and they assure me that it IS available to Amazon, or any other bookseller.
It appears to me that this book is simply being "blacklisted" because the truths it contains are simply "too inconvenient" for certain powerful financial interests.
I agree with the 5 most favorable reviews already here, and only disagree partially with Mr. Greco's, the critical portions. He is simply wrong about the book not offering solutions. The solution is to take back our monetary system from the usurped control of the private international central bankers and return it to a government of, by and for the people. The other big step in the solution is that all money, whether paper or commodity metals like gold, silver, copper or bronze are given legitimacy by "fiat", or the force of law, i.e., the currency must be accepted as payment, especially of taxes. He also gives the all-important recipe for correcting the fractional reserve problem in a non-disruptive and peaceful manner.
The true importance of Mr. Zarlenga's unparalleled work on this subject is his noble effort to make this subject plain enough for the masses to understand. He demystifies the subject that has been so deliberately obfuscated for so long by those who wish to entrench their power by the very lucrative, and exploitative, control of a nation's money supplies.
Corrective change will be impossible until a "critical mass" of citizens realize exactly how and why they have been exploited, and act to free their economic chains. The resulting benefits to society will be immense, and immediately felt by a middle class that will expand and prosper, rather than shrink and diminish as its now doing.
Indeed, this book will be in the realm of money what Henry George ("Progress and Poverty) will someday be in the realm of land and raw materials, or Carrol Quiqley (Tragedy and Hope) is in the uncloaking of the Anglo-American power elites (some would call them "Illuminati"). In other words, it will be a classic in our hope of understanding the present and of correcting the mistakes that have kept us from achieving our destiny, as a nation and a world.
Read this book, even if you have always been intimidated by the deliberate mumbo-jumbo of technical micro-economics, and the likes of Alan "What did he just say?" Greenspan.
You will be amazed at what you learn.
Jere L Hough
on September 4, 2005
I believe that "The Lost Science of Money" is a very well written, serious, and thorough book. If you can't afford the cost based upon reviews then check it out of a library first, and judge for your self.
Please, note that Greco's review is by an author(Greco himself) who is sideways attempting to promote his own book ("Money") by pulling Down Zarlenga's book. Yes, Stephen Zarlenga does not delve deeply into alternative and community based currencies in these current times, but the basis for a solid understanding of monetary history and principles is fully accessible and clearly written, unlike Greco's exercise in muddling through without an outline.
on September 25, 2004
- A Book Review by Thomas H. Greco, Jr.
The Lost Science of Money: The Mythology of Money - the Story of Power by Stephen Zarlenga
(The American Monetary Institute, PO Box 601, Valatie, NY, 2002. Hardcover, 724 pages. ISBN 1-930748-03-5)
Zarlenga's book attempts to do two things, first, to describe the dimensions of the "money problem" by tracing its roots, not only in economics and finance, but also in ethics, religion, and politics; and second, to prescribe, in broad outline at least, a solution. In the first instance it is mostly successful, but in the second, it falls far short.
This massive treatise (more than 700 pages) recounts the history of money from early times, providing an interesting historical overview based on a wide variety of sources. It is a scholarly, well researched, and insightful account of the evolution of money, banking, and finance, in which the author argues that "a main arena of human struggle is over the monetary control of societies..," and shows how the money power has historically rivaled that of governments. All that is well and good; the story of money IS the story of power, and the author tells it well. It is, indeed unfortunate that few people today realize the important political implications that are inherent in the control over money and banking, or that such control has typically been in the hands of elite private interests. This well researched history goes a long way toward clearing away the fog that has enshrouded that bastion of privilege.
The title promises to tell us about "the lost science of money," but there is little in it that would qualify as scientific. The author's subtitle, "The Mythology of Money - The Story of Power," would have been far more appropriate as a title. While I can appreciate the author for the major contribution he has made to our understanding of the evolution of money, banking, and centralized power, I must also say that the conclusions he draws and his proposed reforms are less than helpful.
It is not until the very last chapter that we see anything of proposed solutions. That is just as well, for his reform proposals are ill considered and anything but original, directing us into another blind alley of centralized control.
In a mere 28 pages, he manages to dismiss every other approach to a solution which he has ever heard of, then propose that the money monopoly be reestablished under new management. He gives short shrift to the whole alternative exchange movement - mutual credit clearing associations, LETS, and community currencies, and, does not even mention the commercial "barter" industry, thus revealing that he has not yet educated himself about the essential nature of the exchange process, contemporary methods, and the possibilities offered by voluntary, popular, and private approaches.
His critique of the "free money" movement covers less than a single page. If Zarlenga has any knowledge at all of the free money and free banking theories, it is not apparent. Likewise, his critique of the local currency movement is similarly uninformed. Again, in less than a page he dismisses it as worse than irrelevant, seeing it as a distraction from the "real" work of reform (the centralist, government-oriented approach).
His approach is both reformist and centralist, and shows no appreciation for the role of scale in making the system dysfunctional in the first place. Nor does he offer any strategy for achieving the massive reform he proposes. Having described so carefully the corrupting effects that result from centralizing the money power, it is curious that the author asks us to accept it when under the control of politicians and bureaucrats. Does he not see that the political and financial elites are in cahoots, and indeed are the same people.
Well, no one volume can hope to be competent in addressing all aspects of a problem, so we should appreciate this book for what it is rather than condemn it for what it isn't. Despite it's shortcomings, this is an important book. In sum, it is an admirable contribution to our understanding of power dynamics in today's world, and the singular importance of the democratization of the monetary power to enabling lives of dignity, freedom, and fulfillment for all.
# # #
on October 11, 2009
I cannot impress upon you how necessary it is to read this book. You can get it much cheaper by going to the book's website. Why Amazon doesn't carry this book is beyond me. It is critical to understanding how we can fix this economy.
Read everyone else's review. This book should be required reading in every single high school. It should be required reading for every member of House and the Senate. An exhaustive, fact-filled book with a 19-page selected bibliography. This book is backed up by references up the ying-yang.
And for all those who think that the gold-standard is not fiat money, this author shows with 3,000 years of historical facts how gold is just another fiat money; the Ron Paul-ers who think they are advocating something reasonable need to read this ASAP. Because Ron Paul's solution is not a solution. Ron Paul needs to read this book.