- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (October 27, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143116177
- ISBN-13: 978-0143116172
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 413 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World 1st Edition
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"Before regulators throw block trades, bond swaps, bridge financing, butterfly spreads and Black-Scholes out with the bathwater, they should find time to read Niall Ferguson's The Ascent of Money." --The Wall Street Journal
"[An] excellent, just in time guide to the history of finance and financial crisis." --The Washington Post
"Shrewdly anticipates many aspects of the current financial crisis, which has toppled banks, precipitated gigantic government bailouts and upended global markets." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Fascinating." --Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek
"Good old-fashioned narrative history, complete with heroes and villains, visionaries and scoundrels." --James Pressley, Bloomberg
About the Author
Niall Ferguson is one of the world's most renowned historians. He is the author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, Colossus, The War of the World, The Ascent of Money, High Financier, Civilization, The Great Degeneration, Kissinger, 1923-1968: The Idealist, and The Square and the Tower. He is Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. His many awards include the Benjamin Franklin Prize for Public Service (2010), the Hayek Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2012) and the Ludwig Erhard Prize for Economic Journalism (2013).
Top customer reviews
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For anyone that is willing to admit to themselves that they don't understand the significance of central bank interest rates, the importance of bond yields, how insurance premiums are calculated, or why defaulting on a mortgage can effect municipalities in Iceland; this is the book for you.
Beyond simple definitional explanations, I especially appreciate the historical context that is given to the creation of these pillars of the financial world.
If nothing else, now I can now read the Wall Street Journal without feeling like an idiot. And in the words of a famous groundskeeper: "So I got that going for me...which is nice."
Note: this book is not without its critics, particularly among Economists, who can be a cantankerous lot with a wide variety of political viewpoints. The book succeeds as a historical narrative and does not lay claim to technical economic exposition.
Ferguson has the ability to open up the broad sweep of history with easy terms and lots of facts to portray a clear picture. The pertinent statistics that abound in his narrative are particularly helpful in clarifying the history and impact of money. Beginning with money lenders in ancient Mesopotamia (a beginning form of credit) the author shows us how the ascent of money has been essential to the ascent of mankind.
The ascent of money is described as an evolutionary process with development throughout history of new mediums of exchange. Capital mutations bring about the creation of new markets and new products, which are created by a system under capitalism, which provides growth in the monetary system to accommodate economic growth and expansion of the population. One example of the ongoing change in the world of business and technology that is cited: of the 100 largest private companies in the year 1919 only 29 remained in the top 100 by the year 2000.
The author shows us the development of new tools in the supply of money from barter systems to using commodities as money, to the first coins in the Mediterranean region (600BC), to the Inca Empire which had no money (presumably applauded by Karl Marx but not John Lennon), to precious metals backed by coinage in the era of Pizarro, to the introduction of banking systems with the Medici Empire in 15th Century Florence, to the introduction of stocks, bonds, insurance, and international money markets, and to the subprime mortgage debacle.
Within the narrative we get the broad sweep of many of the greatest economists including Adam Smith, Friedrich von Hayek, Ludvig von Mises, Joseph Schumpeter, Karl Marx, Frank Knight, JM Keynes, and Milton Friedman.
The Author asserts that the basis of money is TRUST. National currencies therefore float in value compared to other currencies depending upon international confidence and expected stability. Credit also is dependent upon the commitment that loans will be repaid. According to the author with other things being equal, more “money” only increases prices and does not enrich a nation.
One theory espoused by a number of individuals in popular discourse is the world would be better off if there were no money! The author does not refute this argument directly, perhaps assuming that his readers are schooled in basic economics. Economic history teaches that in a culture where there is no money, a monetary system is created in order that goods and services can be exchanged between individuals. Only if no item in the culture has any value would there be no need for money. If anything, perhaps the life of an individual, does have value then there would arise the desire for a monetary system in order to protect or exchange the items of value between individuals. Ferguson does mention the “no money” topic regarding both Karl Marx and the Inca civilization. Little is known about the Inca Empire except that its time of prosperity was very short. Marxism seemed to flourish during the first half of the twentieth century but seemed to collapse by the end of the century, with many formerly Communist or socialist nations moving back toward widespread property rights and capitalism.