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Money and Power: The History of Business Paperback – April 1, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Review

Many of us take for granted that each day we can go out and buy pretty much anything we want, stop at Starbucks for coffee and go home to buy more stuff online--if we have the cash, that is.
How we got to this point--the world of business so seamlessly woven into our everyday lives--is the story of Howard Means' engrossing, fast-paced Money Power: The History of Business.
The book began life as a TV documentary on CNBC, produced by David Grubin and narrated by the late Jason Robards. Means was working from the show's cript, but he added new material, and his book stands easily on its own as a separate work of scholarship.
Trying to tell the history of business in 274 pages (or 2 hours of TV time) is quite the challenge, and Money Power is bound to start some arguments by what it leaves out. For instance, you'll find nothing on famed English economist Adam Smith (1723-1790), known primarily for The Wealth of Nations. IBM turns up as a bit player in the chapter on Bill Gates and cyberspace.
Retail dynasties such as Sears and Wal-Mart also are absent. The book (and TV show) went for people and personalities rather than institutions. One early example of entrepreneurship: the English seagoing trader Godric, born circa 1065, later to become St. Godric. We don't often think of businessmen as saints, and indeed, Godric didn't achieve sainthood for what he did as a trader. Sainthood came for his selfless life after he gave away his money and lived as a hermit, writing poetry and befriending wild animals.
This book has plenty of people who practiced questionable ethics.
Gates is portrayed as ruthless, but his philanthropy and desire to eventually give away most of his fortune are duly noted.
The story of Time Warner (leading up to the recent merger with AOL), is partially presented as a blend of class (Henry Luce, founder of Time Inc.) and crass (the Warner brothers). Yet, Means contends one company needed the other to thrive in the ruthless media competition of the late 20th century, just as that behemoth needed to bulk up even more by merging with AOL at the dawn of the 21st.
Another pair who needed each other was James Watt and Matthew Boulton. Watt's steam engine may have been revolutionary, but he would have gone nowhere fast without the entrepreneurial, numbers-oriented Boulton.
Watt had already failed on his own, and his previous partner, Scottish iron manufacturer John Roebuck, went bankrupt. The happy union of Watt and Boulton helped usher in the Industrial Age, just as Luce's publications (Time, Life and Fortune) did for the Information Age early in the 20th century. In the book (and the documentary), one subject flows into another to get us where we are now, with our economy ever more dependent on computers and the Internet.
Means brings his subjects to life, whether they are names plucked out of history or modern times, such as super salesman Robert Woodruff, who turned sugar and water into gold by marketing Coca-Cola all over the globe, making us desire a product that we could just as easily live without.
Woodruff's tale demonstrates that life in this country is full of second chances. A marketing whiz but an indifferent student, he lasted but one semester at Emory University in his hometown of Atlanta. When he died at the age of 95 in 1985 (spared by a month of knowing about the New Coke formula-change fiasco), he had donated $200 million to the school.
Money Power makes the case that life today, without great business people, would make us poorer in pocket and spirit.--USA TODAY, May 21, 2001 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Means threads together historical events as he illustrates past innovations and emerging patterns. The results are quite intriguing--unless you were already well aware of the similarities between the tulip craze that took control of the Dutch market in the early 17th century and the current tech-stock debacle."—eCompany Now, April 2001 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (April 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471216526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471216520
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #966,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Frankly, I did not know what to expect as I began to read this book. (The use of "The" in the subtitle is somewhat misleading.) Having read it, I consider this to be among the most enjoyable as well as most informative books about business I have read in recent years. Referring to a collaboration with David Grubin to produce a CNBC documentary, Means explains that "we followed the money to the personalities -- both definitive and representative -- that have dominated the last thousand years of business, and to some of the most defining and colorful events of the millennium." The personalities are Sir Godric, Cosimo de' Medici, Philip II, those involved with "Tulipmania", James Watt and Matthew Boulton, those involved with the Transcontinental Railway, J. Pierpont Morgan, John D.. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Robert Woodruff, the key players involved in the merger which created Time Warner, and Bill Gates. Here are brief comments by Means on a few of the individuals and situations which are the focus of his attention throughout this book:
"Born at a time when capital accumulation for the peasantry was nearly unthinkable, [Godric] was nonetheless a model of modern wealth creation: an up-from-the-bootstraps capitalist who transformed the hand fate had dealt him."
"Cosimo helped to create a world that revolved not around God but around a society with man at the center. After five hundred years, power was shifting from the men of the Church to the men of business."
"Gifted with unprecedented mineral wealth, [Philip} had set out to reverse the flow of history rather than look forward and embrace growth, and history has judged him accordingly.
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Format: Hardcover
Who says that history has to be dull? Money & Power is a lively introductory look at how modern business developed. You could graduate in economics from the finest colleges in North America, and never get this information. Anyone who wants to have a basic understanding of some key elements and tensions in business operations should read this book.
Unlike many books related to television specials, this one has been turned into a book rather than simply being a copy of the television script. Money & Power does not require you to have seen the special to benefit from its very interesting contents.
The book is organized around 12 chapters that each highlight one person or event in business history. The beginning of the chapter provides linkage material to put the information into context and to relate it to what preceded the chapter.
The first problem that business people faced in Christian Europe was that profit-making (especially earning interest on money) was considered sinful. The book takes a look at how that belief evolved through first considering an early peddler-merchant, St. Godric, who eventually gave up his entrepreneurially bookstrapped career to become a hermit, and was eventually sainted. By the Renaissance, the consummate banker Cosima de' Medici was able to handle this differently. Through a large donation he obtained absolution for his sins in operating a business.
The importance of trust is also developed. From the de' Medici's to J.P. Morgan, banking relied on prudent, dependable people whom you could trust. During financial panics in the late 19th century and early 20th century, J.P. Morgan was the lender of last resort who bailed out the markets. After Morgan, the Federal Reserve system was created to fulfill this critical economic role.
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Format: Hardcover
The book presents an inside view of the history of business and its development over the years. From the 12th century monk, St. Godric to Bill Gates and Microsoft, this well-researched book outlines the history of industry, commerce and power. As a counsellor and teacher of business management, I will highly recommend this literary masterpiece to my students. Before we can advance in industry and commerce, it is equally important to understand the roots...where and how it all began. Who wouldn't be captivated by the Rothschilds or Robert Woodruff and Coca-Cola? My only regret is that the book ended all too soon. There are other mega empires that are not mentioned here - maybe there will be a sequel to this book in the future.
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Format: Paperback
Where's the beef?

I am seriously disappointed with the level of detail provided in this book. There are too few subjects represented and the few selected - far too little said. If you're looking for insights... keep looking. If you're looking to find out what made these people tick... search on. If you're looking for a significant list of WHO'S WHO in the history of business... this isn't even a good index. I rarely comment on the books I purchase through Amazon but this one was disappointing enough that I'm just shooting a warning flare for anyone who takes their time seriously. If you want a light read - I'll give it a green light for that.
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Format: Hardcover
I was never able to see the CNBC program to which this book is the companion, although i would be greatly ineterested in watching it now.
The author, rather than outlining a boring, start to finish business history book used an inventive means of describing multiple stories of individuals and large scale events. He was not afraid to use poeple who are not well known nor scared to paint a different picture of the well known.
The book covered the transitions between era's in a compelling way by shifting the focus on the newest trend in every era. While this ranged from money lending in the time of Medici to trading during Tulipmania to Creating and building during the industrial revolution, the reader can understand the era with the historical backdrop as well understand the trends in business evolution through the personal stories. The author is also not afraid to write positive and negative comments about various historical figures. He does not show a positive bias like many historians.
I felt this book presented the most intersting business history of any book I have read. It is also able to be read chapter by chapter individually becaus ethe chapters, although they refer to past events in some, are mostly separate stories.
if you are interested in business history, this should be the first book you pick up. I guarantee you will have a different perspective on many individuals and learn a great deal about some you have never heard of.
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