- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (June 13, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0871406837
- ISBN-13: 978-0871406835
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #479,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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One Nation Under Gold: How One Precious Metal Has Dominated the American Imagination for Four Centuries 1st Edition
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“The book is wildly entertaining as well as informative. …Ledbetter is a first-rate reporter with a nose for unearthing great stories. He delivers great and often outré stories in abundance…Ledbetter has written a delightful book, one that succeeds in capturing, among other things, much of the loopiness that has undeservedly tarnished the reputation of the true gold standard.”
- Ralph Benko, Forbes
“[A] chronicle of the American people’s fascination with gold. . . . [Ledbetter’s] well-spun narrative spans the better part of four centuries.”
- James Grant, Wall Street Journal
“A surprisingly readable history of U.S. fiscal policy. Starting with America’s earliest currencies . . . the book traces the chaotic end of the gold standard and dissects our modern obsession with trying to bring it back . . . . [Ledbetter’s] measured, persuasive conclusion after surveying two centuries of haphazard fiscal decision making is that a return to a gold standard would be a deeply bad idea. Consider this a must read for the gold bugs in your life”
- Anne VanderMey, Fortune
“Everyone is familiar with gold but few know of its complex history―until now, thanks to James Ledbetter’s skillful storytelling.”
- Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Prize–winning economist and best-selling author of The Great Divide
“What an original, imaginative book! Bristling with ideas, this lucid history reveals the economic, cultural, and political dimensions of gold’s role in the American experience. So doing, it illuminates, informs, and provokes.”
- Ira Katznelson, author of the Bancroft Prize–winning Fear Itself
“I learned an interesting new fact on nearly every page of One Nation Under Gold, but I also learned more than facts: James Ledbetter shows us how men have been transfixed by this metal and the folly that has resulted from that obsession. A gripping story, and a history that has had far more influence over policy in the United States than you might think.”
- Michael Tomasky, editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
“The material on the gold crisis of the 1960s is really superb―without question the best treatment I have seen of this issue. This was the issue Johnson faced, combined with Vietnam and racial backlash.”
- Julian Zelizer, author of The Fierce Urgency of Now
“[This] is the first book to really make sense of the tumultuous and entertaining history of Americans’ obsession with gold, brilliantly illuminating how our fascination with the precious metal has shaped our national psyche, sparked political turmoil, and exerted a powerful and often malignant influence on economic policy.”
- James Surowiecki
About the Author
James Ledbetter is the editor of Inc. magazine and the author or editor of five previous books. His writing on business and politics has appeared in The New Yorker, the Nation, the New York Times, and many other publications.
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The issue with the book, in my opinion, is the verbose middle chapters on the details surrounding US policies with gold during the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford administrations. Yes, these were very important periods for understanding why the Bretton Woods system failed and why we had to finally get off gold, for once and all. But like many history books, I think an author can provide so much detail on conversations, events and quotes that a reader gets lost in what's going on and the overall experience then lacks that same compelling storyline found elsewhere in the book. Perhaps I need to read this a second time to get more out of it, and I likely will in a couple years.
I think a book like this provides a healthy balance to all the rhetoric out there and doomsday talk about the US reverting back to some kind of gold based system once the US dollar becomes completely worthless. It shows that although the current system has its challenges it is a product of and response to the shortcomings of the previous system. To think a reversion back to gold is the answer is to ignore much of economic history and present realities that dictate world commerce, points all of which are supported in the pages of this book. I will keep buying gold but it's because I like it and because I also have my assets spread across other classes that offer their own advantages in helping me reach my financial goals.
Despite our fascination with it, we take our understanding of gold’s role in our economy and our collective cultural consciousness for granted. Phrases like “the gold standard” and “good as gold” permeate popular language yet their origins have been forgotten. Most Americans go from learning about gold rushes in places like Alaska and California as children to hocking their old jewelry at strip-mall “buy and sell” joints as adults, without for a moment considering the reasons behind gold’s shifting grip on our economy, our culture and ultimately, our aspirations.
This book follows gold’s journey from the founding of the United States and its role in the Constitution through the 2016 Republican party platform—with of course, a nod to The Wizard of Oz along the way.
America’s economic and political history has been linked to this shiny nugget for centuries, impacting the nation’s economic policies from the highest government coffers to the pocketbooks of average Americans on the street. Ledbetter’s gilded tour of American history is as brilliant as the ore itself.
The Gold Commission studies the problem of the world economy's return to a gold standard but informally concluded that there is not enough physical gold on the planet to make the gold standard work given the size and complexity of the U.S. economy and the world international trading system. [pgs 291-300.] As the author further points out at the end of the book, even F.A. Hayek thought a modern American gold standard would be unworkable. The gold standard presupposes certain dogmatic beliefs which can no longer be rationally justified. But any attempt to return to gold would lead to such fluctuations in the value of gold that the new Gold system would collapse in time anyway [pg 328].
Part of the problem depends upon what parts of the system were restored. I would not favor defining a dollar with a specific amount of gold as the old system did.
In short, this book would be useful reading to all U.S. citizens (voters) and members of Congress.