The Unauthorised Biography

Book - 2013
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The essential handbook for anyone who wants to understand how our economic system really works, what has gone wrong with it, and what we can do to fix it.
     What is money and how does it work? The conventional answer is that once upon a time people exchanged what they produced for what they wanted--cod in Newfoundland, sugar in the West Indies, tobacco in Virginia--and that today's financial universe evolved from barter. But there is a problem with this story. It's wrong. And dangerous.
     Putting the record straight , Money: The Unauthorised Biography draws on stories from around the world and throughout history, from the primitive tribe using as cash an enormous underwater stone wheel to the credits used by modern-day babysitting circles, taking in along the way spendthrift Dauphins, sixteenth-century vampire squid, rituals of sacrificial feasts in Ancient Greece, and the credit crisis in Ancient Rome (an eerie pre-echo of recent events).
     In wonderfully witty and lucid style Felix Martin unfolds this panoramic secret history and explains the truth about money: what it is, where it comes from, and how it works. His absorbing account will rearrange your understanding of the world and show how money can once again become the most powerful force for good. By misunderstanding money we have become its slaves. This book sets us straight in order to set us free.
Publisher: Toronto : Doubleday Canada, c2013.
ISBN: 9780385678674
Characteristics: viii, 320 pages :,illustrations ;,25 cm


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Nov 29, 2016

The writing is very clear and unpolluted by jargon. If there is a problem, its excessive lucidity: very easy to follow whilst reading, but awkward to try to explain to others afterward. And there are neither diagrams nor graphs(!). The key point is that money is not, and really never was, some sort of stuff, rather, its a social technology (I would have called it a group of social techniques, which ought to jive with each other but sometimes don't, but I wasn't editing the book). The book starts from prehistory, and builds fairy quickly to early modern Europe, and then gives a long but clear explanation between classical economics (the stuff of the 'real world' that most are familiar with) and the labyrinthine tight rope (or slack line? or both?) acrobatics of finance, and how the two have been somewhat diverging since the mid-nineteenth century, and then brings it all to a head in the crash derby-waltz of moral hazards that tripped over itself - and fell onto everyone else - in 2008, and finally ends by surveying ideas of how to solve the problems of global economics and public and private institutions and fair risk and reward dispersal in the twenty-first century. (And the text is less than three hundred pages!)

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