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Money  By  cover art

Money

By: Felix Martin
Narrated by: Nicholas Guy Smith
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Publisher's Summary

From ancient currency to Adam Smith, from the gold standard to shadow banking and the Great Recession: a sweeping historical epic that traces the development and evolution of one of humankind’s greatest inventions.

What is money, and how does it work? In this tour de force of political, cultural and economic history, Felix Martin challenges nothing less than our conventional understanding of money. He describes how the Western idea of money emerged from interactions between Mesopotamia and ancient Greece and was shaped over the centuries by tensions between sovereigns and the emerging middle classes. He explores the extraordinary diversity of the world’s monetary systems, from the Pacific island of Yap, where value was once measured by immovable stones, to the currency of today that exists solely on globally connected computer screens. Martin shows that money has always been a deeply political instrument, and that it is our failure to remember this that led to the crisis in our financial system and so to the Great Recession. He concludes with practical solutions to our current pressing, money-based problems.

Money skips nimbly among such far-ranging topics as John Locke’s disastrous excursion into economic policy, Montesquieu’s faith in finance to discipline the power of kings, the social organization of ancient Sparta and the Soviet Union’s ill-fated attempt to abolish money and banking altogether. Throughout, Martin makes vivid sense of a chaotic and sometimes incoherent system - the everyday currency that we all share - in the clearest and most stimulating terms. This is a magisterial work of history and economics, with profound implications for the world today.

©2014 Felix Martin (P)2014 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Difficult to imagine how it could be worse

This is but a piece of highly biased and opinionated leftist political propaganda trying to come across as "the truth". The last chapter alone is the most blatant piece of demagoguery I've come across in decades. To top it all, someone forgot to tell the idiotic narrator that this is not a spooky story to frighten small children.

5 people found this helpful

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Lively but tendentious and almost certainly wrong

If you already understand money pretty well, you’ll probably find this alternative history interesting and possibly informative in a check-your-premises sort of way. But if you haven’t read any other books on the theory and history of money, don’t start here; that would likely leave you less intelligent about money than you were before.

4 people found this helpful

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A thoughtful journey with big flashes of insight

The book's opening (and various later visitations) takes a reasonably interesting idea: e.g., the Yap islanders' use of largely stationary stones as money (seen many times in other books), and beats it to death. Setting this aside, the book takes a fascinating walk through money's basic concepts as played out in historic scenes. Watch the Roman Empire struggle through a credit bubble and lender bailout. Watch the allowance of a private family of unofficial currencies destabilize ancient China, first playing out as the brilliant scheme of court philosophers' sub-celestial monetary harmony is shaken, finally as the private financiers turn their aims to political power. Here are the best-of-breed (of dozens of books I've read) descriptions of the story, details, meaning and impact of (1) Scotsman John Law's financial innovations and his wild adventures creatively running the finances of France (into the ground), (2) the birth of the Bank of England and the emergence of the City of London's money markets of the 1800s (with brilliant description of Walter Bagehot's genius and contributions), and finally, all this back-story as it filtered into the rising disciplines of academic finance and economics, and funneled, with a precise eye here to the flaws in the theories and framing of problems, into the 2008 crash and its aftermath. I am seriously more enlightened on all these things from this book. There is no addressing here of cryptocurrencies, yet, their meaning and possibilities (and flaws) were lit by many of the concepts and stories here: I got heaps of context for thinking about crypto. I suggest one sit through the few flat spots and awkward phrasings to get at the true gems of understanding here, which positively glisten. This among all finance books has changed and sharpened my views and understandings. I will definitely re-listen to this.

4 people found this helpful

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Probably the Best audiobook I've heard on popular Econ

Just really great all around both in its ideas and the clarity in which it expresses them

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  • 03-16-17

A book that will make you think and contemplate

"Money" is written from a historical perspective but certainly has some good analysis and interpretations of events and the broader course of history, with regards to money.
It certainly isn't a biography of those who amassed large sums of money, but more on the ideas, development, adoption and evolution of money.

Maryin will push how you see money and where it came from; he will challenge your conceptions using other disciplines -- like history, anthropology, political science, philosophy and even science to name a few -- as opposed to the usual vantage point of business, commerce and economics.

The book is very accessible in the way it's written, and moreover, it does employ interesting writing styles by way of analogies, narrating and story telling to dialogue pieces.
It also has a fair bit of misdirection -- so you may feel convinced until you read/listen on to the next part or chapter where you are equally convinced of the other side of the argument (and the arguments aren't necessarily simple or two sides, you find yourself juggling more multidimensional ideas at times). That kept me on edge at times but helps give a fairer picture.

Overall I loved the book and I would recommend it to anyone with a sense of curiosity and definitely to anyone who gets into conversations about money, politics, economics, "the debt", gold, the meaning of money and desires and their philosophy and other such lively topics.

1 person found this helpful

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  • 01-21-17

Wonderful book must be read

The author walks us through the history of money and make us to think about it

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

THE best book on monry

a remarkably insightful and well researched history of money. perspectives that every investor will find useful.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

This should be your first book on economics...

As an economist, Felix Martin is rare in his ability to engage you. I could barely put down this work at the start.

He brought economic history to life and shone light on money in novel ways.

The work is almost philosophical.

Some Background:
- Prior to reading this work I struggled through "The Theory of Money and Credit" by Ludwig Von Mises. It was like bitter medicine: You know you have to take it to remedy your ignorance about money, but it just won't go down easily.
- I also finished Ray Dalio's "Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order" which discusses debt cycles (i.e. macromoney) a great deal, but doesn't go sufficiently into the nature of credit to give you an intuition for why debt cycles alter global realities.

Afterwards:
- Von Mises' work now makes a lot more sense. I can understand quite a great deal more of the arguments made.
- Changing world orders are more fundamentally grasped: If you mess up your credit, you (as a nation) are doomed.
- I'm inspired to learn much more!

What did I find weird?
- He mentioned Rai/Fei stones and Yap at the onset of the work. Having been to Guam, where some of the stones were quarried, this really engaged me. However, as the work progressed, there was a magical Euro-centric shift. He does say that it was for scientific reasons (to study where there's more recent information). But the same concluding arguments would be valid if he stuck with Micronesia. If you skipped the start of his biography of money, you should be forgiven for thinking that Greek society was the first to use money. Maybe the author's overwhelming love for Homer leads him to that conclusion? Or may because he thought the Yapese economy was too simple? Either way, it makes you feel like working through the (tedious) middle of the work is an inefficient use of time.

What could be more clearly covered?
- It's never explicitly stated that gold is money when trust in the state is low. It's not that hard to say. That said, Midas detour was golden.

What could have been shortened?
- Oresme and medieval France seemed like a huge detour. Alfred Mitchell-Innes' essay on "What is Money?" also spent time on the issues of that period before wisely ditching it. Spending an inordinate amount of time on seignorage doesn't give you a much crisper grasp on the nature of money. I found that section introduced tedium when it wasn't required.

What made it so exciting?
- His grasp/use of literature and the metaphorical detours that punctuate his learnings. Dude's a master of metaphor.

What did I like the most?
- The critic! I'm so glad he was challenging his conclusions out aloud. I also loved the suggestion to implement narrow banking. It seems like a simple change that would make human existence less painful.

What should you read next?
- Hajoon Chang's "Economics"

If you are short on time, just focus on the first couple of chapters and the conclusion. It's still worth every penny!

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    3 out of 5 stars

A lot of good ideas and insights about money

Learned a lot about money. Chapters 1,2, 8,9, 12-15 have some very good and deep analysis of the nature of money. The critique of classical economics’ inadequate treatment of money is very useful. But it’s not an easy book to digest especially in audio book format. A lot of the arguments are difficult to follow. On top of that the author included the historical development of money and financial institutions, but not follow chronicle order, so we are jumping from Ancient Greece to Soviet Union, or China to Argentina in the same chapter. The reader/listeners need to make extra effort to follow the book. But I guess in the end it’s worth the efforts.

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Kind of dry towards the end

It's a fun read but towards the end the ideas are somewhat dense and less interesting