Thought this book jumped around too much. From the description, I thought it was going to be more of a history of money going in chronological order, but instead, it jumps from financial idea to financial idea.
mostly nonfiction listener
We are all self-appointed experts when it comes to money (or at least real estate), but none of us really knows much history. For if we knew the history of booms and busts, bonds and equities, risk and insurance then we may all be a little less likely to jump into the latest bubble, and a little more likely to question our own "expertise". I admire Ferguson for taking on a big topic, and for his willingness to provide a grand sweep of history that reflects and helps us understand our current recession.
The book was apparently written to accompany a documentary series, and it certainly reads that way. This is good and bad...and the narrative moves along quickly and big lessons are drawn - while at times leaving the reader wanting more analysis. One question that the author poses keeps coming back to me - have we been living through a "super bubble" from the 1950s to today, which will see a slow deflation in our lifetimes as property values stagnate and China is no longer willing to fund our consumption through their savings?
What I like best about this book is the way history is brought to life in the form of stories. These stories include the rise of currency, bond market, stock market, insurance market, real estate market, and China. Much of the earlier chapters occurred prior to the introduction of the US stock market. So if you are interested in early stock market tales then I would recommend listening to Reminisces of a Stock Operator. If you interested in US financial history prior to 1990 but in the 1900’s then try The Book of Investing Wisdom. If you’re interested in economic recoveries then read Anatomy of a Bear.
This book includes the rise of the Rothchild family, Dutch Indian Spice Trade, cotton bonds by the Southern Confederacy, international investing by the British prior to 1914, the gold standard, Amsterdam stock market, insurance benefits for priests, founding of Hong Kong, risk (hurricanes, welfare state, hedge funds) micro loans etc. When I hear of the British health care system I think of the recent heath care reform.
Why presented as financial history it comes across as economics. Quants and company financial statements it is not. It could have been made stronger by tying some of the subject matter more closely to theory. For example, the book “Age of Turbulence” looks to understand why many oil rich countries do not have strong economies. When discussing the mountain of silver in Latin America, there is not much talk of why a resource can hinder economic development.
Because much of the information is historical storytelling, it can come across as interesting when new and slow when old. I considered the stories of Enron, Katrina, Long Term Capital, and the financial crisis of 2008 to be the slowest. And I could have done without the comparison of “human” evolution with “financial” evolution.
The first chapters (up through Ferguson's elucidating chapter on how insurance works) is a wonderfully clear account of how financial systems evolved and how they work. Unfortunate, Ferguson gets on a few obvious personal hobby-horses in the last half of the book and if you don't agree with his politics (he makes a point of calling American Republicans idiots, which immediately alienates half his audience to no purpose, especially on a subject such as this. One supposes he is attempting to keep his academic Facebook friends list from going down). In any case, there are some excellent insights and generally good writing throughout and the book is definitely a worthwhile listen.
The best thing you can make is joy.
There's a strong, yet subtle conservative tinge to this entire book, which I found disconcerting and at times inflammatory. Ferguson hates Unions, that's clear, and in a leitmotif blames them over and over for various financial down turns.
I should have done my homework before buying this book. It's not that I don't like to hear several sides of an issue - I do - but I found his need to politicize many aspects of finance troubling. Not the most enjoyable read I've listened to.
A very interesting and engrossing history of finance. Narration is also very good. I would recommend it for individuals with non-finance background wanting to learn a little about the world of finance and how it got to be the way it is.
This is an historical account of money/econonmics in all of its shapes and forms. The book is arranged in chapters that discuss:
1. The rise of money in society, credit and debt and how hard currency was replaced with paper.
2. The rise of the bond market and the Rothschild family
3. The stock market and the bubbles that it has produced (e.g., Enron)
4. The start of insurance and the management of risk
5. Housing an mortgages
6. The effects of globalization (e.g., China's economic development)
I found this book enjoyable to listen too, but there were times when I wish it had gone into more depth with the explanation of certain economic topics. Still the scope was large enough to give a layman like myself a good survey of topics. I especially liked chapters 1, 3, and 4 but I felt that some of the parts in the (chap5) housing discussion were a little preachy about social inequalities. Also I found the discussion on globalization a little dated - this book was written in 2008.
The afterward of this book was also interesting but raced through the topic of behavior economics (the irrationality of economics due to human nature) way too fast for me.
I would recommend this book to those of you that have like popular economic books (e.g., freakonomics, predictably irrational) AND also like history. You must like listening to history books to enjoy this.
A little boring for those of us not particularly well-versed in economics. Lots of good information if only you can force yourself to listen. I kept skipping ahead hoping I'd find something a bit more interesting....then I got to the end (thankfully.) The narrator is good - British accent and all, but he does drone on pretty much in a monotone.
One of the most interesting books I have read to date. This work is an entertaining overview of the evolution of financial systems and how the history of innovations in finance really parallels and in many cases drives the political history of the world civilizations.
entertaining, historical, and relevant...a excellent read