IRVINE, CALIFORNIA, United States | Member Since 2013
Be warned that this is an author with a very biased view on how economies should work, and this book is written from the perspective that pure unregulated free markets are the best system of economics and that state intervention always makes things worse. My problem isn't that he has this perspective, but the fact that he doesn't make it clear that it is merely his perspective and gives the impression that there isn't robust debate that exists on the subject. It makes it hard to trust him as a historian. It really narrows the perspective on history rather than expanding it, which is what a short introductory economic history book should do.
The beginning of this book offers some very interesting history, such as how commodity currency worked in Aztec economies and how certain types of material used as currency had different effects on social structure and cultural practices. I trust the author's reporting on politically benign matters, such as the gathering of whale teeth for bartering, but it seems as the closer the narrative gets to our modern economy, the more this anti-state free market bias shows itself. It subtly starts to show itself when he gets into the reasons for why the Roman Empire collapsed, which he claimed was completely caused by taxation and the government trying to take care of people. By the time he gets to his opinion on the Great Depression I had to stop listening because it seemed to completely devolved into a rant about how governments supposedly are bumbling beurocracies that are either ineffective at addressing economic problems or make them worse by meddling in the free market.
He's perfectly entitled to his opinion, but the problem is he states it as if it were undisputed fact. He uses such phrases as, "Everyone in America was in agreement that the government made things worse by tampering with the money supply during the Great Depression," as if all debate were closed on the subject. If what he says is true, then this was the first and only case of everyone in the country agreeing on something. The fact that there's a robust debate around the role of the government in the economy is completely lost on the reader when he presents history this way, and gives a very narrow-minded interpretation of complex historical events.
Not being a historian myself, I was only able to recognize this bias when he approached subjects of contemporary history I'm familiar with, and it made me worry that I might have been presented with an equally narrow-minded view of what events caused economic problems in earlier societies like the Roman Empire and Lydia.
I'm not suggesting that you should choose a book written from a socialist perspective, but a book claiming the title of "The History of Money" should be much more measured in its presentation of facts if it is to be taken as a good introduction to economic anthropology.
A very long, slow, drawn out narrative, but done with expert pacing and good characterization. One warning I will give if you're not familiar with Murakami: there are a lot of questions and mysteries set up in the story that never really get resolved or made more clear. You never find out quite what the little people are, or what the motivations of many of the characters are. Know that there is no "payoff" at the end. If you can enjoy the story for what it is during the middle and appreciate Murakami's attention to momentary detail without feeling disastified with the lack of a conclusion, then you'll enjoy this. If you like action and compelling plots, this will be a very frustrating book for you.
It's hard to say if you'll enjoy Murakami's style or not, since it is definitely not for everyone. If you would like to know if you'd enjoy this story, I would recommend listening to Murakami's short stoy "The Elephant Vanishes", which I believe is available for free on Audible. That will give you a sense if you will enjoy the tone and pacing of this much longer narrative.
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