Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

3.0 2
by H. W. Brands
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

The world runs on the U.S. dollar. From Washington to Beijing, governments, businesses, and individuals rely on the dollar to conduct commerce and invest profitably and safely—even after the global financial meltdown in 2008 revealed the potentially catastrophic cost of the dollar's hegemony. But how did the greenback achieve this planetary dominance a mere

…  See more details below

Overview

The world runs on the U.S. dollar. From Washington to Beijing, governments, businesses, and individuals rely on the dollar to conduct commerce and invest profitably and safely—even after the global financial meltdown in 2008 revealed the potentially catastrophic cost of the dollar's hegemony. But how did the greenback achieve this planetary dominance a mere century and a half after President Lincoln issued the first currency backed only by the credit—and credibility—of the federal government?

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power—and the enormous risks—of the dollar's worldwide reign.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

In this succinct overview, two-time Pulitzer finalist Brands (History/Univ. of Texas; The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield: A Tragedy of the Gilded Age, 2011, etc.) traces the role of the dollar in shaping America's rise to global preeminence.

The author looks at historical benchmarks beginning with two signal events: the issuance of greenbacks as legal tender in 1862 and the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The establishment of the Federal Reserve System 50 years later formalized the second pole in the pendulum swings of U.S. financial policy—between emphasis on a balanced budget and tight credit and the liquidity needed to support industrial growth and high employment, both of which are at the forefront of today's political controversies. Following World War I, the increasingly important international role of the United States led to the establishment of the gold-backed dollar as a global currency, and its replacement by the greenback in 1971 when Richard Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold. Along with an overview of the past 150 years, Brands examines fascinating little-known sidelights. While William Jennings Bryan's famous pro-silver speech attacked the gold-backed dollar, in the 1870s silver was the scarcer metal and silver dollars a rarity. Contrary to the prevailing opinion that America's international dominance rests on the country's military, Brands ascribes it to the "dollar's power" which enabled the nation to "insist on market-opening measures." The author suggests that in the 21st century, American financial hegemony will be replaced, leaving America's international role in the new post-dollar world an open question.

A welcome, balanced look at this hotly debated issue, written with the author's usual flair.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780292723412
Publisher:
University of Texas Press
Publication date:
10/01/2011
Pages:
142
Sales rank:
1,215,662
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

H. W. Brands is the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. He writes on American history and politics, with books including Traitor to His Class, Andrew Jackson, The Age of Gold, The First American, and TR. Several of his books have been bestsellers; two, Traitor to His Class and The First American, were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. He lectures frequently on historical and current events, and can be seen and heard on national and international television and radio programs.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Greenback Planet 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
DJ_Ronald 8 months ago
H.W. Brands is a genius!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago