Money only works because we all agree to believe in it. In Money, Jacob Goldstein shows how money is a useful fiction that has shaped societies for thousands of years, from the rise of coins in ancient Greece to the first stock market in Amsterdam to the emergence of shadow banking in the 21st century.
At the heart of the story are the fringe thinkers and world leaders who reimagined money. Kublai Khan, the Mongol emperor, created paper money backed by nothing, centuries before it appeared in the west. John Law, a professional gambler and convicted murderer, brought modern money to France (and destroyed the country's economy). The cypherpunks, a group of radical libertarian computer programmers, paved the way for bitcoin.
One thing they all realized: what counts as money (and what doesn't) is the result of choices we make, and those choices have a profound effect on who gets more stuff and who gets less, who gets to take risks when times are good, and who gets screwed when things go bad.
Lively, accessible, and full of interesting details (like the 43-pound copper coins that 17th-century Swedes carried strapped to their backs), Money is the story of the choices that gave us money as we know it today.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
Author's Note xi
Inventing Money 1
Chapter 1 The Origin of Money 3
Chapter 2 When We Invented Paper Money, Had an Economic Revolution, Then Tried to Forget the Whole Thing Ever Happened 13
II The Murderer, the Boy King, and the Invention of Capitalism 25
Chapter 3 How Goldsmiths Accidentally Re-Invented Banks (and Brought Panic to Britain) 27
Chapter 4 How to Get Rich with Probability 35
Chapter 5 Finance as Time Travel: Inventing the Stock Market 45
Chapter 6 John Law Gets to Print Money 55
Chapter 7 The Invention of Millionaires 63
III More Money 75
Chapter 8 Everybody Can Have More Money 77
Chapter 9 But Really: Can Everybody Have More Money? 89
IV Modern Money 99
Chapter 10 The Gold Standard: A Love Story 101
Chapter 11 Just Don't Call It a Central Bank 117
Chapter 12 Money Is Dead. Long Live Money 135
V Twenty-First-Century Money 149
Chapter 13 How Two Guys in a Room Invented a New Kind of Money 151
Chapter 14 A Brief History of the Euro (and Why the Dollar Works Better) 169
Chapter 15 The Radical Dream of Digital Cash 187
Conclusion: The Future of Money 213