Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing

Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing

by Jacob Goldstein


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The co-host of the popular NPR podcast Planet Money provides a well-researched, entertaining, somewhat irreverent look at how money is a made-up thing that has evolved over time to suit humanity's changing needs.

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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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316417198
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 09/08/2020
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 23,440
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Jacob Goldstein is the co-host of NPR's Planet Money. He has written about money for the New York Times Magazine, and his stories air regularly on This American Life, All Things Considered, and Morning Edition. He previously worked as a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. He is a graduate of Stanford University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. He lives, perhaps inevitably, in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

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

Acknowledgments 227

Notes 229

Index 243

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