Money Matters and the Trouble with the Books


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Reading “The Ascent of Money,” I ended up dividing the book into two separate categories. The first was history, in which Ferguson outlined the history of Western financial institutions and practices. This was fascinating, making sense of words that non-econ people like myself tend to find baffling, like “illiquidity” and “bond.” Yeah, I didn’t really get those words before I read the book, DON’T JUDGE ME please.

Looking at the fluctuations of the market over the past few centuries was a fascinating story, and left me convinced more than ever of the fluidity and fundamental instability of the institutions that rule our lives. Everything really important in life requires a bit of belief: why should money be any different?

But books like this can’t just be informative: they have to have a message. Its a trope of nonfiction that you can’t just outline the problems or the past–you also have to offer a solution and a guide to the future. That’s where the book was harder to swallow, and I admit I skimmed those bits. But I never really like the prescriptions in nonfiction, just the diagnosis.

Essentially, this book is doing a really cool thing: examining economics through the lens of history. The two disciplines are actually very different in their worldview, and changing the method of observation changes the material quite a lot.


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