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"Brilliant… A fascinating new way of telling the story of what money is" (John Lanchester Guardian)

"A superb synthesis...a lucid, colourful introduction to 3,000 years of monetary history... So replete with literary and historical examples that the story almost tells itself" (Martin Sandbu Financial Times)

"Magnificent – hugely imaginative, clear, coherent" (Robert Skidelsky)

"Fizzing with ideas" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Compulsively readable" (New York Times)

"A most accessible and thrilling read. If you want to read just one book about money, this is it" (Ha-Joon Chang)

"If you don’t know about economics, this is a really good introduction…gets right to the heart of it" (Misha Glenny)

"It’s a wealth of understanding for understanding wealth" (Esquire)


Money was one of man’s greatest inventions. But we have become its slaves. Felix Martin takes us to the heart of society’s misunderstanding of money and sets us straight.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0xa86c287c) von 5 Sternen 46 Rezensionen
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HASH(0xa87424a4) von 5 Sternen Thought-provoking 8. September 2013
Von Arnold Wentzel - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
This is an admirable attempt at trying to make money and monetary policy interesting by writing it in the style of an investigative historian trying to solve a puzzle. I found it easy to read, and quite engaging. Sometimes I thought the author made some conceptual leaps without good explanation (possibly due to the style of the book) but this book is certainly thought-provoking.

His view, that money is a social technology, an accounting concept and transferable debt, is not entirely new. Many non-mainstream economists (such as the MMT theorists) have made similar arguments based on different historical evidence, perhaps not in such readable style. I think the evidence in this book, and elsewhere, is quite convincing - money is much much more than simply a way to pay for things, and conventional views certainly miss a lot of the significance of money. If you have never come across these views, this book will make you look at the world differently.

The thesis that many of our problems emerge from a lack of understanding of money is one with which I agree. There is certainly a problem when a profession (economists like myself) can influence policies driven by an understanding of money that is not derived from the social reality or the actual practice of banking (I have met countless economists who hold naive textbook views about the financial system which they would change if they actually worked in a bank). Whether this new understanding will save capitalism as the author claims, probably goes a bit too far. One of the final policy conclusions (narrow banking, a system where banks only take deposits backed 100% by the national currency) is controversial, and not easy to reconcile with his thesis.

In short, this is an interesting book about money, its origins, significance and related policies. I enjoyed reading it, and I think even a non-economists would understand it and enjoy the style of writing. It may be puzzling in places, but it draws many surprising connections so almost every chapter will make you think. It may not always be possible to keep track of all the ideas, but fortunately there is a brief summary of the line or reasoning at the end. Caution: if you hold very strong views in favour of consensus ideas like central bank independence, inflation targeting or an affinity for the gold standard, then you will not like this book.
62 von 82 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0xa879f108) von 5 Sternen Original, or confused? 16. Juni 2013
Von Eric Lonergan - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Felix Martin tempts fate by opening with a quote from A. H. Quiggan: "Everyone, except an economist, knows what 'money' means." Martin is a former World Bank economist, and at the end of this book, I sympathised with Quiggin.

After 260 pages of heavy-going argument, Martin concludes that money is: "not a thing but a social technology - a set of ideas and practices for organising society. To be precise (!) ... [money] is a concept of universally applicable economic value."

Earlier he states that: "Coins and currency ... are useful tokens to record the underlying system of credit accounts and to implement the underlying process of clearing."

Rather than providing a new and counter-intuitive insight into money, which he claims, there is analytical confusion.

A logical fallacy in much analysis of money is repeated here: because debts have often been used as money, it does not follow that money is a debt. Martin's novel version of this fallacy is to argue that because we use credit accounts and a clearing system to net off payments, this makes the credit and clearing system "money". This is a logical error. The standard definition of money - anything accepted as payment for goods and services - is clear, and distinguishes it from debt and the clearing system. This definition does not assume, as Martin implies, that money is a "commodity". The accepted means of payment, as his many examples illustrate, can be physical, or abstract (or virtual).

This is really a history book, which claims to have identified an unconventional and more relevant understanding of what money is. There is lots of history, but the central thesis is unconvincing. Martin goes as far as to suggest that a flawed definition of money, with intellectual roots in Locke and even Aristotle, explains the economics professions' failure to foresee the financial crisis. We know this to be false. Economic policymakers and academics ignored the financial system. The reason is not because they had incorrectly defined money, it is because they focus on the last problem. The obsession with inflation targeting was a prolonged response to the inflation shock of the 1970s and 80s. Unsurprisingly, economists - academics and policymakers - are now producing a vast literature on the financial system, banking and asset bubbles, without any re-definition of "money" (and it goes without saying that the next problem will lie elsewhere).

Consistent with this mainstream response, Martin places far too much faith in the idea that "narrow" banking will save the world. It is a variant of the old proposal that when you deposit money with a bank, it should hold an equivalent amount of cash in reserve. This view re-emerges in some form after every major banking crisis. Friedman was an advocate in the 1950s. The interesting question, which Martin evades, is why it is never adopted. Perhaps it is not such a good idea.

I had looked forward to reading this book. Martin's main argument is initially intriguing and there's plenty of history, but ultimately it is unconvincing and confused. For really good histories of money, I would first read Milton Friedman's Money Mischief or Paper Promises by Philip Coggan. The absence of reference to either of these is odd. Even more so is the superficial dismissal of Hayek, without reference to his views on money. Hayek's economics is flawed, but his insights into money, drawing on David Hume, are profound, and close to Martin's. Indeed, Martin's "novel" idea - that money is a social institution, not a physical object - originates with Hume, who is unacknowledged. These omissions, and errors of fact, do not reassure the reader. For an example of the latter, Domingo Cavallo, Argentina's former economy minster and a central figure in Chapter 4, is re-christened "Domenico". An error repeated in the Index.
6 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0xa879f264) von 5 Sternen Great history, great economics, great writing 18. Februar 2014
Von R. Schwenk - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts ( Was ist das? )
This superb book will illuminate the origin of money, as well as many long-held misconceptions about money. Martin is an economist who is able to critique his own field in a lively and informative way. While hardly a radical, he believes that money can and should serve the ends of society rather than vice versa.

Martin covers 2600 years of history, from the ancient Greeks to last week. His writing style pokes fun at human foibles and conventional wisdom in a way that recalls Galbraith. However, his book is vastly superior to Galbraith's own Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went.

According to Martin, money comprises (briefly):

o A concept of economic value
o A system of account-keeping
o A principle of decentralized transfer of values

This flies in the face of neoclassical economics, which denies the distinction between money and other commodities. In this error, Locke's view of money, inherited by Smith, Ricardo and Say, is profoundly influential. For example, in the neoclassical paradigm, financial meltdowns can't happen!

On the contrary, as Martin describes, financial meltdowns have occurred throughout history. Typically, these involve the creation of a shadow banking system that finances a bubble leading to a loss of confidence and the taxpayers footing the bill. The editorials from the 2008 meltdown could easily apply to those of the past.

Martin explains that no other outcome to a meltdown is workable. Taxpayers have no choice but to back the lousy assets underpinning the system. This, however, destroys the monetary settlement marking the founding of the Bank of England 300 years ago: banks create money independently of the sovereign, but the sovereign backs the money. (This agreement forms the core of our current neoliberal regime.)

The author absolutely loves money. No, he is not greedy. He simply believes that money maximizes freedom and stability as it organizes society. As such, Martin does not dwell on money's failures: accounting for externalized costs, the claims of future generations, and the welfare of our ecosystem.

However, Martin does believe that the money system should redistribute wealth for social justice. He would choose minimal, but draconian, regulation of the financial sector, transmitting the risk to the final investor, rather than hiding the risk by pretending that it's a money-equivalent. His recommendations seem minor, but they carry a wallop: even the restrictions of the New Deal were less radical.

If you can, browse the final chapter of the book to see if you want to buy it. It contains a clever recap of the book in the form of a dialogue between the author and a skeptical friend.

A compatible book that you also want to check out: Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street
5 von 6 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0xa87a2228) von 5 Sternen Decent book but with some problems 21. September 2013
Von sien - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Money : The Unauthorized biography (2013) by Felix Martin is a decent book that looks at the history of money and then goes on to make various recommendations of dubious merit.

The book starts with a contrived dialogue about what money is. Martin then goes on to describe how money is more than just a medium of exchange and the history of the use of money. When the book is looking at the historic side of money from Ancient Greece to the founding of the bank of England the book is really interesting.

The book goes on to suggest that a major cause of the GFC was a misunderstanding of money. The myriad of other possible causes are not mentioned. Martin goes on to state that central banks should be returned to political control. He ignores the reasons why independent central banks have been set up. He seems to be assuming that we have philosopher kings who will wisely set interest rates and manage money. The experience of massive inflation in many countries all around the world doesn't get much consideration and seriously undermines this idea.

The book concludes with another stilted dialogue where the author winds up the book. It's pretty silly and rarely, if ever works as a technique. The history section of the book is good, the sections that venture into the twentieth century are recommendations for today are weak. But the book does make you think about money and suggests further reading.
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0xa87a22b8) von 5 Sternen Pretty Good History of Money, Less Good When Discussing Policy 23. Februar 2014
Von Dan Sherman - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts ( Was ist das? )
This book has a lot of good things, largely as a history of how "money" as a medium of exchange has developed over time - it is quite readable and has a lot of good and interesting anecdotes along the way of how money has moved from physical objects of value to paper and electronic claims on wealth. The book is weaker when is much weaker when it gets to modern history and policy, though, in that it claims that recent financial woes are very much a complete failure of central governments to understand the role of money and the role of central banks. This seems to too narrow though.

By and large, I liked this book, mostly for its history and anecdote and less than the analyses it forwarded. Three stars.
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