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Money: The Unauthorised Biography by [Martin, Felix]
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Money: The Unauthorised Biography Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Length: 352 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

"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)

Book Description

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.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2022 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (6 Jun. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099578522
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099578529
  • ASIN: B00CA88FWU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #101,443 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a thoroughly absorbing account of the evolution of the concept of money, placing the central question - essentially an economic one - within a historical, philosophical, political and social framework that hugely adds to the pleasure of the reading experience. From the primitive tribe using for generations as a form of money an enormous thick stone wheel lying at the bottom of the Pacific ocean to the credits used by modern-day babysitting circles, taking in along its way profligate Dauphins, sixteenth century vampire squids, rituals of sacrificial feasts in Ancient Greece and the credit crisis in Ancient Rome (and its eerie resonance with our own modern-day equivalent), Martin's examples and analogies both entertain and illuminate his thesis, identifying the common threads in economic crises throughout history that are highly pertinent to our contemporary financial tribulations, and ultimately showing a possible route out of them. I highly recommend.
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Format: Paperback
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 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 argues an unconventional and more relevant understanding of what money is. There is lots of fascinating history, but the central thesis is unconvincing.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wish that I had read this book a long time ago, especially when I was studying economics, as it clarifies and simplifies some of the key issues and debates in economic theory. It's solid economics, rather than popular economics, so it requires effort, but it's worth it. He gets right to the heart of the nature of money as a social construct, and in doing so gives the clearest argument against the gold standard or any other standard, that I have read. This in turn shows why General Equilibrium modelling is an elegant thought experiment, but not useful for dealing with the real world.

When I started to work in the markets, I was surprised by how little attention was paid to much of the theory that I had learned at Cambridge. I assumed this was because financial economics was just catching up with the academy. I now realise that it was because much of the economics of the second half of the 20th century had been tried and discarded as useless, so practical economists had gone back to the basics. Again, this book explains why.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brilliantly shows how the "clever fools" duped themselves through wish-fulfilment that Money could be an objective thing. Beware of these clever fools, usually academic philosophers, telling us that they know, because their logical faculties are so massive.

Give me a grafter like Bagehot anytime.

Pity he couldn't give a mention to Zarlenga (Lost Science of Money) or Steve Keen or Positive Money
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Format: Paperback
I thought I knew a bit about money, its theory and history, having trained as a banker from 1979-84 then become a financial journalist in 1984, still active today (December 3 2014). This book showed me that my knowledge was only the tip of the iceberg and I have been recommending it to everyone I talk to who is active in the financial services industry. It is well written and hugely enjoyable at times, though I will admit that I probably only properly understood about half of it. The story of Yap and its currency, and of the liquidity crisis in 33AD under Emperor Tiberius (and how it was solved) are worth the purchase price on their own. An excellent Christmas present for the financial professional in your life!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This books starts very well by questioning the standard definition of money. It makes a very good (but by no means original) argument that money does not start with commodities such as precious metals, leading on to the evolution of paper and fiat money; quite the reverse in fact, the series of mutual obligations, credits and debits that make up the vast proportion of modern money (i.e. bank accounts and securities) came first.
This really turns most of modern economics and finance on it's head. However it an argument made more convincingly and with more detail in "Debt the first 5,000 Years" by David Graeber.
Unfortunately after a very entertaining serious of iconoclastic chapters the real problem emerges. The author desperately wants to say something about how the world should by but it just meanders off into incoherence.
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