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Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went Hardcover – 1 Dec 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (T) (1 Dec. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0735100705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0735100701
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,199,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"No American writer has done more to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable than John Kenneth Galbraith."--USA Today

"Lively."--Library Journal

-No American writer has done more to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable than John Kenneth Galbraith.---USA Today

-With characteristic wit and clarity [Galbraith] suggests that while good money may indeed be driven out by the bad, it is political suicide to assume that the suckers left holding the bad will take it lying down. . . . [T]here is no more current, more judicious, or more entertaining a perspective.---Kirkus

-Lively.---Library Journal

"With characteristic wit and clarity [Galbraith] suggests that while good money may indeed be driven out by the bad, it is political suicide to assume that the suckers left holding the bad will take it lying down. . . . [T]here is no more current, more judicious, or more entertaining a perspective."--Kirkus Reviews --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

"Moneyremains the best introduction to the subject available. It is a classic in the history of money and finance."--Steven Pressman, editor of The Legacy of John Kenneth Galbraith

"Moneyis a book of perennial importance. Galbraith demonstrates a prescient insight and keen alertness to financial volatility and rising inequality."--Richard Parker, Harvard Kennedy School

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What is the difference between digging gold out of the ground to coin, and printing paper money? The answer is shocking: in principle at least, not a lot!

Early in this fascinating book, Galbraith describes the inflation in Europe caused by the influx of gold and silver from the Spanish American Colonies. Later he details various experiments in banking and currency, including such bizarre innovations as tobacco certificates. Then his story follows the rise and fall of the gold standard, and the evolution of modern central banking. He also describes how banks can and do create money by enabling (at least) two people to spend the same money at the same time. All this is told in the proper context of the historical events which drove, and were driven by these developments.

Galbraith (1908 - 2006) was born over a century ago: hence his style may seem a little archaic to the modern reader. He is nonetheless very entertaining and at times hilarious. Another reviewer described this book as biased. I have never read an economics book which was not. Galbraith has an undisguised contempt for those who unthinkingly accept what he calls the "conventional wisdom"; but his real bias is in favour of a monetary system which is subservient to the needs of the wider economy, and hence to the greatest good of the greatest number. However, the mark of his scholarship is that those of another political persuasion could reach different conclusions while disputing very few of the facts presented.

I am very glad that this most excellent work is back in print.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is clearly not a book for 'economics virgins', especially ones like me with a mental block regarding mathematics deep in my DNA. I was lost after the first few pages and never caught up. This was compounded, I felt, by the writer's bizarre syntax. Maybe this style was in fashion back in those days, and in States (East Coast, I guess), and maybe it's another mental block of mine, but I found it very hard to follow. I was lost from the moment he describes the influx of gold and silver from South America to Spain during their pillaging of the continent causing prices to rise not only in Spain but throughout Europe - I couldn't grasp why increased wealth necessarily means increased prices. I also couldn't follow the logic of banks issuing money on the basis of 'gold reserves' but much more than the gold is worth. The borrower's promise to repay a loan seems to count as hard cash. I was told that my money was safer in a bank, but I didn't realise they just gamble with it. I'm sure this book is a good and accurate history of money, as indeed it claims, but I think I need a simpler book - 'Economics for Dummies' (if such a book exists), but I was discouraged by the little I actual did grasp from this book, that it appears as if Economics is more opinion than science.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Galbraith in his inimitable and hilariously accessible style takes us on a thoroughly delightful journey of the history of money. Be warned that this is not a book for the modern professional economist or finance expert with a Ph.D welded to differential equations. As Galbraith sees it:

"Much discussion of money involves a heavy overlay of priestly incantation. Some of this is deliberate. Those who talk of money and teach about it and make their living by it gain prestige, esteem and pecuniary return, as does a doctor or a witch doctor, from cultivating the belief they are in privileged association with the occult - that they have insights that are nowise available to the ordinary person. Though professionally rewarding and personally profitable this too is a well-established form of fraud. There is nothing about money that cannot be understood by the person of reasonable curiosity, diligence and intelligence".

He ends on a note that is only too true from seeing people on financial television:
"In monetary matters as in diplomacy, a nicely conformist nature, a good tailor and the ability to articulate the currently fashionable financial cliche have usually been better for personal success than an excessively inquiring mind".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fine book written in Galbraith's delightful style.

The aspects of this history I find most interesting (for not having read much of elsewhere) concern Unions, Corporations and that wartime policy that was attempted to control them after the war, especially during stagflation - wages and price controls. Galbraith himself was involved in price control during the war and gives ample figures on its efficacy then. Exquisite prose describes price controls and how they work, how they succeeded during the war and failed in the late 40s in America, and why (the impossible complexity, although G thought that overmighty corporations with excessive market power and simple enough products could be price-controlled.)

What's particularly interesting is that the drawbacks and impossibilities of price and wage control are so intelligently described, but that Galbraith still thought the principal was correct and would be still, as he wrote in his afterword (how daring of him to write an afterword!)

Was Galbraith a victim of his own "conventional wisdom" in a small way? Perish the thought, but back then everyone thought that if there were no restriction on the wages of miners, steel and car workers and so on, there would be chaos. On the other hand Galbraith often argues that Economics is different from other sciences in that the character and obsessions of societies affects what can be correct policy. Thus his price control might have had some justification in a peace time economy, even in the medium or long term, in a society steeped in stagflation and with very powerful unions (though post 1979 experience is completely against it.)

Read this excellent book though!
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