Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson makes a strong, compelling case for the development of money and banking as a catalyst for the advancement of civilization. Yet while some critics praised his clear, comprehensible writing, punctuated with anecdotes and historical details, others were nonplussed by his explanations and narrative detours. Several critics also bemoaned the book's choppy and uneven structure—an echo of the episodic, six-part television series it was meant to accompany.

Review by Jennifer Stubbs: The Ascent of Money presents the intriguing history of how each generation created more wealth than our great-grandparents had. Ferguson explores how Venetian merchants relied on religious differences to become the powerhouses of the Renaissance. He then walks through the Mississippi Company’s economic crash in 18th century France, modern Edinburgh’s loan sharks, and how women around the world have gone from “credit risks” (50 years ago) to the foundation of micro-credit. This book also presents chapters explaining the origins and faults of the sub-prime mortgage idea, conglomerate megabanks, and USA’s economic relationship with China. There was only one equation in the whole book, near the end. You don’t have to understand the math, because Ferguson explains the process and implications for the lay reader.