The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (英語) ハードカバー – 2008/11/13
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Watch the PBS program based on The Ascent of Money.
Niall Ferguson follows the money to tell the human story behind the evolution of finance, from its origins in ancient Mesopotamia to the latest upheavals on what he calls Planet Finance.
Bread, cash, dosh, dough, loot, lucre, moolah, readies, the wherewithal: Call it what you like, it matters. To Christians, love of it is the root of all evil. To generals, it’s the sinews of war. To revolutionaries, it’s the chains of labor. But in The Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson shows that finance is in fact the foundation of human progress. What’s more, he reveals financial history as the essential backstory behind all history.
Through Ferguson’s expert lens familiar historical landmarks appear in a new and sharper financial focus. Suddenly, the civilization of the Renaissance looks very different: a boom in the market for art and architecture made possible when Italian bankers adopted Arabic mathematics. The rise of the Dutch republic is reinterpreted as the triumph of the world’s first modern bond market over insolvent Habsburg absolutism. And the origins of the French Revolution are traced back to a stock market bubble caused by a convicted Scot murderer.
With the clarity and verve for which he is known, Ferguson elucidates key financial institutions and concepts by showing where they came from. What is money? What do banks do? What’s the difference between a stock and a bond? Why buy insurance or real estate? And what exactly does a hedge fund do?
This is history for the present. Ferguson travels to post-Katrina New Orleans to ask why the free market can’t provide adequate protection against catastrophe. He delves into the origins of the subprime mortgage crisis.
Perhaps most important, The Ascent of Money documents how a new financial revolution is propelling the world’s biggest countries, India and China, from poverty to wealth in the space of a single generation—an economic transformation unprecedented in human history.
Yet the central lesson of the financial history is that sooner or later every bubble bursts—sooner or later the bearish sellers outnumber the bullish buyers, sooner or later greed flips into fear. And that’s why, whether you’re scraping by or rolling in it, there’s never been a better time to understand the ascent of money.
"Before regulators throw block trades, bond swaps, bridge financing, butterfly spreads and Black-Scholes out with the bathwater, they should find time to read Niall Ferguson's The Ascent of Money."--The Wall Street Journal
"[An] excellent, just in time guide to the history of finance and financial crisis." --The Washington Post
"Shrewdly anticipates many aspects of the current financial crisis, which has toppled banks, precipitated gigantic government bailouts and upended global markets."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
「銀行って何するところですか？」「金利って何ですか？」「債券って何ですか？」「株って何ですか？」というような方ならば勉強にはなる内容ですし、自分のネームバリューをテコに「歴史を見る上での金融史的視点の大切さ」を大衆に啓蒙しようという著者さんの志は伝わります。しかし著者さんの本領を知るには『The War of the World』の方を読んだ方がいいのでしょう（未読ですが。大著なので）。
The world’s first coins were minted in the Greek empire in what is now Turkey, about 2,600 years ago. As it happens, as I write this, I have a 2,300-year-old Greek silver coin that I wear around my neck. It has a bee on the obverse and a deer on the reverse. It was minted at Ephesus in Anatolia 300 years before the Apostle John lived there and wrote his world-changing Gospel. Money has ancient roots and its rise is inextricably intertwined with the rise of human civilization, and Prof. Ferguson explores the entire grand story in this compelling, engaging and superbly readable history.
Ferguson has a remarkable and rare ability to take a difficult and even abstruse subject like the history of money and make it fascinatingly intelligible, even entertaining. This impressive book began life as a television series for Channel 4 in the UK and on PBS in the U.S. It draws to a close as the appalling Great Recession of 2008 is getting under way in earnest, a coincidence that underscores why understanding money and how it flows through the tissues and sinews of the global economy, is time well spent and of the first importance.
Ferguson begins with the earliest forms of money and the origins of banking, then moves on to bonds and the creation of debt structures. After that comes a fascinating chapter on bubbles and on the rise of insurance to ameliorate risk. These are followed by chapters on real estate and the massive modern globalization trends that have created the bipolar financial world that he calls Chimerica, organized around the enormous economies of China and the US. It sounds rather dry to list the chapter topics this way, but each is told in fascinating detail and with a lively anecdotal wit that keep the subject from getting anywhere near the tedious mark. One criticism: Ferguson’s afterword should have been an opportunity for a brilliant look-back on the financial crisis of 2008, but instead it is a rather rambling discourse on whether markets are truly evolutionary. It lacks the acuity and clarity of the rest of the book and would better have been left out, I thought. But this is a small flaw in an otherwise very impressive and perfectly comprehensive summary of where money comes from and why understanding its ascent is important to each one of us.
Note: this book is not without its critics, particularly among Economists, who can be a cantankerous lot with a wide variety of political viewpoints. The book succeeds as a historical narrative and does not lay claim to technical economic exposition.
Ferguson has the ability to open up the broad sweep of history with easy terms and lots of facts to portray a clear picture. The pertinent statistics that abound in his narrative are particularly helpful in clarifying the history and impact of money. Beginning with money lenders in ancient Mesopotamia (a beginning form of credit) the author shows us how the ascent of money has been essential to the ascent of mankind.
The ascent of money is described as an evolutionary process with development throughout history of new mediums of exchange. Capital mutations bring about the creation of new markets and new products, which are created by a system under capitalism, which provides growth in the monetary system to accommodate economic growth and expansion of the population. One example of the ongoing change in the world of business and technology that is cited: of the 100 largest private companies in the year 1919 only 29 remained in the top 100 by the year 2000.
The author shows us the development of new tools in the supply of money from barter systems to using commodities as money, to the first coins in the Mediterranean region (600BC), to the Inca Empire which had no money (presumably applauded by Karl Marx but not John Lennon), to precious metals backed by coinage in the era of Pizarro, to the introduction of banking systems with the Medici Empire in 15th Century Florence, to the introduction of stocks, bonds, insurance, and international money markets, and to the subprime mortgage debacle.
Within the narrative we get the broad sweep of many of the greatest economists including Adam Smith, Friedrich von Hayek, Ludvig von Mises, Joseph Schumpeter, Karl Marx, Frank Knight, JM Keynes, and Milton Friedman.
The Author asserts that the basis of money is TRUST. National currencies therefore float in value compared to other currencies depending upon international confidence and expected stability. Credit also is dependent upon the commitment that loans will be repaid. According to the author with other things being equal, more “money” only increases prices and does not enrich a nation.
One theory espoused by a number of individuals in popular discourse is the world would be better off if there were no money! The author does not refute this argument directly, perhaps assuming that his readers are schooled in basic economics. Economic history teaches that in a culture where there is no money, a monetary system is created in order that goods and services can be exchanged between individuals. Only if no item in the culture has any value would there be no need for money. If anything, perhaps the life of an individual, does have value then there would arise the desire for a monetary system in order to protect or exchange the items of value between individuals. Ferguson does mention the “no money” topic regarding both Karl Marx and the Inca civilization. Little is known about the Inca Empire except that its time of prosperity was very short. Marxism seemed to flourish during the first half of the twentieth century but seemed to collapse by the end of the century, with many formerly Communist or socialist nations moving back toward widespread property rights and capitalism.