on July 10, 2004
I know what you're thinking: "Wow, a book on the finer points of monetary policy and its geopolitical legacies throughout history....my eyelids are getting heavy already..." You may not, however, get to sleep too quickly afterward as a result of this book-it's too short and well-written for that. Plus, the implications of a collapse in the value of the dollar and having all of your life savings being worth a medium-sized Pepsi at Burger King is not all that comforting, either. While the furor over money and its value has died down considerably since the 1970s, Inflation, unfathomable amounts of government debt, and ever increasing amounts of spending on all fronts means that asking "where did the money go?" will not soon go out of style.
Murray Rothbard, one of the most influential economists of the late 20th century, wrote this book-essentially a glorified policy memo (read: Math-free reading)-at the end of the 1970s, when America was in the final stages of the most devastating period of inflation in its history. His book, "What Has Government Done to Our Money?", talks about what money is and can be, the ways in which currency REALLY works, why more "money" in everybody's pocket really isn't "more money", and how almost all of any government intervention into the realm of the worth of money makes things worse instead of better. And just when you wonder about how any of this applies to the real world, it charts a course from the Worldwide Gold Standard years of end of the 19th century up through the late 1970s. He looks at how great coutries like America, Great Britain, and others almost bakrupted themselves and their citizens through ignorant and irresponsible policies regarding their respective currencies. Through it all, he makes continuous and well-thought-out arguments for a standard of exchange based on an outside measure of value-gold-and pleas for governments of all kinds to exercise financial restraint.
If you ever wondered about why prices keep going up, if you ever wondered why cars don't cost $2,000 anymore, if you asked questions like this and never thought you were getting a full answer, this is the book you need to read. You may never look at money the same way again, and you'll probably be richer for it, too.
on November 30, 2002
"What Has Government Done to Our Money" is an excellent introduction to the consistent libertarian view of money; namely, that government need not intervene in a nation's monetary life at all (either by printing money or regulating banks). In a relatively short number of pages, Rothbard explains money, inflation, banking, and the history of monetary policy. Rothbard notes that the dream of the banksters is a single currency that can be inflated at will. With the rise of the EU and the Euro, we are getting closer to that day.
Don't stop with this book -- be sure to get Rothbard's "A History of Money and Banking in the US" and also "The Mystery of Banking."