Modern history shows that a nation's success largely depends on the way it manages its money. In times of war, finance has been just as crucial to victory as firepower. But where do money and politics meet? Starting in 1700 and ending at the present day, Niall Ferguson offers a bold and dazzling analysis of the evolution of today's economic and political landscape. Far from being driven by the profit motive alone, our recent history, as Ferguson makes brilliantly clear, has also been made by potent and often conflicting human impulses - sex, violence and the desire for power.
The idea that money makes the world go round is as popular as it is old. It is so commonly accepted as truth that few stop to consider it in any detail. Niall Ferguson, a Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at Jesus College, Oxford and author of The Pity of War, has written a powerful book challenging this belief, through a historical analysis of the evolution of today's economic and political world. There is clearly a link between politics and money; throughout modern history the way states have managed their money has been crucial to their survival and success. The 18th-century discovery that governments could be permanently in debt thanks to bond issues and a central bank enabled wars and empire-building on a vast scale. But within economic theory there are quite different sets of assumptions about individual behaviour. Some theorists assume that individual expectations and actions are rational, drawing economically optimal conclusions from available information. Yet experimental research shows that most people are remarkably bad at assessing their own economic best interest, even when given clear information and time to learn. Faced with a simple economic dilemma, people are quite likely to make the wrong decision due to misleading preconceptions, emotions or basic computational mistakes. The conflicting human impulses of sex, violence and power are quite capable of overriding the money motive. This is not light reading, but it is a highly accessible and clear analysis of a complex subject that affects all our lives. Ferguson's central conclusion is that money does not in fact make the world go round. Rather, modern history is the product of unpredictable political conflicts, above all wars, that have shaped the institutions of modern economic life. (Kirkus UK)
Part 1 Spending and taxing: the rise and fall of the warfare state; "hateful taxes"; the Commons and the castle -representation and administration. Part 2 Promises to pay: mountains of the moon - public debts; the money printers - default and debasement; of interest. Part 3 Economic politics: dead weights and tax-eaters - the social history of finance; the myth of the feelgood factor; the Silverbridge syndrome - electoral economics. Part 4 Global power: masters and plankton - financial globalization; golden fetters, paper chains - international monetary regimes; the American wave - democracy's flow and ebb; fractured unities; understretch - the limits of economic power; conclusion.