Alvarado, in his debut, offers a detailed study of money and financial concepts through the ages.
In this stimulating, offbeat work of history, the author posits that the manufacture and manipulation of money—and the radically different approaches societies have taken to both those activities—have shaped events in more comprehensive ways than standard histories allow. The author carefully examines ancient cultures, such as those of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Babylon and Phoenicia, and calls their central monetary device of precious metals the “universal glue” of these societies. The artificiality of metal standards, he points out, has been a bone of economic contention throughout history; for example, he quotes U.S. presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan’s 1896 Democratic National Convention speech crying out against a gold standard, which he saw as potentially crucifying mankind upon “a cross of gold.” The gold standard takes a beating from Alvarado as well, who asserts that “the nations of the world have no need of a Wizard of Oz to grant them prosperity.” He writes of the gold mania that gripped Byzantium in the decades prior to its fall in 1453 and insists that “gold became an albatross around the empire’s neck; the single-minded pursuit of coined perfection contributed in great degree to the empire’s demise.” He also rails against the “triumph of prodigious proportions” that allowed international bankers to seek control of currency, “not of one nation, but of all nations at once.” Finally, Alvarado makes a wide-ranging case against the concept of fixed rates of exchange, claiming they ultimately strangle economic growth. The author’s research is vast, and he marshals his facts with considerable skill. Readers with no financial background won’t feel daunted by this history, but they may likely find it informative.
A highly readable disentangling of currency’s past and present.