In the aftermath of the recent financial crisis, people might consider finance a wrecking ball: something that destroys fortunes and jobs, and undermines governments and banks. In Money Changes Everything, leading financial economist William Goetzmann argues the exact opposite — the development of finance has made the growth of civilizations possible. Exploring the critical role of finance over the millennia, from Mesopotamia to today, Goetzmann shows that wondrous financial technologies and institutions — money, bonds, banks, corporations, and more — have helped urban centers to expand and cultures to flourish. In the present, financial tools that allow for shifts of economic value over time enable us to purchase homes and set up retirement plans. Where did the powers of finance come from? And what do we need to be wary of for the future?
Focusing on the great civilizations of Sumer, Greece, Rome, China, and early modern Europe, Goetzmann examines key episodes, including the invention of financial planning by the Babylonians, the invention of money by the Greeks, the Chinese establishment of paper securities, the emergence of the world's first corporations in the Middle Ages, and the American creation of equity mutual funds. Throughout history, financial innovations have responded to rising economic, social, and political needs. Goetzmann also looks at current challenges, such as the maintenance of productive enterprise, and an aging and expanding population. He asserts that financial technologies have the continuing potential to improve society.
Delving into one of the most important and polarizing of all human institutions, Money Changes Everything demonstrates how finance has forcefully shaped our world in positive ways.
Finance is the Master Technology — The New York Times
'Money Changes Everything' — Financial Times
"Only William Goetzmann — an archaeologist, art historian, and esteemed finance scholar — could have produced this masterful exploration of money and investing through the ages. Money Changes Everything is at once deep, broad, sweeping, and gorgeously illustrated. It is a book that readers will savor and refer to again and again."
— William Bernstein, author of A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World
"Money is the greatest invention since the wheel. In this masterwork, Money Changes Everything, William Goetzmann traces money's role from prehistoric times to the present, showing how civilizations developed on a bedrock of financial transactions. A beautifully written and compelling book."
— Elroy Dimson, University of Cambridge and London Business School
"In Money Changes Everything, readers learn a tremendous amount about the core ideas of finance. William Goetzmann uses a vast range of historical examples to explain why the evolution of finance and civilization are inseparable."
— Robert J. Shiller, Nobel Laureate in Economics
"If anyone had told me that someone could write coherently and intelligently about Karl Marx, cuneiform tablets, the South Sea bubble, the opium trade, and David's painting Death of Marais between a single set of covers, I would have shaken my head in disbelief. This book accomplishes precisely this. Money Changes Everything does nothing less than to think through the contribution of finance to modern civilization. A thrilling read."
— Hans-Joachim Voth, University of Zurich
"Ranging from early civilizations to the present day and moving from the Fertile Crescent to our current global society, this book contains a wealth of interesting observations about the history of finance. Readers will be attracted by the genial tone and tales of personal discovery."
— Peter Temin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"This is a long-term history of the development and importance of financial technologies and institutions. A useful synthesis that brings together primary materials, the book argues that financial systems provide the means for advancing civilization."
— Graham Oliver, Brown University