The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson

In “The Ascent of Money”, Niall Ferguson tries to elaborate various aspects of finance that have been documented throughout the history. He outlines the various names that people use while referring to money, and how this does not affect the role that it plays. There is an evaluation of how different people in the society tend to view money based on their circumstances or experiences. A favorable example is how Christians view money as the root of all evil. It is also the chains of labor to the revolutionaries and sinews of war to the generals. However, Niall Ferguson tries to bring in a different perspective regarding finance.  This has been attained by demonstrating the history of finance. There are demonstrations of how humans have interacted with money, and the consequences derived in the process. The progress made with the evolution of finance has received a significant level of attention too. Ferguson uses a substantial amount of his write-up to show how finance is an essential component in the backstory of all history.

The book’s quality is based on how Ferguson explains various aspects of finance throughout its history. He has used various historical landmarks to help clarify his assertions. This includes aspects like the civilization of the Renaissance, Italian bankers adopting Arabic mathematics, the abolition of the insolvent Habsburg and the origins of French Revolution among others. The presence of real life examples helps demonstrate the applicability of various concepts found in the book. It is an indication that the content is of high quality too.

Among the major arguments that seem to surface in every chapter of the book is the challenge that Ferguson gives the members of the society. He is urging people to shed their ignorance and adopt an intelligent understanding of how finance and money works. This would mean that people abolish the misconceptions that they have and get in terms with the reality of how finance operates. Lessons learned from Ferguson’s historical financial research should act as an inspiration to moral managers whose decisions have an impact on the interdependent foundation of global financial institutions.

In my opinion, The Ascent of Money is quite informative, entertaining and readable. As a historical text, it tends to make valuable contributions to humanity; study of the human condition. Ferguson tries to make his case that human condition with regards to money is not merely a reflection of a unit of exchange. It tends to reflect the trust inscribed between a borrower and lender.

Through the book, Ferguson comes out as both a storyteller and scholar. As a storyteller, he tries to show readers the dark side of finance. He achieves this by showing the debauchery of early bankers as demonstrated in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. The Shylock’s collateral demand was equal or more than a pound of human flesh. He also relates the story of Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and the colorful champions of capitalism such as Andrew Carnegie. The aspect of being a scholar is demonstrated by his ability to reconstruct history. His discoveries that inequality is really between the ignorant and the smart, financial crises are difficult to predict, and that elimination of poverty necessitates sufficient financial institutions also act as an indication of this aspect.

Ferguson’s thesis in this book is breaking down the barriers associated with financial knowledge. The instability and risk being experienced in the current period could be minimized if people understood where money comes from, ways of gaining access to it, how institutions involved with it work and how to make the money grow.

Ferguson’s aim is to bring about some strategic insight into the 21st-century money making decisions. Ferguson expects that people will use this to secure a life that seems more prosperous and meaningful. This is due to the financial knowledge that will be acquired in the process.

His presentation might be accurate and fair, but his approach is more that of a journalist compared to a historian. This is because he does not take the time to advance a much comprehensive theory that explains the events he is discussing. This includes even the financial crisis that began around the same period this book was being published. The financial history involved with the book covers what, who, when, how and where. There is not sufficient “why” for dessert.

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