Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Summary of Some Key Messages from The Power of Money by Robert Pringle

As we mentioned in this earlier article, Robert Pringle has released a new book (The Power of Money) that takes an in depth look at the past, present, and potential future impact of money on our society. Mr. Pringle sent me an email with a list of some key points he wanted to emphasize that he gave permission to share here. These points listed below are taken directly from his email.


. . . "here are some of the key messages (they may not all be expressed in these words in the book itself):"

1. The 20th century saw the rise of the Anglo-Saxon idea of money and the monetary economy to global ascendancy; for this to occur, rival outlooks and cultures had to be defeated and discredited  chief among them those of Germany and Japan.

2. Money is fertile ground for dangerous myth-making: among these is the belief that somewhere out there is an ideal money, one of universal applicability and good for all time and all circumstances; the search for this can be highly damaging. So is the belief that money is “just” a social technology - it is that, but is is much more than that.

3. A society's money must reflect and embody or project its shared values - as shown in the book these are subject to change - often rapid and unexpected change.

4. The true “backing” of a money consists in the values, beliefs and outlook of the society using it, its constitution and governance, not any specific metal and not the ‘fiat’ of the state or an agency such as a central bank. When people hold dollars, they share in American values and spirit.

5. Since the fall of neoliberalism our money lacks such backing, so people do not know what it is for - what social purposes it serves. That is why it needs to adapt to the growing consensus on an outlook giving priority to controlling climate change and the Green agenda.

6. It is in the nature of money to have damaging side-effects and temptations, as amply illustrated in the book; yet societies can learn to control these adequately for money to work its magic. How? That has been a concern of all religions and philosophers. Now we wonder why we are plagued by monetary diseases, like the 10 plagues of Egypt, we attribute them to forces, we try rationally to control them but they constantly escape our methods of control. We are much vexed.

7. The power of money and the monetary outlook has been at work behind many of the changes of our society, including some liberal causes such as feminism as well as adverse effects including the destruction or corruption of social bonds, family life, ancient civilisations and religious faiths. Not to deny that the benefts may well outweigh the costs.

8. The search for an ideal money that will be good for all times and places is vain. A good money is one that works well for its society.  On the whole, we get the money we deserve. It acts as a mirror for society’s faults as well as its virtues.

9. I do not at all dismiss the contribution of economists but society at large has to set the direction of travel.

10. I invite economists and central bankers to engage in a discourse about these wider aspects of the topics they study and the policies they advocate.

Please use and share the above as you see fit - and no offence taken if you think they stray too far from our brief!   (the Q&A interview topics)

All best wishes


My added comments: I have now had a chance to read The Power of Money and I can say without reservation that this is a book that anyone interested in the issues covered on this blog will find interesting and worthwhile reading. The book was somewhat different than I expected in that it is not any kind of technical look at monetary polices or even just an historical recap of now our money has evolved over time. 

This book seeks to make the case that how society views money (and how money is used by powerful forces to influence society in various ways) goes far beyond just what people are using for money or what central bank policies may be in place at any given point in time. Those things change over time, but the Power of Money on society remains a constant.

Written from the perspective of a true "insider" of the monetary system, it reminds me of a book written years ago called "Tragedy and Hope" by Carroll Quigley. This book however, is a much easier read and focuses more narrowly on how money and power intertwine and how the "guardians of money" seen as the financial "elite" really operate the system.  It chronicles some of their successes and some of their failures as viewed by the author.  

Some of the fascinating topics explored in the book are:

- How did two world wars shape how the monetary system evolved from the Victorian era?

- The ongoing battle of views about money and its proper role in society swings back and forth over time impacting what kind of economic and monetary system we have

- The Euro Project - How it started - Did it work as Intended?

- What caused the financial crisis in 2007-2008? What did the Fed miss leading up to it?

- Why that crisis has renewed the debate over what money is and how we should use it

- The dangers of too much State control over money

- Where do things stand presently? Why it is hard to change the status quo

- Will we go "cashless"?  (he says not anytime soon)

- What about gold? How does he view it? How do central banks view it?

- Gold always bounces back no matter what is done to discourage its role as a store of value

- Where are we going in the future with our money? (does anyone really know?)

- We need ideas and imagination that challenge the status quo and the future is up to us (we the people can determine what happens with our money and if it is used for good or bad purposes)

This list only scratches the surface of the interesting topics explored in this book. It is filled with information, insights, and some personal anecdotes you will not see in mainstream media. It is written by someone who has observed how things work from the inside. If you have wanted that kind of perspective on how things really work, this is a book you would want to read. I think would find it very interesting and surprising in many regards.

Added news note: 1-16-2020: President Trump formally nominates  Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller to the Board of the Federal Reserve 

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