Archive for September 4th, 2015

Women on currency notes

September 4, 2015

Christopher Coakley of IMF has a nice article on the topic:

When it comes to money, it is a man’s world. Or so it seems, judging from the faces of the great and the good who adorn the vast majority of countries’ bills and coins. Yet some countries do use their currency to honor the contributions of their female leaders, artists, and other trailblazers—past and present. The United States is a latecomer to the club, announcing in June 2015 that it would feature a woman on a banknote for the first time in over a century. So who are the women getting recognition—and why does it matter?

Good bit of info.


Why Paul Tucker joined Bank of England? (Some insights from central bank history)

September 4, 2015

Gillian Tett has an interesting piece which has been abstracted from her recent book on silos in economic thinking.

Paul Tucker rose to become the deputy governor of Bank of England. The article has a story on why he joined the central bank. Just for public service!:


Book review: Money, Whence It Came, Where It Went

September 4, 2015

There are two things with economic/finance history. One, we are just ignorant about most of these historical ideas. Two, in case we want to improve our historical understanding, we usually refer to new books written on the topic. The newer books update the narrative but the older books usually have a more detailed narrative given the shorter time. Moreover, historical training was a must earlier, leading most scholars to be really thorough with history. Knowledge of history was the key to an academic career.

Post-crisis, there have been many books written on history of money, global finance, central banking and so on. But then this book by John Galbraith on history of money gives most of these books a run for money. Galbraith was quite a writer and has written some amazing accounts on depression, affluent society and so on. He made arcane and exotic stuff look really easy and fun to read. This book on money is no different.

Starting with a more genralised account on money, the book focuses on US Dollar. Obviously, this is how the show usually begins. It starts from Europe and then moves to US. Asia and others are broadly missed from the picture despite China being seen as the original creator of paper money. The rise of the west post 15th century is still a question which most historians grapple with.

This book looks at questions like: How money began to be created and circulated, how initially banks were created just to verify the weight of different coins (like Bank of Amsterdam), the different experiments by different people under different circumstances to create paper money and so on. All chapters are fascinating to read.

The author stresses that one should be weary of men of money (women hardly played a role even in the west). They usually create enormous hype early on. People love such characters as something like money has never been understood by people. What is not understood is usually seen as important. Hence, historically, people have accorded a very high priestly kind of a role to financiers. They are seen as these magicians capable of turning things around. All the magicians do is pick some old trick and fool people into believing that something real is happening. Things like inflation or recession do not last forever and eventually end. Those who come during the time when such events are about to decline are celebrated beyond belief.

He points to many such examples after discussing life of Nicholas Biddle, once celebrated showman of Second Bank of United States (Chap 7, pg 82). He says :History of Nicholas Biddle is a moral tale. He suffered from same fate as other men who dealt in innovation fashion with money. The second Bank of  US was rechartered by Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and was declared bankrupt in 1839. He was arrested and charged with fraud. ”

Men who suffered similar fate:


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