Making the world go round

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Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson is a prolific author who takes the long view in The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World. His detailed research into the world’s financial and economic development is reminiscent of the Will and Ariel Durants’Civilization series for scope and readability. He reaches into the distant past and briskly traverses the centuries up through present times, providing both counterpoint and context for the events leading up to the Great Recession of 2008 and its aftermath. He presents an engrossing historical narrative, deftly teasing intelligibility from an inherently complex subject. The persistent evocation of Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” evinces from nearly page in Ferguson’s chronicle of how we got from there to here, from then to now. He provides a lucid exposition of economic evolutions and devolutions arising from the intricate choreography of economic theoreticians, financial marketing mavens, architects of banking systems, and politicians, whose machinations have been moderated by social drivers and the predictable foibles of human nature–from fear, ignorance and opportunism engendered from venal self-interest to confidence, inspiration and ingenuity born of situational exigency. He observes in the unfolding of events perfect or sometimes perfectly disastrous timing.