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The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) HASH(0x9ec04114) étoiles sur 5 34 commentaires
45 internautes sur 49 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9ecaf0a8) étoiles sur 5 a mixed book 21 août 2006
Par lector avidus - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Niall Ferguson is a professor of political and financial history who has written other well-received, albeit controversial, books. My feeling after reading this book was rather mixed.

This, I think, is where things become more complicated than the book suggests. Did England found the Bank of England and establish the other institutions that allowed the United Kingdom to become the global hegemon in order to become a global hegemon? Or did Parliament and the Bank of England etc. arise to meet other needs, and prove far more useful than originally foreseen? I strongly believe the latter to be true: Britain, as an island nation, had no neighbors, and was an (after 1066) invasion-proof distance from France. These factors almost certainly allowed the United Kingdom to generate a merchant class far more influential than its counterparts on the continent, engage in more maritime trade, and devote less to military spending than did land-locked nations that faced war at any time. In time, this merchant class, and the practice of dividing risks and participating in syndicates to conduct foreign trade almost certainly led to the culture and institutions that led to the Bank of England. Of course, if the Bank of England and the like did not arise as much from conscious policy decisions as from circumstances, it would seem more expedient to focus on the circumstances that led to the BofE and Britain's broad and deep credit markets, rather than on arcane policy decisions.

The rest of the book is an exhaustively documented look at the relationship between the health of various states and various financial indicators, such as debt, the presence of the gold standard, unemployment and the like. Some of the ideas may be provocative to some, but are very well-founded, and well worth reading, others less so. They are, however, not presented in a focused manner, and many of them are more advanced as "working hypotheses" than exhaustively proven. I believe that case studies examining multiple variables would have been more informative than attempts to reduce complex situations to a single variable.

Somewhat jarring is that some of the Ferguson's facts are wrong: in Chapter 12 he suggests that Switzerland succumbed to the Nazi tide, three pages later we learn that the opposite happened. To emphasize the importance of bullion he goes into the details of the movie based on Ian Fleming's "Goldfinger," but gets them wrong: the idea was not to sneak off with Fort Knox's gold - a logistical impossibility - but rather to render it radioactive and hence untradeable. At least one somewhat complicated book that Ferguson endorses is so flawed that its own author has repudiated it; this shouldn't happen in a polemic whose credibility is based on the author's ability to get his facts straight.

To sum up, parts of this book are quite interesting and stimulating, other parts less so. Having read this book, I personally would not choose to read it again.
23 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9eaf7bac) étoiles sur 5 What? No introduction by Maggie Thatcher? 5 avril 2002
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur
Format: Broché
It's pretty obvious from the outset where Ferguson's arguments are going in this book and what his political philosophy and world-view is. He states in quite plainly in the end. In contrast to Paul Kennedy who argued in THE RISE AND FALL OF GREAT POWERS that "imperial overstretch" is the economic causal factor that was directly linked with "Great Power" decline, Ferguson sees political will (or the lack thereof) and "understretch" as the problem. He says in the world today "we've got economic globalization very much on a 19th century model" however "there isn't a global policeman with the kind of interests Britain had then". The real difficulty in his view is that "the leaders of the one state with the economic resources to make the world a better place [the US] lack the guts to do it." OK, so Ferguson sees the US adopting an "imperial" approach to world affairs, and he supports Friedman and Fukuyama who argued that the spread of capitalism and democracy are neccessary for freedom to bloom. Before we look at whether he convincingly makes his point there is a basic question that puts this whole discussion in context. How persuasive can a British writer be in directing his argument to Americans for a more economically activist role by their country, and how are we supposed to read this in our new world of narrower priorities?
If our American economic and political system is to be supported and encouraged, and we are his intended audience, then who is the target of Fergusons criticism? It's axiomatic that it's Marxist historians and supporters of historicism as Ferguson sees nothing "deterministic" or directional about economic history. Ferguson instead convincingly argues that a CASH NEXUS exists and it is there, in the linkage between money and power, where the real story lies. Indeed he says quite clearly that "money does not make the world go has been political events - above all,wars - that have shaped the institutions of modern economic life: tax-collecting, bureaucracies, central banks, bond markets, stock exchanges."
The whole book is a development on this point. Financial statistics and bond yields are presented in chapters such as "The Money Printers: Default and Debasement", "Of Interest", "Dead Weights and Tax-eaters: The social History of Finance" and "Bubbles and Busts: Stock Markets in the Long Run". These chapters are obviously analytical and there is sometimes a flood of data that tends to dampen enjoyment of the book. The latter half of the book where Ferguson spends more time making the connections between money, power, politics, culture, and warfare and less time analyzing, is both more enjoyable to read and more instructive.
It's an interesting book well written and certainly very opinionated. It's broad ranging covering the last 300 years of western economic development and interdisciplinary in scope touching on philosophy, political science, geography as well as it's main subjects of history, finance, and economics. Opinionated history like this is always contentious but it's equally always enjoyable to read.
30 internautes sur 35 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9ecc04ec) étoiles sur 5 All Things to All People 30 octobre 2001
Par Michael Gerace - Publié sur
Format: Relié
The Cash Nexus is an overly ambitious attempt to re-examine the link between economics and politics in the post-Cold War period.
The most interesting part of the book is the first 6 chapters, which focus on how state institutions have emerged over time to serve the needs of war finance--the principal impetus behind the rise of the modern state. These institutions produce what Ferguson calls an optimal combination for producing power and include 4 institutions: a professional tax gathering bureaucracy; a parliament that accords a measure of representation to tax payers; the management of a system of national debt, which allows the state to borrow; and a central bank to manage a currency and the national debt. Ferguson maintains that this combination first emerged in Britain after the Glorious Revolution and was later exported to other countries and, together, produced many unintended benefits, such as an educated civil service and expanded capital markets which served the needs of the economy.
An important part of Ferguson's argument is that economic philosophies have produced two deterministic views of history--one Marxist and the other liberal capitalist. While one opposes capitalism and the other celebrates it, both see history as being essentially economic history. The modern variety of economic determinism (neoclassical economics) has produced three ideas that Ferguson criticizes: economic growth promotes democratization; economic success leads to re-election; and economic growth is the key to international power. While Ferguson's criticisms are interesting, there are a few shortcomings.
One is that he makes the mistake of equating wealth with money when discussing liberal economics. In fact, the term money seems to be a synonym for economics wherever Ferguson discusses modern economic ideas on history, but he does not take note of the fact that liberal economics--whether classical or modern--does not view money as being the core of the economy.
The dichotomy between Marxism and neoclassical economics appears too simple as well. He fails to note that much of the West--i.e., on the Continent of Europe--practices a rather different variety of capitalism than that suggested by the Anglo-American model, one that is corporatist and whose adherents are often in strong antipathy to open and competitive markets. The absence of this distinction becomes annoying when he discusses fixed exchange rates and monetary unions (Chapter 11). He argues that floating exchange rates and market instability cannot go on forever, that some sort of supranational controls are required. If we take the Anglo-American model to mean the way the United States and Britain operate, then fixed exchange rates and monetary unions are not part of that. In fact, proponents of this model generally argue against what Ferguson argues for.

Sections 3 and 4 (Chapters 7-14) cover so many different topics that the material does not integrate well into the core themes of the first two sections. A related matter is one of depth. While the research of other disciplines is frequently discussed (e.g., political science and economics), he often considers too thin a slice of that research to provide enough depth in any one place. While arguing against the idea that political manipulation of the business cycle always leads to re-election, for example, he does not engage most of the literature on this question.
Another issue is the way in which data is used. Some of his charts present data across so many years and countries that it is hard to see the detail in the movement of the figures. This is especially true when the figures contain extreme values during the world wars.
Ferguson returns to the warfare state at the end of the book to argue that the West is quite under-militarized and potentially vulnerable to more aggressive states. The United States should heed this warning and assert its role as a hegemonic power again. Ferguson concludes that money does not, after all, make the world go round. People are driven by motivations other than economic gain and power has many facets to it--some tangible and some not. While this may be true, it is not much of a revelation.
15 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9eaed5d0) étoiles sur 5 Understretch or Overstretch? 7 mai 2006
Par David B. Mignery - Publié sur
Format: Broché
Niall Ferguson has written an excellent book from a generally objective point of view full of intriguing arguments backed up by extensive statistical analysis. The part that seems to have received the most attention is his discussion of great power "overstretch" and it is the part that also caught my attention especially since I read it with the benefit of hindsight.

He wrote this book in the year 2000, just before 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. In the last chapter of his book he argues that great powers do not fail because they are overstretched but rather because they are overly reluctant to wield their enormous power.

He says that "there is no economic argument against" a policy to establish democratic institutions where they are lacking even if "by military force" since it would not be "prohibitively costly." In particular, he mentions the desirablity to violently overthrow Saddam Hussein using the war against Germany and Japan and our subsequent successful imposition of democratic institutions on these two countries as examples in support of his thesis.

His final sentence is this: "Perhaps that is the greatest disappointment facing the world in the twenty-first century: that the leaders of the one state with the economic resouces to make the world a better place lack the guts to do it." Meaning the use of military intervention where needed.

Judging from what happened after Ferguson's book was published, someone in the future Bush administration must have read it.

When we invaded Iraq, we showed the world that we have the guts but the results have been morally and economically dismal. The invasion has certainly been and continues to be very costly and we seem to be in cul-de-sac from which there is no good way out. And Iraq is not the world. It was just one country among many in dire need of radical transformation.

One point Ferguson seems to have missed is that all countries are not like Germany and Japan.

Are our problems in Iraq because the idea of an invasion was good but the execution was incompetent; or was it a bad idea to begin with; or is it actually going well? Is this feeling of "overstretch" just an illusion?

I, for one, would certainly like to hear what the author has to say now that six years have passed.
13 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9eaed780) étoiles sur 5 Impressive Research and Sure to Upset 5 avril 2001
Par Ricky Hunter - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Niall Ferguson's The Cash Nexus (Money and Power in the Modern World 1700 - 2000) is sure to upset many. It is an impressive look at economic history for the last three hundred years in order to show that there is nothing deterministic about the apparent success of capitalism and democracy in our time. This is the most effective aspect of the book as the author makes a clear case for smashing the myth that the "End of History" has been achieved by the double helix of capitilism and democracy. It is effective in demonstrating the complexity behind the ups and downs in the various fates of countries. He relies on Britain and America predominantly and they both figure into his concluding discussion of the need for America to become involved in exporting democracy and free markets to "rogue" states (never clearly defined), by military means if necessary. This somewhat startingly conclusion is too simplistically presented at the end of the book, particularly as the theories and ideas throughout the rest of the book are far more broad ranging and complex. Nonetheless, the ideas are presented well and argued competently. Some of the economics did soar over my head and while not agreeing with everything, the book does give one much to think about. It is sure to be a controversial read that has some interesting ideas.
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