Resources (videos, book, papers, etc)

Video
Debt: The First 5,000 Years, by David Graeber
This the video that helped me to realize that what I thought I knew about how nations finance themselves was not only wrong, but so far wrong that I previously had no frame of reference for how wrong I was. At some point in the video he describes the invention of state issued money during the early bronze age, and I suddenly realized what the phrases “currency issuer” and “currency user” mean.

Book

Debt: The First 5,000 Yearsby David Graeber

Later I bought and read the book. It’s a bit dry at times as it’s very “scholarly”, but it contains more information than the above video does.

Book

The Deficit Mythby Stephanie Kelton

After reading this book I realized MMT is just the analysis of macroeconomic activities/behaviors through the “magic” of double entry bookkeeping.

It’s quite literally just analyzing economics taking into account the realities that money, banking, and accounting exist, and shape economies.

YouTube channel

Cowboy Economistby John T Harvey

I wish this dude was better known.

He has a way of explaining complex economic ideas in simple terms using the persona of the Cowboy Economist complete with cowboy hat and an “aw shucks” demeaner.

Be forewarned, as Covid pushed him into remote teaching, he filled this channel with lecture videos for his students, but you can just skip those.

YouTube channel

Money & Macro, by Joeri Schasfoort

He is an economist who apparently gave up working in academia to make his living with this YouTube channel, which I appreciate, as he explains things well.

YouTube channel

He is a finance guy not an economist per se, but his explanations of finance, banking, etc, are very good.

Book

This is a GREAT book.

John T Harvey is an economics professor who was looking for a book summarizing and comparing various schools of economic thought, and when he couldn’t find one, he wrote one.

Book

Goliathby Matt Stoller

This book documents about 100 years of legal changes in the US which have led to increased corporate consolidation and documents various ways this increased concentration of corporate power has been economically harmful for most American.

Book

The Myth of Capitalismby Jonathan Tepper

This book is similar in focus to Goliath (above) but comes across as a more brutal description of how we say “free markets” when we actually mean “markets managed for the benefit of corporate political donors”. To be fair, that is the thesis of Goliath, but Matt Stoller’s writing style is a little less “in your face” than Jonathan Tepper’s is.

Book

Money Changes Everythingby William N Goetzmann

This book is not about money per se, but finance, and how the discovery or invention of finance enabled human civilization. It’s a very interesting book.

Book

Soft Currency Economics, by Warren Mosler

This is straight up an MMT book by the guy who is credited with starting the field of MMT economics. Before the name Modern Monetary Theory was coined, it was known as Mosler Economics. This is a VERY short and terse book that explains VERY BRIEFLY, and in my opinion, too briefly, the main ideas of MMT. To me, what is most interesting here is that Mosler was not really an economist when he first wrote down the ideas that would become MMT. He was a bond trader looking to make money, and he saw things that made him question some aspects of conventional economic thinking.

Book

Modern Monetary Theory, by L Randall Wray

This is also straight up an MMT book as the title gives away. It is a fairly detailed description of MMT focusing on the concepts of stocks, flows, and the use of double-entry bookkeeping as an analysis tool.

Book

Why Minsky Matters, by L Randall Wray

Minksy was an economist who studied and wrote about “business cycle analysis” and is credited with the Financially Instability Hypothesis which I think does a really good job of explaining why capitalism has booms and busts and what causes recessions.

Book

Angrynomics, by Eric Longergan and Mark Blyth

I read this book because I’ve learned to respect Mark Blyth’s opinion on things and he co-wrote it. And while I do think their analysis of WHY what they call Angrynomics exists, I was surprised to find myself thinking that while some of the policy suggestions do in fact make sense, there is zero chance the US will do them any time soon, due to the polarized political climate, which is one of the big reasons Angrynomics is a thing in the first place.

Book

While the subject matter in this book is very interesting, how our banking system, including the central bank, has been designed by and for the benefit of bankers, and the close ties between numerous leaders of our largest banks and US Presidents have enabled this, it’s a tough read. It’s kind of dry and academic.

I read it because Nomi Prins interviews well and I think her perspective of things is interesting, but start this book with the expectation that it’s a bit of a slog.

Book

The Mystery of Capital, by Hernando De Soto

This is a very interesting book. The thesis is that Capitalism thrives in what we call “the West” and nowhere else because of well-defined and implemented property laws.

However, it wasn’t always that way in the West, and over the last few centuries, extralegal (as in illegal) ways of holding title to property were BROUGHT INTO the legal property systems, whereas that has not (yet) occurred outside of what we call “the west”.

Book

The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith

If you’re on this page you know this book.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I made it about 2/3rds through it on my 2nd try.

But it is SUPER boring.

But it did introduce me to the ideas of the division of labour, the labour theory of value, etc.

One of his ideas is now outdated. While in the 18th century the division of labour was that which allowed production at scale, today it’s cheap energy.

And we now know that Book I Chapter 4 (the origin of money) is wrong, but we did not know that in the 18th century.

Article

The Casino-Chip Society, by Brett Scot

This is a great article published by Brett Scott to his substack that, in my humble opinion, does a great job of illustrating the differences between central bank created money and commercial bank created money.

While to currency issues they look the same, in terms of how they’re created and later destroyed, they’re not.

Book

Progress and Poverty, by Henry George

First published in 1879, Henry George attempts to answer the question of why we see the greatest poverty amongst the greatest wealth (which is encompassed in his use of the word “Progress”.

His thesis is that monopoly ownership of land ties up a disproportionate amount of surplus value into the hands of whoever got “there” early and stake out ownership of property, and therefore an excess of surplus value is paid out as rent and not available for either wages or profit.

His arguments are well constructed.

Book

Not an economics or finance book, but an interesting look at the world of commercial maritime shipping, which is how 90% of the stuff we buy comes to us.

Book

Peltries Or Plantations, by Van Cleaf Bachman

I found this book at a local (to where I live) antique shop (they have old books in the back) for $2.

Published in 1969, it is writings from the Dutch East India Company and their ideas and plans for the colony of New Amsterdam which they founded in 1624.

It’s an ongoing (and in my mind interesting) discussion about whether they should trade in furs or crops. As the plantation was not profitable after 4 years, they focused on furs.

While I found their analysis interesting, the most interesting thing (in my opinion) happened after the book ends.

In 1664, 40 years after the colony was founded, a bunch of English guys with guns showed up and kicked the Dutch out, rendering all their plans naught.

For some reason, they didn’t factor that into their analysis, even though it was a common enough practice among European powers.

However, it’s an interesting insight into how the Dutch viewed how colonies should be managed.

Book

Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, by Douglas Rushkoff

Someone recommended this book, so I bought it, and believing it must be about inequality, gentrification, etc, it sat unread for over a year.

But it’s actually about how the legal structures of what is and is not money CREATE this inequality.

It introduced me to the idea that non-government private money (think cryptocurrency but without fraud) has existed in various forms in various societies since around 800 AD.

The thesis of the book is that as Europeans rediscovered Roman laws and norms, they re-invented money tokens in a bottom-up way that allowed non-land owners to prosper.

This was threatening to monarchs and landed aristocrats, so they outlawed private non-government money, created “royal charters” allowing commerce, and required payments in exchange for the granting of said charters.

Today, we call them “corporations” which pay “dividends”.

Book

Life, Inc, by Douglas Rushkoff

I was so intrigued by the ideas in Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, I emailed the author asking where I can learn more.

He recommended this book (which he also wrote) and Rethinking Money by Lietaer & Dunne).

This book is a more detailed discussion about the invention of the corporation as thing which allows owners to receive unearned income (rents) for ownership of things that aren’t land.

Book

Rethinking Money, by Bernard Lietaer and Jacqui Dunne

This book is so interesting (to me) that I now buy copies to give away to people whom I think may be interested. 

If you want it, Thriftbooks so far has had the best prices.

It discusses the 1,200-ish year history of non-government private money, then spends a lot of time discussing where they’ve existed in recent history and where they exist now.

Where and when they’ve worked, where they’ve failed, what’s common to them working or not.

This is a FASCINATING read.

Book

If you think crypto was a wild ride, you should read this.

It documents the stock market bubbles of two companies in the early 18th century.

The Mississippi Company in France and the South Sea Company in England.

The latter was pure fraud by the way.

Book

Forex Made Easy, by James Dicks

Someone recommended this took when I asked how currency exchange rates are determined.

While the book is focused on how to become a Forex trader, it does explain what I wanted to know.

Book

The Entrepreneurial State, by Mariana Mazzucato

This is a super interesting book. In it the author addresses the idea of innovation being a free market thing and governments being obstacles.

It turns out nothing could be further from the truth.

Many things were funded by the military for reasons of national defense, that later became embedded in innovative consumer products.

The link further in this sentence contains a chart showing all the DoD funding that went into creating the various core technologies of the iPod, iPad, iPhone products.

Book

The Value of Everything, by Mariana Mazzucato

This is also a super interesting book.

In it, the author describes how the concept of “economic value” has changed over time, how in recent times we conflate value creation with value extraction, how classical economists (Smith, Ricardo, Marx) viewed “rent-seeking” as extracting value, and how today rent-seeking is promoted as creating value.

Book

The Production of Money, by Ann Pettifor

This book is a primer, or short (160 pages) description of our money system highlight the role of licensed commercial banks, whose role, for some reason, is simply not mentioned in many (perhaps most) descriptions of how money works.

Excellent book.

YouTube Video

Is This The End of Sky High Inflation?, by Money & Macro (Joeri Schasfoort)

This is the first time I mentioned a specific YouTube video rather than a YouTube channel. For what it’s worth, this YouTube channel is listed above.

However, this video specifically addresses questions around inflation, and it’s the most nuanced discussion I’ve seen to date.

Is inflation supply constraints? Demand drive? Profit seeking driven?

Interestingly, the answer to all three is “yes”.

Book

Value(s), by Mark Carney

The title and the subtitle (Building a Better World for All) should have clued me in, but as Mark Carney was the governor of two G7 central banks (Canada and the UK), I was expecting to learn technical aspects of how central banks work.

That is not what this book is about.

Instead, the book is a high level perspective on how that which we value influences how we measure value, and how those idea affect how we address big projects and big problems.

Having said the above, it was an interesting book, just not what I expected when I started reading it.

YouTube video

This is an introduction to an interesting idea – shared risks and benefits of credit and debt.

Atif Mian gives an overview of the book House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again, which he cowrote with Amif Sufi.

I have not yet read the book (6 Dec 2023) but it is now in my thriftbooks.com shopping cart.

YouTube video

This is an interesting video. What Lyn Alden says about the history of money tracks with what I’ve learned from the above books, videos, people, etc.

What’s interesting to me is she is being interviewed by two crypto enthusiasts and promoters.

She discusses her book Broken Money.

Book

Secrets of the Temple, by William Greider

This summary opens with “Wow!”.

I’m a bit shocked that a book about as arcane a subject as the history of the Federal Reserve, with a focus on the Paul Volcker years of 1979 to 1987, could be such a page turner.

For William Greider to have written such a great book on such a boring topic is a testament to his skill as a writer.

And from a purely economic perspective, I’ve never seen anyone discard the concept of “economic equilibrium ” as effectively as he does in this book.

Additionally, at various points in the book comments are made like “the Fed asked the banks to lend more for production and less for financial speculation, but that never happened”.

As someone who has come to believe that that very idea of economic equilibrium is mythology and not reality, and that creating too much money (lending) for speculation and not enough for production is a really big problem, it felt validating to me.

Paper

First, this document is NOT the Basel Framework.

The Basel Framework is an 1,881 page PDF, this document is a PDF of only 44 pages.

The title of this document is very literal. It is in fact a set of principles for sound liquidity risk management and supervision of banks.

And, they look good, at least to me.

Will I ever read the The Basel Framework?

Maybe one day.

Paper

Disclosure: I did not understand the details or nuances of the Correlation Results or Causation Results sections as I lack a background in statistics, but as Richard Werner has taught me valuable concepts before, is a recognized expert, and this is a peer reviewed paper that has been cited, I’m accepting what they wrote as valid.

They conclude that the generally understood correlation between central bank interest rates and GDP growth is not in fact real, but rather than central bank interest rates tend to follow GDP growth.

Book

The Origins of Modern Banking in Spain, Edited by Carles Sudrià, Yolanda Blasco-Martel

A bit of a technical read, but it give me insight into how a banking system transitions from multiple banks each issuing their own bank notes to there being a universal currency.

Although Spain achieved this (at least up to the 1860s which as current as this book gets) by allowing only the Bank of Spain and it’s regional branch offices to issue currency, which is not how things work today.

So I still have much to learn on that specific topic.

Paper

This is the oft cited Phillips Curve paper that weirdly is used to justify increasing central bank interest rates in order to increase unemployment in order to reduce inflation.

I say weird because the paper does not claim a linear relationship between interest rates and inflation, but it seems central banks all over the world use it to justify claims that such a relationship exists.

Paper

A New Daily Federal Funds Rate Series and History of the Federal Funds Market, 1928-54, by Sriya Anbil, Mark A. Carlson, Christopher Hanes, and David C. Weheelock

Biggest takeaways (to the best of my understanding) is that: 1) As the Federal Funds Market became a thing in the 1920s, this mechanism over time replaced banks going to the Feds discount window to boost banking reserves, and 2) There was no specific legislation that started this. The mechanism was in place but in the 1920 banks started using it.

Paper

This is a coarse summary of three monetary policy tools used by the Federal Reserve in the 1920s: the discount window, the purchases of bankers acceptances, and the open market operations (the federal funds market) which seems to be the most common tool used today.

My biggest take away is the realization that when the Fed bought private debt during the Covid crisis, this was not the first time the Fed did so.

The bankers acceptances mentioned above were private debts.

Book

While the information in this book was interesting, I found the format a bit disjointed. In some chapters he mentioned the mania phase of several speculative bubbles, in others the panics, and in others the crashes. While there is nothing wrong with this per se, I feel I would have better understood them AND how they spread to other nations, if rather he had created one chapter per speculative bubble, even though that would have resulted in a much larger number of shorter chapters. 

All in all, very good information about the most extreme examples various extreme business cycles through history.

Paper

The Federal Funds Market since the Financial Crisis, by Ben R. Craig and Sara E. Millington

A brief overview of how the federal funds marketing in the US changed after the 2008 great financial crisis.

Twitter Thread

USD Money Creation, by Stephanie Kelton

While it does seem silly to include a Twitter thread as a resource, this one presents a very coarse description of the USD money creation and the dynamics between the central bank and the treasury in a VERY concise way. 

Paper

Bank profitability and central bank digital currency, by Mario Bellia and Ludovic Calès

Interesting paper. Pertains to EU banking system. Bottom line, the adoption of an EU CBDC will very likely decrease bank profitability as demand deposits are the cheapest source of bank funding/liabilities, and if an EU CBDC becomes available there likely will be a shift from demand deposits to CBDC thereby requiring banks to use more expensive forms of funding/liabilities.

An idea on how to mitigate that risk is to limit how much CBDC is issued. The idea behind this is CBDC will “drain” demand deposits the way physical cash does today, and today physical cash is a small percentage of the overall money in circulation.

Paper

This is a critique of academic finance in sync with that famous Mark Twain quote…

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”.

Book

Clearly this book is not about money or economics per se, but rather about what might be called “resource management”.

Cod were once foundational to the economics of several European nations, Canada’s Atlantic Provinces (especially Newfoundland), and New England.

But, due to overfishing, those industries have collapsed.

It’s an interesting case study (in my opinion) of what can happen when we fail to consider that resources we all use in common are part of a fairly “balanced” biosphere, and that disrupting that balance for commercial ends can lead to economic disaster.

Now, off topic, but as a teen I lived two years in Newfoundland so I’m going to comment on two cultural references that are inconsistent with my personal experience.

Never did I hear anyone ever refer to the dish Fish and Brewis as Fisherman’s Brewis as is stated on page 11, and the very brief description of scrunchions on page 12 (“rendered, diced fatback”) is not wrong, but is missing the most important element, which is “crispness”.

This is finally corrected on page 143 in the recipe of Evelene Spencer, in which appears “… and fry out slowly until the fat is extracted and the “scraps” crisp.”.

Scrunchions are crisp. If they’re not, they’re just pig fat.

Book

This is a FANTASTIC book!

Ever since I fell into the rabbit hole of “Wait! What? Our money system works NOTHING like what we all seem to believe?”, the books I’ve read, the lectures I’ve watched, the podcast episodes I’ve listened to, have slowly taken me to the conclusion that the “national debt” doom and gloomers are focused on the wrong debt.

The ticking time bomb, that does go off periodically, is not central bank created debt, but rather commercial bank created debt.

And THAT is the topic of this entire book.

These guys are definitely onto something and merits much further discussion.

Book

I actually had no idea what barbarism we humans were willing to inflict to satisfy our cravings for sugar.

This book also made me a bit sympathetic to the Castro revolution in Cuba.

As poor as Cubans are now, they are lightyears ahead of how poor they were when Castro overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista.

And there is an enormous irony in a nation born of revolution (the USA) actively suppressing such revolutions from occurring in the Caribbean.

Essay

An Unfamiliar World, by John Michael Greer

For some months now (as of 11 Mar 2024) I’ve been thinking that part of the massive economic growth over the past 100 years has been due quite a bit to population growth, but I see no one talking about this.

Here’s my thoughts on this…

GDP is a measure of aggregate spending. GDP growth means aggregate spending increased. And a big reason aggregate spending is increases is more and more people are spending.

But, around the world, as countries industrialize, fertility rates are falling, and the global population is going to peak in 20 to 40 years, after which the population decline will be fairly rapid, for a while.

So… Fewer and fewer people will be spending, as in buying houses, cars, other stuff, and investment grade assets such as stocks, bond, and real estate. Which will result in GDP dropping.

And, we lack economic models of what this will mean, as it has literally never happened before.

But, it turns out SOMEONE has thought and written some about it.

Interestingly, this essay came to my attention in a tweet by Margaret Atwood, whom I follow on Twitter.

Book

This is quite literally, a history of changes to the idea of the concept of “free markets”.

Starting the Roman Republic with the writings of Cicero, concepts of markets in early then middle ages Christianity, the beginnings of the European enlightenment, the age of exploration, mercantile capitalism, attempts to make economics into a natural science like physics, to American big business interests creating “libertarianism” in the 1950s.

Very interesting read.

Paper

I asked Ann for a primer on “credit rating 101” and she sent me this.

It definitely gives a good overview.

Two things surprised me the most:

There seems to be a lack of mathematical precision in determining credit ratings.

The current model of bond issuers paying rating agencies for ratings started when the commercialization of the first fully automated Xerox copy machines broke their prior subscriber based model, as paying subscribers started making copies to give to non subscribers.

Book

This book focuses on the low levels of equity banking regulation requires banks to maintain, and how that encourages/rewards banks for making high risk loans.

The focus on banks holding equity is similar as what is described in House of Debt (see above), but whereas House of Debt promoted the idea that banks can take a small equity stake in the homes (mortgages) and businesses (business loans) they fund, the focus here is on banks simply using retained earnings or the stock market to increase their equity.

Personally, I find the idea rather compelling.