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The Money Men: Capitalism, Democracy, and the Hundred Years' War Over the American Dollar

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  138 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Most Americans are familiar with the political history of the United States, but there is another history woven all through it, a largely forgotten history—the story of the money men. Acclaimed historian H. W. Brands brings them back to life: J. P. Morgan, who stabilized a foundering U.S. Treasury in 1907; Alexander Hamilton, who founded the first national bank, and Nichol ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2006)
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The great financiers who emerged as the Capitalist juggernauts of our history are discussed. It starts with the smartest man ever to grace the continental United States Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton intuitively knew that a Capitalist economy would lead to great prosperity. He learned this as he saw a farming community in Barbados languish in poverty and read Adam Smith’s influential book “The Wealth of Nations.”

When the Great George Washington was unanimously voted into America as its first Pres
Feb 19, 2009 keatssycamore rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: banksters
Shelves: audiobooks
Here's what I learned from the book:

The banksters and speculators having been screwing up (and over) the United States for the entirety of it's existence.
More on my efforts to learn a little about economics. This is hard work for me, because it relies on human behavior more than the laws of nature like physics or engineering. I'm still grappling with some of the concepts, and the separation of capitalism from democracy. The two are often linked, but they are not the same thing.

At any rate, I'd heard some of this before in an audiobook or two from last year about the Great Depression. Still, repetition helps me internalize it.

Better for me was the
The Founding Fathers of the United States had referred to our government based on a democratic republic as a "grand experiment". One of the main catalysts for the success of this experiment has to be the economic system of Capitalism. The early establishment of the National Bank System, the Department of the Treasury, the adoption of a national paper currency, the evolution of the silver and gold standard, and early market crashes and reforms, and the figures behind these developments is the sub ...more
Um, I don't know. I think this book could have been a lot better. I know they're "essays" or whatever, but I just felt like they weren't very fleshed out. He doesn't always explain things completely, like he made it sound like there was no president at all between Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison. It kind of threw me off and I had to go reread it to make sure that I just didn't miss it. He could've dedicated, like, half a sentence to the election & presidency of Martin Van Buren , e ...more
Leif Erik
If you're anything like me (God help you) then you have often pined for a concise (sub 200 pg) account of American monetary policy pre-establishment of the Federal Reserve, ideally with the focus the inherit conflict between hard money and inflationary interests. This is book for you! Brand does an excellent job of explaining the interests and motivations of each side and how that played out over the 19th century.
Jeff M.
This was a really fascinating book. It discussed in detail the history of monetary policy in the United States up to the founding of the Federal Reserve. It was interesting to read a book that looks primarily at what is only mentioned in passing in most history books: the struggle over control of American money. Alexander Hamilton, Nicholas Biddle, Jay Cooke, Jay Gould, and JP Morgan all feature prominently in this book. It's a great read for any student of US history because so many issues thro ...more
Robert Sparrenberger
Quick overview of major financial issues in America since it founding by hw brands. This book does not contain his normal flair and just presents the facts. Quick read
A well-written and informative overview of the capitalism vs democracy conflict over monetary policy in the US from Alexander Hamilton's debt scheme to the founding of the Federal Reserve System.
Though copyright in 2006 this book encourages thought on the current financial world. Starting with Hamilton, then treating Bibble, Gould, Cooke and Morgan in turn, H.W. Brands provides insight into the financial world. Each of these men fought for a strong central monetary control authority. In his epilogue the author posits that the current (2006) controllers of money were in the main anonymous (with the exception of Alan Greenspan). Perhaps when the real history of the 2008 financial crises i ...more
Great read. Very concise history.
Although the cover of this book looks cool, the material inside was not as entertaining. Brands is an excellent historical writer (see my review of his Jackson biography), but for the subject matter of this book considering the recent economic problems we have been experiencing, you will probably hate these major bankers more and not get a complete grasp of the history for the book is short.
A quick and easy read, although most of the essential information presented can be obtained even more quickly and easily by scanning a couple dozen pages in a college U.S. history textbook.

I've read several of Brands's books, and they all seem to fit the same pattern: Accessible prose and smooth storytelling, but very little original thought or intellectual stimulation.
David Szatkowski
This is a good, short book that gives a basic history of major players in the world of finance, treasury, and currency history. The book spans the late 1790s to just before WWI. Worth a read.
Jul 11, 2011 Ryan is currently reading it
Got excited to learn a little more about the Federal Reserve bank... so far learned that Alexander Hamilton was pushing for a central U.S. bank long before the Federal Reserve Act was passed to create the "Fed" as we know it. Interesting read so far...
Glenn Robinson
A quick basic overview of the financial leaders that have shaped the US financial system, both in good ways and poor ways. Not one part of the history is view in depth, so do not view this as providing answers, just raising many more questions.
Nicole Marble
Interesting view of US history via money and how it has been used and peoples' attitude to it.
Gracefully written, Brands points out the natural antagonism between capitalism and democracy.
Something to think about!
This was a good overview of American economic history but knowing next to nothing about that, I wish the author had gone into a little more detail in his explanations of some theory and concepts.
Greg Krupa
Great short history of the 4 key individuals who shaped the American capitalist, banking, economic and monetary system. Recommend it to all who have an interest in economic history of the US.
Profiles of five important figures in American monetary history. Book has sort of a jumbleed feel to it with some interesting stories but overall, not one of Brands' best efforts.
Oh boy, I thought I would like this better than his more recent book I just read. I was sorely disappointed to find the majority of this book appears in that book.
Interesting but occasionally dry, and not really a subject that I cared enough about to delve so deeply into, but it wasn't my pick.
Readable book about the formation of monetary policy in the United States. Surprisingly interesting and understandable.
Short, sweet, and enlightening. Very enjoyable.
Stefan Fergus
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Henry William Brands was born in Portland, Oregon, where he lived until he went to California for college. He attended Stanford University and studied history and mathematics. After graduating he became a traveling salesman, with a territory that spanned the West from the Pacific to Colorado. His wanderlust diminished after several trips across the Great Basin, and he turned to sales of a differen ...more
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