In the aftermath of recent financial crises, people might consider finance a wrecking ball: something that destroys fortunes and jobs, and undermines governments and banks. In Money Changes Everything, leading financial economist William Goetzmann argues the exact opposite--that the development of finance has made the growth of civilizations possible. Goetzmann explains that finance is a time machine, a technology that allows us to move value forward and backward through time; and that this innovation has changed the very way we think about and plan for the future. He shows how finance was present at key moments in history: driving the invention of writing in ancient Mesopotamia, spurring the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome to become great empires, determining the rise and fall of dynasties in imperial China, and underwriting the trade expeditions that led Europeans to the New World. He also demonstrates how the apparatus we associate with a modern economy--stock markets, lines of credit, complex financial products, and international trade--were repeatedly developed, forgotten, and reinvented over the course of human history.
William N. Goetzmann is the Edwin J. Beinecke Professor of Finance and Management and director of the International Center for Finance at the Yale School of Management. His books include The Origins of Value: The Financial Innovations that Created the Modern Financial Markets and The Great Mirror of Folly: Finance, Culture, and the Crash of 1720.