Money, a true page turner

Money by Jacob Goldstein

What is money? It’s a simple question to ask but the answer is complicated. I know, as I’ve read and blogged about Wealth, Capital, Debt, Lords, Americana, and America’s Bank, amongst a lot of far dryer, far more challenging economic history books. Then along came Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing by former Planet Money host Jacob Goldstein, and wow, what a difference...

The power to grow

Electricity in Africa 2022

Growing an economy takes power, especially electricity. One major piece of infrastructure missing in most Sub-Saharan countries is a ubiquitous electric grid. Only South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, and Gabon have 85% or better access to electricity, and while I don’t know first hand what the electric grid is like in all four of those countries I do know that while the Kenyan electric grid is...

Moving money internationally


You probably don’t send as many international wires as I do, and probably have never thought about how the dollars (or euros, pounds, shillings, etc.) move from your bank to the destination bank. What may surprise you is that the money never leaves. How this works in reality is best described with a so-called “minor” currency, e.g. the Malawi Kwacha. I have a few of these in my...

One currency, two values

Yemen 1,000 dinar

I have a strange attraction to worthless currencies, or those on the path to being worthless. Most people just take currencies for granted, never wondering where their value comes from nor understanding how it sometimes disappears. No one truly knows those answers, but sometimes we get accidental experiments that help us understand. The latest of those is happening now in Yemen. As described in...

The World’s GDP and Growing Middle Class

The world's growing middle class

Two interesting infographics from The Visual Capitalist. The first showing the distribution of GDP around the world and the second, the size of the global middle class both now and where it’s headed by 2030. Do remember that GDP is a flawed index, but ignoring that, what pops out to me on this graphic is just how insignificant the oil wealth of the Middle East is in comparison to North...

The first public company

The first public company

We take much of modern economic infrastructure for granted, including stock markets and the idea of publicly traded companies. While you may have heard the anecdotal stories about the first public companies having their shares traded under a tree in Amsterdam, London, or on Wall Street in New York City, the very first company (in the West) to sell shares to the public was The Marchants...

The Long 20th Century

The Long Twentieth Century

The Long Twentieth Century is more than its name describes, a very long and detailed economic history of not just the 20th Century but global Western capital of four eras: Venice/Genoa, Dutch Empire, British Empire, United States. TL;DR, with an emphasis on the don’t read… the interesting part of this book isn’t the 20th Century nor the Long 18th Century either, as both of those...

The Federal Reserve’s thoughts on the Digital Dollar (CBDC)

Federal Reserve thoughts

The Federal Reserve published their first public paper on digital dollars, a.k.a. Central Bank Digital Currencies, a.k.a. the dollar CBDC. This, of course, is spurred by the popularity of cryptocurrencies and the questions of whether they will replace the government issued fiat currencies. At a high level, this paper says nothing interesting. A bone dry nothingburger. But what is interesting is...

Future Dollars (F$)

Market prices

Last week I wrote about the ancient system of Bills of Exchange and how useful they were for sellers to get paid sooner than 30, 60, or 90 days after the sale. A 21st Century systemic solution to replicate these benefits would be a marketplace that sells and trades Future Dollars (denoted as F$). A future dollar is a promise to deliver a real dollar ($) in a specific number of days. With this...

Bills of Exchange, RIP

Hudson's Bay Company note

300 YEARS AGO, when the British Empire was still growing, the first wave of global trade was powered not only by the Pound Sterling, but by trades in Bills of Exchange. How did traders from London buy tea in India, porcelain in Hong Kong, or silks in Singapore? They didn’t haul cases of silver and gold in their outbound ships, trading coins for goods. They had to do that when global trade...


The Next StepThe Next StepThe Next StepThe Next Step The Next StepThe Next StepThe Next StepThe Next Step



Recent blog posts