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Money for Everyman

S. Jagannathan

By John Kenneth Galbraith
Indian Book Company, 1976, 60.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 5 September-October 1977

Professor Galbraith’s fuller title for his book is reminiscent of the thoughts of Fitzgerald/Omar on the mystery of life but Galbraith briskly sets about his declared objective (‘Much discussion of money involves a heavy outlay of priest­ly incantation.’) of dispelling all mystery about money in his book which is lucidly written and eminently readable. One however gets the feeling that there are two books in one. The first, conceptually speaking, as the introduction reveals, is on the current-day problems of economic management and monetary stabilization, contained mainly in the last several chap­ters; to this is tagged the history of 2500 years of money spread over fifteen chap­ters. The history appears to have been written in a carefree mood and does not waste much time on the earliest forms of money. Blessed with the advantages of hindsight, the author covers the centuries rapidly, allocating blame where due (with­out malice and highlighting only the foibles of human beings) balancing this with occasional praise for those whose management of money avoided gross excesses and achieved some benefits though not avoiding inflation, After an account of the early banks in Europe and such use as they made of the discovery that banks could create money, he traces the establishment (1694) and growth of the Bank of England, of which he writes, ‘Most of the art as well as most of the mystery associated with the management of money originated here.’ This praise seems appropriate but when he comes to discuss the Federal Reserve System of the U.S., he is unvary­ingly critical. By the fifth chapter, Galbraith has transferred his attention to the American colonies to give an account of. their pioneering role in the use of paper money and from then on he is concerned mainly with the story of money during the American Revolutionary War and in the United States thereafter right upto 1975. As he explains, ‘it is with the dollar that for the moment the history of money ends.’ The general reader may find this rapid and easy coverage of the history of money, with fairly full citation of sources, to be informative and interesting. Gal­braith's narrative is replete with irony, amusing sallies and quips and sometimes heavy sarcasm, ·aimed particularly at his professional brethren. He says of them, ‘Economists are economical among other things of ideas; most make those of their graduate days do ...

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