Item description for The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession by Peter L. Bernstein...
Overview A colorful history of humankind's obsession with gold revisits the ancient world, where gold was the absolute standard of wealth, and traces its rocky road to the present. By the author of Against the Odds. Reprint.
Publishers Description In this exciting new book, Peter L. Bernstein, who chronicled the evolution of risk in his recent bestseller, Against the Gods, tells the story of history's most coveted, celebrated, and inglorious asset: gold. From the ancient fascinations of Moses and Midas through the modern convulsions caused by the gold standard and its aftermath, gold has led many of its most eager and proud possessors to a bad end. Gold had them, rather than the other way around. And while the same cycle of obsession and desperation may reverberate in today's fast-moving, electronically-driven stock markets, the role of gold in shaping human history is the striking feature of this tumultuous tale. Such is the power of gold.
This fascinating account begins with the magical, religious, and artistic qualities of gold and progresses to the invention of coinage, the transformation of gold into money, and the gold standard. The more important gold becomes as money, the more loudly it speaks of power--even more loudly than when it served as an entry to Heaven or a symbol of omnipotence. Ultimately, the book confronts the future of gold in a world where it appears to have been relegated to the periphery of global finance.
From the Bible to the Gold Rush era to modern day Fort Knox and beyond, unforgettable characters stride through these pages. Contemplate gold from the diverse perspectives of monarchs and moneyers, potentates and politicians, men of legendary wealth and others of more plebeian beginnings; from Asia Minor's King Croesus to Rome's noted speculator Crassus, to Byzantine emperors and humble miners, Venice's Marco Polo and Spain's Francisco Pizarro, to Charlemagne and Charles de Gaulle, Richard I and Richard Nixon, Isaac Newton and Winston Churchill, Britain's economists David Ricardo and John Maynard Keynes, and Christopher Columbus and the Forty-Niners. Perhaps most remarkable are the frantic speculators who pushed gold to $850.00 an ounce in 1980 just as their counterparts twenty years later drove Internet stocks to exorbitant heights.
Whether it is Egyptian pharaohs with depraved tastes, the luxury-mad survivors of the Black Death, the Chinese inventor of paper money, the pirates on the Spanish Main, or the hardnosed believers in the international gold standard like the United States' President Herbert Hoover, gold has been the supreme possession. It has been an icon for greed and an emblem of rectitude, as well as a vehicle for vanity and a badge of power that has shaped the destiny of humanity through the ages. As Bernstein muses, "The joke is that nothing is as useless and useful all at the same time."
Far more than a tale of romantic myths, daring explorations, and the history of money and power struggles, "The Power of Gold" suggests that the true significance of this infamous element may lie in the timeless passions it continues to evoke, and what this reveals about ourselves.
From The Book Jacket The Power of Gold tells how historys most coveted, celebrated, and inglorious asset has inspired romantic myths, daring explorations, and titanic struggles for money and power. Gold has been an icon for greed and an emblem of rectitude as well as a vehicle for vanity. But the true significance of this infamous metal may lie in the timeless passions it continues to evoke and what it reveals about ourselves. <P>"The story of gold-in all its splendor and mythology, its fascination for individuals and nations alike.... Peter Bernstein is up to the challenge. His spritely exposition is a fine read even as it makes us think and reflect." -Paul A. Volcker, Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve <P>"...a fascinating story...wittily written and full of original insights.... Peter Bernstein has once more written a brilliant book, both highly instructive and entertaining." -Pierre Keller, Former Senior Partner, Lombard Odier & Cie, Geneva <P>"Hats off! We are in the presence of a master...to read with such delight...the astonishing width and depth of Bernsteins knowledge." -Roger G. Kennedy, Director Emeritus, National Museum of American History <P>"This book is a noble treatment of the most noble of elements. The Power of Gold is a brilliant and unexpected tale of three thousand years of a metal as virtual reality." -Steve Jones, author, Darwins Ghost: The Origin of Species Updated <P>"Admirably written...a wonderfully interesting view-not alone of gold but of the greater economic history. Like other of his work, it is assured of a wide readership." -John Kenneth Galbraith, Professor of Economics Emeritus, Harvard University
Citations And Professional Reviews The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession by Peter L. Bernstein has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 324
Promise Angels is dedicated to bringing you great books at great prices. Whether you read for entertainment, to learn, or for literacy - you will find what you want at promiseangels.com!
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.02" Width: 6.08" Height: 1.15" Weight: 1.31 lbs.
Release Date Oct 16, 2001
ISBN 0471003786 ISBN13 9780471003786
Availability 0 units.
More About Peter L. Bernstein
The late Peter L. Bernstein was President of Peter L. Bernstein, Inc., an economic consulting firm for institutional investors he founded in 1973, after many years of managing billions of dollars in individual and institutional portfolios. Bernstein was also the author of ten books on economics and finance, including the bestselling Capital Ideas, Capital Ideas Evolving, and Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk. His writing combines the zest of a historian with the meticulous analytical powers of an economist.
Peter L. Bernstein currently resides in New York, in the state of New York. Peter L. Bernstein has an academic affiliation as follows - New York, New York Peter L.Bernstein,New York, Peter L.Bernstein,New Y.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession?
An Informative and Enlightening Read Apr 19, 2008
Recently, I have noticed a decline in the value of the dollar in the market and great increase of gold. Even the gold went over one thousand dollar at one point. Then, I came to thinking: what if we might be heading to some kind of economy collapse in our near future where our dollars in the banks will disappear overnight and we will be left penniless and head into a great debt without much a warning. Then, it would be likely that gold and silver might return to being as values/standards of money for survival purposes in the event of economy collapse. At least, that is my understanding of using gold.
Before this year, I rarely take notice of gold and often thought of it as just piece of metal. And, I often wondered why gold would be such a big deal or why would gold became a driving motivation behind every nation's growth. Again, I thought, "they are pieces of metals, nothing more...geez, it sounds like everyone is obsessed with such illusion. Why do we even bother?" Then, I was recommended to this book by Peter Bernstein.
"The Power of Gold: The History of Obsession" is very intriguing and easy to read, with only twenty chapters and roughly four hundred pages. It is certainly a book that I could not put down because it answered some of my questions on the subject, or at least to my understanding. I really liked reading about the histories of gold from the ancient times to present, including the stories of Lydian and Greek as well of Johann Sutter in the time of California gold rush. Also, it was interesting to acquire an understanding about the attitude of the people towards gold in the aftermath of The Black Death during the mid-fourteenth century.
I most certainly agreed with the author when he said the following: "Those who believed that gold was a hedge against the uncertainties of life failed to understand that the pursuit of eternity is not to be satisfied by gold, or by anything else we choose to replace gold - dollars, euros, whatever. Gold and its surrogates make sense only as a means to an end: to beautify, to adorn, to exchange for what we need and really want." (p. 372)
After reading this book, I have gained a better understanding about gold itself: how it was viewed, how it was and is being used, and why were/are people obsessed with gold. Gold may be a piece of metal, but it seems to serve mult-purposes.
I am no economist or trader, but I found this book to be an enlightening read and very informative about the gold's nature, its history, and its relationship with humanity.
2000 Edition has more text Feb 24, 2008
The older edition (Aug 30, 2000) has more pages (448 instead of 304) but costs more ($39.00). Comparing the table of contents between the 2 editions, it appears that the first 14 chapters and 207 pages are identical between the two editions but the new 2004 illustrated edition may have discarded or condensed some of the later chapters. The older 2000 edition is still available from this site if you look further down in search results for this title.
Interesting, if not Entirely Focused Jan 18, 2008
Peter Bernstein's "The Power of Gold" is an interesting read. It begins with a series of anecdotes on the history of hold - from the Israelites to King Midas to Crassus to Pizarro and everything in between.
Suddenly, the anecdotes stop and instead the reader faces down some pretty hard core history of the gold standard and the economics therein. The change in tone was startling. Eric Conger, the reader on the abridged audio cassette handles it in stride and does his best to keep the tone and material light.
Bernstein sets gold up as a villain in the lives of men and men's quest for gold does not usually turn out the way they plan. Bernstein details the evolution and subsequent gold standard and in so doing, uses the images of the anecdotes told previously. One of the more powerful and useful images was that of the merchant who was on a ship when it began to sink. Carrying all of his gold, the merchant jumped overboard and promptly sank - which poses the question, did the merchant possess the gold or did the gold possess the merchant?
Once the nations of the world were off the gold standard, the market fluctuated wildly. It reached its zenith when it peaked at $850 an ounce in 1980. When Bernstein published the audio edition in 2000, gold had promptly gone downhill precipitously with a price below $300 an ounce. Bernstein all but closes the door on gold pronouncing that its time in the monetary system come and gone and its uses as a hedge non-existant.
But just before Bernstein hammers in the last nail of gold's coffin, he quotes economist Robert Mundell who stated that gold would make a comeback in the 21st century. Sure enough, on January 14, 2008 (or 3 days before this review), gold was trading at a record $914 an ounce showing that gold's use as an enduring hedge seems as durable as gold itself.
From a trader's perspective Dec 28, 2007
The Power of Gold was lent to me by a colleague at work, a fellow market analyst. He and I talk monetary policy on a fairly regular basis, so he thought I'd like to give this book a read. Indeed, he was correct.
In brief, this is a book which tracks the use of gold from a monetary perspective through most of human civilization. If you're at all interested in history, then this book is definitely right up your alley. It takes a look at world events from a perspective that you won't find in many other sources. Primarily that means focusing on how gold was (or was not) the main focal point of money and trade. I personally didn't care for the author's occassional forays into discussions of the decor of various palaces and whatnot, but they weren't too distracting. Beyond that, it was a very well written book, and a pleasant read.
The really interesting stuff from a my perspective as a trader and analyst, of course, is the latter part of the book where it gets to modern times. I personally found the whole discussion of the 20th century, which was probably the last third or more of the book, to be the most meaningful. The author really presents an excellent discussion of various perspectives and efforts related to different countries being on or off the gold standard and how that all played out in both domestic and global economies.
One of the things which has come up in modern political, social, and economic discussions is the idea of going back on the gold standard. There have been some very prominent proponents. If you want to get an idea of what that might look like, how that might play out in the global trade and economic modern environment, you'll definitely want to give The Power of Gold a read. It will really have you thinking about the complexity of it all, and the implications.
14 Carats Only Oct 21, 2007
If you have read Bernstein's "Against the Gods" you might be somewhat disappointed. "Power of Gold" reads more like a lose collection of anecdotes than a complete and unbiased history of that fascinating metal.
History of gold in modern times is too US centric for my taste. According to Bernstein, paper money is in - metal is out. Now watching a crazy built up of dept by the current US administration (how many trillions are it today?) you have to ask yourself: who will repay these debts one day? Watching the dramatic decline of the US Dollar and the stellar rise of today's gold prices Bernstein seems to bet on the wrong horse.
Don't get me wrong: "The Power of Gold" is an excellent source about the history of _money_. But in my opinion it's not an unbiased view of the power of gold in today's world.
As Bernstein says in its epiloge to "The Power of Gold": "The most striking feature of this long history is that gold led most of the protagonists of the drama into the ditch". Could it be that Mr. Bernstein was misled by it too?
Since "The story of gold has a deeper message, one that has none of the transitory qualities of what we choose as money. Seen in this broader sence, the story of gold has no ending".