There are over 160 different currencies in the world, each with a local monopoly over its own jurisdiction. But aside from the top handful of them, most currencies rapidly devalue over time and have little acceptance outside of their own borders. With various cross-border frictions, bottlenecks, and currency conversions, the global financial system is practically a barter system in this regard. Being born in the “wrong” country makes saving money harder than it needs to be. While the steady increase in energy production and the proliferation of electronics have improved human well-being over time, the global financial system hasn’t kept up and continues to be a drag on economic productivity. This is especially true in developing countries but is also becoming apparent in the developed world, as debts and deficits grow without constraint, and countries around the world deal with waves of inflation and bank failures.
How did we get here? Why isn’t our money better than this in the 21st century?
Politics can affect things temporarily and locally, but technology is what drives things forward permanently and globally. From shells to gold, from papyrus bills of exchange to central banks, and from the invention of the telegraph to the creation of Bitcoin, this is just as true for money as it is for anything else.
In Broken Money, Lyn Alden explores the evolution of money through the lens of technology, and dives into the deep questions to see where money came from, where money is going, and what money is at its foundation.