Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable
July 27th, 2009
The Ascent of Money Episode 4: Planet Finance

In the final episode of four-part THE ASCENT OF MONEY series, Niall Ferguson chronicles the spread of good — and bad — financial practices across the globe, the meteoric rise of the American real estate market, and the consequences of the subprime mortgage fiasco.

  • mhill

    Why won’t you even respond to Canadians asking why they can’t access this content?

    I am very disappointed in PBS and won’t likely be sending any more contributions. Too bad you have alienated your Canadian audience.

  • mhill

    Does anybody from PBS even read these posts? Or do you just not care about contributions from Canadian viewers? We watch your programs and we give money but I guess, if you don’t care about us, we won’t care about you any longer. What possible reason could you have to refuse us access to your on-line content? And why won’t you even reply to our messages?

  • D

    Sumsum Make a 5th video in response, even if it’s just a youtube video. Who knows it may turn into a completely new and innovative series.

    I would eagerly watch.

  • Illament

    A wonderful documentary and one that should educate the general public of what is occuring today. History is the best way to predict the future because it repeats itself.
    Are there more details to this monsterous subject of “Money” sure and you can go on and on about it forever and a day.
    He does a good deal at bringing the Major points. Those who always try to complicate things are really masking the big picture. People have a way of making things more complicated that they really are. Anyways, RON PAUL 2012!!!

  • erik

    many good points but it remains too slow with too much silly music. more fat and sugar than substance. too much apology of greed not enough analysis of the consequences.

  • Ed

    This was an interesting series and got me thinking when I watched it. Many of the points that people brought up show that they were thinking too, not just accepting everything as being factual or accurate. There are a great number of interpretations and generalizations that can provide topics for dialog. I definitely agree that what happened in Chile during the 70s was much more complicated that this series presented.
    I think there should be more focus on the present day predicament with the recession (or depression) where the Wall Street Gang are getting annual bonuses larger than what most people will make in a lifetime. There is sense that austerity is for the ordinary people, but excludes those like the Wall Street Gang.

  • s.

    I’ve always wondered how history could ever be taught without teaching economics alongside. I’m glad they made this. I won’t pick on too much, but I was shocked that the economic event that created Hitler wasn’t even mentioned. PBS touched on hyperinflation, but left out Weimar and that one event ended up indirectly causing WW2. Wow! Big gap, I think.

  • Wolftalker

    Niall is a genius.

    This show explains CLEARLY and CONCISELY why we’re in the state we’re in.

    It also highlights the fact that, the only thing humans learn from history, is that humans DON’T learn from history.

    To all you detractors, it was only 6 hours, get the book if you want more.

    To all you detractors, mount a researched, multi sourced counter (if you can!)

    To all you detractors, I bet you believe it’s all the fault of ‘the Jews’.

    Public broadcasters around the world, keep on rockin’.

  • Nunya

    Muddled, disjointed, and glaringly incomplete, this program left me with many more questions than answers. Is Ferguson’s nose brown from helping the wealthy poop out this steaming pile?

  • Max Pace

    Entertaining and Informative show. Enjoyed watching it.

    But, not to be substituted for your MBA, Economics or Finance classes.

  • Balderdash

    This 4-hour infomercial for laissez faire capitalism should be packaged with a label warning that is was sponsored and approved by Wall Street.

    Ferguson’s villains are social welfare and Allende; Ferguson’s heroes are unregulated markets and Pinochet. Ferguson warns of a Black Swan Armageddon in “Chimerica” but offers no precautions, much less remedies – except more of the market capitalism that brought the world to this precipice?

    “Grace Kelly’s” remarks above are far too kind to Ferguson. Indeed, it is rather frightening how many of the preceding comments have mistaken such patent propaganda for impartial information. Empty heads would be well-advised not to learn from Ferguson’s misrepresentation of “history.”

  • Jake

    This is a wonderful series that I watched after I read the book. It brings economics and history together beautifully and in an entertaining way. One of the best PBS shows I have ever watch. Please keep it up!

  • Michael Olu

    The Ascent of money was supposed to be a historical background on money and capitalism by British Historian, and Rothschild specialist- Niall Ferguson. The first two episodes did just that. First two episodes was informative. Like the Godfather series, it should have stopped there. Time and time again, Mr. Ferguson fails to stick to what he does best- history. His delving into contemporary economics and political economics was a disaster.

    How he blatantly refuses to connect the dots between no regulation of the era of Reagan, Thatcher and Friedman (now dead, we hope) and the explosion of the market in boom-bursts, and the seeming insecurity of privatized pensions (undermining the very notion of a pension) smacks of willful ignorance. And how can his frontal attack on the welfare state willfully leave out the most successful ones of all? That is, the Nordic countries. I guess their seeming ability to be welfarist, yet not experience stagflation or be dormant does not fit into his half thesis.

    Pray tell, is Japanese welfare state a disaster simply because it got stymied at number two economy behind the USA with just 120 million people, no resources and just the ingenuity of the Japanese people aptly helped by the security of mind in place to out innovate and out manufacture the US of A? When is growth enough? Won’t every country or society at some point reach its elastic limit, where it can no more grow (due to various constraints including but not limited to demographics, resources etc.)?

    I hope the sponsors (all from Wall Street- yeah, Templeton your would be privatized social security manager under GWB plan) dollars were worth it…at least for the last two episodes. The first two were masterpiece befitting of a historian. Niall is better when his focus is the Rothschilds

  • Ruh

    Can I get the script or subtitle for this series…

  • Tuckerman

    For a thorough and unbiased explanation of the history of “capitalism”, I recommend “Thinking about Capitalism” (Course No. 5665 [36 lectures, 30 minutes/lecture], taught by Dr. Jerry Z. Muller, Professor of History at The Catholic University of America) which may be available at public libraries. I especially recommend lectures 22 and 26 about Joseph Schumpeter’s economic theories.

  • Ann

    This show really descriped the symptoms of monetary system. No matter the booms or busts, we must remain vigil as to what “The System” is. The System is of you but not controlled by/for you and me. When AIG, GS, and other finacial giants got bailed out, I wanted to know WHEN and IF they would bail you and me out. The System is designed in the way that Rich always rob from the Poor, the only way to fight back is thru Financial Education. I believe fighting financial ignorance that The System intended the world to be is the way to win.
    In the good book, it offered the truth of The System and the crack of The System. The name of the game in today’s world is : who is indebted to whom. So, do you still think a non-cash flow home is an asset?

  • Ann

    At this point, most Americans don’t really care who is indebted to whom. Even as the future Americans, yeah, your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren inherited more $300,000 before they are born, as long as we have our medcare, social security, who cares who pays for it.

    If most people have this kind of metality, I guess the great Capitalism of true entrepreneur spirit is DEAD.

  • iconoclast63

    In my opinion, the idea most notably absent from this history, is the fractional reserve aspect of our monetary system. Throughout the series the idea that credit money serves the public good is assumed. Whether talking about complex mortgage backed securities or micro loans given to Bolivian housewives, the fact remains that ALL money is borrowed into existence.

    Understanding that makes the booms and busts an obvious and unavoidable consequence of the system. When banks create money, they only create the principle leaving the interest payments to be paid from the borrowers profits. This means that ALL money created by banks operates in an ever descreasing spiral , right back to the bank.

    Banks sit atop the corporate food chain and preside over “Planet Finance”, simply because banking is the only industry that creates it’s product out of thin air via a government backed monopoly called the Federal Reserve System. Mr. Ferguson alludes to the folly in the way our current financial crisis is being handled by mentioning that the U.S. is simply trying to print it’s way out of the crisis. What he fails to point out is that the Central/Fractional Reserve/Fiat system can doing nothing else.

    This is precisely the reason why economics has so consistently failed the human race. The fundamental construct of the entire, and unit of exchange, makes crashes unavoidable. It’s a game of musical chairs, intentionally crafted to guarantee losers and winners. It should be no surprise that the winners are almost always the banks.

    In a truly free society, the people should be able to create and circulate any medium of exchange they choose, not be coerced at gun point to accept pieces of paper printed by a banking cartel for the benefit of the uber rich.

  • Stringfellowhawk

    I am very great full that this program was aired on PBS. I clearly understand by the narration Of Dr Ferguson why my country the USA is in the financial toilet to let another country push the plunger and see what really happen. It would be great if Dr Ferguson could do a story on why kids are not toot in school on financial responsibility like the do in other countries. and the greed the banking industry posses to keep us financial in the proverbial black hole they seen to want us to stay in. That would be a great story he can do this . Thank you again for opening my eyes

  • Vandalfan-plus-one

    Vandalfan (way up top) made a valid, and important criticism of this nonetheless pretty great series. Ferguson states in episode 3 that the welfare state fails because it does not have the “capitalism incentives”– the “carrots of riches” and the “sticks of poverty.” Fear of poverty creates strong economic incentives and gives economies like that of the US an advantage, he claims. That is very debatable. Its not a scientific and its not serious economics. It is a belief, and it also happens to be a right-wing justification for leaving our society fully exposed to the free market. Thus his statement has big implications, and he just brushed over it and kept moving. I won’t claim to know which societal arrangement is better, but his manipulative manner is my real criticism.

    A counter example to his claim is Denmark. You have to put yourself in the shoes of these people to see my point: It babies its citizens via a huge minimum wages ($23 approx) and pays students to study (not even loans, just straight stipends). They obviously pay a lot of taxes, but they don’t have to fear things that we Americans do (like falling into poverty) and they can fearlessly concentrate on setting and achieving goals, goals that they think will maximize the enjoyment of their lives, like starting a successful company, all while getting extremely educated. If you’re concentrating on making the best life decisions you can before death snaps it all up, you will probably be more economically productive than, say, someone who is beaten down psychologically because they can’t pay bills, and then has to raise the next, probably not so economically productive generation. Granted, Danes spend a lot of their student money on beer (they are dubbed the “happiest people in the world” for a reason), and life is more relaxing than the average I’m sure, but this fundamental security in life arguably leads to better-than-average economic productivity. They can focus on their bigger goals, spend as much time studying to gain the knowledge they need to do it, and they can especially concentrate on innovation (which they know their country, without any natural resources, seriously needs). They can do all this without socio-economic fears bogging down their minds. And innovation and success they have had, just look at their green technology sector or their shipping industry where their Maersk is the largest company in the world.

    An economy with a population 100x’s greater probably can’t do Denmark. But still, Ferguson, explain your self better. I don’t like watching TV where I have to keep my guard up. I definitely like the series though. I don’t really like Ferguson as a person because of his Tiger Woods-like history of extra marital affairs, maybe that tells you something deeper about this arm-chair-economist, career academic, but I definitely appreciate this series.

  • elephant smith

    Your statement messaged an ideal civic society that we are all fighting for today. I wish that you’ve carved the ideal into actionable items so that we can follow the path, and move from where we are today to the vision that you elaborated here.

    But, one argument that I can think of is the case when the whole world is against you, can you stand by what you believe, excel in achieving the goal in the “not being welcomed environment,” and still remain as fresh as if you were just born?

    In the real world, how many people can be lucky as Warren Buffett who doesn’t have to move his basement and build his empire in the investment industry? How many people have such luxury in life? Most people have to live through disruption in what life offered to them, and move as frequently where their next job is, hopefully, not in the environment where they will be deprived of opportunity in making what they believe coming true.

  • Jon Skelley

    Overall I liked the program, especially from a historical point of view. Fortunately, for me, I know many of the pertinent facts he left out. In explaining the function of futures he failed to add that three out of four people who place these bets do not sell or purchase the underlying commodity. That is pure speculation. He failed to mention the fact that billions had been bet against the success of the collateralized debt known as the “mortgage bonds”, often by the same people who issued them. He failed to mention the disasterous effects of speculation on the Japanese economy.

    The most effective way of lying known is to simply omit facts that completely change our conclusions. Try this on someone. It is a true story. This guy I know has a grown kid who is about six feet four inches tall. One day this kid goes into the room where his father was and they had a disagreement. The kid then proceeded to beat his own father half to death. Note that father is a warm, fuzzy word. “This kid” isn’t a warm cuddly phrase. By the way, do you wonder what their disagreement was about? This kid disagreed that the father should be administering a severe beating to his mother. Note the shock on peoples’ faces when they hear the punch line.

    Ferguson uses this technique. I noticed that he didn’t quote Milton Freidman’s line that the FDA should be disbanded because it would not be in the self interest of any firm to market a defective food or drug and therefore they wouldn’t do it. Ye friggin gods!!

  • Raju

    A Pinochet apologist teaching us history. Please.

  • Anthony LaRocca

    Ive watched this whole series and find this guy impossible to understand. They should redo the the series with an American narrator instead of this British clown. Jon Skelley your an idiot lol why would you post something like that.

  • Jean

    Very good discussion.. And the video is really great. Point Of Sale

  • Marcus

    This was an excellent series, but it is missing a fair number of connections, causes, specific players, and alternative conclusions. I could be mistaken about this, but it appears that the whole financial system has been one huge continuing legal ponzi scheme.

  • Vaio

    In reading these comments I realize that not everyone should have an opinion. The thing that makes the US great is the fact that smart & dumb people alike can make comments!!!

  • Matt Hughes

    I was almost positive that Grace Kelly had died until I read what she had written.

  • Mark

    It’s not OK to consider American Americans a poor credit risk but it is OK to consider women a good credit risk… only on PBS.

  • Mark

    Correction to above post: It’s not OK to consider African Americans a poor credit risk but it is OK to consider women a good credit risk… only on PBS.

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2015 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.