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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.

  • Grace Kelly

    This film is half truths leading to the wrong conclusions. For example, it tells about lack of regulation in the 1984, but skips the lack of regulation contribution to the current housing crisis. It skipped over the fact that World Bank gave loans that projected a growth rate that was impossible to achieve and thus the loans could not be paid back. It skipped over the fact that one of the reasons that sub-prime loans failed was variable rates of interest. It skipped over the fact that one of the reasons that micro loans work is that it has reasonable rates and reasonable payments. And then the whole China relationship was treated in a way to antagonize people. America gave money and loans to Japan which resulted in a friendship, not a war. So the whole loan/borrower relationship can be done well or done badly. That is the real point. And this show missed that entirely. I think PBS should allow funding to put out a show to correct all the errors of this show. The Nigel smug voice is just like an advertisement, some truth but mostly lying.

  • billy ray valentine

    lighten up Grace Kelly. this was a good,informative series. my favorite was the 1st episode. thanks PBS. this is what all tv should function as-intelligence sprinkled with wit

  • jerome Parker

    A slipshod collection of cliches, superficial generalities, and benighted assertions regarding the “creation” of money. To me, this suggests a payoff to the financial corporate sponsors of PBS – nothing else could explain the near complete absence of serious economic analysis.

  • dan

    Great show. I also cant wait for all the detractor’s shows to come out! It seems there are a lot of people out there confident they can do better, to me thats the right attitude- waiting for the follow through.

  • Ernest Johnson

    Outstanding. Both historical and entertaining at the same time. Mr Ferguson had excellent researchers to be able to chronicle the world monetary problems. Thanks for opening the eyes of the world with this great documentary.

  • Micheal Turner

    Thanks for both airing this whole series and having this episode available for viewing here (I missed the first twenty minutes on my local station). Only a course in economics would be better than this series in explaining the causes and effects to many of the problems on the world, assuming that the professor is open to more than the conventional views.



    One thing about Japan – they were barred from having a military to fight any war as per armistice conditions upon surrendering to allied forces in WWII, fyi. There are also plenty of other facts that did not make the documentary – this does not make the documentary invalid.

    Jeffrey Lytle
    McKinleyville – 5th District

  • Ray Farabee

    This is an outstanding series. I particularly appreciated Episode Four about home owndership and the Texas savings and loan crash of the 1980’s. Many small, responsible S&L’s went out of business because of the fraud and abuse of a few. This is important history and economics, since history has a way of repeating itself, as we have recently witnessed. Thanks for the excellent programming we get through KLRU and PBS. Ray Farabee, Austin, TX.

  • guido

    Wonderful series. I agree with all the comments, which seems contradictory, but economics is as complex a subject as can be because it is a straight reflection of the human condition. I recommend reading John Perkins expose ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman’ as well as ‘Freakonomics’ and Richard Maybury’s Uncle Edward series, all contradict each other, but you gain a lot of perspective, just as in this series. Thanks PBS & WNET, you are always awesome.

  • Michael Kirkland

    Why are you blocking Canadians? We contribute to PBS too, you know.

    But not anymore.

  • Jose

    This is an excellent mini-series that gives a great overview and historical account from the view of finance. Of course it isn’t the only lens to view the world, but many have ignored this important facet of world history. Some of the negative reviews just seem to come from whiners who are upset that their point of view isn’t represented. Sure there are many “nodes” that led to the collapse, but to gain the broad understanding you really have to focus on the main crossroads in the network of this phenominal collapse… and also, thanks PBS for making it available online…

  • Raj Khemai

    The facts are interesting and informative. It provides the historical backdrop that helps me understand our current economic fiasco. I recommend it for all and thanks to PBS for airing a facinating history lesson on money.

  • JHLundin

    Why does it surprise me that events in the context of history make much more sense?!…

    PS Grace Kelly… Provide some scholarly evidence (books, papers, lectures, reviews) to support your sniping and I would be happy to consider that perspective. Just critiquing content does not constitute a valid argument or perspective.

  • AAG

    Grace Kelly is obviously another pissed off republican, who somehow pressed the wrong button on her remote… he/she was expecting real ‘right wing subjective news’ aka FOX but got objective Public Service instead. The objective truth can be hard on your ego when it makes you realize all you’ve ever seen/heard from FOX IS A LIE.
    Eg. OBAMA IS NOT A MARTIAN… he’s born in the USA
    Terrorist knuckle handshake ect ect.
    I could go on and on.
    Thanks to PBS for being the only station with actual objective news/brainfood
    Keep up the good work

  • vandalfan

    This intersting show suggested that fear of poverty provides the incentive to be fincially creative and successful, and that a “welfare state” fails because there is no such incentive. If that were true, shouldn’t the US be filled with millionaires who are black and brown? Certainly our US minorities are most endangered by our lack of retirement and disability equity, and therefore have the most incentive to be “successful”. I am hopeful that this Freidman- Chicago theory will be properly debunked in further installments.

  • iolanik

    Grace Kelly is correct but another MAJOR point left out of this lame attempt at a dcoumentary is the concept of fractional banking and the banking cartel/Illuminati creation of the FEDERAL RESERVE> For a TRUE Explanation of the money system in the U.S. and its effects across the world watch Money,Banking and the Federal Reserve

  • harry chapin

    AAG and Grace Kelly – please both spare me your vain blathering agendas (whether you are right left or center) as neither of you have anything objective to say beyond the typical debate hijacking loud mouth egos at both ends of the polar spectrum….. I love PBS and their work for the past 35 years and the ‘ascent of money’ is a very well done great and informative objective expose – BRAVO Niall Ferguson, WNET and PBS!!

  • Mark B.

    In response to Ms. Kelly: first, while the 1980’s S.&L. scandal did result in a flurry of prosecutions and denouncements, little in the way of effective re-regulation came out of it (just as the case appears to be today), thus leaving the door open for our current mess (and history repeats). Secondly, saying that variable interest rates are at the root of the sub-prime crises is like claiming that a person with lung cancer died from ineffectual therapy. While the onerous usury obviously hurt them, the fact remains that these people were poor credit risks in the first place. Lastly, in the example of Japan, the U.S. was already a major creditor of that nation before the war (we were a primary source of raw materials and energy resources to Japan, a large part of what lead to their declaration of war was when we cut them off), and afterward they were a defeated nation with no choice but to accept our terms, no matter how greedy or generous. I would also like to say to Mr. Parker that far from being some sort of homage to the corporate world, this series appeared to more aptly show the pitfalls of greed and mismanagement of funds, with portentous results. The most pertinent business examples illustrated in the series are all either defunct, floundering, or viewed with a great deal of intimation. Hardly what most would think of as endearing. Overall, the series did an excellent job of explaining some of the basic vagaries and principals of the financial systems. Could it have gone further into depth? Definitely, but perhaps Mr. Ferguson’s budget only allowed for a four part series.

  • Jayne Matt

    I am alarmed by Ferguson’s recent comments published in the Financial Times: “President Barack Obama reminds me of Felix the Cat. One of the best-loved cartoon characters of the 1920s, Felix was not only black. He was also very, very lucky. And that pretty much sums up the 44th president of the US as he takes a well-earned summer break after just over six months in the world’s biggest and toughest job.” Racist?

  • Jack goldman

    A 1964 US silver quarter bought a gallon of gasoline in 1964. A 1964 US silver quarter buys a gallon of gasoline in 2009. That’s all we need to know.

  • KIT

    By the way Ms. Kelly-it wasn’t de-regulation but (intervention into the Market) Govt. regulation that set this current crisis up. The Fed exists to regulate Money and thus markets. Money is the water the economy swims in. Easy money=incentives to invest. It’s not going to be stored under the pillow. Fannie and Friedie were govt. created at their origin. The purpose, to make home ownership easier by having the govt. underwrite the loans like Big Daddy writes a check for Junior and covers any deficit. Then the Democrates and Republicans get votes by passing out these favors to voters. Then it gets so bad that pizza delivery boys get loans backed by government for the mortgage. Then the bubble created by govt bursts cuz its a flip- your -house Ponzi scheme. But Representative Barny Frank, and yes ,Obama, and NY Sen Schumer, and others got political contributions from Fannie and Freddie specifically and thus won’t do a thingto check the bubble. Even Bush wanted to pump up the “own your own house without savings dream And these guys are in charge of cleaning up the mess now??
    This isn’t laissez faire -Govt.- leave- it -alone -capitalism ;its crony capitalism. Printing money to create wealth is a modern alchemy. Question what you believe Grace Kelly?

  • Rich

    The Ascent of Money is incredibly weak and would be a better fit on Fox News than it is on PBS. Ferguson plays fast and loose with the facts and is shaky on the economics. It is a series full of propaganda and misinformation.

    Krugman on Ferguson: “When it comes to economics, however, he hasn’t bothered to understand the basics, relying on snide comments and surface cleverness to convey the impression of wisdom. It’s all style, no comprehension of substance.”

    “I think he’s a poseur.”

  • Mark Stouffer

    Absolutely fantastic program. In the US we get almost zero financial math in public schools and look at the result. I can calculate a ballistic trajectory but can’t balance my check book.

    This program flips the script by not just giving us a readers digest of economic history but also by introducing the concept that all historic conflicts have just been the most drastic out-lash of underlying economic turmoil.

    Certainly you could say that it was after the Medici and Rothschild families spawned the wealth management industry and liberated wealth that we have seen the vast bulk of products around us invented and therefore our ability to buy them. Why did it takes so long to liberate markets? Why did we languish so long.

  • Johnno

    Hey AAG, Grace Kelly sounds like she’s for regulation and against current world bank policy. How does that make her Republican? Obama is for more regulation as well remember? Did you not know that? Did you just buy into hype when choosing your candidate without understanding that you’re against his policies? That is what your rant implies. You just went crazy over someone who could be on your side, if you even know what side that is. It’s scary that you have voted or one day will. I mean, come on, “Eg. OBAMA IS NOT A MARTIAN… he’s born in the USA”? Where did that come from? I’m not saying I’m for or against any policy here but your post was something else. Ignorant and too extreme. I’m sure you don’t like my post but that’s bc “The objective truth can be hard on your ego.”

    Another job well done by PBS. I wish there was more to the series but for the time allotted it was very informative. It promotes interest on the subjects discussed and I know I’ll be reading up on them for many nights to come. Thanks again PBS.

  • Mariana

    As an 18 year old history enthusiast, I have to say I am quite ashamed and surprised. Not at this series, but at the commenters!

    Are you guys kidding me? Most of you must be more than twice my age and you’re prattling on and on about left-out facts and apparent bias. “Wah wah wah, what a stupid idiot Ferguson is” Big crybabies, the lot of you!

    Let me give you a news flash, every historical account, you will ever hear, read, or watch IS BIASED. Get used to the idea that not everyone views history in the same way. No historical account is complete and entire. For all of you so vehemently pitted against this documentary, this is just another side of the coin that hasn’t been presented to you yet. That doesn’t mean its wrong. That doesn’t mean that its a poor account. Its just another one of the many. The smart thing to do is accept it gracefully as a new facet of your mental library- not stick to your political guns and vilify Ferguson and his work. Yes, he presents his information in a way that backs his point. That is what every historian does.

    I’d like to say that this was brilliantly done, visually pleasing, and informative for someone like me- I certainly don’t know everything, but this documentary gave me some very good points of interest that I plan to further research.

  • mann good road

    one word… GREED and the modern american has become lazy!!!! grow food, save water resources,
    forget about european cars, back to basics..
    3 meals a day and education for our children…

  • docwazzup

    Good program….this brings ideas to one’s mind…it surely cannot be as comprehensive as a course or a degree in economics to study in detail every concept and every theory.

  • forumobc

    I love all of the ridiculous commentators on this site. Your basic argument is “This show does not conform with my biased, preconceived beliefs, therefore it is completely wrong and Ferguson is an idiot.”
    You are all absolutely pathetic! If you think you can do a better job why not make your own series or at least post comments with data to support your rants?

  • Leslie

    My friend, Frank Terrugi, an American student was murdered by the Chilean junta without so much as a trial but you think its o.k. because someone made a buck. My support for kqed has ended.

  • Sumsum

    I am a university professor of Global Studies & Globalization and I was excited to see that KQED had put out this series. However, my excitement waned and my disappointment grew as I continued my viewing beyond the first episode.

    While I found the first two episodes in this 4-part series interesting and informative, I was appalled and dismayed at the level of gross generalizations and the author’s bias. First, in the 3rd episode, he uses capitalism (a type of economic system) interchangeably with democracy (a political system of government). While there is clearly a link between economics and politics, democracy and capitalism are not equivalent systems and should not be treated as such. This slip up leads to sloppy thinking and analysis. Additionally,he does a poor job of connecting the economic causes of WWI and WWII. This linkage alone needs and deserves further elaboration.

    Second, in the 4th episode, he passively mentions the IMF & World Bank, but fails to address GATT (later to become the World Trade Organization) and its revolutionary influence on global trade and finance. The Seattle revolt at the WTO meeting is significant as many local and international organizations have been critical of the power the WTO holds over democratically elected governments. The WTO is an essential component of any historical development of money, finance,trade, and economic globalization. The fact that he skips this is bewildering.
    Again, in the 4th episode, he quickly mentions the new global economic order established in 1944 after WWII, but completely skips over the demise of the Bretton-Woods global system of exchange which lead to the US government (under Nixon) to float the US dollar in the early 1970’s. Our current system of tightly interconnected economic AND cultural globalization have proceeded rapidly during the last 30-40 years, directly linked to the end of the Bretton-Woods system. He seriously compromises his credibility as both a historian and economist in this failure to address such a critical change in Twentieth Century economics. Yes, I do recognize that you can’t do everything you may wish to do in a 4 hour film series, however, this oversight is extremely negligent and highly problematic.

    Finally, his discussion in the 3rd episode on cotton plantations, the US Civil War, and slavery is so littered with holes. He talks about money and finance as having indirect influence on the outcome of the US Civil War, but fails to address or even mention how the accumulation of wealth, expanding finance, trade and profit were made possible by and predicated upon the sale and enslavement of human beings. In addition, the desire for wealth and profit motivated colonialism and imperial expansion across the globe, and directly lead to the atrocities that went along with subjugating half of the world’s population. Here I refer to the largest genocide known in human history–the genocide of Native Americans. Remember, most nations of the world (Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas) were colonial entities held by the empires of Europe. Interestingly, Ferguson does mention some of the racialized systems of mortgages practiced in the US during the 1950s & 1960s—all of a sudden, race becomes a factor worth mentioning in its link to wealth and finance, but quickly forgotten. This linkage is not new. Just as quickly as he mentions race, it completely drops from his discussion.

    I think Grace Kelley’s statements already mentioned in a previous comment (#1) are excellent and right on point. Her critiques reveal the flaws in Ferguson’s assessment of the current crisis of our globalized capitalist economic system and its institutions. At the end of the final 4th episode, I am left feeling like there is a 5th episode missing, where he intended to tighten up the loose ends in his argument. Remember, he aims to use economic history to explain the current crisis. If explaining the current economic situation is his objective, then the 4th episode is an abysmal failure.

    Yes, we all need to learn economics, but we also need to be clear about which economics, whose economics, and economics in whose interests. This becomes the central issue that remains unaddressed by Ferguson. In fact, he assumes that capitalist economic institutions operate in the best interests of all members of a society. Thus, what is good for capitalists and investors is good for the working poor. How this works effectively given that the motive for capitalists and corporations is profit seems a real contradiction. Thus, he operates under a false assumption. It is important to remind ourselves that the “economy” and the “market” are human creations (not found in natural evolution), and thus, the system is made to serve and benefit the interests of those individuals and groups who can assert the greatest influence on such systems. The irrational flaws in his assumption and his failure to draw upon any “moral” value (except the value of profit at any cost) in the relationship between human beings is most troubling. Leslie’s statement (comment #29) draws upon the true meaning of the economy which is how we choose to value our relationships with one another. Does value rest in material profit gained from the relationship, at the expense of the human life that is lost in the interaction? At its bases, any economic system is about the relationship between human beings that sets the rules of how we interact with each other on all social levels including the economy.

    I do agree with one of Ferguson’s early assumptions, which is that the history of human civilizations and the history of money are tightly interwoven, which he highlights in episodes 1 & 2. Major gaping holes and problematic assumptions taint episodes 3 & 4, which is a blow to our critical thinking and a great disappointment. I am genuinely saddened by the limitations of Ferguson’s argument.

  • 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.

  • Hugo Estrada

    This was one strange documentary. The two first episodes were so good and informative. I truly think that with that distance in time, Furgeson was able to provide interest insights and ideas. Or at least it seems like that, since I am not that familiar with the financial history of those periods.

    However, starting with the 3rd episode, the videos were transformed from a historical documentary into a neoliberal (free market) diatribe. Furgeson distorted history several times when dealing with Latin America, such as claiming that neoliberalism took Pinochet out of power. He also glossed over the series of economic problems that Chile lived through during the Pinochet regime. Also glossed was his failure to point out deregulation as a cause of the Savings and Loans scandal, even though in his narrative he clearly states that it was only when Reagan deregulated the industry that the scam was able to occur.

    He also slipped many rhetorical tricks in discrediting those whom he disagrees on economic policy. The most atrocious one was how he discredited the view of people who disagreed with his neoliberal ideas by first clumping the critics together with conspiracy theorists, and then pointing out how the conspiracy theory is ridiculous.

    Also interesting is how there was no segment dedicated to 1929. Funny how the Great Depression seems to have been glossed over so quickly.

    It is really sad that Ferguson decided to turn what was a good history of finance into an ideological apology for free market economics. He does show interesting insights, and he is witty and charismatic, but his bias and inaccuracies undermines him. Too bad.

  • Matt

    Of all these comments, only 2 people have mentioned that ‘The Ascent of Money’ was first a book written by Niall Ferguson. So, I will mention it again. For those who think this and that was left out, read the book. And then complain some more about details that were left out. If you want a detailed synopsis of the Great Depression, go read a book about detailed economics of the Great Depression. There is only so much you can cover in a book that people will actually read and buy. And there is less you can cover in a mini-series documentary that people will actually watch.

  • L. E.

    TV shows are make for TV. I would be glad to take from this what i can and forget the rest. Thank you to all the people for their comment and insight devoid of personal bias.

  • Luke Sacher

    If you want something about 1929, there’s an American Experience dedicated to that subject. Also- watch “Commanding Heights- The Struggle for the World Economy” by Daniel Yergin, who also wrote “The Prize”, about the petroleum industry.

  • Susie Richards

    Just wanted to say I loved this episode and overall your tv show! Great work and you teach people great lessons. I wish I could save more money for going out to the nightclubs though.

  • Dan Guy

    How are financial practices across the globe and how does personal insurance relate to them? Are people more frugal over seas?

  • Holland Hotels

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  • Freda Peredo

    I don’t think any of them are worth a damn. Holly is a bicycle, though: she has been with Justin, Jesse (the snow boarder), Jeremy (Deanna’s season), Matt Grant, Michael, and now Blake all of a span of a few years.

  • Craig Morn

    Is there a way we can view these episodes online, I can never make the time it plays on tv. I really would love to learn about business insurance solutions.

  • Brandon Crisler

    Seriously? He argues that Milton Friedman barely every knew Pinochet, and that regardless, Pinochet’s bloody, tyrannical stranglehold on the people of Chile and the decades of disaster for the poor were all worth it in the grand scheme in order to get the money circulating faster and to develop a financial sector to squeeze money out of the system by gambling with everyone’s retirement. What a great example of the right wing attitude: shoot the leftists, take the treasury and divvy it up among corporations, and tell everyone how “free” they are to be assaulted by endless marketing and nickel ‘n’ dimed to death on basic services. Free indeed.

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