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February 19th, 2009
Watch a preview of the four-hour documentary THE ASCENT OF MONEY

In the four-hour version of THE ASCENT OF MONEY, historian and author Niall Ferguson seeks to explain the financial history of the world, exploring how our complex system of global finance evolved over the centuries, how money has shaped the course of human affairs and how the mechanics of this economic system work to create seemingly unlimited wealth—or catastrophic loss.

Ferguson travels the globe to explain the very origins of the financial world we know today—credit, stocks, bonds, insurance and real estate. In Italy, we learn how the Medicis transformed the sin of usury into the common practice of charging interest while in Amsterdam, we examine the first publicly traded company. Ferguson introduces us to the 19th-century Scottish ministers who created life insurance and shows the limits of modern insurance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And in New York, financial wizard George Soros explains short-selling derivartives, a concept he introduced to the stock market.

Through this history, viewers learn economic fundamentals that inform the meanings of subprime mortgages and credit default swaps and an understanding how the Chinese economy has risen to dominate the world.

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  • Richard Fisher

    Is there a scheduling date and time for the 4-hour documentary The Ascent of Money?

  • Doug Ramsey

    From Toby Deal to a former banker-enjoy!

  • RIchard Ross

    I saw most of the 2 hour program, excellent! Fairly simply yet enough detail to understand the basic mess we are in [mainly from Bush and pals in my opinion!] Just consider where the US and world could have been if Gore had won in 2000 and been fairly successful in continuing Clinton’s policies?! The US would be paying down it’s debt, no Iraq War, and just as Clinton increased security for Jan. 2000, so Gore would have with the threats in August 2001, so maybe not even a 9-11 !

  • sam

    Richard your delusional to say the least, first, all the deregulation that people criticize happened under Clinton, from the repealing of the Glass/Segal act, to leveraging FannieMae and Freddie Mac in the trillions that began 1995 when Clinton extended their balance sheet in the trillions from a couple hundred million so they could lend to poor communities and minorities, to taking away the rule in 2000 that controlled commodity trading, which lead to the crazy commodity trading and bubble in the last 5 years like a barrel of gas going to $145 and the other huge bubbles in commodity prices and if I’m not mistaken Clinton was President when the bubble, and the Enron, World Comm, corporate and accounting scandals and investment firms and research firm scandals, all in the trillions, all happened while he was President, which lead to the Sarbanes-Qxley Act you know regulation that Bush signed into law, also since 2001 Bush tried to get tougher regulation on subprime leading of Fannie/Freddie but democrats in Congress stopped him in 2001, 2003 and 2006, there are even Utube video’s of it, Barney Frank’s is a real piece of work in the hearings. And what did Clinton do that protected the United States from Al Queada, all Clinton did was pretend that they didn’t exist, from the the killing of the American solders in Somalia in 93 which Al Queada planed , you know Black Hawk down , to the 95 first World trade Centre bombing, in 97 the two different American Embassy bombing that killed hundreds, to the 2000 Cole bombing that killed 16 sailors, and to say that Clinton protected in 2000, that was an alert border agent and she herself says she was given no warning to look for anything, it was dumb luck and her own instincts. Al Gore, give me a break, not only would 911 have happened but it would not have been the only attack on US soil if he had been President, what’s a bigger joke then Al Gore with the ‘ World is coming to an end because of Global Warming’ , is it still called Global Warming now that the earth has been cooling since 1998 and we just experienced for a second year one of the coldest winters in the last 50 years, but hey at least Al Gore is now worth 3 hundred million peddling his carbon trades and eco hedge funds and anything else he can make a buck peddling, just like Clinton giving speeches to any Middle Eastern dictator or sell his influence to any foreign power to make a dollar.

  • chris

    Your right Sam, everything that has happened in the last 8 years could not have been prevented, so lets destroy the whole world and move everyone as if they were our pawns.

  • tyler

    So wat sam is sayin is that it would’nt have really matter if Bush had one or not…we would still be is this crisis..

  • Vince

    It is obvious “sam” spent the last eight years on Uranus. Get back to earth bozine. The Democrats have been on the sidelines watching the Republicans whore themselves to the lowest bidder. The American Public are sick and tried of your stupid childish rantings and misinformation. We are headed to a depression because of morons like you who defended a criminal regime in the White House the last eight years.

  • MBA

    I am very much with Sam here. And Vince, what are you talking about? These last couple of years Bush had to fight the democrats in both chambers of the Congress! He could not do whatever he wanted!

    Many of the damaging initiatives where brought about in Clinton’s presidency. It is called market intervention and it will of course screw up the economy when the world’s most powerful man intervenes in the operations of the largest credit companies in the world!

  • Rob

    Actually Sam, deregulation started with the patron-saint of the Republicans, Ronald Reagan. You are correct about Clinton, but deregulation started long before him. One point you can’t dispute is that Clinton was much more fiscally responsible than W. In 2006, W had already increased expenditures by 33%. Clinton was the best fiscal conservative president in a long time, while W and the Republican Congress were defenders of big biz. BTW, the 33% growth does NOT include defense and homeland expenditures so don’t blame it on 9/11.

  • greg

    Ferguson makes a very misleading statement right at the beginning:
    “But what is this thing called money, anyway? The answer is simple: it’s the tangible expression of the relationship between lender and borrower; creditor and debtor – a relationship built on trust – and whether money takes the form of silver coins, seashells, bars of gold or banknotes, that’s been true from ancient times, right down to the present day. Even lumps of clay can work better than silver coins, if people have enough confidence in them”.

    This is astounding to hear someone of such stature make such a foolish statement, which puts his credibility in serious doubt.
    1. commodity currencies are not equivalent to debt based currencies, such as banknotes. Ferguson is wrong to say that a transaction with a commodity such as silver or gold involves a relationship between ‘lender and borrower’ – unlike fiat money, commodities have value unrelated to debt – there is no lender or borrower in a commodity trade; there is simply a trade of value, not a transfer of debt.

    2. to imply that money is all about ‘confidence’ ignores the fact that silver is objectively more valuable than clay as a monetary instrument due to its scarcity, and other attributes.

    I am sorry to see that this man appears to be just another cog in the misinformation stream, which benefits only the elite of criminals in high places, politicians and bankers.

  • Dee

    Robust discussion and valuable comment and all due to a program that demystifies the financial system for a public that is hijacked every day by opinion makers who exploit their ignorance of these topics. Thank you for watching and thanks to the makers of this program. Maybe if people realize there need to be vigilant and involved in politics then they will do something to improve the system which allows a few greedy folks to destroy the wealth built by all of us for our future. It should be a crime to cheat ten people out of a dollar to make one for yourself. What good is it to amass a fortune if you destroy the community and the way of life you wish to enjoy when you get old. In the end there is no where to run and no where to spend that money. This is not a mystery, the lesson is there for every parent to see, give your children too much and they do not prosper, give them too little and they perish, the evil is in the extreme. As the gap between rich and poor gets bigger and more extreme the obscenity eats away at our society like rust would a great bridge, if we wait until it begins to collapse before we do something about it it will be too late, so get out your paint and start preventing with everything you got. Civilization is worth saving, it is all we have.

  • Tom

    Honestly people, you all need to see reality! In some ways you’re each right and so you claim the authority to “preach” all of that none sense that follows. Fact is “money” is neither more nor less than an IOU for labor. Yes I know you say; “no that is not true” but think about it, the question is not whether a dollar is ultimately exchanged for labor, the question is only “how much labor” can a dollar, or a gold bar, or a piece of toilet paper be exchanged for. You may give more; I may give less, as such we each as individuals assign our own value to it!

  • Tom Dooley

    From bacteria to elephants the same laws of nature apply.
    Phase 1 – Breed like flies.
    Phase 2 – The food runs out – drop like flies.
    Phase 3 – Swarm out to meet your destiny – like flies.

  • bert parke

    The market place has a life of it’s own. No longer is it lead by the real worth of a product. It’s all about speculation as to how the dice will roll. Futures ,derivatives, hedges,options are the gaming table and the players the well heeled financial institutions. You and I are mere onlookers caught up by the excitement of the game.
    Greed has no bounds in a market place where there are few regulations. Do not expect a quick fix to this global disease.

  • Kristie

    I agree with Dee way to say it! The series is interesting and informative.

  • Frank

    Is there a rebroadcast date scheduled on PBS?

  • Harry Beerly

    I must put pen to paper as they say. i think steve is the only sensible person on here his comments are always very knowledgeable and informative.i think he is professor of good hack bad hack university ! as always i look forward to his wise and clever comments keep up the good work steve…..

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