CRF Blog

Finance Is the Master Technology

by Bill Hayes

In Finance Is the Master Technology for the New York Times Book Review, Felix Martin reviews Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible by William N. Goetzmann.

His goal is to explore the consequences of the invention and growth of finance for whole societies. As his title suggests, his conclusion is that they are firmly positive. Financially advanced societies, he argues, are very different from financially primitive ones — and not just in that they have more money.

The idea that dominates this magnificent history of money and finance, and brings order to the erudite survey of modern research that Goetzmann has marshaled, is that finance is a “technology of civilization” — a way of thinking about and doing things that has been the central facilitator of the material, artistic and cultural accomplishments that we call civilized life. Indeed finance, Goetzmann argues, is a sort of master technology, from which an astonishing range of our most basic habits of mind derives. [more]