History of Money

Commentary by Pete du Pont

Host intro: commentator Pete du Pont has been reading a book about one of his favorite topics -- and probably yours too. It's called The History of Money, by Jack Weatherford.

Weatherford is an anthropologist who gives a fascinating picture of where money came from, and how people have adjusted to changes in money over the years.

You'd be surprised what's passed for money: the Aztecs used cocoa beans. Yap islanders used stones weighing tons.

Coins didn't come along until the 640s B.C. but in the middle ages, if you wanted to transfer money from, say, Rome to Paris, it meant lugging gold over dangerous roads. That's why banks were born, issuing paper that stood for metal.

If you're having trouble adjusting to a cashless society you're just repeating history. It was a tremendous leap of faith for people 500 years ago to believe that paper money was as "real" as coins.

The book is full of entertaining anecdotes. In the 1890s, those who wanted a dollar backed by gold fought those who wanted it backed by gold and silver. A writer decided to recast the debate as an allegorical fantasy. The result was The Wizard of Oz. You'll know which side the writer was on when I tell you that in the original, Dorothy's ruby slippers were silver.

You'll enjoy the history of money by jack Weatherford.

Those are my ideas. And at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you tomorrow.