Join getAbstract to access the summary!


Join getAbstract to access the summary!


The Once and Future Money


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

With gold’s market price near an all-time high, economic woes could be ahead. Use this book to guide you safely through.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable


Author Nathan Lewis drops the dismal science of economics to another level of despair by interpreting it as the “cruel science” of realpolitik. True believers in the gold standard, known as “gold bugs,” believe the U.S. could face hyperinflation because it destroyed the gold standard and made every nation vulnerable to contagious inflation. As Lewis explains, ever since President Richard Nixon left the gold standard in 1971, the dollar has been backed by the U.S. government’s “full faith and credit,” not its gold reserves. However, he also introduces theorists who do not advocate the gold standard, since nations can realize its advantages only by pegging their currencies to short-term interest rates. As shown in this thorough, readable history, national treasuries must reassure the timid that global gold and currency markets are so huge and fast that “gold vulture” speculators cannot attack major currencies, and thus force a return to the gold standard (even though the author might wish that they could). getAbstract recommends this to gold buffs, economic historians and anyone who might enjoy the debates it could provoke.


A Brief History of Money and the Gold Standard

Societies develop money when some special commodity becomes the basis for trading. People save that commodity (such as gold) to use as currency for future transactions. As societies evolve, they accept some sort of monetary “standard” – often associated with silver or gold – as a medium of exchange. In fact, gold has been used for coinage for 2,700 years and as decoration for 7,000 years. The advent of a medium of exchange gave rise to financial institutions. In a complex society, money is made very abstract on a large scale in the form of checks, deeds, certificates and, increasingly, in electronic form. But even though money is more abstract in modern society, JP Morgan once said, “Money is gold.” Today, “Money is information.” People want data to be “reliable and steady,” two virtues of the gold standard.

From about 1700 to nearly 2000, most countries enjoyed “stable money,” often backed by gold or silver. Stability was critical for society’s advances. Hard money held sway through wars in those three centuries, but with imperfections – particularly Britain’s vacillation after WWI. Even before the end of WWII, the U...

About the Author

Nathan Lewis was an international economist for an investment research firm and now works for an asset management firm. He advises on gold investing. His work has appeared in the Financial Times, Asian Wall Street Journal, Japan Times, Pravda and other publications.

Comment on this summary

More on this topic

Learners who read this summary also read