economics | March 14, 2016

First Look: Charles Wheelan’s New Book, Naked Money

Why is money worth any more than the paper it’s printed on? How does credit—buying with money that doesn’t truly exist—symbolize both economic fortitude and instability? And what happens when central banks—the institutions entrusted with keeping currencies and financial systems afloat—fail to do their jobs? These questions form the backbone of economist Charles Wheelan’s latest book Naked Money, the third in his critically acclaimed Naked series—and it’s available April 4.

A senior lecturer and policy fellow at the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy at Dartmouth College, Wheelan’s work appears in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Wall Street Journal. His first book, Naked Economics, stripped the jargon from basic economic issues and exposed their core concepts to a lay audience. His follow-up effort, 2013’s Naked Statistics, illuminated the fascinating numbers game behind everyday concepts like standardized testing, Netflix algorithms, and the rising rate of autism.

Now, in Naked Money, Wheelan turns his economist’s microscope on the intriguing world of finance and its complexities, fallacies, and future. He employs his trademark wit and wisdom to examine inflation and deflation, the struggles of the euro and the brave new frontier of online currency. And he whisks us from the money-printing madness of the Civil War South to the chaotic stock market collapses of 1929 and 2008 to modern China, where intentional devaluation reigns and alleged unfair trade practices abound. By demystifying the world’s elaborate central banking systems—with a special focus on their inner workings and the far-reaching implications of their policy decisions—Naked Money stresses the paramount importance of learning from economic collapse and ensuring that it doesn’t happen again.

Until the book hits shelves next month, here’s a quick rundown from the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company:

“Consider the $20 bill.

It has no more value, as a simple slip of paper, than Monopoly money. Yet even children recognize that tearing one into small pieces is an act of inconceivable stupidity. What makes a $20 bill actually worth twenty dollars? In the third volume of his best-selling Naked series, Charles Wheelan uses this seemingly simple question to open the door to the surprisingly colorful world of money and banking.

The search for an answer triggers countless other questions along the way: Why does paper money (“fiat currency” if you want to be fancy) even exist? And why do some nations, like Zimbabwe in the 1990s, print so much of it that it becomes more valuable as toilet paper than as currency? How do central banks use the power of money creation to stop financial crises? Why does most of Europe share a common currency, and why has that arrangement caused so much trouble? And will payment apps, bitcoin, or other new technologies render all of this moot?

In Naked Money, Wheelan tackles all of the above and more, showing us how our banking and monetary systems should work in ideal situations and revealing the havoc and suffering caused in real situations by inflation, deflation, illiquidity, and other monetary effects. Throughout, Wheelan’s uniquely bright-eyed, whimsical style brings levity and clarity to a subject often devoid of both. With illuminating stories from Argentina, Zimbabwe, North Korea, America, China, and elsewhere around the globe, Wheelan demystifies the curious world behind the paper in our wallets and the digits in our bank accounts.”

To book economics speaker Charles Wheelan for a keynote on big data, economic priorities or public policy for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

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economics | March 13, 2016