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This Week’s Guest: Niall Ferguson

Do you take money for granted? Most would say “no.” But have you ever thought a moment past the immediate gratification it supplies? Consider the delicate construction of the entire global financial infrastructure. When did it all begin? Who were the first people to invent the idea of money as we know it? Well, after watching a documentary which recently aired on Channel 8 (WNPT) titled “The Ascent of Money,” my perception of our monetary system changed.

Hosted by Harvard professor and best-selling author Niall Ferguson, this film takes you on a historical journey of how the monetary culture has evolved, beginning with the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia, where clay tablets were once used to record the transactions of the time to the historical practice of lending and borrowing in our modern-day markets. Chronicled in this exceptional documentary are various topics such as real estate, securitization, hedge funds, the bond market and lastly the symbiotic relationship between America and China.

Shot on various locations around the world, one of which was Memphis, Tenn., “The Ascent of Money” seeks to demonstrate the global diversification from where the rich and powerful play to where the downtrodden struggle to survive. This film sheds some much needed light on the way credit and debt is bought and sold, shuffled and repackaged, creating a sticky web, eventually entangling us all. We all have a vested interest in Wall Street and the bond market whether or not you realize it.

Our lives revolve around knowledge and history or vice versa. Up until now, history has been a collection of episodic occurrences that some would argue recurrently repeat themselves, while others would counter that history doesn’t repeat itself “but at best merely rhymes.” This film urges us to consult the past as a road map for the future.

I sent Professor Ferguson’s production company, Chimerica, an e-mail thanking them for their hard work in putting this documentary together. The response I received had a foreboding quality to it. It said this: “It makes all our work feel worthwhile to get these sorts of messages. Fingers crossed for the world these next two years.”

Take the time to check this out. Maybe it will imbue your curiosity as it did mine. Professor Ferguson, thank you again for your illuminating documentary. Should you find yourself on location in Memphis again, a side trip to Murfreesboro would be a nice break for you?good food, good company and a lot of eager minds. You always have an invitation here. Keep fighting the good fight.

For more information about “The Ascent of Money” or to watch it online, visit pbs.org/wnet/ascentofmoney.

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