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BOOK REVIEW : 'FOUNDING FINANCE' by William Hogeland (reviewed by Stephen Bollom) (redirected from BOOK REVIEW : 'FOUNDING FINACE' by William Hogeland (reviewed by Stephen Bollom))

Page history last edited by Stephen Bollom 8 years, 10 months ago

Founding Finance - How Debt, Speculation, Foreclosures, Protests and Crackdowns Made Us a Nation by William Hogeland (University of Texas Press) 2012


This very readable history looks at events and influences in Founding Era America (late 18th century) and how they are perceived in the US today with respect to the current and -some would say, deepening financial and democratic crises in that country.


Hogeland writes with an engaging style and stays true to his stance on historical accounts, one that seeks to describe the deep tensions in situations of the past, rather than give a rigid, definitive, singular interpretation of what happened. The main thrust of the book is about widely held conceptions (or perhaps 'misconceptions' would be more accurate) of the American Revolution, the formative Continental Congress and the later Constitutional Convention where the famous US Constitution and Bill of Rights were discussed and set down. It looks also at the less well remembered, but very influential movements for radical democracy; the Shays rebellion, the whiskey rebels, the North Carolina Regulators and others who were seeking not just independence but a truly egalitarian society.


Founding Finance's main point is that modern day Americans from across the political spectrum from the Tea Party to Occupy have appropriated the history of the Founding era for their own purposes, all of them missing essential components that have been largely written out of the many histories written about that period. The debate around paper money, money creation powers and precious metal;, the war debt from fighting the English for many years; the huge bubble of land speculation as new territories opened up in the West; the creation of a National Debt, the introduction of taxes to fund it and how those taxes were applied; discussion about democratic enfranchisement and how this was related to land ownership; the manipulation of 'the mob' for purposes of political maneuvering - all of these crucial aspects of the emerging country not only bear heavily on the view of the 'Founding', but have obvious echoes for the situation today. In short, issues around the ways to finance government, debt based money systems, private debt and the access to means of creating wealth, were all as pressing at the birth of the USA as they are today, but they are almost universally overlooked.


If you are interested in the current state of the USA as the world's only superpower and home of the global currency or wondered 'what happened to the American experiment'? or believe that to understand the present we need to understand the past, then I recommend this book. It is also a fascinating case study in how history gets 'forgotten', distorted, edited and re-interpreted, as so often happens in matters related to money.


It does presume some background knowledge of the era in question, and perhaps of American Political Culture also, but it is very readable as well as factually reliable (as you would expect from an academic publisher), and is full of fascinating characters caught up in a huge event in history- one that is widely misunderstood, and one that has strange echoes in our time.

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