A Free Nation Deep in Debt: The Financial Roots of Democracy

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9780374171438: A Free Nation Deep in Debt: The Financial Roots of Democracy
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Nowadays, the idea that the way a country borrows its money is connected to what kind of government it has comes as a surprise to most people. But in the eighteenth century it was commonly accepted that public debt and political liberty were intimately related. In A Free Nation Deep in Debt, James Macdonald explores the connection between public debt and democracy in the broadest possible terms. He starts with some fundamental questions: Why do governments borrow? How do we explain the existence of democratic institutions in the ancient world? Why did bond markets come into existence, and why did this occur in Europe and not elsewhere?

Macdonald finds the answers to these questions in a sweeping history that begins in biblical times, focuses on the key period of the eighteenth century, and continues down to the present. He ranges the world, from Mesopotamia to China to France to the United States, and finds evidence for the marriage of democracy and public credit from its earliest glimmerings to its swan song in the bond drives of World War II. Today the two are, it seems, divorced--but understanding their hundreds of years of cohabitation is crucial to appreciating the democracy that we now take for granted.
Nowadays, the idea that the way a country borrows its money is connected to what kind of government it has comes as a surprise to most people. But in the eighteenth century it was commonly accepted that public debt and political liberty were intimately related. In A Free Nation Deep in Debt, James Macdonald explores the connection between public debt and democracy in the broadest possible terms. He starts with some fundamental questions: Why do governments borrow? How do we explain the existence of democratic institutions in the ancient world? Why did bond markets come into existence, and why did this occur in Europe and not elsewhere?

Macdonald finds the answers to these questions in a sweeping history that begins in biblical times, focuses on the key period of the eighteenth century, and continues down to the present. He ranges the world, from Mesopotamia to China to France to the United States, and finds evidence for the marriage of democracy and public credit from its earliest glimmerings to its swan song in the bond drives of World War II. Today the two are, it seems, divorced--but understanding their hundreds of years of cohabitation is crucial to appreciating the democracy that we now take for granted.

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Review:

Remarkable. . . . ÝThis¨ book could scarcely be more comprehensive. . . . Since Macdonald was for many years a British investment banker, he has a hands-on feel for his subject. But he has not allowed his technical expertise to get in the way of his lucid prose: his argument is readily accessible to a lay reader. And that argument is convincing. -- Gordon S. Wood "New York Review of Books"
Macdonald has something exciting to teach all serious students of history-that the evolution of democratic institutions is not just about taxation and representation but also about investment. -- ll Ferguson, author of "The Cash Nexus
Macdonald has something exciting to teach all serious students of history-that the evolution of democratic institutions is not just about taxation and representation but also about investment. -- Niall Ferguson, author of "The Cash Nexus

Remarkable. . . . [This] book could scarcely be more comprehensive. . . . Since Macdonald was for many years a British investment banker, he has a hands-on feel for his subject. But he has not allowed his technical expertise to get in the way of his lucid prose: his argument is readily accessible to a lay reader. And that argument is convincing.--Gordon S. Wood "New York Review of Books "

A fine history of public finance from ancient Greece and Persia to the present.--Richard N. Cooper "Foreign Affairs "

Written clearly and accessibly. . . . A challenging yet fascinating work [that] could hardly be more timely.--Michelle Wucker "Washington Post "

This book begins with Moses, ends with World War II, and covers just about every important development in public finance in between. Yet, for all his range, MacDonald offers a simple, stunning thesis: Democracy arises from public debt.--James Galbraith "Democracy "
Remarkable. . . . [This] book could scarcely be more comprehensive. . . . Since Macdonald was for many years a British investment banker, he has a hands-on feel for his subject. But he has not allowed his technical expertise to get in the way of his lucid prose: his argument is readily accessible to a lay reader. And that argument is convincing.
--Gordon S. Wood "New York Review of Books "
A fine history of public finance from ancient Greece and Persia to the present.
--Richard N. Cooper "Foreign Affairs "
Written clearly and accessibly. . . . A challenging yet fascinating work [that] could hardly be more timely.
--Michelle Wucker "Washington Post "

About the Author:

James Macdonald was for many years an investment banker. This is his first book. He lives in Oxford, England.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780691126326: A Free Nation Deep in Debt: The Financial Roots Of Democracy

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ISBN 10: 0691126321 ISBN 13: 9780691126326
Publisher: Princeton University Press, 2006
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