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September 5, 2000

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - The Power of Gold

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 3:11 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession by Peter L. Bernstein, John Wiley & Sons, 380 Pages, $27.95 Hardcover, September 2000, ISBN 0471252107
Peter Bernstein, the author of the non-fiction, best-selling Against the Gods, has written a book about gold. Bernstein, a superb writer, tells a fascinating story. I think what I liked most about the book was it's unique concept. When I attended school, history was taught by looking at wars and kings and nations; contrarily, Bernstein shows history in a linear form following gold and economics. What makes the book additionally well-done is that Bernstein does not forget the people who affected, or were affected by, these powerful elements of history. The book is loaded with stories of kings devaluing their currency to pay for wars, and nations that could afford large armies because the explorers in the New World were sending huge amounts of gold and silver to finance the armies. You will see the effect of Spain having more gold than France, and how the prices would subsequently become cheaper in Spain. The book is loaded with fun factoids like:
In the 10 years since the Gold Rush of 1849, "with California, Australia, and Siberia all going strong, total world output of gold alone was 275 tons per year, which was more than ten times the average annual output during the eighteenth century. At that rate, the amount of gold produced in ten years matched the production from all sources over the entire 356 years from Columbus to 1848. And that was before the Klondike, Colorado, and South Africa opened up at the turn of the century. World gold production by 1908 was over one hundred times what had been in 1848 and 4.5 times the levels of twenty years earlier" (220).
Another fun story from this extremely readable book is about the discovery of gold in Australia in 1851. "It is interesting to note that ice from Thoreau's Walden Pond in Massachusetts, loaded in sawdust, was shipped fifteen thousand miles to Melbourne, unloaded onto carts, and dragged by horses several hundred miles to the goldfields so the miners who had won out could enjoy cold drinks!" (226). This is a book that explains economic issues with great stories like these. I believe that John Wiley and Sons, who published his first book, have another bestseller on their hands. The Industry Standard listed the book as a notable book for the fall seasonif you don't trust me. Read it and learn.