A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the by Stephen Mihm PDF

By Stephen Mihm

Take heed to a quick interview with Stephen Mihm Host: Chris Gondek | manufacturer: Heron & Crane Few folks query the slips of eco-friendly paper that come and pass in our handbags, wallet, and wallets. but self assurance within the cash provide is a up to date phenomenon: sooner than the Civil warfare, the USA didn't have a unmarried, nationwide foreign money. in its place, numerous banks issued paper cash in a bewildering number of denominations and designs--more than 10000 other kinds via 1860. Counterfeiters flourished amid this anarchy, placing mammoth amounts of bogus money owed into move. Their good fortune, Stephen Mihm unearths, is greater than an exciting story of felony company: it's the tale of the increase of a rustic outlined through a freewheeling model of capitalism over which the government exercised little keep an eye on. It used to be an period while accountability for the country's forex remained within the fingers of capitalists for whom "making cash" was once as a lot a literal as a figurative venture. Mihm's witty story brims with colourful characters: shady bankers, corrupt police officers, charismatic criminals, and incredible engravers. in response to prodigious study, it levels all over the place, from manhattan City's felony underworld to the gold fields of California and the battlefields of the Civil warfare. We find out how the government issued bucks for the 1st time and started dismantling the older financial process and the counterfeit economic system it sustained. A state of Counterfeiters is a trailblazing paintings of background, one who casts the country's capitalist roots in a startling new gentle. Readers will realize an identical get-rich-quick spirit that lives on within the speculative bubbles and self assurance video games of the twenty-first century. (20070921)

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Extra info for A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States

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36 It was thanks to such exploits that Burroughs went from a mildly notorious figure to a larger-than-life outlaw, a threat to the nation’s 46 b o r d e r i n g o n a l c h e m y fledgling economy as well as an embodiment of the growing impulse to make money at any cost. Such fears and anxieties were exaggerated, but they testified to Burroughs’s growing status in the popular imagination. Forged notes, wherever they appeared, were attributed to him, and he soon became in many minds the fountainhead of the counterfeit economy.

Over the course of that conflict, a reinvigorated federal government banned the issue of notes by state-chartered banks and other corporations, and replaced them with a common national currency founded on p r o l o g u e 19 an almost mystical faith in the credit of the country. Confidence in the currency no longer rested on the diffuse and almost infinite number of variables that governed the values of privately issued bank notes. Rather, it depended on faith in a new abstraction—the nation—that transcended both the market economy and the individuals and corporations constituting it.

The banks they established did more than simply receive money and store it; they created it, too. “For each dollar paid in by the stockholders,” one historian of banking has written, “the banks lent two, three, four, or five. ” Many of these loans took the form of bank notes. That these banks had far more notes in circulation than specie in their vaults was a lesson many would learn the hard way in the succeeding decades. But for now, few people bothered to inquire too deeply into the arcana of fractional-reserve banking, capital requirements, and specie ratios.

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