Michael Lewis’s new book Flash Boys is quite rightly generating a lot of attention because it argues that High Frequency Trading is a scam.
I think that Lewis’s story holds an even more important lesson, however, concerning one of the seminal problems of our age: the unintended consequences of technological innovation.
You can find an archive of my Real Money columns here.
Sovereign governments everywhere are petrified. An ingenious new invention that allows people to make payments across borders without leaving a trace in the official monetary system is spreading like wildfire. Its workings are so clever that few understand them. It’s backed by some of the leading entrepreneurs of the day. The embattled establishment is warning that the state’s right to regulate finance is being undermined.
Indeed. But as it happens, this was also precisely the playbook for the birth of modern banking in sixteenth century Europe.
My new book Money: The Unauthorized Biography will be published in the US (by Alfred A. Knopf) and Canada (by Doubleday) on March 4, 2014 (it was published in the UK by The Bodley Head in June, 2013).
The book argues that the conventional understanding of money is wrong; explains that this is a big problem because it presents a major obstacle to formulating the policies that can extricate us from the global debt crisis; and offers an explanation of what money really is – with radical implications for economics, finance, and the future of capitalism.
If you’d like to know a bit more, you can watch me giving a talk based on the book here. If you prefer something shorter, you can watch an interview about the book that I did with Andrew Hill of the Financial Times here.
For further background, there is the June 1, 2013 episode of BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Review, on which Money: The Unauthorized Biography was featured. The programme is available here, and the part on Money begins at about 27:50. You can also listen to interviews with me on Sean Moncrieff’s Moncrieff programme on Ireland’s Newstalk radio here (starting at about 6:24), or Monocle radio’s Midori House here (starting at about 22:00).