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Radio   |   50 Things That Made the Modern Economy presented by Tim Harford

BBC World Service Radio |  27 May 2017


Forget (if you can) 50 Shades of Grey: Tim Harford has a new book and BBC World Service radio series out exploring 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy.

One of these 50 things is the humble tally stick – a little-known curiosity of medieval monetary history which turns out to have much to teach us about both the nature of modern finance and how we think of it.

The episode – which like all of Tim Harford’s writings and broadcasts is concise, witty, and comes strongly recommended by me – is available online here.

My own book Money: The Unauthorised Biography is kindly mentioned as a source – and you can watch me giving a talk about the topic here if you are interested in following the story a little further.







Lecture  |   What is Sovereign Wealth?

University of Oxford  |  29 January 2016


In early 2016, Oxford University’s Department of Politics and International Relations, in co-operation with the New Economics Foundation and Positive Money, organised a series of seminars to discuss the need for innovation in the management of sovereign wealth, entitled Rethinking Public Assets.

I was a participant in the first of these seminars, which also featured presentations from Stefan Fölster, Director of the Stockholm Reform Institute and author of The Public Wealth of Nations, and Angela Cummine of New College, Oxford, whose marvellous book Citizens’ Wealth:  Why (and How) Sovereign Funds Should be Managed by the People, for the People was published in August, 2016.

I discussed what really constitutes sovereign wealth in the modern age, and whether the UK government should revisit the idea of a National Investment Bank as a means of capitalising on its assets, drawing heavily on the ideas of John Maynard Keynes on both counts.

You can listen to a podcast of the seminar here (my own contribution starts at 47:00).







Radio   |   The Lowdown on Money presented by Richard Aedy

ABC Radio National  |  10 March 2016


When Richard Aedy, the presenter of ABC Radio National’s flagship business and economics programme The Money, asked their listeners what question they would most like to hear answered, he got a simple response:

What is money?

I was one of the people Richard interviewed in The lowdown on money in search of the answer – alongside the estimable Steve Keen of Kingston University and Mardi Dungey of the University of Tasmania.

It’s an excellently made programme, providing a very clear introduction to how the modern money and banking system works in under half an hour.

P.S. In the programme, I explain that money is best thought of as a ‘social technology’.  This very useful term – which the presenters pick up on quite a bit – is not mine: it was coined by the Cambridge sociologist Geoffrey Ingham in his masterful book The Nature of Money – required reading for anyone interested in money, its history, and how it works.







Radio   |   The Illusion of Money presented by Anik See

CBC Radio  | 24 February 2016


We think we know what money is. We use it every day and our lives are unimaginable without it.  But look more closely and you find that coins and dollar bills aren’t “real”. They’re promises, symbols, ideas.  And exactly what money is has evolved enormously over the ages.

On Wednesday, February 24, 2016, CBC Radio broadcast the first part of The Illusion of Money, a new radio documentary exploring how we’re rethinking one of the most basic features of human society from the Canadian writer and documentary-maker Anik See.

I am one of the people Anik interviews for the programme.  The others include artist Serge Onnen, anthropologist Joris Luyendijk, and the amazing Isabel Rupschus, experimenter in the art of with living without money.







Radio   |   The Why Factor presented by Mike Williams

BBC World Service Radio  | 5 July 2015


In his BBC World Service programme The Why Factor, Mike Williams searches for the extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions in always fascinating, twenty minute episodes.

In the July 5, 2015 episode, I am one of those with whom Mike explores the past, present, and future of one of the most basic, but underrated, cogs of our modern economic systems, as he asks Why Do We Need Cash?







Lecture  |  Are Markets Moral?

London School of Economics |  14 January 2015


On January 14, 2015, Robert Skidelsky and I appeared at the London School of Economics in conversation on the topics covered by Are Markets Moral?, a new book edited by Robert and his son Edward Skidelsky.  A podcast of the event is available here.

My contribution to Are Markets Moral? is an essay called “The Meaning of Money”.







Radio   |   Theme and Variations: What We Value

BBC Radio 3  | 5 October 2013


To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Between the Ears, the award-winning Radio 3 showcase for adventurous feature-making, has commissioned Shadowplay – a ‘symphony of voices’ in four movements, each by a different group of feature-makers.

The first movement – Theme and Variations: What We Value by Alan Hall and Hana Walker-Brown – was broadcast on Saturday, October 5, 2013.

I was one of several people interviewed for the programme; others included the economist and author Ha-Joon Chang, the life-model Sue Tilly, and the poet Jazzman John Clarke.  Out of these interviews, Alan and Hana have spun a marvellously evocative meditation on the nature of value.

I will be listening out for other features from their production company, Falling Tree.







Radio   |   The Forum: Does Finance Have to be Invisible?

BBC World Service Radio  | 19 May 2013


On May 19, 2013, I was a guest on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, for an edition entitled Does Finance Have to Be Invisible?

It is an ancient question – one that has troubled people ever since money was invented.  How is it that finance, which has no physical existence itself, exerts such power over the production and exchange of real things?  How can it be that dealing in pieces of paper enriches people more than doing real work?  Is the invisibility of finance really just a means of concealing systematic deception?

Bridget Kendall leads a discussion of these and other questions with Professor Anat Admati of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, the artist and film-maker Zachary Formwalt, and me.

Anat Admati’s new book, co-authored with Martin Hellwig, The Emperor’s New Clothes, has just been published in the UK.  It is a major book for anyone interested in the ongoing global debate over banking reform.

Zachary Formwalt’s films In Place of Capital and The Royal Exchange (after Henry Talbot) are fascinating meditations on the nature and aesthetics of finance.  If you are lucky enough to get a chance to see them, do so.