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

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Princeton University Press, 2006 - Business & Economics - 564 pages
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For the greater part of recorded history the most successful and powerful states were autocracies; yet now the world is increasingly dominated by democracies. In A Free Nation Deep in Debt, James Macdonald provides a novel answer for how and why this political transformation occurred. The pressures of war finance led ancient states to store up treasure; and treasure accumulation invariably favored autocratic states. But when the art of public borrowing was developed by the city-states of medieval Italy as a democratic alternative to the treasure chest, the balance of power tipped. From that point on, the pressures of war favored states with the greatest public creditworthiness; and the most creditworthy states were invariably those in which the people who provided the money also controlled the government. Democracy had found a secret weapon and the era of the citizen creditor was born. Macdonald unfolds this tale in a sweeping history that starts in biblical times, passes via medieval Italy to the wars and revolutions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and ends with the great bond drives that financed the two world wars.

 

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A FREE NATION DEEP IN DEBT: The Financial Roots of Democracy

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Democracies are habitually broke, and for good reasons revealed in this provocative study by a former investment banker."Liberty and credit," wrote a 19th-century French finance minister, "are always ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - GEPPSTER53 - LibraryThing

Did you know that "Public credit began in ancient Greece, following the Peloponnesian War, about 404 BC, with loans from Sparta to those who would lose Athens to the democrat." Did you know France’s ... Read full review

Contents

TRIBES AND EMPIRES
10
Barbarians at the Gate
18
The Free Men Fight Back
24
Greeks and Their Gifts
31
Civic Debt
36
Kings and Tyrants
42
The Carthaginian Wars
45
Imperium Romanum
51
Mopping Up
221
The Ruling Class
227
The Dilemma
239
The Limits of Absolution
255
Aristocratic Revolution
266
REVOLUTION
272
A New World
277
The First and Second American Revolutions
289

Breakdown
56
CITIZEN CREDITORS
67
La Serenissima
72
La Superba
77
The Monte Comune
81
The Twilight of Repayable Taxes
84
San Giorgo
94
Selfish Citizens
100
SOVEREIGN DEBT
105
The Treasure of the Indies
115
Antwerp and Lyons
122
Serial Bankruptcy
128
Fole des Offices
138
RESISTANCE TO THE HEGEMON
148
Regicide
157
Glorious Revolution
166
THE CHIMERA
179
Postbellum Depression
185
The Chimera
190
The Bubble
205
THE DILEMMA
220
Enemies of the People
307
The Elephant and the Whale
334
BOURGEOIS CENTURY
347
Pax Britannica
348
The Heyday of Bourgeois Finance
355
Ties of Identity
366
A Nation of Rentiers
377
Greenbacks and 520s
384
NATIONS AT ARMS
400
The Settlement of Accounts Part I
413
Total War Part II
435
Totalitarian War
445
The Settlement of Accounts Part II
456
THE END OF THE AFFAIR
465
A Note on Currencies
477
Glossary
483
Notes
487
Bibliography
523
Acknowledgments
545
Index
547
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