Book Review: The Death Of Money

by: David Merkel, CFA

This is a hard book to review. I have respect for the author, and most of his opinions. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. There is evidence here, but not extraordinary proof. I agree that we are in a bad spot, and that there is reason to be cautious. To claim that the current international monetary system will disappear by 2020 or so requires more than the book delivers.

Let me begin by saying the book is worth buying. It will make you think. Thinking is a valuable exercise in which few engage. Most of us imitate, which is far easier to do than thinking, and usually saves time on common issues.

The author focuses on the weaknesses of U.S. economic policy, but is less critical of bad economic policies being pursued around the world, with the poster children being Japan, China, and the EU. The U.S. has its problems, but also its unique strengths. Though I am a critic of U.S. economic policy, we are better off than most other large nations.

One criticism of the book is that it is not focused. Make your case, and don't go down many "rabbit trails." That said, the rabbit trails are interesting, and you will learn a lot from them, though they don't support the central thesis of the book. I think the book needed a better editor, because a tighter book would have made the case better.

Here's the main difficulty: Okay, so the U.S. Dollar is not a great store of value. Imagine another nation who wants a better store of value, who lets their currency rise, and their politically powerful exporters scream. Who will likely win? The exporters. At least, that has been the way it has worked for the last 30 years.

In order for a gold-backed currency to be introduced, there will be sacrifices, and under most conditions, it will produce some deflation. It is not at all certain that the nation((s)) that might do this will take the short-term punishment. Our world is geared toward short-termism, and it harms us all.


The book is far too kind to the IMF, an incompetent institution, and far too kind to China, which faces a collapse in its financial system far more quickly than the U.S. will see.

The book is also too kind to the EU, which continues the experiment of monetary union without political union, which has never worked before on a large scale.

Who would benefit from this book: Anyone could benefit from this great book.

Full disclosure: I asked the PR people for a copy of the book, and they sent it.