I’m excited to announce that my new book, Broken Money, is now available.
For now it can be purchased in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats on Amazon here, and there is an audiobook version on the way. Eventually it will expand to other distribution partners as well.
The topic is about the past, present, and future of money, and why the current financial system is letting a lot of people down lately.
My goal for the book is for the reader to walk away with a deep understanding of money and monetary history, both in terms of theoretical foundations and practical implications.
(August 25th update: The book’s opening two days were immense; it reached and remains at #1 in all three of its main categories on Amazon, and reached as high as #33 on Amazon’s top 100 books of all categories. I want to give a heartfelt thank you to all of my readers who made this possible.)
From the back cover:
There are over 160 different currencies in the world, each with a local monopoly over its own jurisdiction. But aside from the top handful of them, most currencies rapidly devalue over time and have little acceptance outside of their own borders. With various cross-border frictions, bottlenecks, and currency conversions, the global financial system is practically a barter system in this regard. Being born in the “wrong” country makes saving money harder than it needs to be.
While the steady increase in energy production and the proliferation of electronics have improved human well-being over time, the global financial system hasn’t kept up and continues to be a drag on economic productivity. This is especially true in developing countries but is also becoming apparent in the developed world, as debts and deficits grow without constraint, and countries around the world deal with waves of inflation and bank failures.
How did we get here? Why isn’t our money better than this in the 21st century?
Politics can affect things temporarily and locally, but technology is what drives things forward permanently and globally. From shells to gold, from papyrus bills of exchange to central banks, and from the invention of the telegraph to the creation of Bitcoin, this is just as true for money as it is for anything else.
In Broken Money, Lyn Alden explores the evolution of money through the lens of technology, and dives into the deep questions to see where money came from, where money is going, and what money is at its foundation.
This has been my biggest project over the past year, and I have been lucky to have learned so much from working on it. If you’ve enjoyed my content over the years and want to see how things fit into the big picture, this book is for you. I start with the very foundation of money and where it came from, and work up from there in an accessible and modular way.
I was also extremely fortunate to have Joakim Book provide editing and research assistance for the project. Joakim is an editor and monetary historian with degrees in economics and financial history from the University of Glasgow and the University of Oxford, and he reached out about working on the project when the book was nearly finished after hearing about it from one of my interviews. I wrote Broken Money from a blended engineering and financial background, so it was great to have someone of Joakim’s caliber fact-check my historical observations and economic inferences, as well as bring additional source material to my attention.
The book will walk you through the past, present, and potential future of money, so that whatever comes, you’ll be knowledgeable and prepared. As always, my goal is not to just give you the answers, but to share useful frameworks so that you can use them to determine the answers for yourself.
-The early parts of the book focus on the past and the present of money and monetary systems, including the development of banking, and often contrasts different ways of thinking about money to explore multiple points of view before providing an answer for how those points of view can be reconciled.
-The later parts of the book focus on the possible future directions that are becoming increasingly relevant as money becomes more digital over time, including open-source money like Bitcoin, privately-issued digital money like stablecoins, and government-issued money like central bank digital currencies.
And as I launch the book, it’s perhaps fitting that I’m in Egypt throughout August and September on my annual trip to visit friends and family (basically my second home). Egypt had a deliberate currency devaluation in 2016 at the behest of the International Monetary Fund: the Egyptian pound was cut in half relative to the dollar practically overnight. And then during 2022 it was cut in half at the behest of the IMF again.
Whenever this happens, in addition to devaluing peoples’ savings, it devalues their ongoing wages. Since their wage contracts are denominated in Egyptian pounds, the burden of effort is on those wage-earners to try to negotiate higher wages to recoup some of their lost wage purchasing power. Imagine having the international purchasing power of your savings slashed in half, along with a salary demotion at the same time, and then having it all happen again eight years later after you’ve gradually tried to rebuild from that blow. This happens to billions of people in countries all over the world on a regular basis.
So, many people in Egypt buy U.S. dollars on the black market, and just hold them in their apartment, without earning interest and while risking loss from theft or fires, as a form of intermediate-term savings. Imagine having the last two or three years of your savings stuffed under your mattress. They’ve looked around and determined that black market foreign pieces of paper are their best bet for saving some value, here in the 21st century.
That’s an example of why I titled the book Broken Money. For the minority of the world’s population living in developed countries, the current monetary system tends to be broken in somewhat subtle ways, and comes out in the form of rising populism and a hollowing-out middle class over time. For the majority of the world’s population living in developing countries, it’s often broken in more obvious ways.
For that reason, Broken Money examines the global financial system, while relating that back to the human level in terms of how its current structure affects us all, both in developed and developing countries. My goal is to provide an accessible and yet comprehensive overview of money, which is a subject that impacts all of us deeply, and yet is opaque and abstract and therefore remains poorly understood.
Hardcover and paperback versions of the book are available on Amazon US here. This initial English language version is also available to start with in the UK, Germany, France, Portugal, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Japan, Canada, and Australia. Many of those Amazon country platforms ship internationally within a certain region, so if you’re not in one of those countries, there’s a good chance you can get it shipped from one of them.
If you could only read one book to learn about money, it’s this one. Alden spans geopolitics, world history, human rights, systems analysis, and computer engineering to add fresh insight to, and link together, the work of the world’s most influential economic thinkers. Broken Money is a sweeping and lucid account of the evolution of the modern financial system that reminds us that money is fundamentally a human subject, with costs and benefits that affect billions of people every day. She presents a unified theory of money that acknowledges the merits of both credit and commodity camps and marries them with technological and humanitarian perspectives to show how we got here and predict where we are going. She speaks plainly and removes the veil of jargon from finance so we can see what hides behind: a continual devaluation of individual financial liberty and a corresponding increase in government authority. Broken Money shows that the story of currency and finance is actually a story about freedom versus control, and Alden ends the book with a blueprint of how, against all odds, freedom might win.
-Alex Gladstein, chief strategy officer of the Human Rights Foundation
WARNING- Your worldview might change. A brilliant journey through the past, present, and future of economic and social well being, through the understanding of a ledger. An instant classic!
-Jeff Booth, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and author of The Price of Tomorrow
Slowly making my way through. Excellent.
-Jack Dorsey, co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, founder and CEO of Block, Inc.
I’d give it 6 stars if I could. If you really want to understand a complex system, you have to start with the first principles. The problem for a lot of people is they think they’ve made it to the first principles, when in fact they are only a few layers deep. This book starts at the most basic building blocks and expands into a comprehensive history of how and why money has evolved throughout time. This comprehensive lesson couldn’t have come at a better time because it seems like the “clown-world” we are experiencing is a direct result of the breaking fiat currency. The author does a spectacular job of outlining these accelerating problems but unlike most economists, she actually lays-out a way in which it might get solved. She educates the reader on how decentralized ledger technology works and how it merges digital credit based ledger systems and traditional commodity-based hard money systems into a single, decentralized protocol of energy/money exchange. Prepare to be blown-away – it’s that good.
-Preston Pysh, engineer and former military officer, host of Bitcoin Fundamentals
Broken Money is the best book I read this year!
-Stig Broderson, value investor and former college finance teacher, host of We Study Billionaires