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Money for Nothing by Thomas Levenson

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

Money for Nothing by Thomas Levenson tells a story of the key events and figures leading up to The South Sea bubble of the 1720s. In it, Levenson expertly narrates the story of the bubble as an amalgamation of circumstance, people, and critical inventions. He sheds light on historical events and individuals such as Sir Isaac Newton and John Law who would question the fundamental ideas of money and its worth. He also describes the genesis of empirical studies in Great Britain and its effects on the financial markets (or alleys) of the time. Through his book, Levenson highlights the nuance of the events of the South Sea bubble while showcasing the prevalence of what we thought was modern financial thoughts and decisions at play. Things such as insurance, convertible bonds, shorting and options buying not only existed, but had a direct role in affecting the bubble of 1720. In the end, Levenson brings our attention to the here and now. He raises questions such as are markets today any better? Do we need to regulate the markets? If so, how do we go about thinking about debt, markets, and the role of investors in everything?

Thomas Levenson is a professor of Science writing at MIT. He is also the author of several top books as well as creator of award winning documentaries.



Levenson, T. (2021). Money for Nothing: The Scientists, Fraudsters, and Corrupt Politicians who Reinvented Money, Panicked a Nation, and Made the World Rich. Random House Trade Paperbacks.

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