My greatest desire (especially upon typing that long, intimidating title) is to completely forego any attempt at personally reviewing this book in favor of quoting as many of the most “cheer-worthy” sections as I can type in one evening.

Instead, I suppose I shall have to give my own account.  Though I wondered how interesting a book about the history of debt and credit could possibly be, my misgivings were unfounded.  The writing was very understandable and enjoyable due largely to Mr. Cashill’s eloquence and sense of irony.  All that being said, the story of our species’ dealings with debt would not have been nearly so captivating if it were not also VERY timely.           

Today many of us think we are owed things that we cannot afford.  Perhaps, more accurately, we feel we have a right to things that we cannot pay for NOW.  So instead of paying now, we promise to pay for now’s delights with tomorrow’s paycheck forgetting altogether how dubious the future can be.  With the trend being to request that the Federal Government put more regulations in place to avoid being ‘victimized’ by getting exactly where that kind of borrowing naturally leads to, this was a welcome call for self-regulation.   That call to responsibility is what sets his book above and beyond a history of credit and turns it into a kind of thesis for revolutionizing our way of thinking about our way of spending. 

He discussed how the breakdown of families contributed to our debt problem.  How the federal push to get more people into homes, the push to end discrimination to minorities such as single parent families at the lending counter (which often meant ignoring the need to discriminate based on whether the person would be able to AFFORD the loan thus often trading PC for CS -common sense-) and the investor’s tendency to disregard rumors of shady dealings so long as their profits are up, only to cry ‘foul’ when the crooked workings lose them everything…  that these things have contributed to the state of our economy today.  

While I have thus far resisted the urge to pull a quote from the book itself, I cannot do so any longer.

Cashill comes out not on the side of those who champion that capitalism “worked for a long time, but….has mutated into a relentlessly efficient and voracious machine” (Scurlock) but the side of those who say that capitalism works best when coupled with a sense of personal responsibility.  After all, “how can a people govern a whole society that cannot, each of them, govern themselves.” (Novak)

Perhaps my favorite section of the whole book comes on the very last page, where Cashill quotes Ramsey: 

“In May 2009, there was a new urgency to Ramsey’s message.  Both he and his audience had seen what happens when a population grows addicted to debt, when a government encourages that addiction, and when the markets conspire to feed it… and dreams of a national Total Money Makeover that would proceed one citizen at a time. ‘Saving and investing would cause wealth to be built at an unprecedented level,’ he believes, ‘which would create more stability and spending.  Giving would increase, and many social problems would be privatized; thus the government could get out of the welfare business.  Then taxes would come down and we would have even more wealth.’”

Saving and investing versus buying things we can’t afford on credit. 

Sounds like a plan to me.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255