The Ascent of Money

Book CoverI wrote on Twitter over the weekend about a popular song in which Ne-Yo croons lovingly about a woman who is so amazingly attractive because… she pays her bills on time. Her car and her house are nearly paid off and Ne-Yo can barely keep his head on straight about her.

Yes sir, the new heroine: fiscally savvy and financially smart.

After the hurricane bowling alley the last few years, we saw heroes and heroines who could control the weather. Paranormal, I think, gained popularity because when terrorism is everywhere, it’s comforting to know who the villain is, because he’s hairy or wants to cause death by exsanguination.

So perhaps the hero or heroine of the future is the financially brilliant, the economically advanced. To that end, I point your happy DVRs to another public television program – oh, the PBS, how I love thee.

Tonight at 9pm on your local PBS (I hope!), there’s a two-hour documentary called “The Ascent of Money,” which traces the “evolution of money and demonstrates that financial history is the essential back-story behind all history.” Hosted by Niall Ferguson, who wrote the book upon which the documentary is based, the documentary should make all things math and finance rather fascinating.

Yes, it’s a bit off the standard beaten path of romance novels, but I’m seriously curious for a number of reasons, aside from the economic hyperventilating that’s going on in the media the last few months.

For a genre whose heroes and heroines often inhabit exceptionally lucrative worlds, with tycoons and billionaires and business deals and international acts of commerce setting the backdrop for human conflict and romantic tangles, the economy is, well, relevant to our interests. I predict the rise (hur hur) of the economically brilliant hero and heroine, moving beyond the standard archetype, and this documentary might pave the way toward further research and some very scintillating characters.

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  1. 1
    Anony Miss says:

    However, I think one of the reasons rich people are so common in books in general and romance in specific is… they can do cooler stuff.

    From years of watching Days of Our Lives, I can tell you that had the characters been hindered by money, many plot lines would have fallen apart. If you can’t jet off to Paris at a moment’s notice, if you can’t hire a ship for your dramatic at sea wedding, if you can’t buy jewelry, if you can’t buy a company, if you can’t be dressed well… well, how will any plot ever move along?

    (Not to imply that Days of Our Lives ever had an actual plot that did move along, but I digress.)

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    Lizzy says:

    I think we should investigate this new research, then, the one that links the length of a man’s fingers to his success with finances.

    Huzzah! It’s all true, everything we’ve believed about hands and stuff. I feel suddenly warm.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/12/AR2009011202402.html

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    Suze says:

    Those rich heroes have always been part of the rescue-me fantasy aspect of romance.  Take me away, super-rich dude!  Pay my bills, buy me clothes I can’t afford in places I can’t afford to be, release me from the drudgery of my work-a-day world.

    Most of the time, they’re tycoons who do commanding but otherwise mysterious things.  You don’t see a lot of tycoon-at-work scenes, other than to illustrate how very powerful and sexy he is.

    Back in the 80’s & 90’s, Jayne Ann Krentz wrote a bunch where the heroes and heroines were entrepreneurs and fiscal superstars, because making money and having business-savvy was sexy.  She showed a little about the kind of work they did, and some of her conflict was of the corporate variety.  Maybe they’ll make a comeback, but I kind of suspect that hippies are going to be cool and sexy for awhile.  If only to me :)

    power25 Yep, my powersuit and I are going back to work.

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    SusannaG says:

    Interesting.  I gave the book at Christmas, and may read it soonish (after the recipient is done with it!).

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    Kwana says:

    Thanks. I will set my DVR. I love that NE-YO song. The video is great. He’s all about the alpha woman. I’m sure you are onto a trend here. Have you noticed that there is not a man to be found on the news doing financial commentary? It all Jim Cramer all the time after him it’s sexy women every 8 minutes for the updates.

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    Jessica G. says:

    Time to hit the Tivo button! But will I still be able to watch Scrubs? Argh!

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    Lori says:

    I understand the allure & usefulness of wealth in romances, but these days the whole idea of tycoons, and especially, just irritates me.  I can see how financially savvy heroes & heroines could become a trend, but if it does I think I’ll pass.

  9. 9
    Michael says:

    Just take a look at Candy and Sarah, they took something like Romance Novels, a complete sink hole for most readers money, and turned them into a business. 

    If that is not fiscally savvy and financially smart, I don’t know what is!

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    stacy says:

    The author of this was just on the Colbert Report today, and it was hilarious. If you haven’t seen the episode, I highly recommend looking it up online. You can see the whole episode here: http://www.comedycentral.com/colbertreport/full-episodes/index.jhtml?episodeId=215947—look for the Jan. 13 episode.

    It was one of the funniest guest spots I’ve seen (I haven’t been watching it long, but even so). Their banter was just perfect—including Ferguson telling Colbert, “Stephen, if people will accept you as payment for goods, then you *are* money.”

  11. 11
    Sandia says:

    i read the article in vanity fair from this book and i didn’t get a chance to watch last night but dvr’d it for tonight!  the book actually looks very interesting, especially with all the turmoil in the financial markets now.

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    rita says:

    I meet many nice people at the millionaire & celebrity dating club ^^^^^^MillionaireLoving. C O M^^^^^^where the rich & celebrity have romancing. I enjoy the feeling on this site. You can find your soul mate at this site.

  13. 13
    Venus Vaughn says:

    I watched The Ascent of Money last night, it was fascinating.  It seems the Bible had it right about neither borrower nor lender be. 

    It really made me rethink the credit cards in my wallet and mortgage I hope to get one day.

    And yeah, fiscal responsibility is hella sexy.  I don’t care how hot the guy is, if he’s got disconnect notices piling up in his mailbox, I’m not interested.

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    snarkhunter says:

    It seems the Bible had it right about neither borrower nor lender be.

    Pretty sure that’s Shakespeare, actually. It’s from Polonius’s speech to Laertes in Hamlet. :)

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    Venus Vaughn says:

    snark,
    Shakespeare was the author of that quote, but the original idea was Christian.  They explained it on the show, and I’m sure in greater detail in the book, that the lending of money for interest was not something Christians were allowed to do.  Therefore the Jews were the first to lend for interest.

    It’s how the Jews got their rep as being good with money.  They had the first banks.
    At least that’s my understanding – if anyone has read the book and picked up something different, please let me know.

  16. 16
    snarkhunter says:

    Ah, yes. I thought of that when I replied. I am pretty sure there’s no actual prohibition against moneylending in the New Testament (although Jesus did go all crazy against the moneylenders who set up camp in the Temple,but that had more to do with defiling a holy place and with the Mosaic commandment against usury among Jews). I think the prohibition stems from the Church, if I’m remembering my medieval history correctly—and I might not be. Jews took up the role of usurers in part b/c it was the only job really open to them. I think it was not necessary a violation of the Law b/c they didn’t lend to other Jews?

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    Venus Vaughn says:

    Shakespeare, that plagiarist!  (tee hee)

    When you brought it up I did a small amount of googling and came up with this link:  http://www.askthepriest.org/askthepriest/2005/10/never_a_borrowe.html

    I fully admit that I’ve never read the Bible and have no expertise to speak of regarding it, just what I hear from others.  Which is why the documentary made such an impact on me.  I had no idea the idea was Christian – and even less idea that it wasn’t so much about the exchange of money, but the profit from such an exchange. 

    It seems like they were saying, ‘if you’re going to lend, do so out of the kindness of your heart.’  But in those citations, I didn’t see anything about borrowing being sinful.  Interesting.

  18. 18
    Michael Everett says:

    I did not get to watch the show but I agree with anyone that hates debt as much as I do.  Thanks mainly to my immediate family’s inability to manage finances I have gotten very much in debt.  I despise it, the only silver lining is the fact that due to their issues I was able to inherit certain assets early to protect them from creditors.  Thus giving me a house with no mortgage!  My wife is all about bigger and better and despite my pleading spends a lot of time looking at new houses and wishing she had something that we just can’t afford.  What on earth can I do?  Our house is a very solid house built in the 50s with a brand new roof, siding, electric and everything inside has been remodeled besides the kitchen (which I am doing this summer).  No matter how much time or $$$ I sink into the house she just hates it.  Ideas????!!!!

  19. 19
    Venus Vaughn says:

    Michael,

    assuming you’ve already talked with her about your need for financial stability, have you considered a compromise?  Have your home appraised, and tell the wife that if she can find a home in a comprable price range, you’d be willing to move if you can get your house sold.

    That way she gets out of the house and you don’t have to take on any new debt.  Y’all still might want to consider financial counseling though.

  20. 20
    J Davis says:

    I caught this last night and it was pretty good. The information was presented well, if a bit glanced over. I felt that the ‘wobbly cam’ was used a wee bit too much. It got an eye roll or two out of me.

    It was fun to see the history of money touched upon. Those clay tablets were amazing!

    Did anyone else feel that he was a little… hmmm… overly-critical with poor people though? The segment about the neighborhood with the pawn shop etc, was a bit odd. He mentioned that it was a ‘desperately poor’ neighborhood. It just looked working class to me.

    Then he talked about the foreclosures and referred often to the idea that ‘they declare bankruptcy instead of meeting their obligations’. While it’s true in normal situations, I felt that this financial crisis has more to do with people losing their jobs and hours at work- coupled with soaring food/gas/healthcare prices that drove most people to default and file for bankruptcy.

    It got my hackles up a bit, but maybe I was overreacting.

  21. 21
    Venus Vaughn says:

    J., the bit that got my hackles up was the part about 8 Mile (I hope I’m remembering that right) where the feds used race to create an unfair economic divide.  Houses on the white side get cheap mortgages, houses on the black side get expensive mortgages.

    But then, when he touches on it again, and talked about the sub-prime mess, he implied that giving cheap mortgages to the folks who used to have expensive ones was the cause of it all.  But he never touched on the racial part again – leaving it hanging with only 2 dots to connect.

    And yes, he was judgmental about the Tennesse folks.  Though markers like a predominance of check cashing places in a neighborhood are not a sign of a self-sufficient populace.

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  23. 23

    Really a good and interactive post, i think the post is informative and knowledge providing both in regard of current affairs and present economic Situations.

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