Kabir Sehgal commits an absolutely unpardonable sin in this book: he conflates Star Wars and Star Trek.
[Pause for gasps of outrage.]
That's a joke, son, but it's only a sort-of joke. Coined is fast-paced and wide-ranging, but there are too many places where Kabir Sehgal skips stuff, or makes arguments that are at best poorly phrased, or just plain makes little blunders. It's a mile wide and an inch deep (and if you think it's hypocritical for me to complain about that, you're right, but I'm doing it anyway).
To put it another way, I could have written this book myself, given enough time and the right Wikipedia articles.
Actually, that's not true. I would not have done what Kabir Sehgal does, which is to accept the conventional assertion that gold and silver represent a mythical something called "hard money".
The idea that gold has intrinsic value is, prima facie, stupid. Here are some of the many things you can't do with gold:
- Eat it
- Drink it
- Shelter from the rain under it
- Cure your influenza by injecting it
- Enjoy carnal pleasures with it (if I'm wrong about this, please do not tell me)
In reality, whether you should take the offer depends not on the market price of coconuts, but on your beliefs about the future.
- If you believe we're likely to be rescued soon, sure, take the coin. You can sell it when we get to shore.
- If you believe we may never be rescued, and that you may need all the coconuts you can get, you'd be an idiot to accept this offer. Coconuts have actual utility; gold doesn't.
End of Digression
Coined is an easy read, impressive in breadth, and suitable for someone who's never really thought about the subject. For deep reading, however, I'd recommend instead any of the following:
- Money: The Unauthorized Biography, by Felix Martin (who explicitly rejects the "money as commodity" view)
- The Ascent of Money, by Niall Ferguson (who would disagree with Felix Martin on many points)
- The Pulitzer-winning Lords of Finance, by Liaquat Ahamed (which is narrower in focus, but exceedingly enlightening)