Review of “Coined” by Kabir Sehgal

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Coined by Kabir Sehgal takes us through a journey of the history and future of the thing that makes the world go around–“Money.” Sehgal describes some of the interesting findings from the domain of Neuroeconomics about how the act of winning, losing, making, and donating money makes us feel. The history of money is described quite well, spanning from Egypt to Greece and some civilizations in between. The story of the Yap and their heavy limestones has become pretty standard on any book on money and it is to be found here as well. Some interesting equations about how money and its comparison as a token of energy that is exchanged for a symbiotic relationship is quite fascinating.

Sehgal also takes us through the “Metallist” and “Chartalist” camps about money. Interesting philosophies such as the Faustian bargain (in economic terms) are explained, where soft money is introduced backed by metal that may be mined later. As it always happens, as shown throughout history, it solves an immediate need and stabilizes economies, but has a downside later as the confidence in such money erodes in society. Quoting the author, “…soft money has demonstrated both great promise and peril.”

One of the very interesting aspects about the book is the journey we are taken on from money being something physical, to something with value, ultimately how it is connected with “Karma” and the soul. A sizable chapter is dedicated to religion and money and what money signifies in different religions. Is it something to pursue? Is it something that one should relinquish to reach a higher spiritual state? Such questions are discussed and obviously answers are to be found in most world religions.

Now, on to some of the clear misses and some criticisms about the book:

  1. The Bitcoin. A measly 4 pages is dedicated to this potential future form of money that the entire world could be using in a decade. I think if Sehgal was to release a second version of this book, he would be wise to add a tad more than 4 pages.
  2. Not much ink is devoted to Hinduism, which has treatises on money and economics. It is one of the few religions that actually says that earning money is an important aspect of the life of a human being and then renouncing it all at a later stage for spiritual attainment. Even the Vedas which were written around 1200BC had discussions about money and how it should be earned. Obviously focusing more on Hinduism and civilizations from Indian subcontinent aren’t going to sell books across the globe, given many in the rest of the world do not even know Hinduism exists (we are all imagined to be still riding elephants and charming snakes), so I see why that was glossed over.

A good read before you deep dive into all other aspects of money: 3.5/ 5.0

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