Bristol Talks Economics: Jacob Goldstein

The ‘Bristol Talks Economics’ series is organised by students within the School of Economics. We recently caught up with Ben Pimley who has been heavily involved with securing high-profile speakers for recent talks such as Tim Harford, and the Planet Money podcast co-host Jacob Goldstein.


Q. What is the Bristol Talks Economics series?

A. ‘Bristol Talks Economics’ is a weekly virtual event with leading academics and commentators exploring big economic issues with student flair and lots of audience participation.

Q. Who is Jacob Goldstein?

A. JG is the co-host of hit international podcast, Planet Money, which has millions of listeners worldwide. Formed after the last financial crisis it aims to explain the economy in a way that is fun and informative. He has a background in English and journalism, working as a health reporter at the Wall Street Journal prior to covering economics. 

Q. What did Jacob Goldstein discuss during the talk?

A. JG discussed his new book: Money – the true story of a made-up thing, which charts the history of money from Ancient Greek coins in Aristotle’s time right through to bitcoins on the dark web today. He gave us an insight into the intriguing life of John Law – an 18th century convicted murderer turned French Prime Minister – and also the creation of the money market fund, which with its money-like qualities, was able to destabilise financial markets in 2008/09. He also covered wider issues including the consequences of the recent US election and prospects for digital money. 

Q. Why is this important or influential for students of economics?

A. The realisation that money is a shared fiction is a crucial real-world application of economics which is often overlooked in textbook models that frequently discount the role of money altogether. Money is complex and transient rather than the simple assumption we often take it to be.

Q. How might his book and podcast be of interest to economics students?

A. It would appeal to anyone wishing to understand the historical context on which our current monetary system is based, and how it might change in the future. His podcast is a great way of engaging with our subject in a light-hearted way. I’d recommend it for a lockdown run around the Downs!

Watch the full talk on YouTube:

The Bristol Talks Economics series is organised and run by students as part of the Economics, Finance and Management (EFM) Society.

Watch Ben Pimley summarise the Tim Harford talk here.