Recommended: Niall Ferguson's "The Ascent of Money"
I just finished watching tonight the DVD of the PBS series but the book covers the same material. Harvard professor/historian Nial Ferguson puts down and in its place the (in my opinion also) misguided view that governments can, long term, spend their ways out of problems.
The PBS series is especially fun to watch (in addition to being very educational) because as Ferguson traces "bubbles" throughout history, there is local video that helped me picture what happened in ancient, medieval, and modern times.
Worth watching! (There are many excerpts on youtube if you don't have time to watch the 4 hour series.)
I rented the DVD from Netflix, and their summary is good:
British historian and author Niall Ferguson explains how big money works today as well as the causes of and solutions to economic catastrophes in this extended version The Ascent of Money documentary. Through interviews with top experts, such as former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and American currency speculator George Soros, the intricate world of finance, including global commerce, banking and lending, is examined thoroughly.
One bit of advice is that there is no firm economic security in anything but income. For individuals this the ability to earn money and for governments the ability to raise sufficient taxes to pay for most expenditures. The PBS documentary makes this point very well.