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Book Review of: Web of Debt

The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We can Break Free

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Review of Web of Debt, by Ellen Hodgson Brown (Softcover, 2007)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

I had high hopes, when I first started reading this book. It didn't take long for the author to dash those hopes. While she correctly identifies problems with our monetary system (and accurately debunks some "solutions" that can't possibly work, such as the gold standard), she presents many errors of fact, many errors of characterization, and many errors of writing. She also had errors of solution. Her proposed solutions astounded me, as it simply is not logical that the same person who identified the problems would pose such solutions.

I will provide some examples of these errors, shortly.

What I like about the book is the author pulls back the curtain on the Frauderal Re-slave system, which, in typical government style, has a name contradictory to what it is. The Federal Reserve isn't federal, and it doesn't reserve anything. She explains how this fraudulent organization works and what its effects are on the economies of the world. She also discusses the control these banksters have on our political system and other institutions. This part of the book is very valuable.

Brown seems to understand monetary systems and currency extremely well. This coverage in the book is also very valuable. I have other books on economics, monetary systems, and currency from which a person can understand these facts, but my experience is that very few people must have read any such books. Thus, they don't understand economics, monetary systems, or currency. I'd recommend Web of Debt to other people just for getting this particular education. But my caveat would be, "The book has serious flaws." I'll now discuss those a bit further.

Factual errors

She said the banking cartel sent an assassin against Andrew Jackson. Well, yes, but there were actually FIVE assassins sent. All of them failed to kill Jackson.

Ms. Brown correctly named the conflict known as The War Between the States, using the terminology used by US Grant, so kudos there. But she made several factual errors in her discussion of it.

The British banks did not finance the South. Both Britain and France were standing by to see if they should enter the war. They needed to see certain things before committing. This was a huge factor during that time, and there was a lot of hand-wringing over it on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. Read Grant's memoirs, for one excellent source on this issue.

Early in the war, Lincoln said emancipating slaves wasn't important. But as things began looking bleak and worries of British or French entry on the side of the South began increasing, Lincoln got the idea of "freeing" the slaves in the Confederate states. The Emancipation Proclamation did not free the slaves in the Northern border states. It only "freed" those in another country, the one formed after the secession.

This turned out to be a great way to keep the South from gaining these key allies. Slavery suddenly became an issue in the war. And because Europeans were so appalled by slavery, this insincere proclamation served to propagandize the war to the Europeans as a noble cause of the North.

The cause of the conflict was not the one Brown attributes. Basically, the North ignored the Constitution. This is why the South seceded. It wasn't a civil war, because the South wasn't trying to take the means of government from anybody (they didn't take over the treasury or the capital, for example). They broke away and formed their own government in their own territory.

Big, big, big blunder

But her most amazing error was her discussion of the "myth of government inefficiency." Is she serious? To even call this a myth is a blatant disregard for reality. Obviously, Brown has no familiarity with the US federal government. She devoted an entire chapter to this fantasy, and that chapter cannot rightly be part of any work that portends to be nonfiction. She needs to correct her gross misperceptions.

She can start this correction by reading the GAO reports. A few years ago, the GAO reported that IRS employees spent half their work time visiting p*rn and gambling sites. Within the other half, they had plenty of time to embark on various self-enrichment scams such as the Hoyt Fiasco and the AMCOR atrocity. They had time to hold little kids at gunpoint in a Michigan daycare center in 1984, backing down only after the National Guard arrived on the scene. That's efficient?

And then in 2010 the GAO treated us to the wonderful news, no surprise, that the SEC employees who were grossly overpaid to watch over the system that collapsed were spending half of their work day visiting p*rn sites.

Brown must have never even looked at how government agencies does things. There's a reason for the old saw that it takes 10 government employees to do a one-person job. Government tends to recruit late in the season, and thus tap the bottom of the barrel of each graduating class. That's one problem. Another problem is government focuses on process, not results. Thus, to do anything an employee has to wade through thick legalese procedures. And often there are multiple sign-offs required, adding further delays and inefficiencies. The number of wasted steps in government processes is normally on the scale of "unacceptably huge." But maybe it's just ginormous.

I've worked in non-profits with people who retired from government. They "make a government project" out of the simplest things. We all know someone with a government job. Try doing anything with this person, and see how complicated they make it. Now, there are exceptions to this and that proves that government inefficiency isn't innate.

For example, book travel on Amtrak. Talk about efficient! What's my yardstick? Compare an Amtrak trip to the hassle-intense, grossly inefficient torture session known as "taking a flight" on our private airlines. If Amtrak took over all of the airlines (except Southwest and Midwest), I'd be a happy traveler.

Brown bases much of this book on The Wizard of Oz, pointing out it was an allegory for our banking system. Well, I live in Kansas. The DMV here is a model of efficiency. So is the Kansas Department of Revenue, which, unlike its federal counterpart, does not use terrorism as standard operating procedure and does not consider incompetence a virtue.

But in general, the federal government takes inefficiency to extremes.


Characterization errors

These really set my teeth on edge. Here are some examples.

The author mischaracterized JP Morgan, painting a picture that was the opposite of how the man was. Yes, he wanted a central bank. But he did not want the same kind of central bank the other bankers wanted. This is why the Federal Reserve was not created until 4 months after his death. It could not get traction with JP Morgan alive. That barrier was remedied by the folks he opposed. If you review his personal correspondence and other information about him starting at around 1909, you see a mental degeneration that, to me, indicates very strongly he was poisoned with heavy metal (arsenic, lead, or mercury probably). Morgan wanted an equity system, not one of debt. If we'd gotten his system instead of the fraud-based one we ended up with, there would be no web of debt today.

Brown also mischaracterized the relationship between Teddy Roosevelt and JP Morgan, and between Teddy Roosevelt and the power brokers. She got this completely wrong, and that's quite significant. TR was made Vice President in an effort to silence him politically. At the time, the VP wasn't the supervisor of the President the way Dick Cheney was for GW Bush. The office was a dead zone, and four years in it would derail your political career.

TR had been very active in working against the big money interests that were plundering public property, and sticking him in the VP slot would at least temporarily remove him from circulation. And, they hoped, keep him from getting back in. Brown also failed to mention that TR was shot in the chest while giving a speech against the central bank idea. He was so passionately against this, he kept speaking while bleeding from the chest wound.

Brown also got Taft completely wrong. There are several books and autobiographies that draw from actual correspondence between Taft, Roosevelt, and intimates in TR's life. One of the intimates in TR's life was Gifford Pinchot, who pushed hard for environmental reform and for stopping the big corporations from stealing timber and other resources from public land. This was a major issue for TR. Brown paints Taft as some kind of hero who corrected TR's chumminess with big corporations, but the actual case was completely the opposite. Taft immediately backpedaled on his promises to TR, and did such things as defund the Forest Service. Pinchot's correspondence on Taft shows what really happened, and I suggest Brown read that and then correct this part of the book accordingly. When TR was on his year-long safari, well, read about that and you'll understand.

While she's busy correcting her mis-history on TR and Taft, she can fix her profound misstatements about the Bull Moose Party.

Brown makes Lincoln sound way too noble. He was a schemer and a tyrant. He trampled over the Constitution in several major ways. Anyone who has seriously studied Lincoln and other major characters of the time can reach no other conclusion.

The result of his reign of error and terror was not just the bloodiest war in our history. It was a huge shift of power from the formerly sovereign states to the central government. Essentially, this cancelled the Constitution. Prior to Lincoln's War, the federal government tended to be bound by the Constitutional limitation that powers not expressly given to the federal government fell to the states. That is, the federal government had no powers other than those expressly stated in the Constitution. During and after Lincoln's War, the federal government expanded its powers to include new ones not expressly stated in the Constitution. In fact, it was doing this before the war, which was the reason FOR the war. After the war, there was no longer any real barrier to this illegal behavior and thus it accelerated.

Her opinion of Franklin Roosevelt is without merit. She characterizes him as a hero. Contrary to her statements, FDR's grossly misguided policies turned what would have been a short-term market correction into a financial depression that lasted for a generation. The evidence on this is overwhelming, so to get it wrong is pretty bad.

Writing errors

This book could be probably half as long, if Brown removed the repetition. This got to be annoying, to read the same statements, stories, quotes, etc. over and over again. I got the feeling she had written a series of standalone articles and just compiled them into a book. She needs to make a comprehensive whole, instead.

Solution errors

Brown's basic solution is to look at the same people who gave us $780 toilet seats and let them run our banks. No, I don't think so. I could go on about why trusting our "elected by controlled ballot" misrepresentatives in CONgress with our banking system isn't a good idea, but it's akin to having to explain that having the Pope convert to Islam is a bad idea. It should be that obvious.

Other authors have proposed workable solutions. Since Ms. Brown's expertise clearly is not analysis or problem-solving, she should excise her analysis and solutions from the book. She generally did a good job of reporting on the fraudulent system we have, and she should refocus the next edition on that.

If she feels compelled to propose solutions, then she needs to work on the "educate yourself" aspect. She did this to some extent in the book. She mentioned the allegorical movie "The Matrix" only once, and she could mine quite a bit of gold (no pun intended) from further exploration there. The Wizard of Oz is an allegory for a previous century; The Matrix is an allegory for our times. She could also explore the allegorical book, Animal Farm. Orwell claimed it was an allegory for the USSR. Nice way to stay out of prison, but when you read it with an eye to our own government you see why Orwell wrote it. Recall that his later work, 1984, was not so well-disguised.

What Brown should not do in a future edition is propose socialist utopian systems that would be entrusted to the same prostitutes, criminals, and unskilled labor we now call the US Congress. I was aghast that she did so in this book, given the facts she brought up prior to saying these things.

Nobody has yet explained where Chuck Rangel got the millions of dollars he invested offshore (nice of him to invest in America, eh?). Nobody has yet explained why Rangel, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes the Tax Code, is not in prison for tax evasion because he "didn't know" it was illegal not to report the income from those investments. No, I'm sorry, trading one set of criminals for another set of criminals won't fix a thing.


This book consists of 47 chapters spanning 477 pages. It contains a 7-page glossary, and an extremely light "selected bibliography" of only 2 pages.

If you're already well informed about the debt slavery system we have, our controlled elections (even Stalin commented on this in his time), US history (particularly Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, JP Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt), and the corrupt system that passes for a federal government in this country, then add this book to your collection. The discussion of the monetary systems, the debt system, the IMF, and the fraud that has destroyed so much will be educational and illuminating. You'll have to step through a few cowpies to get the good stuff, but it's worth cleaning your boots.

For the average reader, I'd suggest this. Read the book, but when you get to anything about history or proposed solutions, skip over it. Otherwise, you may confuse fiction with fact and consequently become disinformed.

This could have been an important, game-changing work. I hope Ms. Brown will revisit this book with the goal of making it one.




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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