2013년 10월 14일 월요일

[발췌: E.Tymoigne & L.R. Wray's] Money: an alternative story (2006)

출처: Philip Arestis,Malcolm C. Sawyer (eds), A Handbook of Alternative Monetary Economics (Edward Elgar 2006) ; 차례

※ 발췌 (excerpts): 


To be sure, we will never 'know' the origins of money. First, the origins are lost 'in the mists of time'ㅡalmost certainly in pre-historic time (Keynes, 1930, p. 13). It has long been speculated that money pre-dates writing because the earliest examples of writing appear to be records of monetary debtsㅡhe we are not likely to uncover written records of money's 'discovery'. Further, it is not clear what we want to identity as money. Money is social in nature and it consists of complex social practices that include power and class relationships, socially constructed meaning, and abstract representations of social value (Zelizer, 1989). There is probably no single source for the institution of modern capitalist economies that we call 'money'. When we attempt to discover the origins of money, we are identitying institutionalized behaviors that appear similar to those today that we wish to identify as 'money'. This identification, itself, requires an underlying economic theory. Most economists focus on market exchanges, hypothesizing that money originated as a cost-reducing innovation to replace barter, and highlighting the medium of exchange and store of value functions of money. While this is consistent with the neoclassical preoccupation with market exchange and the search for a unique equilibrium price vector, it is not so obvious that it can be adopted within heterodox analysis.

   If money did not originate as a cost-minimizing alternative to barter, what were its origins? It is possible that one might find a different 'history of money' depending on the function that one identifies as the most important characteristic of money. While many economists (and historians and anthropologists) would prefer to trace the evolution of the money used as a medium of exchange, our primary interest is in the unit of account function of money.[n1]  Our alternative history will locate the origin of money in credit and debt relations, with the unit of account emphasized as the numeraire in which they are measured. The store of value function could also be important, for one stores wealth in the form of other's debts. On the other hand, the medium of exchange function and the market are de-emphasized as the source of money's origins: indeed, credits and debits can exist without markets and without a medium of exchange.
[n1]See also Grierson(1977, p. 16) and Keynes (1930[1976], p. 3; 1982, p. 252).
   Innes (1913; 1914; 1932) suggested that the origins of credit and debt can be found in the elaborate system of tribal wergild designed to prevent blood feuds (See also Grierson, 1977; 1979; Goodhart, 1998; Wray, 2004). AS Polanyi put it: 'the debt is incurred not as a result of economic transaction, but of events like marriage, killing, coming of age, being challenged to potlatch, joining a secret society, etc.' (Polanyi, 1957 [1968], p. 198). Wergild fines were paid by transgressors directly to victims and their families, and were established and levied by public assemblies. A long list of fines for each possible transgression was developed, and a designated 'rememberer' would be responsible for passing down to the next generation. As Hudson (2004b) reports, the words for debt in most languages are synonymous with sin or guild, reflecting these early reparations for personal injury. Originally, until one paid the wergild fine, one was 'liable', or 'indebted', to the victim. It is almost certain that wergild fines were gradually converted to payments made to an authority. This could not occur in an egalitarian tribal society, but had to await the rise of some sort of ruling class. As Henry (2004) argues for the case of Egypt, the earliest ruling classes were probably religious officials, who demanded tithes. Alternatively, conquerors required payments of tribute by a subject population. Tithes and tribute thus came to replace wergild fines, and eventually fines for 'transgressions against society' (that is, against the Crown), paid to the rightful ruler, could be levied for almost any conceivable activity. (See Peacock, 2003-4.)

   Later, taxes would replace mot fees, fines and tribute (although this occurred surprisingly lateㅡnot until the 19th century in England) (Maddox, 1969). These could be self-imposed as democracy gradually replaced authoritarian regimes. In any case, with the development of civil society and reliance mostly on payment of taxes rather than fines, tithes, or tribute, the origin of such payments in the wergild tradition have been forgotten. A key innovation was the transformation of what had been a debt to the victim to a universal 'debt' or tax obligation imposed by and payable to the authority. The next step was the standardization of the obligations in terms of unit of accountㅡa money. At first, the authority might have levied a variety of in-kind fines (and tributes, tithes and taxes), in terms of goods or services to be delivered, one for each sort of transgression (as in the wergild tradition). When all payments are made to the single authority, however, this became cumbersome. Unless well-developed markets already existed, those with liabilities denominated in specific goods or services could find it difficult to make such payments. Or, the authority could find itself blessed with an overabundance of one type of good while short of others. Further, in-kind taxes provided an incentive for the taxpayer to provide the lowest-quality goods required for payment of taxes.

   Denominating payments in a unit of account would simplify mattersㅡbut would require central authority. As Grierson (1977; 1979) realized, development of a unit of account would be conceptually difficult (see also Henry, 2004). It is easier to come by measures of weight or lengthㅡthe length of some anatomical feature of the ruler (from which, of course, comes our term for the device used to measure short lengths like the foot), or the weight of a quantity of grain. By contrast, development of a money of account use to value items with no obvious similarities required more effort. Hence the creation of an authority able to impose obligations transformed wergild fines paid to victims to fines paid to the authority and at the same time created the need for and possibility of creation of the monetary unit.

   Orthodoxy has never been able to explain how individual utility maximizers settled on a single numeraire (Gardiner, 2004; Ingham, 2004). While use of a single unit of account results in efficiencies, it is not clear what evolutionary processes would have generated the numeraire. According to the conventional story, the higgling and haggling of the market is supposed to produce the equilibrium vector of relative prices, all of which can be denominated in the single numeraire. However, this presupposes a fairly high degree of specialization of labour and/or resource ownershipㅡbut this pre-market specialization, itself, is hard to explain (Bell et al., 2004). Once markets are reasonably well developed, specialization increases welfare; however, without well-developed markets, specialization is exceedingly risky, while diversification of skills and resources would be prudent. Thus it seems exceedingly unlikely that either markets or a money of account could have evolved out of an individual utility-maximizing behaviour.

   In fact, it has long been recognized that early monetary units were based on a specific number of grains of wheat or barley (Wray, 1990, p. 7). As Keynes argued, 'the fundamental weight standards of Western civilization have never been altered from the earliest beginnings up to the introduction of the metric system' (Keynes, 1982, p. 239). These weight standards were then taken over for the monetary units, whether the livre, sol, denier, mina, shekel, or the pound (Keynes, 1982; Innes, 1913, p. 396; Wray, 1998, p. 48). This relation between the words used for weight units and monetary units generated speculation from the time of Innes and Keynes that there must be some underlying link. Hudson (2004a) explains that the early monetary units developed in the temples and palaces of Sumer in the third millennium BC were created initially for internal administrative purposes: 'the public institutions established their key monetary pivot by making shekel-weight of silver (240 barley grains) equal in value to the monthly consumption unit a "bushel" of barley, the major commodity being disbursed' (Hudson, 2004b, p. 111). Hence, rather than the intrinsic value (or even the exchange-value) of precious metal giving rise to the numeraire, the authority established the monetary value of precious metal by setting it equal to the numeraire that was itself derived from the weight of the monthly grain consumption unit. This reads quite readily to the view that the unit of account was socially determined rather than the result of individual optimization.

   To conclude our introduction, we return to our admission that it is not possible to write a definitive history of money. We start from the presumption that money is a fundamentally social phenomenon or institution, whose origins must lie in varied and complex social practices. We do not view money as a 'thing', a commodity with some special characteristics that is chosen to lubricate a pre-existing market. Further, we believe that the monetary unit almost certainly required and requires some sort of authority to give it force. We do not believe that a strong case has yet been made for the possibility that asocial forces of 'supply and demand' could have competitively selected for a unit of account. Indeed, with only very rare exceptions, the unit of account throughout all known history and in every corner of the globe has been associated with a central authority. Hence we suppose that there must be some connection between a central authorityㅡwhat we will call 'the state'ㅡand the unit of account, or currency. In the next section we will lay out the scope of the conceptual issues surrounding the term 'money', before turning to a somewhat more detailed examination of the history of money.

What is money? Conceptual issues  (p. 3)

Before telling any story about the history of money, one should first identify the essential characteristics of a monetary system:

1. The existence of a method for recording transactions, that is, a ^unit of account^ and ^tools^ to record transactions.

2. The ^unit of account^ must be social, that is, recognized as the unit in which debts and credits are kept.

3. The ^tools^ are ^monetary instruments^(or (monetary)[n2] debt instruments): they record the fact that someone owes to another a certain number of units of the unit of account. Monetary instruments can be of different forms, from bookkeeping entries to coins, from bytes in a hard drive to physical objects (like cowrie shells). Anything can be a monetary instrument, as long as, first it is an acknowledgement of debt (that is, something that has been issued by the debtor, who promises to accept it back in payment by creditors) and, second, it is denominated in a unit of account.
[n2] Of course not all acknowledgements of debt are monetary in nature; that is, they do not respect the following characteristics. One may, for example, give to another person a piece of rock and promise to take it back, but, if no relation to a unit of account is established, the piece of rock is just a reminder that someone owes someone else something. In this sense, the famous 'stone-money' does not seem to qualify as a monetary debt instrument.
4. Some monetary instruments are ^money-things^ that are transferable ('circulate'): they must be impersonal from the perspective of the receiver (but not the issuer) and transferable at no or low discount to a third party. A cheque is a monetary instrument but not usually a money-thing because it is not transferable (it names the receiver). Currency is a money-thing because it is transferable and impersonal from the perspective of the receiver but it is a debt of the issuer (treasury or central bank).

5. There is a hierarchy of monetary instruments, with one debt issuer (or a small number of issuers) whose debts are used to clear accounts. The monetary instruments issued by those high in the hierarchy will be the money-things.

These five characteristics imply that a history of money would be concerned with at least three different things: the history of debts (origins of debts, nature and types of debts before and after the emergence of a legal system), the history of accounting (origins, unit(s) used, evolution of units, purpose), and the history of monetary and non-monetary debt instruments (forms, issuers, name, value in terms of the unit of account, and their use (emergency, special types of transactions like shares, daily commercial transactions, etc.)). Behind each of these histories lie politico-socioeconomic factors that are driving forces and that would also need to be studies carefully.

   In addition, while telling the story of money one has to avoid several pitfalls. First, the dangers of ethnocentrism are always present when one studies societies that are totally different from current modern societies (Dalton, 1965). Second, one should not concentrate the analysis on specific debt instruments: as Grierson (1975; 1977) notes, the history of money and the history of coins are two different histories. Focusing on coins would not only limit the study of one type of debt instrument, but would also avoid a detailed presentation of units of accountㅡand, indeed, could be highly misleading regarding the nature of money. [n3] Third, the nature of money cannot be reduced to the simple functions of medium of exchange or means of payment. Using a physical object for economic transactions does not necessarily qualify it as a money-thing, and one risks confusing monetary payment with payment in kind. Fourth, and finally, the existence and use of money does not imply that an economy is a monetary economy, that is an economy in which the accumulation of money is the driving force of economic decisions.
[n3] Early coins do not have any value in terms of unit of account written on them. They have names (like 'gros tournois', 'penny', or 'dime') but this does not say anything about the unit of account. A full description requires the statement of the unit of account: a 'penny of 2 pence' or a 'gros of 4 deniers', etc. (Grierson, 1975, p. 88).
   Thus, looking at the history of money is a gigantic and very difficult task. In addition, it is an interdisciplinary subject because it involves, among others, the fields of politics, sociology, anthropology, history, archaeology and economics. There is no doubt that progress in all these disciplines will bring new light in the dark story of money.

Money in primitive, archaic and modern societies  (p. 4)

A brief history of money can be begun by dividing the history of humanity into three analytically different types of society, along the lines posed by Polanyi, Dalton and others: primitive, archaic and modern economies (Dalton, 1971; Bohannan and Dalton, 1962). This analytical framework does not exclude the possibility that there is some transition and overlap; however, such a division is useful for telling a story about the evolution of money.


In primitive societies, there is no notion of private property[n4] in the sense of ownership of the means of production (agricultural land, forests, fisheries) and so no possibility of a society based on barter (in the economic sense of the term) or commercial exchange: these are marketless economies. However, there is a well-defined system of obligations, offences and compensations. Obligations are 'pre-legal obligations' (Polanyi, 1957[1968], p. 181), with magic an the maintenance of social order playing a central role in their existence. Their fulfilment can be qualitative (dancing, crying, loss of social status or role, loss of magical power, etc.) or quantitative (transfer of personal objects that can be viewed as a net transfer of wealth) (ibid., p. 182). In addition, payment of wergild compensation is not standardized but rather takes the form of in-kind payment, with the type and amount of payment established sociallyㅡas discussed previously.
[n4] See Heinsohn and Steiger (1983; 2000) for the importance of private property for the history of money.
   In primitive societies there is, therefore, no economic or social need for accounting, even if debts are present, because they are egalitarian societies in which exchange is usually reciprocal (the purpose of exchange is not to better one's position, but rather to bring members of society closer togetherㅡoften by redistribution), accumulation of wealth is repressed or non-existent (Schmandt-Besserat, 1992, p. 170), and the fulfilment of obligations is not standardized. Some methods of computing existed, for example, to record time (ibid., p. 160) in order to calculate the phases of the moon, the seasons, and other natural phenomena, or to count numbers and measure volume. That is why one can notches on different objects like bones that date at least back to 60000 BC (ibid., p. 158). However, there was no need to keep detailed records of debts.


One can date the emergence of money to the development of large archaic societies between 3500 and 3000 BC in the Ancient Near East. In this type of society, market transactions exist but are peripheral and mostly developed for external commercial transactions. Given the relatively low importance of trade (and/or its control by the ruling authorities) and the minimal power of merchants, one should not search for the origins of money in this direction. Trade was subsumed under a larger socioeconomic framework based on the redistribution of the economic output (mainly crops but also handicrafts, tools, and other finished products (Hudson and Wunsch, 2004)). This centralization emerged as the rules of primitive tribal societies were progressively weakened, bringing profound social changes (Henry, 2004). A highly organized and stratified society with a religious upper class (king, princes and high-rank priests) was progressively formed, while reciprocity was progressively weakened. Religion replaced magic and led to the emergence of sacral obligations, that is, obligations under the sanction of religion.

   With the emergence of a powerful administration, a legal system also developed, and, with it, legal obligations. These differ from tribal obligations in that the former are generalized, compulsory and standardized. These obligations, by allowing the concentration of a large portion of the economic output, were essential to the redistributive nature of the economic system. With the progressive standardization and generalization of compulsory obligations, several innovations had to be developed to enforce them. Among them, the counting and recording of debts was essential and it apparently took several millennia to develop a uniform numerical system: starting from 8000 BC with concrete counting via plain tokens used as calculi, to 3100 BC with the creation of abstract counting (and writing) via pictographic tablets (Schmandt-Besserat, 1992; Nissen et at., 1993; Englund, 2004). This transition from concrete counting (each thing is counted one by one, with a different method of counting for different things) to abstract counting (the same number can represent different types of items) was central to development of the unit of account. Several units of account might exist in the beginning:
Depending on the economic sector, the means of comparisons or the measure of standardized norms and duties could be silver, barley, fish, or 'labourer-day', that is, the product of the number of workers multiplied by the number of days they worked. (Nissen et al., 1993, pp. 49-50)
But the units were progressively reduced to two (silver and barley), and apparently silver eventually became the single unit of account. Archaeologists are still not sure why silver was chosen (Hudson and Wunch, 2004, p. 351); maybe it played a central role in the gift giving to the palace and temple (Hudson, 2004a). In any case, 'money-things' were not needed, even though these early societies used markets and had recorded debts and creditsㅡmost famously on clay 'shubati' tablets. Rather, purchases were made ‘on credit’ at prices set by the authorities on the basis of credit. The merchants would keep a running tally for customers, which would be settled later (usually at harvest). For example, tallies of debts for beer consumed would be kept, with the tally settled at harvest by delivery of barley at the official price and measured in the money of account. Hudson (2000; 2004a) documents such widespread use of money for accounting purposes as well as sophisticated understanding of compound interest on debt in these archaic societies.

   To sum up the argument to this point, early money units appear to have been derived from weight units, created to simplify accounting. The palace authorities also had to establish price lists to value items in the money of account. Initially all of this may have been undertaken only to facilitate internal record-keeping, but eventually use of the internal unit of account spread outside the palace. Commercial transactions, rent payments, and fees, fines, and taxes came to be denominated in the money of account. Use of the money of account in private transactions might have derived from debts owed to the palaces. Once a money rent, tax, or tribute was levied on a village, and later on individuals, the palace would be able to obtain goods and services by issuing its own money-denominated debt in the form of tallies.

Modern: tallies and coins  (p. 6)

Historical evidence suggests that most ‘commerce’ from the very earliest times was conducted on the basis of credits and debitsㅡrather than on the basis of precious metal coins. Innes writes of the early European experience:
'For many centuries, how many we do not know, the principal instrument of commerce was neither the coin nor the private token, but the tally' (1913, p. 394) ─A. Mitchell Innes(1913), What is Money?
This was a ‘stick of squared hazel-wood, notched in a certain manner to indicate the amount of the purchase or debt’, created when the ‘buyer’ became a ‘debtor’ by accepting a good or service from the ‘seller’ who automatically became the ‘creditor’ (ibid.).
The name of the debtor and the date of the transaction were written on two opposite sides of the stick, which was then split down the middle in such a way that the notches were cut in half, and the name and date appeared on the pieces of the tally (ibid.). 
The split was stopped about an inch from the base of the stick so that one piece, the ‘stock’, was longer than the other, called the ‘stub’ (also called the ‘foil’). The creditor would retain the stock (from which our terms capital and corporate stock derive) while the debtor would take the stub (a term still used as in 'ticket stub') to ensure that the stock was not tampered with. When the debtor retired his debt, the two pieces of the tally would be matched to verify the amount of the debt.

   Tallies could circulate as ‘transferable, negotiable instruments’ㅡthat is, as money-things. One could deliver the stock of a tally to purchase goods and services, or to retire one's own debt. By their means all purchases of goods, all loans of money were made, and all debts cleared’ (Innes, 1913, p. 396)  A merchant holding a number of tally stocks of customers could meet with a merchant holding tally stocks against the first merchant, 'clearing' his tally stub debts by delivery of the customers' stocks.
  • In this way, great 'fairs' were developed to act as 'clearing houses', allowing merchants 'to settle their mutual debts and credits; the 'greatest of these fairs in England was that of St. Giles in Winchester, while the most famous probably in all Europe were those of Champagne and Brie in France, to which came merchants and bankers from all countries' (ibid.). 
  • Debts were cleared 'without the use of a single coin'; it became common practice to 'make debts payable at one or other of the fairs', and '[a]t some fairs no other business was done except the settlement of debts and credits', although retail trade was often conducted at the fairs. 
  • While conventional analysis views the primary purpose of the fairs as retail trade, Innes postulated that the retail trade originated as a sideline to the clearing-house trade.[n5] 
  • Boyer-Xambeu et al. (1994) concur that 12th- and 13th-century European medieval fairs were essential in the trading and net settling of bills of exchange, the latter being done in several ways, from the (rare) use of coins, to bank transfers, the carrying forward of net positions to the next fair (one of the most frequently used techniques), and the use of transferable bills of exchange (ibid., pp. 34, 38-9, 65). These bills of exchange were, along with debenture bills for intra-nation trade between cities, the preferred debt instruments used by merchants in commerce. Coins were of less significance.
[n5] Admittedly, the view expounded by Innes is controversial and perhaps too extreme. What is important and surely correct, however, is his recognition of the importance of the clearing-house trade to these fairs. He also noted that such clearing-house fairs were held in ancient Greece and Rome, and in Mexico at the time of the conquest.
   Even if one accepts that much or even most trade took place on the basis of credits and debts, this does not necessarily disprove the story of the textbooks, according to which credits and debits follow the invention of coin, with paper 'fiat' money an even later invention.
  • Perhaps coins existed before these tallies (and other records of debts), and surely the coins were made of precious metals. 
  • Perhaps the debts were made convertible to coin; indeed, perhaps such debt contracts were enforceable only in legal tender coin. 
  • If this were the case, then the credits and debts merely substituted for coin, and net debts would be settled with coin, which would not be inconsistent with the conventional story according to which barter was replaced by a commodity money (eventually, a precious metal) that evolved into stamped coins with a value regulated by embodies precious metal. 
However, there are several problems with such a interpretation.
  • First, the credits and debts are at least 2000 years older than the oldest known coinsㅡwith the earliest coins appearing only in the 7th century BC. 
  • Second, the denominations of most (but not allㅡsee Kurke, 1999) early precious metal coins were far too high to have been used in everyday commerce. For example, the earliest coins were electrum (an alloy of silver and gold) and the most common denomination would have had a purchasing power of about ten sheep, so that 'it cannot have been useful coin for small transactions' (Cook, 1958, p. 260). They might have sufficed for the wholesale trade of large merchants, but they could not have been used in day-to-day retail trade.[n6] Furthermore, the reported nominal value of coins does not appear to be closely regulated by precious metal content, nor was the value even stamped on the coins until recently, but rather was established through official proclamation (see below).
  • And, finally, it is quite unlikely that coins would have been invented to facilitate trade, for ‘Phoenicians and other peoples of the East who had commercial interests managed satisfactorily without coined money’ for tens of centuries (Cook, 1958, p. 260). Indeed, the introduction of coins would have been a less efficient alternative in most cases. While textbook story argues that paper 'credit' developed to economize on precious metals, we know that lower-cost alternatives to full-bodies coin were already in use literally thousands of years before the first coins were struck. Further, hazelwood tallies or clay tablets had lower non-monetary value than did precious metals; thus it is unlikely that metal coins would be issued to circulate competitively (for example, with hazelwood tallies) unless their nominal value were well above the value of the embodied precious metal. [n7]
[n6] It is true that there are coins of base metal with much lower nominal value, but it is difficult to explain why base metal was accepted in retail trade when the basis of money is supposed to be precious metal. 
[n7]  It is often asserted that coins were invented to facilitate long-distance trade. 'The evidence, however, is against the earliest coins having been used to facilitate trade of such a kind, for the contents of hoards points overwhelmingly to their local circulation' (Grierson, 1977, p. 10).
cf. Cook, R.M. (1958) 'Speculation on the Origins of Coinage', ^Historia^ 7: 257-62.
   What then are coins, what are their origins, and why are they accepted? Coins appear to have originated as ‘pay tokens’ (in Knapp's colourful phrase), as nothing more than evidence of debt. Many believe that the first coins were struck by government, probably by Pheidon of Argos about 630 BC (Cook, 1958, p. 257). Given the large denomination of the early coins and uniform weight (although not uniform purityㅡwhich probably could not have been tested at the time), Cook argues that 'coinage was invented to make a large number of uniform payments of considerable value in a portable and durable form, and that the person or authority making the payment was the king of Lydia' (ibid., p. 261). Further, he suggests, 'the purpose of coinage was the payment of mercenaries' (ibid.).[n8]  This thesis was modified 'by Kraay (1964) who suggested that governments minted coins to pay mercenaries only in order to create a medium for the payment of taxes'[n9] (Redish, 1987, pp. 376-7). Crawford has argued that the evidence indicates that use of these early coins as a medium of exchange was an 'accidental consequence of the coinage', and not the reason for it (Crawford, 1970, p. 46). Instead, Crawford argued that ‘the fiscal needs of the state determined the quantity of mint output and coin in circulation’; in other words, coins were intentionally minted from the beginning to provide ‘state finance’ (ibid.).
[n8] Grierson (1977, p. 10) also advances this thesis.
[n9] Crawford (1970, p. 46) suggests that '[c]oinage was probably invented in order that a larger number of state payments might be made in a convenient form and there is no reason to suppose that it was ever issued by Rome for any other purpose than to enable the state to make payment ... [o]nce issued, coinage was demanded back by the state in payment of taxes.' 

   Similarly, Innes argued that ‘[t]he coins which [kings] issued were tokens of indebtedness with which they made small payment, such as the daily wages of their soldiers and sailors’ (1913, p. 399). This explains the relatively large value of the coinsㅡwhich were not meant to provide a medium of exchange, but rather were evidence of the state's debt to ‘soldiers and sailors’. The coins were then nothing more than ‘tallies’ as described aboveㅡevidence of government debt.

   What are the implications of this for our study of money? In our view, coins are mere tokens of the Crown's (or other issuer's) debt, a small proportion of the total 'tally'ㅡthe debt issued in payment of the Crown's expenditures.
Just like any private individual, the government pays by giving acknowledgments of indebtednessㅡdrafts on the Royal Treasury, or some other branch of government. This is well seen in medieval England, where the regular method used by the government for paying a creditor was by ‘raising a tally’ on the Customs or some other revenue-getting department, that is to say by giving to the creditor as an acknowledgement of indebtedness a wooden tally. (Innes, ibid., pp. 397-8) [n10]
[n10] The wooden tallies were supplemented after the late 1670s by paper 'orders of the exchequer', which in turn were accepted in payment of taxes (Grierson, 1975, p. 34). The 'tallia divenda' developed to allow the king to issue an exchequer tally for payment for goods and services delivered to the court.
But why would the Crown's subjects accept hazelwood tallies or, later, paper notes or token coins? Another quote from Innes is instructive:
The government by law obliges certain selected persons to become its debtors. It declares that so-and-so, who imports goods from abroad, shall owe the government so much on all that he imports, or that so-and-so, who owns the land, shall owe to the government so much per acre. This procedure is called levying a tax, and the persons thus forced into the position of debtors to the government must in theory seek out the holders of the tallies or other instrument acknowledging a debt due by the government, and acquire from them the tallies by selling to them some commodity or in doing them some service, in exchange for which they may be induced to part with their tallies. When these are returned to the government Treasury, the taxes are paid. (Ibid., p. 398)
   Each taxpayer did not have to seek out individually a Crown tally to pay taxes, for matching the Crown's creditors and debtors was accomplished 'through the bankers, who from the earliest days of history were always the financial agents of government' (ibid., p. 399). That is, the bank would intermediate between the person holding Crown debt and the taxpayers who required Crown debt in order to pay taxes.[n11] The Exchequer began to assign  debts owed to the king whereby 'the tally stock held in the Exchequer could be used by the king to pay someone else, by transferring to this third person the tally stock. Thus the king's creditor could then collect payment from the king's original debtor' (Davies, 1997, p. 150). Further, a brisk business developed to 'discount' such tallies so that the king's creditor did not need to wait for payment by the debtor.
[n11] This poses the interesting question of the origins of the word 'bank'. As Kregel (1998, pp. 15ff.) notes, 'It is generally believed that the English word "bank" is derived from the Italian "banco", which is thought to derive from the bench or long table used by money changer. ... The similarity between the two words is misleading, and most probably mistaken. Rather, the historical evidence suggests that the origin of the English "bank" comes from the German "banck." This is the German equivalent of the Italian "monte", which means a "mound" or a "store" where things are kept for future use. ... The modern English equivalent wold be "fund", which is the name used in England for the public debts of the English sovereign.'
   The inordinate focus of economists on coins (and especially on government-issued coins), market exchange and precious metals, then, appears to be misplaced. The key is debt, and specifically, the ability of the state to impose a tax debt on its subjects; once it has done this, it can choose the form in which subjects can 'pay' the tax. While government could in theory require payment in the form of all the goods and services it requires, this would be quite cumbersome. Thus it becomes instead a debtor to obtain what it requires, and issues a token (hazelwood tally or coin) to indicate the amount of its indebtedness; it then accepts its own token in payment to retire tax liabilities.[n12] Certainly its token can also be used as a medium of exchange (and means of debt settlement among private individuals), but this derives from its ability to impose taxes and its willingness to accept its tokens, and indeed is necessitated by imposition of the tax (if one has a tax liability but is not a creditor of the Crown, one must offer things for sale to obtain the Crown's tokens).
[n12] That is, even most private transactions took place on credit rather than through the use of coin as a medium of exchange. McIntosh (1988, p. 561) notes in a study of London of 1300-1600; 'Any two people might build up a number of outstanding debts to each other. As long as goodwill between the individuals remained firm, the balance could go uncollected for years. When the parties chose to settle on an amicable basis, they normally named auditors who totaled all current unpaid debts or deliveries and determined the sum which had to be paid to clear the slate.'

Modern: the gold standard  (p. 9)

In the transition from feudalism (a system in which money is used, however, not a system that one would identify as a 'monetary production economy', as Keynes put it) to capitalism (an economic system based on production for market to realize profits), there is a period of the emergence and consolidation of national spaces of sovereignty during which kings progressively gained power over the multiple princes and lords of their territory, and battled with kings of other sovereign areas. This 'transition' period recorded several periods of monetary anarchy because of the lack of control (but also the lack of understandingㅡBoyer-Xambeu et al., 1994) of the monetary system by the kings and their administration. For complex reasons, the value of coins became more closely associated with precious metal content. What had begun as merely a 'token', indicating the issuer's debt, took on a somewhat mysterious form whose value was supposed to be determined by embodied metal.  Hence, while use of precious metal in coinage began for technical reasons (to reduce counterfeiting through limited access to the metalㅡsee Heinsohn and Steiger, 1983) or cultural reasons (use of high-status metalㅡsee Kurke, 1999), regulation of the metal content came to be seen as important to maintain the coin's value. This created a problem, however, by producing an incentive to clip coins to obtain the valuable metal. When the king received his clipped coins in payment of taxes, fees and fines, he lost bullion in every 'turnover'. This made it difficult to maintain metal content in the next coinage. And, because international payments by sovereigns could require shipment of bullion, this reduced the king's ability to finance international payments. Hence began the long history of attempts to regulate coinage, to punish clippers, and to encourage a favourable flow of bullion (of which Mercantilism represents the best known exampleㅡsee Wray, 1990).

   The right to coin was usually delegated to private masters who worked under contract (Boyer-Xambeu et al., 1994, p. 45). The profit motive that drove the master (but also the money-changers, who were central intermediaries in the trafficking of coinsㅡibid., pp. 62, 1230ㅡled to conflicts between the king and the rest of the agents involve in the monetary system, and widespread infractions existed: clipping, debasement, billonage.[n13] The coins were rude and clumsy and forgery was easy, and the laws show how common it was in spite of penalties of death, or the loss of the right hand. Every local borough could have its local mint and the moneyers were often guilty of issuing coins of debased metal or short weight to make an extra profit.
[n13] Billonage is defined as: ' 1) sale of coins at their legal value after buying them at the price of unminted metal; 2) taking coins of a better intrinsic out of circulation' (Boyer-Xambeu et al., 1994, p. 209).
[Henry I] decided that something must be done and he ordered a round-u of all the moneyers in 1125. A chronicle records that almost all were found guilty of fraud and had their right hands struck off. Clipping was commoner still, and when (down to 1280) the pennies were cup up to make halfpennies and farthings, a little extra clip was simple and profitable. ... Clipping did not come to an end before the 17th century, when coins were machine-made with clear firm edges. ... (Quigguin, 1964, pp. 57-8)
Thus kings actively fought any alterarion of the intrinsic value of coins which represented an alteration of the homogeneous monetary system that they tried to impose. This preoccupation also fueled the belief that intrinsic value determines the value of money.

   However, kings were actually responsible for the nominal value of coins, and sometimes were forced to change that (Boyer-Xambeu et al., 1994), by crying them up or down. Crying down the coinage (reducing the value of a coin as measured in the unit of accountㅡrecall the nominal values were not usually stamped on coins until recently) was a common method of increasing taxes. If one had previously delivered one coin to pay taxes, now one had to deliver two if the sovereign lowered the nominal value of coins by half (also representing an effective default on half the Crown's debt). Any nominal change in the monetary system 'was carried out by royal proclamation in all the public squares, fairs, and markets, at the instigation of the ordinary provincial judges: bailiffs, seneschals and lieutenants' (ibid. p. 47). The higher the probability of default by the sovereign (of which crying down the coinage represented just one example) on his debts (including coins and tallies), the more desirable was an embodied precious metal to be used in recording those debts. In other word, coins with high precious metal content would be demanded of sovereigns that could not be trusted.[n14] This probably explains, at least in part, the attempt to operate gold (or silver) standards during the transition from monarchs to democracies that occurred with the rise of capitalism and the modern monetary production economy. Unfortunately, this relatively brief experiment with gold has misled several generations of policymakers and economists who sought the essence of money in a commodityㅡprecious metalㅡand ignore the underlying credits and debts.
[n14] Indeed, the creation of the Bank of England can be traced to a default by the Crown on tally debts that made merchants reluctant to accept the king's promises to pay. Hence the Bank of England was created specifically to buy Crown debt and to isse its own notes, which would circulate (with the help of laws that effectively eliminated circulation of bank notes issued by rivals). See Wray (1990).

Modern: the return to 'fiat' money  (p. 11)

Eventually, we returned to the use of 'pure token' money, that is, use of 'worthless' paper or entries on balance sheets as we abandoned use of precious metal coins and then even use of a gold reserve to 'back up' paper notes. Those who had become accustomed to think of precious metal as 'money' were horrified at the prospect of using a 'fiat money'ㅡa mere promise to pay. However, all monetary instruments had always been debts. Even a gold coin really was a debt of the Crown, with the Crown determining its nominal value by proclamation and by accepting it in payment of fees, fines and taxes at that denomination. The 'real' or relative value (that is, purchasing power in terms of goods and services) of monetary instruments is complexly determined, but ultimately depends on what must be done to obtain them. The monetary instruments issued by the authority (whether they take the form of gold coins, green paper, or balance sheet entries) are desired because the issuing authority will accept them in payment (of fees, fines, taxes, tribute and tithes) and because the receivers need to make these payment. If the population does not need to make payments to the authority, or if the authority refuses to accept the monetary instruments it has issued, then the value of those monetary instruments will fall toward their value as commodities. In the case of entries on balance sheets or paper notes, that is approximately zero; in the case of gold coins, their value cannot fall much below the value of the bullion. For this reason, the gold standard may have been desirable in an era of monarchs who mismanaged the monetary systemㅡeven though the gold standard represents something of an aberration with respect to money's history.

   Through the 19th and early 20th centuries, governments frequently faced crises that forced them off gold; they would attempt to return but again face another crisis. In the aftermath of the WWII, the Bretton Woods system adopted a dual gold-dollar standard that offered more flexibility than the gold standard. However, this system ultimately proved to also have significant flaws and effectively came to an end when the USA abandoned gold. We thus came full circle back to a system based on 'nothing' but credits and debitsㅡIOUs. With the rise of modern capitalism and the evolution of participatory democracy, elected representatives could choose the unit of account (the currency), impose taxes in that currency, and issue monetary instruments denominated in the currency in government payments. The private sector could accept these monetary instruments without fear that the government would suddenly refuse them in payment of taxes, and (usually) with little fear that government would 'cry down' the currency by reducing the nominal value of its debts. At this point, a gold standard was not only unnecessary, but also hindered operation of government in the public interest. Unfortunately, substantial confusion still exists concerning the nature of money and the proper policy to maintain a stable monetary system.

   This brief history of money makes several important points. First, the monetary system did not start with some commodities used as media of exchange, evolving progressively towards precious metals, coins, paper money, and finally credits on books and computers. Credit came first and coins, latecomers in the list of monetary instruments, are never pure assets but are always debt instrumentsㅡIOUs that happen to be stamped on metal. Second, many debt instruments other than coins were used, and preferred, in markets. Third, even if debt instruments can be created by anybody, the establishment of a unit of account was (almost always) the prerogative of a powerful authority. Without this unit of account, no debt instruments could have become monetary instruments because they could not have been recorded in a generalize unit of account but rather only as a specific debt.

Conclusion: modern money  (p. 12)

In this chapter we briefly examined the origins of money, finding them in debt contracts and more specifically in tax debt that is levied in money forms. Similarly, we argued that coins were nothing more than tokens of the indebtedness of the Crown, or, later, the government's treasury. Significantly, even though coins were long made of precious metal, it was only relatively recently that gold standards were adopted in an attempt to stabilize gold prices to try to stabilize the value of money. It would be a mistake to try to infer too much about the nature of money from the operation of a gold standard that was a deviation from usual monetary practice. Throughout history, monetary systems relied on debts and credits denominated in a unit of account, or currency, established by authority. Adoption of a gold standard merely meant that the authority would then have to convert its debts to gold on demand at a fixed rate of conversion. This did not really mean that gold was money, but rather that the official price of gold would be pegged by the authority. Hence even the existence of a gold standardㅡno matter how historically insignificant it might beㅡis not inconsistent with the alternative view of the history of money.

   In truth, we can probably never discover the origins of money. Nor is this crucial for understanding the nature of the operation of modern monetary systems, which have been variously called state money or Chartalist money systems (Knapp, 1924; Keynes, 1930; Goodhart, 1998; Wray, 1998). Most modern economics have a state money that is quite clearly defined by the state's 'acceptation' at 'public pay offices' (Knapp, 1924). The operation of a state money can be outlined succinctly: the state names the unit of account (the dollar), imposes tax liabilities in that unit (a five-dollar head tax), and denominates its own 'fiat money' liabilities in that account (a one-dollar note). It then issues its own liabilities in payment, and accepts those in payment of taxes. As Davies notes, this necessary link between public spending and money was far more obvious in the Middle Ages:
Minting and taxing were two sides of the same coins of royal prerogative, or, we would say, monetary and fiscal policies were inextricably connected. Such relationships in the Middle Ages were of course far more direct and therefore far more obvious than is the case today. In the period up to 1300 the royal treasury and the Royal Mint were literally together as part of the King's household. (Davies, 2002, p. 147)
There are two real-world complications that require some comment. First, most payments in modern economies do not involve use of a government-issued (state, 'fiat') currency; indeed, even taxes are almost exclusively paid using (private, 'fiat') bank money. Second, government money is not emitted into the economy solely through treasury purchases. In fact, the central bank supplies most of our currency (paper notes), and it is the proximate supplier of almost all of the bank reserves that are from the perspective of the non-bank public perfect substitutes for treasury liabilities. Obviously if we simply consolidate the central bank and the treasury, calling the conglomerate 'the state', we eliminate many complications. When one uses a bank liability to pay 'the state', it is really the bank that provides the payment services, delivering the state's fiat money, resulting in a debit of the bank reserves. When the state spends, it provides a cheque that will be deposited in a bank, leading to a reserve credit on the books of the bank. Hence, as Innes long ago argued, banks act as 'intermediaries' between government and the public.

   We will not pursue here any of this accounting in more detail; readers are referred to Wray (1998) and Bell (2000). (See also Chapter 5 on tax-driven money in this volume.) The only thing that must be understood is that the sovereign state 'spends' by emitting its own liability (mostly taking the form of a credit to banking system reserves). A tax payment is just the opposite: the state taxes by reducing its own liability (mostly taking the form of a debit to banking system reserves). In reality, the state cannot 'spend' its tax receipts, which are just reductions of outstanding state liabilities. When a household issues an IOU to a neighbour after borrowing a gallon of milk, it will receive back the IOU when the debt is repaid. The household cannot then 'spend' its own IOU; rather, it simply tears up the note (this was also true with gold coins, which were government liabilities: once received in payment of taxes, coins were usually melted down to verify the gold content and ensure that clipping did not occurㅡGrierson, 1975, p. 123). This is effectively what the state does with its tax 'receipts'. Essentially, then, the state spends by crediting bank accounts and taxes by debiting them. And all of this works only because the state has first exerted its sovereignty by imposing a tax liability on the private sector.

   It is important to note that there is a whole other story about the rise of bans and the evolution of the private banking system. Orthodoxy presents banks as intermediaries between 'savers' and 'borrowers', and posits a 'deposit multiplier' that constrains bank lending to the quantity of reserves supposedly controlled by the central bank. We do not have the space to explore these issues in any detail, but rejects the orthodox approach (see Wray, 1990). Above we noted the intermediary function played by banks, used by government to accomplish its fiscal activities. In addition, banks play a critical function in all capitalist economies as 'creators of credit'ㅡthat is, banks accept IOUs of borrowers and issue their own IOUs in the form of bank deposits. These are used by the non-bank public as means of payment and stores of value. In most cases, credits and debits are cleared on the balance sheets of these private banks, while banks use the liabilities of the government only for net clearing (among banks and with the government). In truth, banks are never reserve constrainedㅡindeed, all modern central banks ensure that banks have the reserves required or desired. All of this is critically important or the operation of modern 'monetary production economies', but is not so essential for our study of the origins of money. In a sense, the activities of the private banks can be seen as 'derivative', as their credits and debits are all denominated in the state money of account, and as the money-things issued by the state are used for ultimate clearing. (See Gardiner, 2004; Wray, 1990; 1998).

   We thus conclude this story about the origins and nature of money. Money is a complex social institution, not simply a 'thing' used to lubricate market exchanges. What is most important about money is that it serves as a unit of account, the unit in which debts and credits (as well as market prices) are denominated. It must be socialㅡa socially recognized measure, almost always chosen by some sort of central authority. Monetary instruments are never commodities; rather, they are always debts, IOUs, denominated in the socially recognized unit of account. Some of these monetry instruments circulate as 'money-things' among third parties, but even 'money-things' are always debtsㅡwhether they happen to take a physical form such as a gold coin or green paper note. While one can imagine a 'free market' economy in which private participants settle on a unit of account and in which all goods and assets circulate on the basis of private debts and credits, in practice in all modern monetary systems the state plays an active role in the monetary system. It chooses the unit of account; it imposes tax liabilities in that unit; and it issues the money-thing that is used by private markets for ultimate clearing. Any Story of money that leaves out an important role for the state represents little more than fantasy, a story of what might have been, that sheds little light on the operation of real-world monetary systems.  (p. 14.)

* * *


Bell, Stephanie (2000), 'Do taxes and bonds finance government spending?' , JEI 34: 603-20.

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Bohannan, Paul and George Dalton (1962), ^Markets in Africa^, Evanston, IL: Northwestern Univ. Press.

Boyer-Xambeu, Marie-Therese, Ghislain Deleplace and Lucien Gillard (1994), ^Private Money and Public Currencies^, New York: M.E. Sharpe.

Cook, Robert M. (1958), 'Speculation on the origins of coinage', ^Historia^ 6: 257-62.

Crawford, Michael H. (1970), 'Money and exchange in the Roman world', ^Journal of Roman Studies^, 60: 40-48.

Dalton, George (1965), 'Primitive Money', ^American Anthropologist', 67: 44-65. Reprinted in G. Dalton (ed)., ^Tribal and Peasant Economies^, 254-82, Austin, TX: Univ. of Texas Press.

Dalton, George (1971), ^Primitive, Archaic, and Modern Economies^, Boston: Beacon Press.

Davies, Glynn (1977), ^A History of Money from Ancient Times to the Present Day^, 2nd edn, Cardiff: Univ. of Wales Press.

Davies, Glynn (2002), ^A History of Money from Ancient Times to the Present Day^, 3rd edn, Cardiff: Univ. of Wales Press.


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