Wednesday, April 29, 2015

I think I'm just finessing an idea

I only know what I know. Perhaps it is only ignorance that allows me sometimes to object to the wisdom of people who know more than I. So be it, then.

I liked immediately the archive page I found the other day, John Munro's page.

I liked it -- I still like it -- but I stumbled on this, on "The Different Means of Payment in the Medieval and Early-Modern European Economies":

At the same time, you must realize that coined money was not the sole medium of exchange in medieval Europe, the sole means of effecting payments. You must avoid the common pitfall of supposing that actual coins were used merely because the transaction was recorded in monetary terms in some account book or register. These notations represent merely the 'standard of value' function of money.

Actual payment, Munro says, may have occurred by barter or by credit.

And don't make the common mistake of believing in a mythical 'rise of a money economy' that displaced barter transactions. There was always, from Greco-Roman times, some form of a 'money-economy' utilizing coinage; and conversely, barter transactions continued on into modern times, even in sophisticated economies. Thus the following, still popular, stage theory of economic development, advanced by 19th-century German economic historians (in particular Bruno Hildebrand), deeply influenced by current evolutionary theories, is patently unhistorical:

Barter Economy ... Coined-Money Economy ... Credit Economy ...

According to John Munro,

The "stage theory" of economic development ...
... the stage theory is "patently unhistorical".

But things lead to other things. Things have consequences, and things have causes. I'm not afraid to say it. Oh, most people say it, sure. But they leave it at that.

When things lead to other things, sequences arise and patterns emerge. In particular, if human nature changes little, then we are likely to find repeating sequences and repeating patterns throughout history.

I think if somebody saw a barter -> coined money -> credit sequence in history, well, that fits with things I already know about the cycle of civilization, so I am willing to accept that that sequence probably did happen. I don't reject it outright, as Munro seems to do.

Of course barter continues in modern times. Of course there was coinage in use in the age of barter. Of course. We don't stop using money because it's the age of barter. We'll be glad to use money, if we can get our hands on it. But if we can't, well, there is still barter.

We don't rely less on money because it's the age of barter. It is the age of barter because we rely less on money.

So anyway, I was going to leave it at that. But I can't, because I kept reading Professor Munro's archive page and I came upon this:

c) Factors Producing the New Silver (and then Gold) Coinages:

i) greater commercialization of the economy with a vastly increased volume of money payments, transactions demand for money;

See? After the age of barter, there was "a vastly increased volume of money payments". Less barter, more coin. There was a change in emphasis, a move away from barter, a move toward coined money.

And this:

e) Reasons for the resumption of Gold Coinages in the West

i) the vast increase in the volume of money payments and transactions demand for money...

Professor Munro confirms the view that there was a transition from a less coined money economy, to a more coined money economy.

Later, of course, there was the transition from mostly coined money to mostly credit.

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