[OPE-L] Money in China and Europe

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Thu Apr 14 2005 - 09:41:52 EDT

Have you ever been struck by the Eurocentric nature of
Marx's metallist treatment of money?

It takes as given that money must be made of a precious
metal. In doing this it ignores the history of money
in China. There money had frequently been made entirely
of base metals such as bronze and iron, and by the Song
period one thousand years ago, even this had been in 
large measure replaced by printed paper currency.

Given a large state with a professional salaried civil
service it was quite feasible for the government to
ensure that its money circulated by virtue of accepting
it for tax payments.

According to von Glahn chartalism, the principle that the 
value of money is determined by the monetary authority
irrespective of the use value of the substance employed 
as money, was a fundamental tenet of classical
Chinese monetary analysis. 
See von Glahn, Fountain of Fortune, pp. 23-47.

This would make it seem that the predominance of metallist
doctrines in Europe is a reflection of the long period of
European barbarism and disunity between the fall of the
Carolingian empire and the establishment of the EU.

During this warring states period in Europe, states were
small, and for much of the time lacked professional salaried
civil services. There tax collecting apparatus was poor
and they were not able to so effectively enforce the circulation
of national coinage unless it was backed by gold that
could be used in internal European trade between the petty 

This local and temporary historical phenomena is universalised
in metallist doctrines.

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