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Money in the Western Legal TraditionMiddle Ages to Bretton Woods$
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David Fox and Wolfgang Ernst

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198704744

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198704744.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 26 September 2021

Money as a Legal Institution

Money as a Legal Institution

Chapter:
(p.18) 2 Money as a Legal Institution
Source:
Money in the Western Legal Tradition
Author(s):

Christine Desan

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198704744.003.0002

This chapter summarizes the case for considering money as a legal institution. The Western liberal tradition, represented here by John Locke’s iconic account of money, describes money as an item that emerged from barter before the state existed. Considered as an historical practice, money is instead a method of representing and moving resources within a group. It is a way of entailing or fixing material value in a standard that gains currency because of the unique cash services it provides. The evidence to that end comes from coin itself, the practice of free-minting, judicial commentary, and academic theorizing. As the second half of the chapter details, the relationships that make money work are matters of governance carried out in law. Thus law defines public debt, allocates authority to create money, and determines what counts as a ‘commodity’. Comparing medieval, early American, and modern money law on money demonstrates the dramatic importance of that legal engineering.

Keywords:   money, economic orthodoxy, legal institution, John Locke, fiscal value, cash premium, unit of account, free-minting, tax anticipation, bank issued money, capitalism

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