Banking, Finance, and Money
A Socioeconomics Approach
This paper briefly summarizes the orthodox approach to banking, finance, and money, and then points the way toward an alternative based on socioeconomics. It argues that the alternative approach is better fitted to not only the historical record, but also sheds more light on the nature of money in modern economies. In orthodoxy, money is something that reduces transaction costs, simplifying "economic life" by lubricating the market mechanism. Indeed, this is the unifying theme in virtually all orthodox approaches to banking, finance, and money: banks, financial instruments, and even money itself originate to improve market efficiency. However, the orthodox story of money's origins is rejected by most serious scholars outside the field of economics as historically inaccurate. Further, the orthodox sequence of "commodity (gold) money" to credit and fiat money does not square with the historical record. Finally, historians and anthropologists have long disputed the notion that markets originated spontaneously from some primeval propensity, rather emphasizing the important role played by authorities in creating and organizing markets.
By contrast, this paper locates the origin of money in credit and debt relations, with the money of account emphasized as the numeraire in which credits and debts are measured. Importantly, the money of account is chosen by the state, and is enforced through denominating tax liabilities in the state’s own currency. What is the significance of this? It means that the state can take advantage of its role in the monetary system to mobilize resources in the public interest, without worrying about "availability of finance." The alternative view of money leads to quite different conclusions regarding monetary and fiscal policy, and it rejects even long-run neutrality of money. It also generates interesting insights on exchange rate regimes and international payments systems.