Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. TESLA! Cathy Wood ARK Funds Bubble BURSTS! - 12th May 21
2.Stock Market Entering Early Summer Correction Trend Forecast - 10th May 21
3.GOLD GDX, HUI Stocks - Will Paradise Turn into a Dystopia? - 11th May 21
4.Crypto Bubble Bursts! Nicehash Suspends Coinbase Withdrawals, Bitcoin, Ethereum Bear Market Begins - 16th May 21
5.Crypto Bubble BURSTS! BTC, ETH, XRP CRASH! NiceHash Seizes Funds on Account Halting ALL Withdrawals! - 19th May 21
6.Cathy Wood Ark Invest Funds Bubble BURSTS! ARKK, ARKG, Tesla Entering Severe Bear Market - 13th May 21
7.Stock Market - Should You Be In Cash Right Now? - 17th May 21
8.Gold to Benefit from Mounting US Debt Pile - 14th May 21
9.Coronavius Covid-19 in Italy in August 2019! - 13th May 21
10.How to Invest in HIGH RISK Tech Stocks for 2021 and Beyond - Part 2 of 2 - 18th May 21
Last 7 days
The US Dollar is the Driver of the Gold & Silver Sectors - 28th Jul 21
Fed: Murderer of Markets and the Middle Class - 28th Jul 21
Gold And Silver – Which Will Have An Explosive Price Rally And Which Will Have A Sustained One? - 28th Jul 21
I Guess The Stock Market Does Not Fear Covid - So Should You? - 28th Jul 21
Eight Do’s and Don’ts For Options Traders - 28th Jul 21
Chasing Value in Unloved by Markets Small Cap Biotech Stocks for the Long-run - 27th Jul 21
Inflation Pressures Persist Despite Biden Propaganda - 27th Jul 21
Gold Investors Wavering - 27th Jul 21
Bogdance - How Binance Scams Futures Traders With Fake Bitcoin Prices to Run Limits and Margin Calls - 27th Jul 21
SPX Going for the Major Stock Market Top? - 27th Jul 21
What Is HND and How It Will Help Your Career Growth? - 27th Jul 21
5 Mobile Apps Day Traders Should Know About - 27th Jul 21
Global Stock Market Investing: Here's the Message of Consumer "Overconfidence" - 25th Jul 21
Gold’s Behavior in Various Parallel Inflation Universes - 25th Jul 21
Indian Delta Variant INFECTED! How infectious, Deadly, Do Vaccines Work? Avoid the PCR Test? - 25th Jul 21
Bitcoin Stock to Flow Model to Infinity and Beyond Price Forecasts - 25th Jul 21
Bitcoin Black Swan - GOOGLE! - 24th Jul 21
Stock Market Stalling Signs? Taking a Look Under the Hood of US Equities - 24th Jul 21
Biden’s Dangerous Inflation Denials - 24th Jul 21
How does CFD trading work - 24th Jul 21
Junior Gold Miners: New Yearly Lows! Will We See a Further Drop? - 23rd Jul 21
Best Forex Strategy for Consistent Profits - 23rd Jul 21
Popular Forex Brokers That You Might Want to Check Out - 22nd Jul 21
Bitcoin Black Swan - Will Crypto Currencies Get Banned? - 22nd Jul 21
Bitcoin Price Enters Stage #4 Excess Phase Peak Breakdown – Where To Next? - 22nd Jul 21
Powell Gave Congress Dovish Signs. Will It Help Gold Price? - 22nd Jul 21
What’s Next For Gold Is Always About The US Dollar - 22nd Jul 21
URGENT! ALL Windows 10 Users Must Do this NOW! Windows Image Backup Before it is Too Late! - 22nd Jul 21
Bitcoin Price CRASH, How to SELL BTC at $40k! Real Analysis vs Shill Coin Pumper's and Clueless Newbs - 21st Jul 21
Emotional Stock Traders React To Recent Market Rotation – Are You Ready For What’s Next? - 21st Jul 21
Killing Driveway Weeds FAST with a Pressure Washer - 8 months Later - Did it work?- Block Paving Weeds - 21st Jul 21
Post-Covid Stimulus Payouts & The US Fed Push Global Investors Deeper Into US Value Bubble - 21st Jul 21
What is Social Trading - 21st Jul 21
Would Transparency Help Crypto? - 21st Jul 21
AI Predicts US Tech Stocks Price Valuations Three Years Ahead (ASVF) - 20th Jul 21
Gold Asks: Has Inflation Already Peaked? - 20th Jul 21
FREE PASS to Analysis and Trend forecasts of 50+ Global Markets by Elliott Wave International - 20th Jul 21
Nissan to Create 1000s of jobs with electric vehicle investment in UK - 20th Jul 21
Bitcoin Halvings Price Forecast and Stock to Flow Analysis - 18th Jul 21
Dell S3220DGF Unboxing and Stand Assembly - 32 Inch 165hz Curved Gaming Monitor Amazon Discount - 18th Jul 21
What Does The Fed Mean By “Transitory Inflation” And Why Is It Important To Understand? - 18th Jul 21
Will the US stock market’s worsening breadth matter? - 18th Jul 21
Bitcoin Halving's Price Projection Forecasts Trend Trajectory - 18th Jul 21

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Protect your Wealth by Investing in AI Tech Stocks

Aristophanes on Inflation

Economics / Inflation Dec 09, 2009 - 01:32 PM GMT

By: Clifford_F_Thies

Economics

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleIt used to be that every economist worth his salt knew Gresham's Law (or, if he was Polish, Copernicus's Law): "bad money drives out good." Narrowly understood, this rule says that when the government requires people to accept different forms of money at an exchange rate fixed by law, the form of money that is overvalued (the "bad money") will circulate, while the form of money that is undervalued (the "good money") won't.


Now comes a new translation of the plays of Aristophanes by Paul Roche, among them "The Frogs," which has the oldest known expression of this rule:

You know what I often think:
We treat our best men
The way we treat our mint
The silver and the golden
We were proud to invent
These unalloyed
Genuine coins, no less,
Ringing true and tested
Both abroad and [in] Greece
And now they're not employed
As if we were disgusted
And want to use instead
These shoddy coppers minted
Only yesterday
Or the day before
(as if that matters).
(Aristophanes: The Complete Plays, trans. Paul Roche, New American Library, 2005, p. 573)

In "The Frogs," two citizens of Athens descend into Hades for the purpose of resurrecting two well-respected politicians of the past to save the city-state from its current, corrupt rulers. The current rulers are said to be like the base-metal coins in circulation, while the rulers of the past are like the full-bodied, precious metal coins that formerly circulated.

The full-bodied coins "rang true"; that is, when flipped onto a solid wooden table, they gave out a distinctive ring. Think of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Bells." The heft, feel, and tone of the coins were sufficient, for most purposes, to distinguish a counterfeit from the genuine article. And these coins circulated abroad as well as at home because they had intrinsic value. In contrast, the debased coins were impossible to distinguish from any counterfeit, since they had no distinctive qualities, and were repugnant to foreigners and anyone else not compelled by law to accept them, just like current politicians.

The passage doesn't actually say how the base-metal coins came to replace the full-bodied coins. Nevertheless, we can infer that the audience knew what had happened, since the play was a comedy, not an economics lecture. From historical sources, we know that Athens had been involved in a series of wars against Sparta and other Greek city-states, and that it was threatened by Persia.

The continuing expenses of these wars depleted Athens's treasury. Even the gold and silver objects at the temple were melted and recast as money. Then the city resorted to debasement and to legal-tender laws compelling acceptance of the debased coins at the values of precious-metal coins. Soon, the coins were recast only with base metal.

The story of debased coins and their connection with fiscal imbalance and corruption is perennial. The prophet Isaiah (1:22) writes "Your silver has become dross, your wine diluted with water." Dross is base metal. The silver coins that had formerly circulated had come to be replaced by coins of base metal. The base metals might be polished so as to look like silver, as in the case of many contemporary US coins, but this only hides the corruption that would otherwise be manifest in the coins.

Similarly, the Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyyah (who can be viewed as a forerunner of Wahhabism) wrote, at a time of continuing warfare against Christians to the west and Mongols to the east, "If the ruler cancels the use of a certain coin and mints another kind of money for the people, he will spoil the riches which they possess." Like Isaiah and Augustine, Ibn Taymiyyah wrote at a time of decline in his civilization and called for revival and separation from the world.

Speaking of the Mongols, it is to the Emperor Kublai Khan that we owe the invention of paper money. Marco Polo, who brought the news of this innovation to the Europeans, wrote in his travelogue, "nor does anyone, at the peril of his life, refuse to accept it in payment." During the later years of Kublai Khan's reign, the issues of paper currency became excessive, and an inflationary cycle got underway.

During the reign of his successor, the fourth Mongol emperor, the world's first "currency reform" was undertaken, with a forced conversion of the old currency for the new at the rate of five to one. The former prosperity was also replaced by corruption and decline.

Upon the overthrow of the Mongol dynasty in the 13th century, and the ascension of the Ming dynasty in China, history recorded yet another milestone in the evolution of money, the first inscription of a legal-tender law onto paper money: "This paper money shall have currency and be used in all respects as if it were copper money." At the beginning of the Ming dynasty, 17 units of paper money were the equivalent of 15 units of copper money. By the 15th century, 5,000 units of paper money were the equivalent of 15 units of copper money. Economic conditions deteriorated, and the empire suffered incursions by the Tartars.

Our own country's experience with legal-tender laws goes back to the colonial days, when the colonies issued paper money then known as "bills of credit." The first issue was by the Massachusetts Colony in 1690, during King William's War, when the English colonists of Massachusetts thought to outfit an expedition to take Quebec, then a French colony. The bills were inscribed, "This indented bill of Five Shillings … shall be in value equal to Money."

Soon after this war came Queen Anne's War and another issue of bills of credit. Then came another war whose name escapes me just now, and then yet another. Each time, more bills of credit. And, of course, accompanying all these Bills of Credit was inflation.[1]

During mid-century, the English limited the ability of the American colonies to issue bills of credit, and the inflation was ended. Later in the 18th century, the American colonies chafed under the burden of this British constraint on issuing paper money. This constraint was among the grievances referred to in the Declaration of Independence. According to Benjamin Franklin, it was the primary one. And so they had a revolution.

Freed of the outside constraint on issuing paper money, guess what? As is obvious to everyone who does not prostrate himself before the throne of big government, there was inflation. And to compel acceptance of the paper money, guess what? Those not accepting the paper money being issued by each of the self-proclaimed independent states or by their Continental Congress were to be treated as Loyalists and have their property seized.

So, in view of the inflation that burst out during the Revolution and Confederation periods, there was called a convention for the purpose of drawing up a new agreement among the states. This agreement, among other things, limited the ability of the state governments to issue paper money and did not grant such a power to the federal government. What is remarkable about the constitution that they drew up is not that it only restrained the issue of paper money for a certain number of years (until the United States got into the cycle of war, deficit spending, inflation, corruption, and decay), but that it restrained the issue of paper money for as long as it did.

So let us, with the same cruel humor, make fun of our condition as Americans the same way Aristophanes did of the condition of Athenians. Let us send a delegation to Hades to resurrect Ludwig von Mises, Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, and Aristotle to replace the corrupt, debased politicians we now have.

Clifford F. Thies is the Eldon R. Lindsay Chair of Free Enterprise at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA. Send him mail. See Clifford F. Thies's article archives.Comment on the blog.


© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in