By George Bragues
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Extra resources for Money, Markets, and Democracy: Politically Skewed Financial Markets and How to Fix Them
34 G. 45 But the more groundbreaking move toward paper was made in 1690 by the colony of Massachusetts in issuing £40,000 of bills of credit. Its government would occasionally send a military force to New France on self-financing missions to capture booty. After initially enjoying some successful expeditions, however, the Massachusetts soldiers were eventually rebuffed by the French Canadians. Despite this turn of events, the soldiers still demanded to be paid for their efforts. 46 Justifying it on the grounds that paper issuance facilitated commerce by making up for the lack of coins, Massachusetts continued using paper money, and all the other colonies—Virginia being the latecomer—followed its example.
The chartalist argument runs into problems by not directly referencing money’s role as a medium of exchange. From the first moment it was invented up to the present day, this has been a defining feature of money. The chartalist is forced to account for this feature by assuming that the government’s specification of a given set of objects for the legal fulfillment of tax and debt obligations invariably causes those objects to be used in everyday transactions. But that is not necessarily the case.
55 Obviously, the assignats depreciated tremendously as a result both against gold and the wider array of goods and services (Fig. 56 This, in turn, ushered a hyperinflationary storm that the revolutionary government sought to quell with price controls and draconian laws requiring people to accept assignats at face value (Fig. 4). Not until Napoleon took over the French state and instituted a goldbased system was monetary order finally restored to the country—not exactly an outcome by which democracy, then in the midst of making its grand reappearance in the world since its prior incarnation in Ancient Greece and Rome, could give a good first impression of its competence to handle monetary affairs.