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By John Chown

During this entire ancient assessment, the writer writes approximately financial Unions with admirable completeness. Written in a readable and relaxing prose, A background of economic Unions combines old research with modern day context.

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Extra info for A History of Monetary Unions

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Ellis is least interested in his type 1 as being technical and transient, but it has been important in more modern times, and has been suggested and occasionally implemented, even in free market countries attempting to operate systems of fixed exchange rates and finding they are thwarted (as they think) by speculators. The substance of Ellis’ book consists of three chapters dealing respectively with Austria, Hungary and Germany, and there is much in these for those interested in war finance or reactions to the great depression.

4 The history of metallic currency is in fact riddled with examples of cases where coins changed hands at a ‘fiat’ value in excess of the (often debased) intrinsic value of the metal, generating seigniorage for the issuer and, in many cases, an opportunity to cheat. During these earlier periods there was a common pattern of the continual debasement of a particular coinage. Eventually, when there was a ruler wise enough to recognise the needs of trade, this was corrected. Sometimes a new, sound, coinage such as the silver groat or the gold florin would be introduced, but more often (particularly if the initiative came from merchants rather than rulers) by adopting a sound foreign currency of a known and guaranteed weight of silver or gold.

In this case ‘good money drives out bad’; as with unofficial dollarisation. Problems with currency boards There are two main economic problems. First, there are difficulties with fixing the rate. Second, banknotes, backed by currency board assets, are only a small part of money supply. Bank deposits are only backed by fractional reserves: over-banking is in principle checked by prudential considerations. Estonian and Lithuanian currency boards have explicitly backed commercial bank deposits at the central bank, but in most cases there is no central bank and the commercial reserve asset is the board’s note issues.

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