CONFIDENCE IN THE MONEY - The Mystery of Banking

An intangible, but highly important determinant of the demand for money, is the basic confidence that the public or market has in the money itself. Thus, an attempt by the Mongols to introduce paper money in Persia in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries flopped, because no one would accept it. The public had no confidence in the paper money, despite the awesomely coercive decrees that always marked Mongol rule. Hence, the public’s demand for the money was zero. It takes many years—in China it took two to three centuries—for the public to gain enough confidence in the money, so that its demand for the money will rise from near zero to a degree great enough to circulate throughout the kingdom.

Public confidence in the country’s money can be lost as well as gained. Thus, suppose that a money is King Henry’s paper, and King Henry has entered a war with another state which he seems about to lose. King Henry’s money is going to drop in public esteem and its demand can suddenly collapse.

It should be clear then, that the demand for paper money, in contrast to gold, is potentially highly volatile. Gold and silver are always in demand, regardless of clime, century, or government in power. But public confidence in, and hence demand for, paper money depends on the ultimate confidence—or lack there of—of the public in the viability of the issuing government. Admittedly, however, this influence on the demand for money will only take effect in moments of severe crisis for the ruling regime. In the usual course of events, the public’s demand for the government’s money will likely be sustained.

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