Reading money

References by Andrew Morriss and Warren Coats 

Read our article in the Cayman Financial Review Magazine, eversion

The past

One starting point for thinking about the future of money is to consider its past.

For those interested in the history of money, there is no better place to start than the works of economist Barry Eichengreen (University of California at Berkeley).

One of the most astute commentators on money, and one of the best prose stylists among economists, Eichengreen’s recent Exorbitant Privilege: The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the International Monetary System (Oxford University Press 2011) is a good starting point.

Look at his Globalizing Capital: A History of the International Monetary System (Princeton University Press, 2nd ed. 2008) to see how money fits into international finance.

A brief history of the international monetary system, Globalizing Capital concisely traces monetary history from the gold standard to the world of floating exchange rates.

An alternative approach to the history of money is novelist Neal Stephenson’s dense historical trilogy, The Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver (William Morrow 2004), The Confusion (William Morrow 2004), and The System of the World (William Morrow 2005)). The creation of the modern idea of money, along with Isaac Newton’s problems running the British Mint, feature prominently in the series.

Economists Lawrence White (Competition and Currency: Essays on Free Banking and Money (NYU Press 1992)) and George Selgin (The Theory of Free Banking: Money Supply under Competitive Note Issue (Routledge 1988)) explore a different aspect of monetary history, the private issuance of currency by banks.

The listed works are just the tip of the iceberg, as both have produced a large number of papers and books exploring how private currencies functioned.

The future

No discussion of the future of money would be complete without discussion of PayPal, a successful innovator in payment systems, or the rise of credit cards. The PayPal Wars: Battles with eBay, the Media, the Mafia, and the Rest of Planet Earth (World Ahead 2004) is a thoughtful, award-winning (if now dated) account of the rise of PayPal.

It is easy to forget how dramatically credit cards changed the world of payment systems. Paul Chutkow’s VISA: The Power of an Idea (Harcourt 2001) chronicles the creation of VISA in a large format book, filled with details gleaned from extensive interviews with participants.

David L. Stearns’ Electronic Value Exchange: Origins of the VISA Electronic Payment System (Springer 2011) is a more recent, quite thorough analysis of VISA from the 1960s to 1980s.

David Evans and Richard Schmalensee’s Paying with Plastic: The Digital Revolution in Buying and Borrowing (MIT Press, 2nd ed. 2004) covers the entire industry’s development from two of the most important economists to focus on it.

VISA founder Dee Hock’s One from Many: VISA and the Rise of the Chaordic Organization (Berrett-Koehler Publishers 2005) offers an insider’s view of VISA’s creation, although one marred by the author’s insistence on using terms like “chaordic”.

For speculating on the future, look to economist David Friedman’s Future Imperfect (Cambridge 2011).

Friedman, the son of Milton and Rose Friedman, discusses the future of money in Chapter 6 on “eCash”. Novelist Stephenson’s online short story, The Great Simoleon Caper, explores the creation of money. [] CFR Editorial Board member Richard Rahn’s The End of Money & the Struggle for Financial Privacy (Discovery Institute 1999) covers a number of important issues and, despite its age, remains an important source.

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Andrew P. Morriss

Andrew P. Morriss, Chairman, is the D. Paul Jones, Jr. & Charlene Angelich Jones – Compass Bank Endowed Chair of Law at the University of Alabama School of Law. He was formerly the H. Ross & Helen Workman Professor of Law and Business at the University of Illinois,Urbana-Champaign. He received his A.B. from Princeton University, his J.D. and M.Pub.Aff. from the University of Texas at Austin, and his Ph.D. (Economics) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a Research Fellow of the N.Y.U. Center for Labor and Employment Law,and a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Energy Research, Washington,D.C., as well as a regular visiting faculty memberat the Universidad Francisco Marroquín,Guatemala. He is the author or coauthor of more than 50 scholarly articles, books, and bookchapters, including Regulation by Litigation (Yale Univ. Press 2008) (with Bruce Yandle and Andrew Dorchak), and is the editor of Offshore Financial Centers and Regulatory Competition (American Enterprise Institute Press 2010).

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Warren Coats
Warren Coats retired from the International Monetary Fund in 2003 where he led technical assistance missions to more than twenty countries (including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Egypt, Iraq, Kenya, Serbia, Turkey, and Zimbabwe). He was a member of the Board of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority from 2003-10. He is currently Visiting Scholar in the Institute for Capacity Development Department of the International Monetary Fund (February 20, 2018 through April 30, 2019) and a fellow of Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise. He has a BA in Economics from the UC Berkeley and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. In March 2019 Central Banking Journal awarded him for his “Outstanding Contribution for Capacity Building.” Warren CoatsT.  +1 (301) 365 0647E. [email protected]W: 

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