Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Money, money, money

The Android Sisters
An interesting feature of introductory economic courses is a consideration of the nature of money. The Android Sisters insist that money is just paper blessed by the treasury wizards. Economists usually say money is "is any object or record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts…" (-Wikipedia). Others argue that money is inherent in any transaction between people or that it's a method for storing wealth or facilitating specialization.

The question of money is part of a study of comparative politics as well. The UK has preserved its own currency and refused to join the European Monetary Union. Meanwhile, the German mark, the Italian lira, and 16 other national currencies have disappeared.

Recently, the British government has warned the Scots that if they vote for independence, they will not be able to continue to use the pound as their currency.

Why this powerful allegiance to a currency? BBC News offers a little history as partial explanation.

A short history of the pound
With a credible claim to be the oldest living currency in the world, the pound has accompanied Britons through much of their march through history. But is Scotland soon to end its use of the unit?

Despite its full-throated associations with Britishness, the pound traces its origins back to continental Europe.

Its name derives from the Latin word Libra for weight or balance, via the construction Libra Pondo, meaning a pound weight. While the word Libra has long since been discarded, it makes its presence felt in… the £ symbol, an ornate L…

[I]ts value originally equated to the price of a pound of silver.

In an echo of the ancient Roman system of libra, solidus and denarius, a pound was divided into 20 shillings and 240 silver pennies…

Coins from the 8th century kindgom of King Offa. They show signs of "penny pinching" as people pinched off bits of the edge for making change or cheating the next recipient.

Banknotes began to circulate in England soon after the establishment of the Bank of England in 1694. They were initially hand-written.

Gold coins emerged in 1560, and by 1672 some were made of copper.

The pound bestrode its complex system of shillings and pence until decimalisation in 1971…

Use of the word "sterling" did not arise until after the Norman Conquest, and it originally referred to pennies not pounds, but its origins are mysterious, deriving perhaps from esterlin, a Norman word for little star, or lesterling, an Arab word for money…

[W]ith a keen eye on the Royal Mint's bottom line Henry VIII drastically reduced the silver content of coins minted in his reign in what became known as the Great Debasement.

It was left to Elizabeth I in 1560 to restore the value of the coinage, which would remain relatively stable into the 19th Century…

There have since been numerous grand attempts to manage the value of sterling, including the Gold Standard, the Bretton Woods system and the European Exchange Rate Mechanism - but prevailing western economic orthodoxy now favours floating exchange rates, and the value of the pound is largely determined by supply and demand.

The pound has also survived as an independent currency when most of the rest of Europe adopted a single currency, the euro, something that at one stage in the early 21st Century seemed the likely fate of sterling too…

An alternative currency, the Scots pound, continued until the 1707 Act of Union created a currency union based on a pound's value south of the border.

The Bank of Scotland had been created in 1695, a year after the Bank of England, and survives today…

It retains the right to print its own banknotes, but these have been equivalent in value to their southern counterparts since unification…

Now, the SNP is keen to assure voters that the country's 300-year-old adoption of a 1,200-year-old currency would not end if they vote in favour of independence in the forthcoming referendum.

The British political establishment has joined forces to warn that it most certainly would…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

Want less in a review guide? The get Just The Facts! It's a brief compendium of concepts, terms, definitions, and examples that will help you prepare for the big exam in May. (It's also available at Amazon.com.)

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home