Gresham’s Law, and Honest, Stable, Good Money

The referenced passage from The Frogs is as follows (usually dated at 405 BC):[12]
The course our city runs is the same towards men and money.
She has true and worthy sons.
She has fine new gold and ancient silver,
Coins untouched with alloys, gold or silver,
Each well minted, tested each and ringing clear.
Yet we never use them!
Others pass from hand to hand,
Sorry brass just struck last week and branded with a wretched brand.
So with men we know for upright, blameless lives and noble names.
These we spurn for men of brass…

What is the significance of Gresham’s Law and what is the relation to Ideal Money and Bitcoin?

Gresham’s law is an economic principle that states: “When a government overvalues one type of money and undervalues another, the undervalued money will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, while the overvalued money will flood into circulation.”[1] It is commonly stated as: “Bad money drives out good”
he law was named in 1858 by Henry Dunning Macleod, after Sir Thomas Gresham (1519–1579), who was an English financier during the Tudor dynasty. However, there are numerous predecessors. The law had been stated earlier by Nicolaus Copernicus; for this reason, it is occasionally known as the Copernicus Law.[3][4] It was also stated in the 14th century, by Nicole Oresme,[5] and by jurist and historian Al-Maqrizi (1364–1442) in the Mamluk Empire;[6] and noted by Aristophanes in his play The Frogs, which dates from around the end of the 5th century BC.
“Good” money is money that shows little difference between its nominal value (the face value of the coin) and its commodity value (the value of the metal of which it is made, often precious metals, nickel, or copper).
Gresham’s law states that any circulating currency consisting of both “good” and “bad” money (both forms required to be accepted at equal value under legal tender law) quickly becomes dominated by the “bad” money.
The law was named after Sir Thomas Gresham, a sixteenth-century financial agent of the English Crown in the city of Antwerp, to explain to Queen Elizabeth I what was happening to the English shilling. Her father, Henry VIII, had replaced 40 percent of the silver in the coin with base metals, to increase the government’s income without raising taxes. Astute English merchants and even ordinary subjects would save the good shillings from pure silver and circulate the bad ones; hence, the bad money would be used whenever possible, and the good coinage would be saved and disappear from circulation.

The re-lation of Gresham’s law and in regards to how currency can be introduced successfully or not successfully (from the lecture series “Ideal Money”):

Here we can remember the classic ancient economics saying called “Gresham’s law” which was “the bad money drives out the good”.  The saying of Gresham’s is mostly of interest here because it illustrates the “old” or “classical” concept of “bad money” and this can be contrasted with more recent attitudes which have been very much influence by the Keynesians and by the result of their influence on government polices since the 30s.
 But the famous classical “Gresham’s Law” also reveals the intrinsic difficulty. Thus “good money” will not naturally supplant and replace “bad money” by a simple Darwinian superiority of competitive species. Rather than that, it must be that the good things are established by the voluntary choice of human agencies.

Nash, Smith, and Szabo Compare Economics to Transportation/Tele-communications Networks:

Smith compares/contrasts money in a paper form vs. a gold/silver form with transportation highways as a metaphor:

It is not by augmenting the capital of the country, but by rendering a greater part of that capital active and productive than would otherwise be so, that the most judicious operations of banking can increase the industry of the country. That part of his capital which a dealer is obliged to keep by him unemployed and in ready money, for answering occasional demands, is so much dead stock, which, so long as it remains in this situation, produces nothing, either to him or to his country. The judicious operations of banking enable him to convert this dead stock into active and productive stock; into materials to work upon; into tools to work with; and into provisions and subsistence to work for; into stock which produces something both to himself and to his country. The gold and silver money which circulates in any country, and by means of which, the produce of its land and labour is annually circulated and distributed to the proper consumers, is, in the same manner as the ready money of the dealer, all dead stock. It is a very valuable part of the capital of the country, which produces nothing to the country. The judicious operations of banking, by substituting paper in the room of a great part of this gold and silver, enable the country to convert a great part of this dead stock into active and productive stock; into stock which produces something to the country. The gold and silver money which circulates in any country may very properly be compared to a highway, which, while it circulates and carries to market all the grass and corn of the country, produces itself not a single pile of either. The judicious operations of banking, by providing, if I may be allowed so violent a metaphor, a sort of waggon-way through the air, enable the country to convert, as it were, a great part of its highways into good pastures, and corn fields, and thereby to increase, very considerably, the annual produce of its land and labour. The commerce and industry of the country, however, it must be acknowledged, though they may be somewhat augmented, cannot be altogether so secure, when they are thus, as it were, suspended upon the Daedalian wings of paper money, as when they travel about upon the solid ground of gold and silver. Over and above the accidents to which they are exposed from the unskilfulness of the conductors of this paper money, they are liable to several others, from which no prudence or skill of those conductors can guard them.

From Nick Szabo, Transportation, divergence, and the industrial revolution, Szabo formalizes the relationship:

Metcalfe’s Law states that a value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of its nodes.  In an area where good soils, mines, and forests are randomly distributed, the number of nodes valuable to an industrial economy is proportional to the area encompassed.  The number of such nodes that can be economically accessed is an inverse square of the cost per mile of transportation.  Combine this  with Metcalfe’s Law and we reach a dramatic but solid mathematical conclusion: the potential value of a land transportation network is the inverse fourth power of the cost of that transportation. A reduction in transportation costs in a trade network by a factor of two increases the potential value of that network by a factor of sixteen. While a power of exactly 4.0 will usually be too high, due to redundancies, this does show how the cost of transportation can have a radical nonlinear impact on the value of the trade networks it enables.  This formalizes Adam Smith’s observations: the division of labor (and thus value of an economy) increases with the extent of the market, and the extent of the market is heavily influenced by transportation costs (as he extensively discussed in his Wealth of Nations).

Under certain conditions money returns to the banks in exchange for what is more tangible and finite.  The relationship between mandated currency and it’s value seems implicate:

In 1661, Johan Palmstruch issued the first regular paper money in the West, under royal charter from the Kingdom of Sweden, through a new institution, the Bank of Stockholm. While this private paper currency was largely a failure, the Swedish parliament eventually took over the issue of paper money in that country. By 1745, its paper money was inconvertible to specie, but acceptance was mandated by the government.[14] This fiat currency depreciated so rapidly that by 1776 it returned to a silver standard.~http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_money

Nash proposes a technological and economical advancement in the form of a currency of the stable strong and good kind (in the Gresham’s sense):

This variety of money would be intrinsically free of “inflationary decadence”..a true “gold standard”, but the proposed basis for that was not the proposal of a linkage to gold.~Ideal Money
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s