Equity 1 Group
Pushing back the frontiers of economic ignorance and restoring sound financial foundations, one family at a time.

Fiat Currency: China

Flying Money Part 2 of 6

Yuan Squeeze

When the Chinese first started using paper money, they called it “flying money,” because it could just fly from your hands. The reason for the issuance of paper money is simple. There was a copper shortage, so banks had switched to the use of iron coinage. These iron coins became overissued and fell in value.

In the 11th century, a bank in the Szechuan province of China issued paper money in exchange for the iron coins. Initially, this was fine, because the paper money was exchangeable for gold, silver, or silk. Eventually, inflation began to take hold, as China was funding an ongoing war with the Mongols, which it eventually lost.

Genghis Khan won this war, but the Mongols didn’t assume immediate control over China as they pushed westward to conquer more lands. Genghis Khan’s grandson Kublai Khan united China and assumed the emperorship. After running into some setbacks with paper currency, Kublai eventually had some success with fiat money. In fact, Marco Polo said of Kublai Khan and the use of paper currency:

“You might say that [Kublai] has the secret of alchemy in perfection…the Khan causes every year to be made such a vast quantity of this money, which costs him nothing, that it must equal in amount all the treasure of the world.”

Even Helicopter Ben would be impressed. Marco Polo went on to say:

“This was the most brilliant period in the history of China. Kublai Khan, after subduing and uniting the whole country and adding Burma, Cochin China, and Tonkin to the empire, entered upon a series of internal improvements and civil reforms, which raised the country he had conquered to the highest rank of civilization, power, and progress.”

Wait a second, I thought we were bashing fiat currencies here…Can anyone say crackup boom? Since Marco Polo experienced this firsthand, and has been very helpful to us thus far, I think I will allow him to finish his analysis of China’s paper money experiment.

“Population and trade had greatly increased, but the emissions of paper notes were suffered to largely outrun both…All the beneficial effects of a currency that is allowed to expand with a growth of population and trade were now turned into those evil effects that flow from a currency emitted in excess of such growth. These effects were not slow to develop themselves…The best families in the empire were ruined, a new set of men came into the control of public affairs, and the country became the scene of internecine warfare and confusion.”

I wonder if Keynes read Marco Polo’s experiences with Chinese fiat currencies when he said that the U.S. government should just bury bottles full of money in old mine shafts to spur economic growth.  Click Here To Read Full Article

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