Wednesday, February 8, 2017

From Ancient Storehouse Ledger Symbols to Coinage

What a society considers money depends on how it constructs symbols since money is a symbolic measure of the value of goods and services that assumes real value because it is a symbol that is treated as if it has real value. However symbols are not just as an unnecessary burden but are important since they allow for abstract intelligence. The symbols used for human life are the symbols used for rites of passage, birth, marriage and death. Such symbols can also have value as a form of compensation for that which cannot be otherwise compensated for. These symbols as used in the sort of simple societies that existed for tens of thousands of years of world history were the first form of money. Money was thus the symbol of life.

When the first cities were organized around the first temples, the concept of money changed into the concept of credit ledgers for the gold, silver and other metals offered to the temple god for his or her glorification. Such glorification won the god’s favor which life itself depended on. Thus the temple’s credit ledgers of gold gained importance because a sacred connotation emerged around them. Parallel to these temple complexes were the palace complexes that formed around the generals who became kings as the ancient cities turned to the military to defend their power and wealth from enemies foreign and domestic.

In the popular mind, the collapse of civilization is associated with the Dark Ages and the Dark Ages are associated with the Dark Ages that occurred after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Yet the Dark Ages that occurred after the collapse of the Roman Empire were actually less harsh than the Dark Ages that occurred between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. This Bronze Dark Ages collapsed a stable international system of states that had existed for centuries.

As new authorities took the place of old authorities, the financing of the military became an important issue. In the Kingdom of Lydia, there were deposits of electrum, an alloy of gold and silver. The king found that if he had it molded into coinage, he could give mercenaries a commonly accepted form of value for their services that could be taken elsewhere. The value of these coins was enhanced by demanding that his subjects pay their taxes with these coins, forcing his subjects to sell their goods and services to his mercenaries. This was such an effective solution to the financing of the military that it became the standard for city-states throughout the Iron Age Hellenistic world. This enhanced the desirability of coinage for mercenaries which enhanced the interest of city-states in issuing coinage/demanding tax in coin which enhancing the desirability of coinage for mercenaries which extended the coin-based system of markets, militaries and taxes.

As the shape of society changed, the form of the change was shaped by how the form of circulation of goods and services was affected by the form of economy. The circulation of goods and services through the storehouses of palaces and temples was thus replaced by the circulation of goods and services through the circulation of currency. The storehouses of palaces and temples were controlled by high priests and kings. The circulation of currency favored the elites favored by the states issuing the currency and disfavored the subject populations forced to pay taxes to the state. The subjects were forced into debt and then forced to sell their land and even their very selves to the cash-rich favorites of the state. These elites rich in cash and land then controlled their debt-bound clients through credit ledgers used as an alternative to hard currency, especially as the Iron Age civilizations headed to their own Dark Ages.

However, there was a limit to this trend which was at its greatest extreme in the peripheries. In the urban centers, cash was still important. In the core of ancient civilizations, more of society was organized around urban centers and thus cash was more important in general. Since more people handled more cash, enterprising warlords could build armies to establish new states under the aegis of their rising dynasties to replace old states unable to manage societal cash flows.

1 comment:

  1. What's proper money? Gold? Paper? Both? Neither? Follow me as I discuss the issue through a historical perspective.