By John Chown

During this accomplished historic evaluate, the writer writes approximately financial Unions with admirable completeness. Written in a readable and relaxing prose, A heritage of financial Unions combines historic research with modern-day context.

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This ‘offered lucrative opportunities for the new opportunities for the new profession of money changers’, which charged commissions in the range 6–7 per cent. Meadows goes on to describe some early monetary unions which he classifies into three types, ‘top down’, ‘bottom up’ and ‘consenting’ unions. 1 2 3 ‘Top down’ implies the imposition of monetary union from above (a change in political control in my terminology), which Meadows says was surprisingly rare, citing only the example of king Mitriditis VI of ancient times, but also mentioning some medieval examples which I used in my earlier book.

Paper money had become worthless by about 1799: inflation, as a method of war finance, was burnt out, and in 1803 the 38 Monetary union in post-Napoleonic Europe French had no alternative but to revert to a really credible honest money. This, arguably, as the result of an historical accident, was based on a bimetallic system. The UK was different. There was no excessive issue of paper money, convertibility was eventually resumed with the pound at its old gold parity, and the gold standard was formalised.

Printing money which is accepted in general use generates a profit to the issuer. ‘Seigniorage’ historically meant the profit accruing from minting coins, which were generally valued in trade at a legal fiat value representing a small (convenience) premium over gold or silver bullion value,13 but in the modern sense, is the profit the central bank makes from persuading the public to accept printed pieces of paper as money. 14 In an inflationary economy the economics are far more complicated and the crucial issue, famously identified by Philip Cagan in his analysis of hyper-inflation, is that a government can always extract some extra seigniorage in the short term by inflation, although at the cost of making its currency less attractive and thus reducing its future seigniorage revenues.

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