A free market in money…well…not so great… January 19, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Uncategorized.
The NPR Planet Money Podcast is, I find, a great podcast, not one I listen to religiously, but instead let them build up and listen to a glut of them at one go. And they’ve done some great one’s over the Christmas and New Year period. The Birth of the Dollar Bill in particular is great stuff, compressed into 10 minutes or so, including an insight into a supposedly ‘free market’ in currencies where in the US before the introduction of the US dollar bill there were up to 8000 different currencies, and the processes of exchange for those travelling across the US was painful beyond belief (and perhaps worse again for shopkeepers who had to decide whether they could accept notes, and had to consult regularly published books detailing legitimate currencies). And it was a field day for counterfeiters.
But it wasn’t because the state decided the situation was crazed, which it clearly was, that the there was a change. Oh no. It was because in the wake of the US Civil War the costs of funding it demanded that the US printed money ‘greenbacks’. They were intended to be temporary, but as noted on the podcast ‘consumers kind of liked them’ because they were universally recognised. And then national banks, regulated by the Federal government appeared at the same time (and for similar reasons) and they further supported the dollar as a unitary and de facto national currency.
Of course in Ireland even subsequent to Independence and prior to the Currency Commission the introduction of the Saorstát pound in 1928 six individual banks issued bank notes albeit they were convertible at the same rate as the pound sterling (as still occurs in Scotland and England today). You’ll find some of the background to that here. And you’ll find more background and images of the notes themselves here.