Wednesday, August 22, 2012

SD for the 21st C: The Origin of Money in the Digest of Justinian

Lord Keynes up with some interesting historic analysis on the origin of "money" via some records remaining from the (I guess) what we may call the early Holy Roman Empire.

Corroborates with what we reported here from the 19th century author Alexander Del Mar.

Philip Pilkington is in the comments. Good stuff here.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Matt!Mike Norman,Lord Keynes and Lars Palson Syll have became my favourite blogs by now!

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David said...

del Mar has that bit (pg. 49 The Science of Money) from the Justinian Digest:

The following are from the " Pandects *' of Justinian, and are said to have been introduced into that code of laws by Julius Paulus, a Roman lawyer of the third century a.d. In the author's opinion, they are much older.

" As it seldom happened that what one (man) possessed (to sell) the other (man) wanted (to buy) — and conversely — a thing was fixed upon whose legal and perpetual value remedied, by its homogeneity, the difficulties of barter. This thing, being officially fabricated, circulates and
maintains its value, not so much from its substance as from its quantity.”

This translation is "reprinted from the testimony of
M. Henri Cernuschi before the United States Silver Commission, as published in their Report, vol. ii. p. 475 ; the originals not being accessible in San Francisco, where the present work is being written."

Del Mar was literate in the classical languages, but one can see the limitations of doing research from libraries in his time. The difference in meaning of the passage if the word "quantity" is used instead of "value" is significant and important for del Mar's argument on how money is defined as a measure of value.

Leverage said...

I've followed some links, read here:
Inflation and the Fall of the Roman Empire

"In other words, it was the super rich and propertied classes who evaded taxation and forced a highly regressive tax system on the middle classes and poor. The economic problems can be related to the structure and unfair burden of taxation, not taxation per se."

Exactly the same bullshit that is happening in USA and elsewhere.

Matt Franko said...


And the archeological record is revealing evidence of hoarding of the currency big time...

Ive been posting the reports here from time to time...

Regressive over-taxation and hoarding... hmmm where have I heard that story before...


Matt Franko said...


That translation issue seems important...

So it looks like the translation posted by LK used the word 'value' and delMar's translation was 'quantity'????

does that look correct?

LK's translation looks correct to me, not del Mar's, based on what Aristotle wrote...


Lord Keynes said...

Some points:

(1) my translation of the Digest 18.1.1 (= Paulus, On the Edict, Book 33) comes from Charles Henry Monro's Digest of Justinian, which is not always a reliable translation.

(2) The relevant part of Latin text reads:

... eaque materia forma publica percussa usum dominiumque non tam ex substantia praebet quam ex quantitate nec ultra merx utrumque, sed alterum pretium vocatur.

The word quantitate is the ablative singular of quantitas, meaning "quantity".

So the translation should be:

"and with this material having been coined by public authority, it offers use and ownership, not so much from its substance than from its quantity, nor were both called 'goods' later, but one was called the price.”