Edited by Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer
Chapter 5: Chartalism and the Tax-Driven Approach to Money
Pavlina R. Tcherneva* 1. Introduction Economists, numismatists, sociologists and anthropologists alike have long probed the vexing question ‘What is money?’ And it seems Keynes’s ‘Babylonian madness’ has infected a new generation of scholars unsettled by the conventional accounts of the origins, nature and role of money.1 Among them are the advocates of a heterodox approach identiﬁed as ‘Chartalism’, ‘neo-Chartalism’, ‘tax-driven money’, ‘modern money’, or ‘money as a creature of the state’. The Chartalist contribution turns on the recognition that money cannot be appropriately studied in isolation from the powers of the state – be it modern nation-states or ancient governing bodies. It thus oﬀers a view diametrically opposed to that of orthodox theory, where money spontaneously emerges as a medium of exchange from the attempts of enterprising individuals to minimize the transaction costs of barter. The standard story deems money to be neutral – a veil, a simple medium of exchange, which lubricates markets and derives its value from its metallic content. Chartalism, on the other hand, posits that money (broadly speaking) is a unit of account, designated by a public authority for the codiﬁcation of social debt obligations. More speciﬁcally, in the modern world, this debt relation is between the population and the nation-state in the form of a tax liability. Thus money is a creature of the state and a tax credit for extinguishing this debt. If money is to be considered a veil at all, it is a veil of the historically speciﬁc...
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