Chapter 13. Agility and accuracy.
But while the informative-scriptural-clay currency became slow,
and the uninformative-paper-gold currencies became agile, the electronic
currency allows for better information than the first currency and much
more agility than the second ones.
The clay currencies finished when the growth of the markets made the metal
currencies more 'useful'. Later, paper currencies substituted the metal
ones for similar reasons. But the agility increase of metal and paper implied
a loss of accuracy (in trustworthy information). Electronic money (compensations
between current accounts) not only allows a greater agility but also a
very comprehensive information system.
Those who assume that the sort of currency was a key element in the
birth of the history of imperialism is a whim, will find it easier to accept
this other parallel hypothesis: the technical possibilities of every civilization
have created the type of currency according to the specific needs of the
market at any time. Through consistency with the present technical possibilities
and with the needs of contemporary markets, it is clear that we need a
new sort of currency free from the yokes of the old sort which still keep
it subdued and, with it, subdue the market and society.
The increase of agricultural techniques, the improvement of the transport
systems, the growth of towns... caused the expansion of the markets and
the need for more agile and more universal exchanges. The use of precious
metals for currency helped to solve these problems in a much more adequate
way than the difficult system of clay tokens and bullae. Knowing
the techniques for handling precious metals allowed to go, from their initial
use as straws, dust, grain, small ingots, to that of minted pieces with
the king's guarantee.
The interest of individuals and of firms prevailed above the ancestral
interests of the communities and of commoners. The freedom to buy, sell
and become rich was considered more important than the protection against
the misuse of this freedom, which had had priority during many centuries.
Markets grew, and with them the wars which opened new markets and which
reinforced the winning States. Everything grew until, the crisis started
for lack of cash. New, very expensive conquests, to ensure, new gold deposits...
This has been an important part of history. For lack of enough gold to
pay the armies, the king mints again his coins with less weight, or he
melts them and mints out new coins with less actual value and the same
nominal value. This is the story of constant official forgeries. Then the
great inflation arrived with the underselling of the American colonies.
Europe becomes full of gold, trade increases and so does the racing inflation.
After some time, gold is again insufficient. It will always be scarce now.
Silver will follow a similar path. However, in the middle of this hotbed,
the alternative is being prepared. Paper and printing.
First come deposit certificates and bills of exchange. Later, come bank
notes to the bearer. Afterwards, the State takes the emission monopoly.
Then paper comes, simple printed paper, and trust. When the trust is lost,
hyper-inflation repeats itself and leaves its track of poverty and wars.
How can we obtain a currency as agile as a bank-note but, at the same
time appoint liabilities on the user? How can we obtain a currency which,
besides being agile and appoints liabilities, allow an equivalence between
what is sold and what is bought? How can we obtain a currency which does
not oppose private liberty to the communal protection of its antisocial
Electronics already has a monetary instrument available which, under
given conditions of application, may fulfill this need for maximum agility
and, at the same time, maximum trustworthy information. During 4500 years
instruments have not allowed to solve the problem satisfactorily. Now we
have suitable instruments and we are also aware of the whole process undergone
and of the great instrumental and political inadequacies which hinder the
solution of the urgent problems which have been brought up.
To close this revision of the monetary changes, the authors of La
monétique, starting from the French experience, explain, according
to them, what has happened in history to produce changes in the means of
payment, that is in the monetary instruments.
«The new means of payment are born in periods of economic and
social changes. In the absence of a national consensus they need, for their
diffusion, the support of a strong economic agent.
«Because of this, their massive diffusion is always delayed until
the day when actual economy is really in need of a reorganization of the
monetary flows, and therefore requires the change of the monetary object
which is the means of payment.
«The same problems and conflicts have appeared, once more, in
the seventies with the emergence of the electronic currency.
«It is the competition betwen the bank, trade and the State which
is the motor of the evolution of the payment system.
«In looking at history, we feel there is a hypothesis which must
be held: to every leading payment means corresponds a leading economic
actor, and the first one becomes the domination instrument of the second.
«In face of an actor who ensures its monetary control on the circuit
of a given means of payment, the introduction of a new monetary order goes
necessarily through the promotion of new, more adjusted means of payment
through an effort of diversification. It will then be easy to better understand
the emergency of this new phase of rationalization and definition of the
frontiers between agents -which we call the monetic phenomenon- in this
structural crisis faced by the capitalist systems since the beginning of
We may also consider other 'constants' that the authors do not underline
enough or do not consider.
With every new monetary instrument, usually introduced by 'financiers',
after some time the State replies trying to seize the invention, regulating
it and, if it can, monopolizing it. And with every State reaction, the
'financiers' introduce a new instrument which gives them the advantage
for some time.
In this century, changes are so swift that the State, and even traditional
'financiers' (bankers) are loosing initiative due to the intelligent use
of monetics by the trade corporations and financial middlemen, who put
out their own credit or debit cards.
There also appears another historical constant: when the State rules
a new means of payment, usually 'financiers' do not oppose it in a straightforward
way. They are good citizens managing respectable institutions obedient
to the public authorities. If they can, they go along with its subtle use,
and if they can't, they start to look for a new means of payment which
will again put them in a favourable position.
The time seems to be suitable for the change of our monetary instrument.
As a matter of fact, the instrumental change is taking place very rapidly.
According to FUNDESCO2,
some of the elements of financial innovation will be:
- 1992. Working in actual time of the whole banking operation.
- 1993. Integrated managements of the bank communications.
- 1994. Standardization of personal identification systems in the plastic
- Interoperativity among all the EEC cashier networks.
- Diffusion of intelligent cards among over 30% of card users.
- 2000. Introduction of a universal operative system.
Who will carry out the change of a consistent and democratic application
Muldur and Nezih Dincbudack, «La monétique», Éditions
La Découverte, Paris, 1987, p. 24.
Miguel Rodríguez Anton and Eduardo Bueno, «La banca del futuro»
Pirámide, Madrid, 1990.