Positively Valued Fiat Money after the Sovereign Disappears: The Case of Somalia
William J. Luther
Lawrence H. White
George Mason University - Department of Economics
April 2, 2011
GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 11-14
Economists commonly invoke sovereign powers to explain the acceptance of unbacked paper money at a positive value. The government accepts or compels taxes paid in the money (makes it publicly receivable) or compels creditors to accept it (grants and enforces legal tender status). Thus fiat money is thought to rely on enforcement of a literal fiat or decree. The case of Somalia defies this account: following the state’s collapse in 1991, unbacked paper Somali shillings continued to circulate at a positive value. We explain how historical acceptance, or “inertia,” can sustain the ongoing acceptance of unbacked money even in the absence of ongoing sovereign support. Although sovereign power might be necessary to launch a fiat standard, we conclude that it is not a necessary condition for its survival.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 31
Keywords: Belief, Focal Point, Inertia, Learning, Monetary Regime, Monetary Standard, Money, Search, Self-fulfilling Prophecy, Somalia, Somali Shilling
JEL Classification: B52, E00, E41, E42, D83, C71, C73
Date posted: April 4, 2011 ; Last revised: August 21, 2014
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