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Money as a Legal Institution

Christine A. Desan

Harvard Law School

September 5, 2013

In: David Fox and Wolfgang Ernst, 'Money in the Western Legal Tradition', 2014, Forthcoming
Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 13-34

This essay summarizes the case for considering money as a legal institution. The Western liberal tradition, represented here by John Locke’s iconic account of money, describes money as an item that emerged from barter before the state existed. Considered as an historical practice, money is instead a method of representing and moving resources within a group. It is a way of entailing or fixing material value in a standard that gains currency because of its unique character. As the second half of the essay details, the relationships that make money work are matters of governance carried out in law.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 32

Keywords: money, history of money, money creation, definitions of money, John Locke, law and money, Anglo-Saxon

JEL Classification: A12, B10, B15, B19, B22, B25, B31, E4, E42, E50, H1, H4, K00, K3, N1, N10, N40, Z1

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Date posted: September 7, 2013 ; Last revised: November 1, 2013

Suggested Citation

Desan, Christine A., Money as a Legal Institution (September 5, 2013). In: David Fox and Wolfgang Ernst, 'Money in the Western Legal Tradition', 2014, Forthcoming; Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 13-34. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2321313

Contact Information

Christine A. Desan (Contact Author)
Harvard Law School ( email )
1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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