From Karshapanas to Crypto: A Brief History of Money


Developments such as demonetisation and crypto-currencies have led people to scratch their heads about the nature of money - and its relation to the economy. This talk traces the history and the logic of money from ancient times (like the Mauryan ‘karshapanas’) to the modern crypto-currencies (such as Bitcoin).

Speaker - Secki P Jose
Date - 23rd April 2017
Time -02:30 PM
Venue - FSMK Office


From the program

Audio recording and the presentation material from the session can be found here.


Here are some bullet points I jotted down during the session. They might make more sense when paired with the audio. :stuck_out_tongue:

  • Tracing the logic of ‘money’
  • Intrinsic money: Has value by itself, regardless of the authority. eg: Silver coins
  • Fiat money: Has value by order/authority. (think about who can give the authority)

Case Study: French Revolution
Marie Antoinette allegedly said “If they cannot buy bread, let them eat cake”. The true roots of the French Revolution lay in the ruling party underestimating the effect of just printing more money to pay off debts.
The currency in question at the time were ‘Assignat’ and ‘Mandat’.

  • Large groups like MasterCard and Visa are proprietary collections of banks with agreements to let each other use other people’s cards in their ATMs. They can effectively control any transaction that goes through their network.

Case Study: Donations from MasterCard and Visa did not reach the wikileaks foundation.

Case Study: In the 1850s, Imperial Russia (who controlled the throne) issued a 10,000 Ruble note. Communist Russia (who controlled a majority of the area) also issued a different 10,000 Ruble note. Which would you use and why? This has repeated itself again in Libya. It seems like if there exists a faction rival to the government, all they have to do is print their own money.

  • Cryptocurrencies were invented as a way for doing away with the need for a signing authority.

On that note the talk ended. We had some open discussion, some topics of which I will just state here.

  • How does the RBI set an exchange rate? Open Market Operation
  • Depression vs Recession
  • Government financial easing
  • A banker’s strike in Ireland for 10 weeks made the economy grow. Everyone used a tab on their local pub instead. [source?]
  • For clarifications on the Rothschild conspiracy, you should start by reading the official biography by Niall Ferguson.