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The Semiotic Theory of Money

Interviewed by the Financial Times (June 7th 2003), Friedman admitted that, “The use of the quantity of money as a target has not been a success.” In light of Friedman’s recantation, I now offer these essays once again that the ideas in them may be reconsidered.

Prologue to Part 1

The Quantity Theory of Money is insufficient for an understanding of the behaviour of economies. A further aspect of money needs to be considered, that is, its Quality. By examining money from a semiological perspective, parallels may be drawn between money and language. Money thus reflects the culture which gave rise to it, that is, not just value but values. Ignoring or suppressing the moral dimension of money corrupts the functioning of economies. The solution lies in a more ‘articulate’ money.

To read further:

Part 1b –

Prologue to Part 2

The abstraction of money facilitated the development of intellectual richness. The abstraction of money facilitated the development of material wealth. The world was created through language. Money can likewise be creative. Hume saw that wealth consisted of goods, not money. Wittgenstein’s thoughts on language have implications for our understanding of money.

Prologue to Part 3

The Book of Genesis warns of the dire consequences of ineffective communication. Saussure identified language as a social and cultural resource. Language is the medium for the exercise of power, and money has its dialects. Imperial China had its formal ‘Great Tradition’ and its vernacular ‘Little Tradition’ – the economy is splitting along the same lines.

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Part 4 and Epilogue

Note: this was written in 1993 after Britain’s ejection from the Exchange Rate Mechanism and the demise of same sometime later.

I began this series of essays by considering the way in which money represented value, that is, the prior creation of goods. I noted that David Hume and Adam Smith both adopted this view, that the value of money was rooted in goods and merely allowed such goods to be exchanged in the abstract. I drew the analogy with the earlier work of Wittgenstein on language where he asserted that for language to have meaning it must be rooted in the concrete, that is, its value lies in its fact-stating function. Later, he was to reject this stance and adopt a position where he asserted that the meaning of language was to be derived from the manner of its usage. This has important implications for my thinking on money.
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To read the total article (5 parts)

From a Renegade Correspondent – Chris Waller

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