- Medium of exchange (versus barter)
- Unit of accounting
- Store of value
Finally, medium of exchange? This is the first major eye opener in a fabulous book written by an historical anthropologist: Barter is a straw argument ... apparently never used by any society in the last 5,000 years ... ever! Since the use of money historically is extremely rare, most trade is done as an exchange of favors using human currency - and communism: from each according to abilities and to each according to needs. Families still operate in this tradition cash-less way.
OK, if money is not what has been taught since Adam Smith, what has been the central vehicle of economic activity? DEBT. So now it is revealed, the title "Debt," really signifies all economic activity over all history.
This book is not for the fainthearted - 400 pages of closely spaced, tiny type, but it delivers insights and revelations on economic history. For instance, what happened to all that gold and silver the Spanish and Portuguese extracted from the Americas? Well over 90% went to China and India. Many gold plate Buddhas, originated in Inca mines and were shipped half-way around the world in exchange for spices and cloth. Cloth? Yes! Before the British empire and mills, India exported cloth to Europe, not the other way around.
Virtual money or cashless transactions (credit cards, etc.) is not an innovation of the 21st century, but something that has been used extensively over history. In fact it was only during two imperial/empire periods (800 BCE - 600 CE) and (1450 -1971) that cash money was used.
Anyone with a serious interest in the economy and/or economics should read this.