Is free banking real

Currency versus banking

Currency versus banking.
A frame of reference of enduring importance to modern money

The term New Currency Theory (NCT) refers to the historical Currency school the first half of the 19th century. Her adversary was that Banking school that time. [2] Reference to these teachings is not intended to replicate them in their original form. Rather, structural components are to be worked out that have been preserved and developed over the past 200 years; and which can be said to have existed and developed in nucleo since ancient Greece and Rome. [3]

As far as I know, the English expressions 'currency' and 'banking' have always been adopted in German. Nonetheless, a German-language approximation says what it is about: in short, money versus credit; less briefly, whether either legal tender or bank loan money should serve as a means of circulation (currency = means of circulation, formerly cash, now also book money). In short and up to date: sovereign money versus bank money.

The term currency means on the one hand the currency and on the other hand also the official means of payment in this currency, i.e. money. The German term Umlaufmittel takes on the meaning of currency, but includes not only legal money (coins, banknotes) but also giro money as a money surrogate. This also applies to the French term compte courant for current account. The traditional term Kurantgeld for certain gold and silver coins as legal tender has the same root word and also the same meaning as currency. However, transferring the modern semantics of full money to it would not necessarily make sense.

Of course one could simply speak of a modern currency or money theory. But apart from the fact that this is perhaps all too unspecific and the context of the currency-vs-banking controversy is lost, this expression has already been occupied by the modern money theory. Although this has some correct things to say about modern money, it has, on the other hand, also launched new false doctrines on the subject of money and finance. [3a] Hence appears Sovereign money theory most suitable. If one wants to disregard the currently strongly emphasized reform component and create a further scientific and monetary policy context, would be New currency theory the first choice.

Here> a comprehensive synopsis on the currency versus banking controversy.

The British Currency School of the first decades of the 19th century developed out of mercantilist bullionism. According to this, a nation's prosperity rested on its possession of gold and silver. Now that the metal money age is over, some believe that currency theory is no longer relevant. That is a mistake. At that time practically all scholars were still 'metallists'. Silver coins and gold bars were taken for granted as cover for paper money. The currency theorists of the time - Ricardo, Torrens, Thornton and others - had no interest in gold as such. Torrens saw himself explicitly as an anti-bullionist. They wanted a paper money and credit system that was modern for the time, but a stable one that would avoid excess paper money and bank money and thus also prevent inflation and banking crises. They provided for appropriate regulations to ensure control over the amount of money in circulation - control of the amount, not control of use.

Currency theorists as well as leading politicians of the time saw the runaway flood of private banknotes as the main cause of the recurring banking and financial crises. The analogy to the banks' generation of credit and giro deposits, which are now out of control in the same way, is obvious. The currency theory prevailed at that time against the banking theory. The first Bank Charter Act of 1833 made central banknotes legal tender. The second Bank Charter Act of 1844 established a proportional gold and silver cover for central banknotes. This established a relative maximum for the issue of banknotes.

The British Bank Charter Acts served as a model for similar measures in all then industrializing countries. They gradually replaced the banknotes from private 'slip banks' with central bank notes. The banknote monopoly of the national central banks was thus permanently established. [4] As Whale notes, the laws implement a basic principle of 'currency theory, according to which banking and money creation should be separated'. [5] Money changed from being a private matter back to being a matter of public law, the prerogative of a sovereign state, which historically it has generally been.

In the years after 1844, however, the law was repeatedly weakened. This happened at the request of the Bank of England, which in turn was under pressure from the banks to print even more money in order to invest it in the railway boom of the time - which promptly led to the severe banking and financial crises of 1847 and 1857.

In any case, the law fell short of the mark, as it only referred to banknotes. The deposit money generated by bank credit, later known as the check system, had been left out, although this topic had played a role in the debates between the representatives of the currency and the banking point of view. It is hardly credible that one 'forgot' the deposit money, as is often said; rather, that there was more lobbying at work here.

In the course of the 19th century, cashless payment by means of deposit - in the form of bank-mediated settlement of available account balances - became increasingly common among companies, government agencies, wealthy families, not least among banks themselves. However, the monetary policy importance of this mechanism was not fully recognized until the 1890s with the development of the bank credit theory of money. [6] At that time, the share of bank money in the M1 money supply had grown to around a third in the advanced countries of Europe. Today bank money has reached a share of 80–90 percent.

It was a serious deficiency of the bank charter laws that bank money was not included in the legal regulation and thus left to the discretion of the banks. Nevertheless, important principles of the currency theory were anchored. Since then it has been official that modern money (cutting coins, banknotes, book money) is symbol money, not commodity money. Sign money can be drawn freely from nothing. In the absence of legal regulations, the money creation of the banks (deposit, at that time still banknotes) tends to a procyclical excess of lending and thus credit and debt generation, in crises to excessively shrinking lending and thus shrinking money supply. This results in a strongly fluctuating, overall inflationary and asset-inflationary excess money supply, i.e. unstable and insecure money, which causes recurring banking, financial and economic crises.

From the point of view of currency theory, it is therefore indispensable to determine by law what is to serve as money, that is, as a general means of payment or means of circulation; under whose control and responsibility this money is created, circulated or withdrawn from circulation; by means of which monetary policy instruments; and who is entitled to the privilege of realizing the profits or other monetary benefits (the seigniorage) associated with the prerogative of creating money.

This raises a question that has been preoccupying economists since then: Which anchor should a currency be tied to? What criteria can be used to determine what is an appropriate amount of money? At the beginning of the 19th century - the late metal money period, so to speak - gold was still generally regarded as the sought-after anchor; although even then a considerable part of the banknotes issued was 'covered' or 'secured' by depositing government bonds.

In addition, currency and banking theorists have already considered prices to be a suitable starting point. However, they struggled to statistically document inflationary and deflationary tendencies as well as appreciation and depreciation trends of the currency.

Later, since around 1900, when the assumption of an 'inner' monetary value was gradually abandoned and official statistics had improved, there was a move towards replacing gold as a reference point with shopping baskets of different compositions - for example a selection of raw materials, originally included Gold, or a basket with the prices of selected consumer goods and services, as it is today in the producer and consumer price indices. As important as these are (provided they are reliable), they are not suitable as a 'standard meter' for the internal and external value of money in a particular currency. You can buy goods with money, but money itself is neither a commodity nor a basket of goods, but a legal document in the form of an instruction on unspecified but quantity-limited goods to the extent of the relevant nominal value, that is, the relevant price amount.

The quantum leap in the basket of goods approach was ultimately to relate the amount of money in circulation to the total economic product, as expressed in the circulation equations of money by Fisher, Keynes and many others. [7] The value of money consists in its purchasing power and this is ultimately derived from macroeconomic productivity, the totality of all goods and services created and sold, as indicated by GDP since the 1940-50s, be it national or supranational. With this, the performance potential of the economy with full capacity utilization became the frame of reference for an adequate supply of money.

One should take into account that the actual need for money includes more than just what is reflected in the official GDP. The money needs not specifically recorded include the entire area of ​​illegal work and the underground economy, but above all: the financial needs of the financial industry, in contrast to the need for money for the financing and sales of the real economy. Both aspects are largely neglected in economics to this day.

With regard to such questions, even then especially inflation and speculative bubbles, the representatives of the banking school, Tooke and Fullarton, put forward two theorems - on the one hand the law of money reflux, on the other hand the collateral doctrine , or doctrine of the good promissory notes (real-bills doctrine; real bills = bonds from the best names). [8]

The collateral doctrine states that as long as the banks issue book money and paper money by credit at short notice and against the best collateral, it is guaranteed that the additional money will be used for productively useful purposes, and that when the loans fall due, the relevant amounts will be repaid and thus that Money is withdrawn from circulation again, so that there is no more money in circulation than a 'real' need for it. So the basic idea of ​​this doctrine is that the quality existing securities automatically the quantity of bank credit and thus of the banknotes and sight deposits in circulation. It was emphasized that bankers are, after all, honorable merchants with unmistakable expertise. Whatever you think of it ... interestingly, this is a moral point of view and a behavioral argument, not a functional economic argument.

For bankingtheorist Inflation and bubbles were undoubtedly key issues. In the practice however, in spite of lip service, the bankers cared precious little about the stability of the currency and prices. Rather, then, as now, they tended to pro-cyclically fuel inflation and financial market speculation by creating additional money (leverage). In doing so, they expand their balance sheets or increase the nominal value of their assets, which initially also means an increased real value. It leads to rising interest rates, and thus initially also increased interest margins. Second, inflation lowers the value of a bank's liabilities in the same way as it does any other debtor. So as long as inflation is not galloping, banks can make a living from it.

Torrens, as the leading head of the Currency School, was originally a supporter of the collateral doctrine himself. Over time, however, he began to feel alienated from the reality of real bills and the actual behavior of banks. Thornton, on the other hand, who was himself a respected banker, criticized the collateral doctrine from the start. In his opinion it is impossible to know in advance with sufficient reliability which securities will turn out to be 'real' and which will be fictitious.

In addition, the banks did not limit their business activities to either the short term or the best addresses. Long-term bonds were accepted as well as short-term ones; Debtors with poor credit ratings may not be as willing as debtors with the best credit ratings, but they do. Either way, unforeseen events can upset all calculations. The banking industry, including the Bank of England, as Thornton noted as an insider, tended, out of sheer self-interest, to excessively issue credit (and hence cash and debts). This repeatedly caused imbalances in individual banks and sectoral banking crises, all the more since the banknotes had to be convertible in order to be generally accepted, i.e. exchanged for silver coins at any time. [9]

The banking school certainly did not take the stance that money was 'unimportant' economically, but, like classical economics, it tended to classify the importance of money as a supposed mere medium of exchange as low. According to Fullarton's cash return principle, inflation, credit bubbles and crises should have other than monetary reasons, because banknotes and deposit money would flow back when loans were repaid. As soon as inflation was even felt, the paper money holders would immediately exchange their bills for silver coins and thus nip any excess banknotes in the bud. Of course, such an organic return flow of money has never been documented, but its inorganic manifestation in the form of bank runs when customers queue in front of locked bank doors in vain to get their money.

The currency school found that in the reality of the banking business there is no effective limit on debt securities, loans and bank money until the next overcredit, overinvestment and overindebtedness crisis sets in and the supposedly good debts become too bad. Accordingly, the currency theory opposed the collateral doctrine with the thesis of real-bills fallacy, a thesis of banking and market failure. According to this, the belief in 'good debts', 'good uses', 'good bankers', 'invisibly guided markets' and other figures of an ideal world economy has little to do with the real banking world.

The rationality of the banking point of view overlaps here with the basic pattern of classical, later neoclassical economics, namely the axiomatic belief in the 'invisible hand' of the market. According to the economic philosopher Vogl, this is a medieval scholastic theologian: the idea of ​​God's wise manus gubernatoris, which infallibly brings about a harmonia mundi unless it is prevented from doing so by diabolical machinations. [10] The latter are habitually projected onto 'the state' and 'the government' in classical and neoclassical economics.

Representatives of banking doctrine therefore demand that the state should not interfere in money and banking matters. Money is presented as a mere medium of exchange that is created by the actors endogenously to the market as required. Money itself becomes a commodity. This market-endogenous commodity theory of money was later elaborated by Menger and the Austrian School in 1871. [11]

A commodity should be left to 'the markets'. In terms of money, this means nothing other than leaving the money to the banks and other financial institutions, while the state should limit itself to protecting property and ensuring the enforcement of private law contracts. In this respect, too, banking doctrine reflects an unreflective attitude in (neo) classical economics, according to which 'the markets' have a kind of absolutist private status beyond state and society. In the historical context, this is entirely understandable as the self-manifestation of the aspiring bourgeoisie against the traditional feudal state. Of course, the aspiring economic citizen with the critical bath also poured out the modern democratic state child. With regard to modern dynamic markets with far-reaching social interdependencies and effects, the presumed private status of the markets is downright alien.

The currency theory is different. She sees money as part of the state and legal system.It therefore understands the monetary order not only in economic terms, but even more in terms of its legal basis. The Currency School attaches fundamental importance to the monetary order - 'money matters', as the monetarist Friedman postulated. In doing so, he continued the views of his teachers Simons, Knight and Viner, who in turn developed the Chicago Plan of 100% Reserve Banking of the 1930s. Like the quantity theorist Fisher and his very similar proposal of 100% money, you are among the most important currency theorists of that time.

Proponents of a currency standpoint regard the monetary and banking system as constitutive of any modern economy. The monetary order is the core of the financial economy, as this in turn conditions the real economy. This is not a linear relationship, it contains interdependencies and feedback. Nevertheless, these unfold along the systemic hierarchy of money, finance and the real economy. [12] Anyone who determines the creation and initial use of money, including the further use of money, in particular the financial allocation of money, has the greatest instrument of power that exists in addition to legal authority and authority.

Banking representatives deny or play down the social importance of money. For bankers, the power of banks has always been a sub-issue. They want to rule over money, but they do not want to take responsibility for it, just as little as questions about the legitimation of their abundance of power. That is why bankers like classical monetary theory. According to this, money is only an external 'veil' over the economy. Money as a medium of exchange mediates trade, but is not constitutive for production and market processes. In neoclassical economics, this corresponds to the postulate of the neutrality of money. As a result, changes in the money supply would affect the price level, but not investment, employment and growth (production and consumption). Questions about who exactly, how and for what exactly, and for whose direct benefit money is put into circulation, remain hidden from the start.

Another typical element of banking apprenticeships is to dispute the regulatory and functional requirement of the separation of money creation and banking business, represented by currency theory, and indeed to deny the possibility of this at all. Based on their own business practices, bankers identify money and credit. In the modern monetary and banking system up to now, the creation of bank money (sight deposits) and the issuance of primary credit actually take place uno actu. Cash is also not brought into circulation by direct spending, but primarily credited and exchanged from a cashless account balance. Who would deny that credit and debt, bank assets and bank liabilities, fundamentally determine the banking business?

Since the early modern era, still based on silver and gold, banks have operated with current account clearing and letters of credit, with bills of exchange and promissory notes of all kinds. They have always viewed these as principally exchangeable items, especially if they are not permanently attached to one person but were freely transferable and thus generally tradable. The most recent development in this regard is to make credit claims against customers transferable and tradable. For this reason it has never been more important for banking apprentices than for currency apprenticeships to determine what exactly is money and what isn't. This is not all that important for bankers, as long as they can issue credit and sight deposits as they see fit, as long as creditors stand still and pay debtors, as long as assets and liabilities are reasonably substitutable, and the book value of the bank's assets is at least preserved.

In this context, the banking theory insistence on the 'real bills doctrine' is understandable. Even if the term is no longer in use today, the collateral doctrine is still one of the cornerstones of the banking business as a matter of course. This applies even more to central banks than to commercial banks (collateral for usually short-term central bank loans with 'central bank eligible' securities with supposedly excellent credit ratings).

In general, banking theory is the same today as it was 200 years ago: first, let banks create money freely (in the past mainly paper money, today only deposit money, which, however, determines the entire money supply); second, the markets will sort it out. Money and capital markets would continuously adjust supply and demand to one another. Under conditions of mutually equal ('symmetrical') market position, information, financial strength and competitiveness, a 'market equilibrium' is inevitably established with an optimal volume of credit, debt and deposit, so that the markets cannot be absent.

Apparently, nobody has asked how a self-limiting market equilibrium is supposed to arise, as long as the financing and transaction medium of the markets, money, is far from being 'scarce', virtually unlimited by credit from banks out of nowhere and in relation to real growth Production is far in excess, as if the gravity of the productive potential of an economy could be outwitted in this way.

Of course, neoclassical economics and finance know very well that 'asymmetry' and corporate market legacy are the modern norm. But it still treats reality as a, so to speak, impermissible deviation from its ideal world scholasticism, instead of giving up its ideal world models in favor of a real world economy. As long as this does not happen, banking doctrine, will it or not, remain a useful ideology in the service of the very secular profit and power interests of the large banking and financial corporations.

Most recently, Friedrich von Hayek was a prominent representative of banking theory. He propagated a radical denationalization of money, in other words, free banking without a state central bank. [13] Fama's efficiency market hypothesis, which relates to financial markets, is also a typical banking theoretical approach of the recent past. [14] Money and capital markets are represented here as a quasi-perfect information processing machinery. It would ceaselessly absorb, correctly evaluate and price all relevant information. This is similar to the superior swarm intelligence that Hayek (without having known the expression) ascribed to markets, in contrast to the presumption of knowledge of central planners and bureaucrats.

At least that's relative. In the markets too ignorance and uncertainty prevail, and bureaucracies are the big money and financial corporations hardly less than public administrations. In principle, markets are indeed a mechanism of self-organization and mutual adjustment. However, most modern markets are oligopolistic power structures, especially in the banking and financial sectors. And, of course, markets fail just like the state and citizens, not always, but always. Banks and financial markets continually make mistakes when assessing the risks and opportunities of their businesses.

Of course, 'the markets' (mainly employees of banks, funds and insurance companies) cannot foresee decisive events. They follow rumors (or scatter them themselves), vague moods, and follow fashions and trends in their milieu until they collapse. They are more likely to retrospectively rationalize what they are doing than to have solid reasons to do it. Financial markets in particular repeatedly exaggerate trends over long periods of time and only reassess the situation after a long delay, if at all. Then suddenly they do a breakneck U-turn. Government bonds in the first decade of the euro area are such a case. The convergence of interest rates on all government bonds to ever lower levels and the associated ever higher borrowing, effectively over-indebtedness, of the countries of the euro area are nothing more than an example of blatant banking and market failure; apart from the political failure of the parties and governments involved, which it also represents.

In conclusion, it should be stated once again that the difference between currency and banking theory today no longer has anything to do with the return to a gold standard. This is only so in the backwards arrested interpretation of the Neo-Austrian School, whose understanding of the monetary system still corresponds to a cash economy, even where cashless credit is involved. [15]

The dividing line between currency and banking theory runs rather along the answers to the question of who should be entitled to create money and to control the money supply or the money supply:

whether a public service body such as an independent state central bank, or the banks;

whether the money supply in circulation should be a public good under public control or a private product of the banks;

whether the traditional money shelf (currency monopoly, money monopoly and undivided seigniorage) is recognized again as a prerogative of constitutional status, of comparable importance such as the monopoly of justice, tax or power, or whether the privileges associated with money are completely left to the private interests of the banks who will do everything possible with money, just not limit it and keep it under control;

whether one votes for safe money, stable monetary value and stable financial markets in the public interest, or whether in the private interest of the banks one continues to allow insecure money and an unstable internal and external value of money as well as inevitably recurring banking, financial and economic crises (their great damage has to be borne by the general public, while the banks, because of their systemic importance, must be rescued at the general public's expense

whether one understands that control over money is a question of state sovereignty and integrity, or one denigrates this in an ideologically misguided way as 'nationalism' in the interests of a hegemonic banking and finance industry that claims an extraterritorial status, as it were.

Obviously, these questions of political direction are of great importance, and they are more important than ever today. For the analysis and evaluation of modern monetary systems, 'Currency vs Banking' provides a frame of reference that remains relevant.

*            *          *

The New Currency Theory represented here continues the historical line of currency doctrines and updates it in relation to today's more developed monetary and banking system. The academic directions of economics in which currency theory is most likely to be connected today include post-Keynesianism, circuitism, various directions of monetarism, disequilibrism, institutional and historical economics, constitutional and constitutional theory, economic law and public law, ecological economics as well Economic and financial sociology. It can also be seen that most of today's money reform initiatives are affiliated with currency doctrines. [16]

Whether the original Keynesianism also belongs here remains to be seen. Keynes' ideas about monetary reform corresponded almost exactly to the fractional reserve banking that exists today in connection with the 'reserve position doctrine', i.e. the incorrect assumption that the central bank would control bank money creation by means of a fractional reserve base and the key interest rates on it.

Chartalism, on the other hand, i.e. the theory of state money, undoubtedly belongs here, provided that it is understood as a currency standpoint in the sense explained here. The author's theory of Chartalism, however, the state theory of money according to G. Fr. Knapp 1905, belongs here only to a limited extent or not at all, just as little as today's Modern Money Theory. Because they limit the monetary prerogative of the state to the determination of the national currency and in principle leave the creation of money and the associated extra profits and privileges entirely to the banks. They do not see any problem in fractional reserve banking or the banks' proactive deposit money creation. [18] As a result, they stand more for a new banking theory than a new currency theory.

The Neo-Austrian School represents a currency banking amalgamander of the kind. Like its historical predecessors, especially von Mises, it refers to the historical currency theory of 200 years ago, with an emphasis on the metal bond of money. It also criticizes fractional reserve banking and its shortcomings and malfunctions radically. The cause of the evil is by no means sought in the banks, but rather ascribed unilaterally to the central bank and the government. These two are reconstructed as a historical money printer-debt maker tandem; not entirely wrong, but that is by no means the whole truth. The biggest money printers are of course the banks, which are at the center of the whole system. In addition, the bank money creation for financial market investments remains hidden here. The program of the Neo-Austrians consists, in the spirit of Hayek, in the radical denationalization of money and a transition to free banking without a central bank on the basis of 100% gold cover for bank money. [19]

The vast majority of neoclassical economists will hardly want to go that far. They shy away from a complete currency system, but they also shy away from a pure banking regime. They hold on to outdated ideas about money and banks (role of deposits, multiplier model) as well as to illusions about the controllability of bank money generation through reserves and interest on it. This is how they stand for the status quo, however deficient it may be. This means that the existing two-tier money and banking system is supported, which is pro forma a curriculum system with an embedded banking system, but in practice has largely mutated into a mere banking system in which the banks proactively exercise the normative power of the factual.


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Footnotes / Notes 

[1] This article is a chapter from the manuscript Modern Money and Sovereign Currency. This is located at>> money theory> modern money and sovereign currency. It can be called up there according to chapters and in total.

[2] See O'Brien 1994, Viner 1937.

[3] Cf. Huerta de Soto 2009, chap. I-III.

[3a] For a critical discussion of the MMT see Lavoie, Marc 2011: The monetary and fiscal nexus of neo-chartalism. A friendly critical look, University of Ottawa, Dep. of Economics, available at v_2011_10_27_lavoie.pdf. - Roche, Cullen 2011: A Critique of MMT, Modern Monetary Theory, http: // pragcap. com / mmt-critique, September 7th, 2011. - Fiebiger, Brett 2011: MMT and the 'Real-World' Accounting of 1-1> 0, PERI Working Paper Series No.279, University of Massachusetts Amherst. fileadmin / pdf / working_papers / working_papers_251-300 / WP279.pdf. - Walsh, Steven and Stephen Zarlenga 2013: Evaluation of Modern Money Theory, - Huber, Joseph 2014: Modern Money and Sovereign Currency, real-world economics review, no. 66, 2014, 38-57.

[4] Ryan-Collins / Greenham / Werner / Jackson 2011 42–45.

[5] Whale 1944 109.

[6] For example in Mcleod 1889, Withers 1909, Hawtrey 1919, Hahn 1920; remarkable passages also in Schumpeter 1911 (e.g. 110) and von Mises 1928 (e.g. 81).

[7] Humphrey 1984. Fisher 1922 (1911), chap. II. Keynes 1923 77-83.

[8] Poitras 1998.

[9] Poitras 1998 pp 481.

[10] Vogl 2010 41.

[11] Menger 1871, Chapter 8, §1: About the nature and origin of money. Previously Smith 1776, Book 1, Chapter 4: Of the Origin and Use of Money.

[12] Huber 2013 195.

[13] Hayek 1976, White 1989.

[14] Fama et al. 1969, Fama 1970.

[15] Typical, for example, Huerta de Soto 2011; Rothbard 1962.

[16] These money reform initiatives include a.o. the American Monetary Institute (, Positive Money in Great Britain ( and New Zealand (, Sensible Money in Ireland (, the Monetative in Germany (www. and Switzerland (full money. Ch). See also http: // www.

[17] Cf. Keynes 1923.

[18] For a detailed explanation see> money theory> modern money and sovereign currency.

[19] For a detailed criticism of the Neo-Austrian School see>



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