Good Money with George Selgin

Good Money with George Selgin

Good Money is a story of how private enterprise stepped up and created good
money in Great Britain. We follow the adventures of Matthew Boulton and
the private enterprise that produced currency in a time where the state failed
to do so. Written by the economist Mr. George Selgin.

We got the chance to interview George Selgin about his personal story and his
great work with painting the picture of how private enterprise stepped up and produced
good money when the government was failing to do so. This is exactly what happened in the late 1700'ies
in Great Britain, George Selgin guides the reader throw this in his book Good Money.

Mr. Selgin was a young Marine biology student focusing on Zoology.
When his father convinced him to give economics a shot, George started some courses with a skeptical mind at first.

As a student and a rapid reader, George went throw every economic book in the school of road island's bookshelves.
One day George picked up the great Austrian economic Ludwig von Mises book theory of money and credit.
Not knowing what he was supposed to be witness to.
After some more thought, asking questions and after reading Friedrich Hayek's book The Denationalization of Money
he started to ask himself what would happen if the government was not involved in the economic system.
This led him to the wonderful world of Free Market/Laissez-faire economics.
George later got paid to write a whitepaper with a free market mindset and went deeper into the rabbit hole from there.

The book highlights and shows us that the production of money must not come from a state.
Neither should any state have the essential right to produce money.
Money and/or coinage must not be produced by a state entity and
the private market can and have done a great job at producing currency.

Cato Institute

The Cato Institute is a think tank founded by Murray Rothbard, Ed Crane and Charles Koch
on the principles of Individual Liberty, Free Markets, and Peace.
George was recruited 5 years ago by Cato's CEO John Allison who wanted to expand Cato's
Monetary economics.
Cato allows both George and several other great minds to keep doing economic research without constraints.
The Institute is privately funded by various private donors, Thanks to its US-based legal structure, tax-free donations are possible.
According to Cato's 2019 annual report the think tank is well funded with 85 585 000 USD in assets
and 31 695 000 USD in annual operating revenue. 110% privately funded not taking a dime from the government.
The Institute is strongly standing by its funding principles of Individual Liberty, Free Markets, and Peace even
throw hard political times the institute is standing steady.
Motivating people to continue to donate and keeping the
institute independent of political ideology and not being influence or told what
to do by its donors. Is something a lot of foundations struggle with.
Cato even has a slush fund put aside for rainy days, in case
they were to lose cash flow from one of its donors, or if one of the donors
where to put pressure on the Institute to push it in any unwanted direction.

Stanley Jevons

Jevons was an English economist in the 1800th century.
He inspired Selgin a lot to write this book.
Mr. Jevons points out that the British merchants did not accept the privately produced coins.
However, as Selgin later found out when digging deeper
this point was not true. Much similar to Gresham's law
the merchants only wanted to accept the privately produced
coins because they were more valuable.

In 1790 Great Britain started to get serious problems in producing currency.
In these times of problems the private sector stepped up and provided a solution
and one of the most noticeable characters in this piece is:

Matthew Boulton

Soho mint Matthew Boulton

Boulton is one of the key characters in this book.
He wanted to use steam engine's to create a coin producing
machine that would produce coins better and faster in order to impress
the government so much that he would get a contract to produce copper coins.
He created the coin creation factory known as the SOHO Mint(as you can see on the picture above)
which operated in the seventeen hundreds and early 1800.
The operating costs were very high, resulting in several setbacks…

Boulton failed at his first attempt at getting a British government
coinage contract but the fight for privately produced money does not
end after the first bump in the road.
Boulton was able to produce coins for various private
parties as well as for various other countries such as:

France

Boulton befriended a german chemist named Francis Swediaur
who put him in touch with Monneron Freres who offered him a
deal to create copper coins for France.
After a short while of producing Monneron Freres went in
to bankruptcy and the deal was off.

Sierra Leone, Africa

The West African country of Sierra Leone needed silver dollars and copper pennies. The deal was made and the money was produced and shipped off to Sierra Leone in 1793.

Bermuda, North Atlantic

A smaller dose of 90 042 amount of copper coins was shipped to off to Bermuda in 1793

Bombay, India

Boulton struck a deal with the East India Company
to produce one hundred tons worth of coins
which later shipped off to the British owned(The UK was in
control of India between 1612–1947) India and the
city of Bombay(the city later changed its name to Mumbai).

Boulton even offered to create coins for the United States in 1790. But Thomas Jefferson shot down the proposal by the motivation that
he did not want a non-US entity to create the Nation's currency.

The government became more and more accepting towards private coinage and several other coin producers poped up
breaking Boulton's monopoly.

map of private coin issuers in the UK

This map displays each private coin issuer as a dot.

To get a more detailed with at the coin issuers here is a nice table from the book:

table of private coin issuers

Monck

Sir John Berkeley Monck gold coin

If you are a gold coin collector you might have stumbled over
the phrase “PIGNORA CERTA PETIS: DO PIGNORA CERTA” translated
to “Credible pledges thou seekest: credible”, You have another person that also was
active within the same time to thank for that, Sir John Berkeley Monck.

Monck is the innovator that in protest to Britain's paper money created a gold coin.
Using gold in coins was a new approach at the time, since all the
existing coin producers where using Copper, and in some rare cases silver.

Monck was a big endorser to the Gold standard and wanted the
Bank of England to return to a more Metallic standard.
The British state was so provoked by Monck's gold coin that
they later banned all private coinage production.

The gold standard

On the 7th of May 1821, not long after the strike against Monck, the Bank of England return to the gold standard the glory days lasted until 1931 when they decided to drop the gold standard.

The American founding fathers where fans of gold and in
the United States Constitution Section 10 it clearly states that:

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or
Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit
Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a
Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post
facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

The problem with the gold standard is trust.
Trusting that a certain state will keep another state's gold.
Fixed exchange rates are also very hard to do when you
have various governments that cant be trusted
to always provide a fair exchange rate and not manipulate the numbers.

Selgin thinks that people should not be stuck in nostalgia.
Gold has had a great run, But we should not blind our self so that we
can not be open-minded and look for new alternatives and possibilities.

Cryptocurrency

There are several similarities between Boultons private
coinage and cryptocurrency, Both produced by the private sector
in order to be a better option and alternative at
solving the many issue's of modern-day currency
where it needs to be easy to transact with, hard to counterfeit
and have the ability to be easily adoptable by a larger crowd.
In the cases of private coinage and cryptocurrency the private market is stepping up
and producing better money then the state is able to do.
In today's society, various states often turn to the
private sector to come up with better solutions.
We often see private entities getting a large paycheck
to produce something the private sector can do better.

We got the pleasure to hear what Selgin's line of thought was regarding cryptocurrency.
The problem with cryptocurrency is that it's not currency
in the same form the private coin's that Boulton created was. The private produced coins value, beyond its metallic
value, was that they where state-issued IOU's.

IOU

The term IOU(I ow you) refers to state issues currency where a bank issues “debt-notes”.
When you insert capital into one of these banks you get a
ticket, a coin or some kind of proof that the bank
will return the amount of capital that has been inserted.
This can be traded among the local community as currency and be used as Money.

Mr. Selgin is a bit skeptical of the idea that Bitcoin is Money.
He is amazed to see the rise off the speculative
value of Bitcoin, But Bitcoin is still lacking usability and transactions
are not yet efficient, with long waiting times and costly transactions.
As Selgin puts it:
Bitcoin is a medium of digital transactability with pseudonymity
(Providing value for a niche market).

Store of Value

A thick line is drawn between the features of store of value and
is used as a medium of exchange(easy to trade with).
Store of value, Meaning the item is something you want as an investment
and as an asset in your savings account or portfolio.
Where the value of the item will keep its value over time. Saving capital
in various currencies is very risky because the value of government-issued
currencies are always going down in value and are in some cases
subject to Hyperinflation which drastically decreases the value within a short period of time.
Something that is used as a medium of exchange(for day to day transactions)
does not mean that it's used as a store of value.
Mr. Selgin makes an excellent point at pointing out that there are plenty of store of value's that does not
have the feature of being a medium of exchange. Microsoft stocks, as an example, is as a great store of value.
The stocks have kept a high value over time and using it as a medium of exchange is not a good thing at all.
You simply do not see someone going to the grocery store and paying with a certain amount of Microsoft stock.

Land is also often brought up when it comes to store of value.
Similar to stocks(the bad thing about stocks is that they are
often tied or very dependent on various fiat currencies.) the feature of Land is
that you rent it out and get a chunk of cash paid out as dividends.
Owning land in places such as London or Manhattan where the demand is high
will make the rent go up in price and the higher dividends could be
collected.
Several countries such as Singapore make a good income of leasing out land to private third parties.
History has shown us that the price of land is not always steady making it a more risky investment.

We asked George if he has his eye on any good currency and/or money/currency projects
and he referred us to another Cato fellow by the name of Larry(Lawrence) White.
You can read his viewpoints here:

https://www.alt-m.org/author/white/
https://econjwatch.org/

We asked George what books in the economic field he personally recommends

Conclution:

George is a really good modern-day economist, A sharp mind that keeps producing great economic research.
Good Money is a great work of art where the story of how private enterprise has risen up and stepped in
when the government failed to create good money. It's also an exciting story and one of those books
where you get sucked into it andi you won't stop reading it until the last page.
We recommend everyone to read this amazing book Good Money.

You can get a copy of the book by pressing the following picture:

You can follow George Selgin's work over at:
https://www.cato.org/people/george-selgin
https://twitter.com/GeorgeSelgin
https://www.alt-m.org/author/selgin/
https://mises.org/profile/george-selgin

Next in line for Mr. Selgin is a new book about the recovery after the great depression.
We are looking forward to hearing from him again and reading his next publication until then we at DoNotTax.Me
will deep dive in Selgin recommendation's and read Jevons, Wicksell and Yeager.