COMMENT: Hi Mr. Armstrong…..this is a surprising (to me) summary, on John Law. Every piece I ever read about him, cast him as a complete scoundrel, yet you obviously write with admiration. Just another example of history depending on someone’s perspective. You never cease to surprise. And that’s good.
REPLY: John Law was actually a brilliant man. His legacy is not so different from John Maynard Keynes. He advocated deficit spending ONLY in times of recession, but governments have spent relentlessly with deficits that never end. We call this “Keynesian economics” when in fact he never advocated such a system. Likewise, John Law never advocated what the French government did in creating the Mississippi Bubble.
It is true that John Law fled to Amsterdam, but this is when he studied real banking operations and saw that money was actually virtual. Because coins were counterfeited or their edges shaved, bank money was more valuable than coins. Once the coins were deposited, each had to be inspected. So the bank became a sort of guarantor of the validity of the coins. Here is an ancient coin from Lydia with numerous banking marks applied, verifying that the coin had been inspected by them before for the same reasons.
It was this first-hand observation that led John Law to see that money was actually virtual, whereby people preferred bank money to actual coins. John then returned to Scotland, where he published in 1705 his Money and Trade Considered, with a Proposal for Supplying the Nation with Money. Law would later publish a second edition in 1720. He attempted to use his writing to convince the Scottish Parliament to adopt his ideas about money, but they declined, giving rise to the adage that a genius is never acknowledged in his native land (i.e. Columbus, Einstein to just mention two)…
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john law, currency, money, martin armstrong, armstrong economics, banking, banks,