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The Evolution of the Modern US Monetary and Payments System

  • David F. WeimanEmail author
  • John A. James
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Abstract

In this chapter, we trace out the long, uneven evolution of the modern US monetary and payments systems, from the Early Republic Era (beginning in the 1790s) to the formative years of the Federal Reserve System (in the 1920s). Our narrative is divided into four periods (and sections), demarcated by essential elements constituting a truly common national monetary-payments union: a common unit of account, currency, and finally bank deposit money. At the bookends, the monetary-payments system was coordinated administratively by a central federal authority which realized to a lesser and greater extent the criteria of a “more perfect” monetary-payments union. In the interim, the balance of power over the monetary-banking system would shift between the states and the federal government over two distinct but inter-related regimes of competing, “multiple” circulating currencies and a common national currency. Yet, despite their differences, these two distinct phases were connected by a common thread. Instead of formal hierarchies, the banking-monetary system over this long nineteenth century rested on an ever-expanding complex of networks that connected banks within and between cities and coordinated the flows of good funds that literally “greased the wheels of commerce.” Often initiated by government policy, the growth and articulation of these networks, we show, ultimately depended on the basic logic of network economics, which in fact policy makers recognized in the design of the National Banking and the Federal Reserve Systems.

Keywords

Banks Monetary union Correspondent banking system National Banking System Federal Reserve 

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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Barnard College-Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.University of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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