Money, Democracy and the Constitution

Revolutionary Experience in the United States
Friday January 25, 2013

This seminar explores the relationship between money and the legal formation of the modern liberal capitalist state, with a particular emphasis on the pre-Revolutionary and early United States. In contrast to conventional economic narratives that cast money as lubrication for existing forms of exchange, this event highlights the legal and political origins of our modern monetary system, and traces the influence of those forces on the shape of the modern economy.

Overview

This seminar explores the relationship between money and the legal formation of the modern liberal capitalist state, with a particular emphasis on the pre-Revolutionary and early United States. In contrast to conventional economic narratives that cast money as lubrication for existing forms of exchange, this event highlights the legal and political origins of our modern monetary system, and traces the influence of those forces on the shape of the modern economy. Questions to be addressed include:

  • How are monetary systems shaped by constitutional processes?

  • How was the United States monetary system affected by the revolution and drafting of the U.S. Constitution?

  • What impact does the legal structure of money have on the character of an economy?

  • What insights do historical revolutionary debates about money provide on current economic problems?

Participants

Speakers:

Christine Desan

Professor of Law
Harvard Law School

Christine Desan is a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and the co-leader with Professor Sven Beckert (FAS-History) of Harvard’s Workshop on the Political Economy of Modern Capitalism. Desan’s research centers on money and the market as a pairing of form and substance that organizes the political economy of modern liberalism. In contrast to conventional narratives that cast money as pure function for exchange between enterprising individuals, Professor Desan maps a contrasting story that explores money as a legal and political project, one that configures the market it sets out to measure. Professor Desan’s articles include “Coin Reconsidered: The Political Alchemy of Commodity Money,” Theoretical Inquiries in Law (2010), and “Beyond Commodification: Contract and the Credit-Based World of Modern Capitalism,” in Transformation of American Law II: Essays for Morton Horwitz (2009). She is currently completing a book called Making Money: Coin, Credit, and the Coming of Capitalism in the Anglo-American World.

Farley Grubb

Professor of Economics
University of Delaware

Farley Grubb is Professor of Economics at the University of Delaware and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He has published numerous articles on monetary regimes during the colonial and early republican periods in U.S. history, mostly notably in the Journal of Economic History, Explorations in Economic History, and the American Economic Review. Select works include: “The U.S. Constitution and Monetary Powers: An Analysis of the 1787 Constitutional Convention and the Constitutional Transformation of the U.S. Monetary System,” Financial History Review, (2006); and “Creating the U.S.-Dollar Currency Union, 1748-1811: A Quest for Monetary Stability or a Usurpation of State Sovereignty for Personal Gain?American Economic Review, (2003).

Woody Holton

Peter and Bonnie McCausland Professor of History
University of South Carolina

Woody Holton is the Peter and Bonnie McCausland Professor of History at the University of South Carolina. He is an expert on the American Revolution, and has published three highly acclaimed books: Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia (1999), Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution (2007), and Abigail Adams (2009). Professor Horton recently received a 2012-2013 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship to support the writing of his upcoming fourth book, Liberty is Sweet: An Integrated History of the American Revolution, which will incorporate new knowledge of social history into the familiar narrative of the American Revolution.

Moderator: 

Gillian Metzger

Stanley H. Fuld Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Center for Global Governance
Columbia Law School

Gillian Metzger is the Stanley H. Fuld Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Center for Global Governance at Columbia Law School. Professor Metzger previously served as a law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Patricia M. Wald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Outline

Outline: 

Resources

Farley Grubb

Transcript