Exploring the Origins of Money with Clint Ballinger
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Clint Ballinger is an economic geographer, a path he followed in search of answers to what he calls fundamental questions of political economy. Why did the Industrial Revolution occur in England and western Europe? What is the reason for the radically uneven distribution—radically unequal material well-being—around the world? It exists not only between countries, but within countries. As listeners to this podcast know, economics departments aren’t teaching this stuff.
Modern economists take money out of the equation. How absurd is that?
“You have incredibly complex mathematical models being developed all through the forties, fifties, sixties... but they don't discuss all the things about money that matter. Because as we learned in 2008, they didn't even have money or a banking system in their equations, basically. So that's a huge problem.
Regardless of how you get it, once you have some kind of basic monetary unit, everything that comes after that in a monetary production economy is what got ignored.”
Steve and Clint talk about the history of money and David Graeber’s book, Debt: The First 5000 Years. Debunking the “myth of barter” and understanding the history of money allows us to break through the misconceptions of money at the root of the misguided political stances that abound in our society. We can’t fix what’s broken without this clarity.
Money is a token, not a commodity. Steve likens it to a concert ticket; the little square of cardboard has no intrinsic value. Yet not a single politician gets this right.
Clint takes the discussion into property rights—not the rights of the rentier class, but the state’s role in protecting an individual’s resources.
“We always have to get back to the real economy. That's always the fundamental thing. We make things—goods and services. People use those goods and services. Money per se, it's all accounts, accounts are always property rights. Every account in the world is a claim on real resources in some way. So that's why it gets back to the very basic ideas of property rights.”
Much of this interview connects to topics covered in past episodes with Fadhel Kaboub and Rohan Grey, among others. Links can be found in the “Extras” section on our website, where you will also find a transcript of the episode. realprogressives.org/macro-n-cheese-podcast/
Clint Ballinger got his MA in Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he focused on modern uneven economic development and went on to specialize in the interpretation of global econometric data for his PhD in Geography at Cambridge University. His book, 1000 Castaways: Fundamentals of Economics, was published in 2019.
@clintballinger on Twitter