Graeber, Once More

Adam Smith, barter, Carl Menger, David Graeber, history of money
"David Graeber," by Internaz, CC BY 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/internaz/8060222873

David Graeber NewAfter I published my recent post on "The Myth of the Myth of Barter," I tweeted the link to it to David Graeber himself, as I thought his response might be interesting.

Was it ever!  Before you could say Jack Robinson, Graeber let loose a fusillade of tweets, each more vicious than the last, calling my post "wildly simple-minded & wrong," "one of the most embarrassing examples of ideological blindness & arrogant stupidity I've ever read," and that sort of thing.  Graeber even asked, in apparent disbelief, "This guy was a professor somewhere?"  Think what you will of his understanding of monetary economics, or of his scholarship in general: when it comes to vitriolic hyperbole, Professor Graeber is no dilettante.  Indeed, there were a lot more barbs besides these, and there have no doubt been others since.  But as Graeber has blocked me on Twitter, presumably to prevent me from replying, I can no longer retrieve most of them.*

But interesting as Graeber's response was, it fell rather short of the sort of substantive reply I'd hoped to elicit from him.  The closest Graeber came to that was a tweet claiming that my post was just a rehash of arguments Robert Murphy had made some time ago, to which Graeber had already responded, and another saying that he wasn't about to waste his time repeating what he'd already said.

In fact I'd read Graeber's reply to Murphy.  What's more, I quoted from that reply, to which I supplied a link, in my original post, which I would scarcely have been tempted to do had I believed it answered my own complaints about Graeber's work.

As a matter of fact, it does nothing of the sort.

My complaints, you may recall, were (1) that Graeber had wrongly accused Smith and Menger of supposing that there was no alternative to either barter or monetary exchange — that is, of supposing that there were no such things as gift-giving and other sorts of non-quid-pro-quo goods transfers, or societies that relied upon such — and (2) that Graeber lacked a proper grasp of some of the most elementary principles of economics, and of the modern theory of value in particular.

Far from defending his work against either of these complaints in his reply to Murphy, Graeber repeats there the very assertions that prompted me to complain in the first place.  Once again he declares that Smith, Menger, and Jevons "[a]ll assumed that in all communities without money economic life could only have taken the form of barter" and that "economists originally predicted all (100%) non-monetary economies would operate through barter."  Anthropologists, in contrast, "discovered … an at first bewildering variety of arrangements, ranging from competitive gift-giving to communal stockpiling to places where economic relations centered on neighbors trying to guess each other’s dreams."

Here I cannot resist quoting again the most relevant passage from Menger's 1892 essay, "Geld":

Voluntary as well as compulsory unilateral transfers of assets (that is, transfers arising neither from a ‘reciprocal contract’ in general nor from an exchange transaction in particular, although occasionally based on tacitly recognized reciprocity), are among the oldest forms of human relationships as far as we can go back in the history of man’s economizing.  Long before the exchange of goods appears in history, or becomes of more than negligible importance…we already find a variety of unilateral transfers:  voluntary gifts and gifts made more or less under compulsion, compulsory contributions, damages or fines, compensation for killing someone, unilateral transfers within families, etc.

That Menger wrote this more than three decades before the 1924 publication of Marcel Mauss'sThe Gift, and therefore well ahead of what Graeber describes in his book as "the vast anthropological literature…starting with" that work's appearance (p. 90, my emphasis), only makes Menger's understanding all the more impressive.

Graeber can insult me all he likes.  What he cannot do is pretend that I have not shown one of his most basic claims to be flat-out wrong, at least when it comes to the economist responsible for the most famous and complete elaboration of the theory that money was an outgrowth of barter.  (That Graeber is also wrong about Smith will seem no less evident to anyone who bothers to read that profound and circumspect Scotsman with a modicum of generosity.)

Nor does Graeber's response to Murphy supply any reason for me to modify my assessment of his understanding of basic economics.  On the contrary:  he repeats here as well his view that "money is simply a mathematical system whereby one can compare proportional values, to say 1 of these is worth 17 of those."  This, as I said before, is what Aristotle believed;  it is also what economists stopped believing around 1871.

In his reply to Murphy, as in his book, Graeber recognizes that barter does occur, saying that it "typically occurs between strangers," as if this were an exception of little importance.  But as I said in my earlier post, it is precisely through trade between strangers that non-commercial societies give way to commercial ones;  and it is in enabling this transition that money comes to acquire great importance.

But can money really develop, as Smith and Menger suggest it can, as a spontaneous outcome of trade among strangers?  It is regarding this possibility only that Graeber's reply to Murphy offers some new arguments.  Graeber insists that money can't emerge this way, because trade among strangers is a matter of "occasional interactions among people never likely to meet each other again," and "because rare and occasional events won't lead to the emergence of a system of any kind."  If, on the other hand, "there are ongoing trade relations between strangers…it's because each side knows the other side has some specific product(s) they want to acquire — so there is no 'double coincidence of wants' problem" for money to overcome:

You don't cross mountains, deserts, and oceans, risking death in a dozen different ways, so as to show up with a collection of goods you think someone might want, in order to see if they happen to have something you might want.

Really?  If you ask me, that last sentence seems to contain a reasonable description of what countless merchants did in fact do for centuries, and what many still do to this day.  What's far-fetched is Graeber's contrary suggestion that traders never crossed mountains etc. unless they were absolutely certain that they could trade whatever they brought with them for whatever was to be had where they were headed.  And it is precisely because trade was risky that traders had reason to "show up" at markets where goods they wanted were on offer equipped with goods of their own that they imagined were relatively "saleable" (to use Menger's term) in the markets in question.

Now, one has only to introduce the possibility that stranger A might first cross mountain B to acquire good C from stranger D so as to then cross mountain E in the hope of using C to acquire F from stranger G, together with other such possibilities, to have the ingredients it takes to allow Menger's (or, for that matter, Smith's) theory of money's development to go through.  Allowing for the particular salience of certain goods — their popularity as ornament or in ceremonial uses — makes the development all the more likely.**

In short, Graeber's supposed refutation of the possibility that money can develop through trade among strangers amounts to little more than a completely unwarranted assertion to the effect that, because overcoming the "lack of a double coincidence" hurdle is risky, no one will bother trying, notwithstanding the potential gains to be had by doing so.  That assumption may seem reasonable to one who believes, as Graeber does, that trade is a zero-sum game.  But it is not reasonable in light of economists' understanding of voluntary exchange as a source of mutual gain. More importantly, it is not what persons who actually venture to engage in trade believe.

I suspect that, if he responds to this post at all, Graeber will simply maintain, by way of another burst of ≤140-character philippics, that I still haven't undermined any of his book's more important claims.  Still it would be nice if, instead of pretending to have already answered my arguments, or merely being nasty, he would attempt to offer a substantive reply.  After all the obloquy, I could use a weal tweet.

___________________________________

*Nor can I tweet this post to him.  But that needn't stop some of you from doing so ;)

**Don't get your knickers in a twist, my chartalist friends:  I do not intend to deny that public authorities and other such "big players" may play an important part in influencing this process.

  • russnelson

    NOBODY thinks that trade is a zero-sum game. NOBODY is that stupid. I looked on his wikiquotes page, and he's not quoted as saying that there.

    • George Selgin

      If money is a mere measure of the value of things, as Graeber certainly does claim–repeatedly–it follows that the money received in exchange cannot be more valuable than the goods valued and then traded in it! So, after a trade, everyone ends up with no more than they started with, unless someone cheats. And there are numerous passages in Graeber that say as much, one or two of which I quite in my first article. E.g.,

      "'[Monetary exchange] is all about equivalence. It's a back-and-forth process involving two sides in which each side gives as good as it gets. …[E]ach side in each case is
      trying to outdo the other, but, unless one side us utterly put to rout,
      it's easiest to break the whole thing off when both consider the outcome
      to be more or less even."

      This is what any objective theory of value –monetary or otherwise — tends to imply.

      So, yes, some people ARE that stupid.

      • http://www.examplesofglobalization.com/ Gary Anderson

        People don't have time to barter. As for money coming out of it, wouldn't the government confiscate it if we went cashless? I don't know how that would all work out, just curious.

        • Aaron Cuevas

          Do you mind rephrasing your question?

          • http://www.examplesofglobalization.com/ Gary Anderson

            Yes, wouldn't the government confiscate substitute money if they took away authorized cash?

          • Aaron Cuevas

            If you wonder about a cashless society–only debit electronic payments being legal–it does seem that governments could more easily tax your savings. So I would say we have to oppressed a cashless society.

          • http://www.examplesofglobalization.com/ Gary Anderson

            Of course. It is totalitarianism.

          • TheResistance

            More easily tax, devalue, seize and otherwise totally control through central planning. In a cashless society, interest rates become that much more manipulative to achieve a desired purpose. For example, negative rates can be instituted to force savers to spend the money or else lose it; in this scenario, you cannot simply pull your cash out of the bank, and this will be done under the pretext of "jump starting economic growth".

            Every transaction would be tracked and surveilled, all wealth could instantly be seized. It would be the end of financial privacy and independence.

      • russnelson

        When Graeber asks me for change of a dollar to put into the soda machine, I'll tell him "But I cannot make you happier by giving you change for your dollar, because money is a mere measure of the value of things." Then I will hit him on the head with my staff.

        At that point, a light will go on in his head, and he will be enlightened.

      • http://vikingvista.blogspot.com/ vikingvista

        I wonder why he thinks that economists typically draw supply and demand curves as sloping if different people don't value the same thing differently.

        • George Selgin

          Good one, VV. And welcome back! We've missed you.

  • russnelson

    Apparently he can't English either. "I'm an anthropologist, sometimes I occupy things & such. I see anarchism as something you do not an identity so don't call me the anarchist anthropologist"

    • Matthew John Hayden

      That's all the funnier to me because one of his long essays is called 'Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology'!

  • Aaron Cuevas

    The interesting part of this debate is that these anthropologists think they found something important.

    What wrong with anthropologists and their intelectual goals?

    • George Selgin

      Let's not generalize about entire disciplines: leave that sort of thing to DG!

      • Aaron Cuevas

        Doc, I am following this discussion because I like your stuff. But it does get me frustrated to read guys that think they made a great discovery when in fact they did nothing.

        Just ventin frustration : )

        • George Selgin

          Believe me, Aaron, it drives me nuts, too.. But I'm sure that Graeber isn't representative of anthropologists generally.

  • russnelson

    Graeber's tweets show no sign of communication with you. Possible that he deleted them out of shame for playing such an ass.

    • George Selgin

      He's capable!

  • Andrew_FL

    George you have a saintly temperament. Not only are you willing to engage Graeber respectfully which he is apparently not willing to reciprocate, but you apparently have Chartalist friends!

  • Erwin von Hugo

    Dear George, I fully agree with your article but could you add a little reference for the Menger quote?
    I tried to look it up – and I assume you are referring to "On the origins of money" https://mises.org/library/origins-money-0 (correct me if I'm wrong) – but I could not find it in there.

    Best, Erwin

    • George Selgin

      The quotation is from the full version of Menger's essay, from which "Origin" is excerpted. See my earlier post, "The Myth of the Myth of Barter," for the source of the English translation, as well as a link to the original.

  • Mike Sproul

    George: I hate to see you wasting your time on guys like Graeber. Don't they have crackpots handing out Marxist pamphlets where you live?

    • George Selgin

      I hadn't planned to write about Graeber until the article in the Atlantic prompted me to do so. Crank or not, his ideas are poised to become conventional wisdom if they are not challenged–and challenged repeatedly.

  • Bill Woolsey

    The thought experiment of a market economy with significant specialization based on barter and no money seems terribly unrealistic. In reality, market economies developed out of traditional economies along with money. If you reflect on a simple economy, barter isn't that complicated. Suppose our staple crop is wheat. Most people grow wheat and everyone eats wheat and most people use much of their "income" for eating–mostly wheat. Most transactions in wheat would be barter, but the use of wheat in indirect exchange when needed would be pretty obvious. Is grain "money" in such a scenario? Because of the seasonal nature of much of agriculture, credit transactions seem pretty obvious. I have read some evidence of ancient Sumeria that show early pricing in grain, clay tablets describing debt, and also the development of silver rings (or springs) that were broken off for exchange by weight. And, of course, market loaf shaped pieces of silver. Almost by assumption, small, mostly self-sufficient villages are a traditional, not market economy. It would be in early cities where a market economy would first appear. Smith's "Indians" bartering a deer for two beaver as an illustration of the labor theory of value might seem to refer to village life. Finally, I think credit instruments make great money. In my view, commodity money mostly existed due to weakness in contract law (kind of government failure by omission) and wrong-headed government intervention. I can certainly imagine credit money being based on something that makes relatively poor money–say livestock. Perhaps that is just my wishful thinking since I currently favor credit money based on something entirely unsuitable for money (a fraction of total real expenditure on currently produced output.) I certainly don't imagine that a society could go from traditional local self-sufficiency to market economy based upon that!

  • Inal Gagloev

    Mr. Selgin, ssory for my english, but if your interest, now some major antropoligist and historic say that many pre-modern and modern uncivilisational society was market society. Some examples:

    * As for the generality of earlier societies, we have no evidence, quite the contrary, that Neolithic societies excluded market trade and commerce. Indeed in recent societies of that type the exchange of goods and services, not necessarily for ‘money’, has been of major significance.[57] While it is possible to envisage substantial markets (market places) that do not operate in the same way as contemporary ones, it is difficult to see them as altogether insulated from the pressures of the factors of supply and demand. Indeed, when working in this type of ‘neolithic’ situation, I experienced a wholesale change in the value of shell money (cowries) in the early 1980s, when this form of currency became more and more difficult to obtain; supply and demand certainly played a part. Despite attempts of both administrations (in Ghana and in Upper Volta) to substitute their own form of currency, cowries continued to be important for cross-border transactions as well as for some ritual activities. But as they became scarcer and scarcer their value as ‘modern’ currency went up and up. … Secondly, while the emphasis on different types of exchange varies in particular contexts, it is a fundamental error not to recognize the possibility that reciprocity (as in contemporary families) can exist side by side with market transactions. The study of the latter in Africa, for example,[68] does not imply that the political economy is ‘capitalist’ in any nineteenthcentury sense, only that substantive markets are very common both for short-distance and for long-distance trade. … Equally the claim that Ancient Greece did not have an economy[79] should perhaps be treated in the same way in view of the work of Tandy[80] on the power of the market in early Greece, of Millett[81] on lending and borrowing in ancient Athens and of Cohen[82] on Athenian banking.

    This quote from Jack Goody work "The Theft of History" (Cambridge University Press, 2006). Goody is major antropologist.

    You debated with blogger LK (Lord Keyns) and his position for ancient mesopotanian economy – really – is wrong:

    Indeed, the cumulative weight of available evidence discussed above suggests that, at least from the third millennium onward, Mesopotamian cities were characterized by mixed public- and private-sector economies (Garfinkle 2005; Hudson 2005; Wilcke 2007), in which the extraction of local resources using encumbered labor, the procurement of imports using state-controlled traders, and the acquisition of local and exotic resources in markets affected by conditions of supply and demand, all played important — though not easily quantifiable — roles. More specifically, existing evidence in Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian cities for (1) the wide and early fungibility of silver for other commodities, (2) the profit-oriented nature of many personal, familial, and institutional trading ventures, and (3) correlations between commodity and labor availability and price and salary fl uctuations, effectively answers in the affirmative the question of whether wealth-maximizing behaviors, markets, and principles of comparative advantage are applicable to the study of early Mesopotamian urbanism as a whole. … It follows from this that Marx, Polanyi, and their intellectual successors were wrong in conceptualizing a clear line separating the economies of the modern (i.e., capitalist) and premodern (i.e., precapitalist) worlds, as Jack Goody (2006) has recently and eloquently argued. If such a line exists, it is far from as sharp a boundary as Marxian-derived modern economic theory would have it, and it is to be found, I would argue, at the dawn of history in various areas of the world—where it divides what we commonly refer to as prestate and state societies. Early Sumerian civilization is a case in point. Both in motive and mechanism, early Mesopotamian urban economies of the third and second millennia can justifiably be described as partly capitalist, as Andre Gunder Frank (1993) insightfully noted more than a decade ago. If this is correct, as I believe to be the case, then what requires further study are (1) the reasons why market mechanisms and profit motives acquired increased or diminished importance within the mixed economies of Mesopotamian cities in different historic times, (2) the processes whereby those changes were effected from period to period, and, (3) the degree to which, if any, comparable mechanisms and motives played a role in the emergence of the earliest Mesopotamian cities during the fourth millennium BC. (c) Guillermo Algaze. Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization: The Evolution of an Urban Landscape // University of Chicago Press, 2008

    Please too see:

    * Maria Eugenia Aubet, Commerce and Colonization in the Ancient Near East // Cambridge University Press. 2013
    * Alain Bresson, The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy: Institutions, Markets, and Growth in the City-States // Princeton University Press

    With best wishes!

    • George Selgin

      Thank you, Mr. Gagloev. I very much appreciate your taking the time to alert me to this very useful information, which I plan to share with "Lord Keynes."

      • Inal Gagloev

        I am glad to help you, Mr. Selgin. So, i must be added that Graeber and his advocate LK (blogger) really – more – based on ideologicall antropologist and historic second half 20th century. Cambrige professor and major antropologist Jack Goody in his work "The Theft of History" (Cambridge University Press, 2006) say about this:

        * The problem is that these economic categories tend to impose exclusivity
        in relation to each other. Taking a Polanyi view that the ancient economy
        was dominated by redistribution (and in this sense was non-modern)
        leads to an over-riding tendency to downplay anything that resembles a
        market transaction. That is what happens in Finley’s study of the Ancient
        Economy in which his effort in this direction, like Polanyi’s, was motivated
        by a dislike of the market. It was part and parcel of their socialist
        ideologies. … As we have seen there can be little doubt that the position of many scholars on this subject derives from an ideological view of markets and an opposition to their taking over increasing areas of human life, as they
        have constantly done, undoubtedly with some detrimental effects. But the
        attempt to characterize societies either in Antiquity[73] or the Ancient Near
        East[74] as non-market is as utopian and unrealistic as those who perceived
        a ‘primitive communism’ and absence of ‘private property’ in Neolithic
        or in hunting and gathering societies. These societies were more collective
        than later ones in certain respects; but they were also more individualised
        in others.[75]

        Such well-known anthropologist Fredrik Barth also criticized the crypto-socialist anthropologists in their work "Selected Essays of Fredrik Barth: Process and
        Form in Social Life" (London and Boston: Routledge and KeganPaul, Ltd., 1981). Quate from review his work:

        * Barth sees man (and particularly Swat Pukhtun man, which is of more interest to us
        here) essentially as an entrepreneur, a transactionalist and a maximizer of his material, political and spiritual gains. (c) David M. Hart, Middle East Journal Vol. 36, No. 1 (Winter, 1982), pp. 99-101

        And so, i must added that LK some wrong about ancient greek economy. Alain Bresson in his work "The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy: Institutions, Markets, and Growth in the City-States" (Princeton University Press, 2015) say that:

        * The “Homeric world” did not assign any particular monetary privilege to precious metals. It calculated value in numbers of oxen or other objects and no good or merchandise had a monopoly on the monetary function. During the Early Iron Age and the early Archaic period, bronze and iron certainly played a role as reserves and as measures of value. This is shown by the offerings of bronze tripods and iron spits in sanctuaries of that period.

        In his article ‘Electrum Coins, Currency Exchange and Transaction Costs in Archaic and Classical Greece’ (Revue Belge de Numismatique et de sigillographie, 140, 2009) he also say that:

        * Although our informationis virtually non-existent for the earlier period, it seems likely that «currency exchange» is as old as the usage of precious metal as money – which means that it probably antedates the first coinage. The inauguration of coinage probably amounted only to the adoption of a new way of performing this old function.

        Anyway, late Archaic Greek economy will be monetary and capitalist economy:

        * Bringing to light and analyzing the exceptional (positive) growth experienced in
        the ancient Greek world is the first task of this book. In doing so, it directly contradicts
        the previous orthodoxy, which, while granting that there was some limited demographic growth, described ancient Greece as a no-growth society. Domestic selfsufficiency, a negligible foreign trade except in luxury goods for the elite, a lack of
        economic initiative and technological stagnation, and finally an absence of per capita
        economic growth are supposed to have been the main characteristics of the ancient
        Greek economy. This book shows quite the opposite: that complete domestic self-sufficiency is a pure myth; that foreign trade was fundamental and concerned not
        only luxury goods but, at an unprecedented level, basic consumer goods for the mass
        of the population; that in the long term technological innovation was remarkable and
        could result in a reallocation of the workforce; that there was per capita growth, ata level unprecedented before the early modern period. … The agora was a space in which trade was regulated by the city-state's institutions, represented by one or several magistrates. … Thus the monetization of everyday trade in the agora began at the end of the Archaic period and in the early Classical period. (c) Alain Bresson, The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy: Institutions, Markets, and Growth in the City-States // Princeton University Press, 2015

        Today, even the early medieval economy is seen in the capitalist way:

        * More detail can be discerned of the process of manorial expansion in the contemporary Carolingian realms. There, recent studies by Jean-Pierre Devroey and Pierre Toubert in particular have emphasized examples of land clearance for new settlement as well as large-scale movement of surpluses for sale by tenants and landlords alike.[91] (c) Naismith, Rory (2011). Money and Power in Anglo-Saxon England: The Southern English Kingdoms, 757–865. Cambridge University Press.

        * The examples serve to illustrate the significant presence of ecclesiastical landowners, and to a lesser extent secular aristocracy, within markets and ports bordering onto the North Sea region. These connections linked the rural exchange system to urban economies, and ensured that surplus production from the (largely) ecclesiastical estate networks could be sold off (Lebecq 2000; Marazzi 2003; Steuer 1999; Theuws 2004). They also created opportunities for permanently settled or visiting agents – neguntiantes – to purchase necessities for cash payment or in exchange of kind. It has been argued that this dependable availability of a
        rural surplus became decisive for urban growth and the development of market economy during the 8th and 9th century (Devroey 1985, 1993; Toubert 1990; Verhulst 1999). (c) Bjarne Gaut, Manors and markets. // Viking Worlds. Things, spaces, and movement. Oxbow Books. 2015

      • Inal Gagloev

        Mr. Selgin, blogger LK published two post against Menger position, and, to my opinion, we must know that really LK in some point is wrong.

        1. In Ancient Greece Homer times metall object have monetary function:

        * For most of Iron Age Greece, however, apart from the cattle-based valuations attested in Homer, prices or payments were stipulated in numbers of standard bronze or iron utensils. (c) John H. Kroll, The Monetary Background of Early Coinage // The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage (Oxford University Press, 2012)

        * Grierson points to historical examples of divergences between a society’s unit of account and its medium of exchange, e.g. Homeric Greece, where the unit of account was the ox, but where payments were made in gold. (c) Jürgen von Hagen, Microfoundations of the uses of money // Money as God? The Monetization of the Market and Its Impact on Religion, Politics, Law, and Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

        In the last quote, the author refers to the work of 1977, which was written by Philip Grierson, historian and numismatist, emeritus professor of numismatics at Cambridge University. Today some historic also support this:

        * The fact that in contexts known to the poet's audience weighed bullion fulfilled most of the essential functions of money (means of exchange, repository of value, unit of account — though perhaps nowhere all at once) suggests another way in which the talents are an exception to the general rules of the Homeric economy, since money and its equivalents are generally taken to be a hallmark of a 'disembedded' economy, where wealth is no longer guaranteed to follow worth. The discovery of Geometric hoards including miniature globular ingots of gold at Eretria and Khaniale Tekke has been taken to suggest that Homer's contemporaries were again using weights of bullion in trade. (c) Brown, A. ‘Homeric Talents and the Ethics of Exchange’ // The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 1998, Vol. 118

        * Precious metals were certainly used in foreign trade, and the evidence that John Kroll presents in this volume puts it, to my mind, beyond doubt that they were also used for storing wealth before coins were invented. (c) David M. Schaps, What Was Money in Ancient Greece? // The Monetary Systems of the Greeks and Romans (Oxford University Press, 2008)

        2. Governments in Ancient Greek and even in Egypt when establishing coinages use pre-existetence system, popular among private man:

        * The fact that the first Greek and Ionian coinages already comprised tiny specimens has been taken to suggest that coins were inserted into a pre-existing system where also small transactions were made on the basis of silver. (c) Sitta von Reden, Money in Classical Antiquity // Cambridge University Press, 2010

        * John Kroll (Ch.1) seeks to establish that the inhabitants of a number of Greek cities in Asia and in Magna Graecia, and the Athenians too, used bullion as money both before the introduction of coinage and even afterwards. There can be no doubt that precious metals served as stores of value, but Kroll goes further, referring to bullion as a ‘transactional medium’. (c) W. V. Harris, Introduction // The Monetary Systems of the Greeks and Romans (Oxford University Press, 2008)

        * Michael Hudson (2002, 2004) has argued that large public institutions (temples and palaces) in Mesopotamia played a role in establishing equivalencies (and media of exchange) through tracking debt obligations linked to seasonal agricultural cycles and tribute. … Nevertheless, commoner barter and long-standing practices may also have provided a bottom-up basis for establishing equivalencies in premodern market contexts (e.g., for ancient Egypt see Kemp 1989:243). (c) Barbara L. Stark and Christopher P. Garraty, Detecting Marketplace Exchange in Archaeology: A Methodological Review // Archaeological Approaches to Market Exchange in Ancient Societies (University Press of Colorado, 2010)