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What 'money' was initially for

The first role of money (at least as an agent of commerce: Graeber will later discuss its truly aboriginal, or indigenous, was not to grease exchange but to tabulate debts.

 Mesopotamian tablets dating from 3500 BC record rent, usually in the form of grain, owed by tenants of temple lands, and rations of barley due to temple workers.

These credits and debits may have been calculated in silver shekels, but coins hardly circulated at the time.

In other words, of the three functions ascribed to money by economics textbooks –
 a medium of exchange,
a unit of account
and a store of value –

 it was the second that came first.

Coinage did not become widespread until several thousand years later.


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