Loren Gatch submitted these thoughts in response to W. J. Elvin's question about economist John Maynard Keynes opinion of Yap Stone money. Thanks.
Keynes does reference the phenomenon of Yap money in a footnote on pg. 292 of the second volume of A Treatise on Money (McMillan and Co. 1950, first published 1930). In the relevant passage, Keynes was making a point about how the function of gold in modern monetary management had been increasingly confined to a standard of value. Paradoxically, while gold was revered by its supporters as a tangible commodity, its actual monetary significance was henceforth to serve as an abstraction. As Keynes wrote about gold in his typically arch style:
"It no longer passes from hand to hand, and the touch of the metal has been taken away from men's greedy palms. The little household gods, who dwelt in purses and stockings and tin boxes, have been swallowed by a single golden image in each country, which lives underground and is not seen. Gold is out of sight--gone back again into the soil. But when gods are no longer seen in a yellow panoply walking the earth, we begin to rationalise them; and it is not long before there is nothing left" (p. 291).
I think Keynes had his ideas, and the stone money of Yap simply provided him with yet another deft way to illustrate his argument. There is also a highly interesting discussion of the Yap example on the blog Moneyness:
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: SEPTEMBER 1, 2013 : John Maynard Keynes and Yap Stone Money
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