By "fancy or agreement": Locke's theory of money and the justice of the global monetary system
Keywords:Locke, metallism, chartalism, consent, equality, global monetary system
Locke argues that the consent of market participants to the introduction of money justifies the economic inequalities resulting from monetarization. This paper shows that Locke’s argument fails to justify such inequalities. My critique proceeds in two parts. Regarding the consequences of the consent to money, neo-Lockeans wrongly take consent to justify inequalities in the original appropriation of land. In contrast, I defend the view that consent can only justify inequalities resulting directly from monetized commercial exchange. Secondly, regarding the nature of consent, neo-Lockeans uncritically accept Locke’s account of money as a natural institution. In contrast, I argue that money is an irreducibly political institution and that monetary economies cannot develop in the state of nature. My political account of money has far-reaching implications for the normative analysis of the global monetary system and the justification of the economic inequalities consequent upon it.