What Makes Money Valuable?
In the United States neither paper currency nor deposits have value as commodities. Intrinsically, a dollar bill is just a piece of paper, deposits merely book entries. Coins do have some intrinsic value as metal, but generally far less than their face value. What, then, makes these instruments – checks, paper money, and coins – acceptable at face value in payment of all debts and for other monetary uses?
Mainly, it is the confidence people have that they will be able to exchange such money for other financial assets and for real goods and services whenever they choose to do so.
Money, like anything else, derives its value from its scarcity in relation to its usefulness. Commodities or services are more or less valuable because there are more or less of them relative to the amounts people want. Money’s usefulness is its unique ability to command other goods and services and to permit a holder to be constantly ready to do so.
How much money is demanded depends on several factors, such as the total volume of transactions in the economy at any given time, the payments habits of the society, the amount of money that individuals and businesses want to keep on hand to take care of unexpected transactions, and the forgone earnings of holding financial assets in the form of money rather than some other asset.
MODERN MONEY MECHANICS
A Workbook on Bank Reserves and Deposit Expansion
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
This complete booklet is was originally produced and distributed free by: Public Information Center Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago P. O. Box 834 Chicago, IL 60690-0834 telephone: 312 322 5111 But it is now out of print. Photo copies can be made available by firstname.lastname@example.org.
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