Money has always been a profoundly ‘national’ affair. First and foremost this is because of seigniorage — whoever produces money stands to gain a revenue from the difference between its face value and its intrinsic worth, particularly if he is the monopoly producer of such an essential commodity. The state, which has a monopoly of power as well, has often been attracted by this and has tended to take over the function of producing money. Secondly, because money can only be employed to discharge obligations where contracts are enforceable, it becomes closely associated with the territory of the ruler who produces it and has every interest in universalising its use. Lastly, money has an emblematic value, as a sign of the might and independence of rulers or states. Even today, ‘few symbols of national sovereignty are as powerful as coins or bank notes’ (Eichengreen, 1993). One example, as we shall see, is Napoleon III who used monetary policy to further his aims of political aggrandisement and the expansion of France’s sphere of influence.
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