Payment, or the exchange of a unit of money — i.e. a claim on an institution — for a delivery of goods or services is a fascinating process, both in its nature and in its effects. Take a simple piece of paper such as a bank-note or a note confirming that a current account has been credited, or the document that often takes its place, namely a cheque. In each case, the document in question is an acknowledgement of debt (also called a claim on an institution) which is completely artificial in its nature since the debtor who acknowledged the debt, a cashier at the central bank or at a clearing bank, i.e. the person who has signed the piece of paper ‘promising’ to pay twenty pounds, has in most cases not received anything at all, except perhaps another piece of paper — a receipt — signed this time by a borrower. This piece of paper has the even more miraculous power of transforming the issuer, whether it is the Bank of England or a commercial bank, from debtor into lender.
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