Martin Shubik

Document Type

Discussion Paper

Publication Date


CFDP Number


CFDP Pages


Journal of Economic Literature (JEL) Code(s)

C70, D21


Money is a mystery and financial institutions are often regarded as guardians and promoters of the mystery. These sketches are designed to help an individual interested in, but not technically trained in economics, understand markets, money, credit and the evolution of a mass market system embedded in the rich context of its political environment and society. The efficient functioning of a dynamic economy requires the presence of money and financial institutions. The great variety of financial institutions in any advanced economy requires that a synthetic approach is used to understand what the whole looks like. Verbal description provides an overarching view of the mixture of history, law, philosophy, social mores, and political structure that supplies the context for the functioning of the economy. This has been vividly illustrated by Adam Smith, his teacher the Reverend Francis Hutcheson and his close friend David Hume. There are two different but highly allied themes in this single slim volume. Chapters 1, 2, and 3 supply the rich context of history, society, polity and law in which every economy is embedded. Chapters 12 and 13 sketch what might lie ahead given the current state of the world. These chapters require no symbols or technical depth. In contrast Chapters 4 to 11 offers a reasonably nontechnical exposition of some of the considerable development in formal economic theory pertaining to money and financial institutions as economics struggles towards emerging as a science, balancing quantitative measures with qualifications that help to explain what the numbers mean.

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