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Discussion Paper

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Why people accept intrinsically worthless fiat money in exchange for real goods and services has been a longstanding question. There are many competing sufficient explanations that may confound each other in practice but can be individually tested in isolation experimentally. In this paper we examine a sufficient explanation of the value of fiat money through the existence of a debt instrument which allows consumption to be moved earlier in time. We present experimental evidence that the theoretical predictions about the behavior of such economies work reasonably well in a laboratory setting. The import of this finding for the theory of money is to show that the presence of a societal bank and default laws provide sufficient structure to support the use of fiat money, although many other institutions such as taxation provide alternatives.

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