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A private bank note from the 19th century

Money in the US: A Timeline

Money & Banking

At a day to day level, money seems like a self-evident fact of life—in the moment when you fork over a bill or dip your chip card to get your morning coffee, pausing to think deeply about the historical construction of this elaborate practice would likely only serve to annoy the people behind you in line.

But under the hood, as it were, money is the historical product of a complicated set of policy decisions—as well as parallel mutations in the banking system, without which a modern monetary system is unthinkable.  The timeline below traces the history of money in the US, a history in which radical and fundamental changes have been as common as grass.


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Why this matters: if money has been reinvented multiple times, that means it can be reinvented again, to better serve the needs of people and planet. Ellen Brown’s book Banking on the People, from which the above timeline has been adapted, is this kind of roadmap to money’s future.

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