Money is a strange concept. It is a creation of both society and governments but the two continuously clash until the unexpected happens. And while money has been tremendously important to us in terms of exchanging goods, building and connecting societies, it has also created many problems such as wars, economic inequality, and corruption. The French writer, Alexander Dumas said in regard to that matter: ‘Money is a good servant and a bad master’.
But, if money is man-made, and so is the notion of economy, how come we cannot find more effective ways to distribute the resources on this planet, particularly when we have the ability to print and thus create new money. Is printing money really that bad for the economy? Could it work?
The Notion of Printing Money
The idea of printing money and giving it directly to the public is being perceived as a dirty thing, almost corrupted and unfair. But as a matter of fact, we all use printed money, in one form or another. The fact that we can exchange a piece of paper instead of physical goods has made a huge contribution to humans’ lives, and in some way, allowed us to gain more control over trade and the economy.
However, this form of money has also created a scenario in which citizens must have strong confidence and trust in their government so the banknotes will actually have value. Essentially, when using a banknote of any government, there’s an unwritten agreement between the user and the government that issues the notes. In fact, many countries still have a promise on their banknotes since the Bank of England issued the first banknotes in 1694 with this quote on it: ‘I Promise to Pay the Bearer on Demand’.
What happens when too much money is printed?
Well, money printing could supposedly create a condition that money becomes worthless when too much money is added to the system. When money is printed, consumers are then able to demand more goods and thus prices rise and create inflation.
So theoretically, when a country prints too much of its currency, inflation can occur and the currency may lose its value. But that’s not all – there are many dangers of printing money.
And yet, printing money is back in fashion since the early attempts to control the economy following the 1929 crisis and during World War 2.
A Brief History of Printing Money – How It All Started?
It assumes that printed money in the form of paper bills was first used by the Chinese during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). In Europe, Sweden was the first country to issue banknotes in 1661, and its somewhat success has led the majority of European countries to issue paper money of their own. Throughout the 20th century, the Bretton Woods agreement and the announcement of the US president Richard Nixon that the US will no longer convert US dollars to gold at a fixed value – have led to a situation that banknotes, or fiat currencies, are the new modern form of money.
Ultimately, printing money is the creation of new money to increase the money supply in certain markets. In the economic jargon, printing money is also called quantitative easing, a term the was often used since the 2008 economic crisis.
Nowadays, countries use fiat currencies, which gives governments and central banks greater control over the economy as they can determine how much money is printed and navigate the economy in times of oversupply and overdemand. The 2008 quantitative easing experiment has convinced some economists that printing money is a valid solution to an economic recession, a scenario in which the economic cycle stops due to a shortage of money supply in a market. Evidently, since the emerge of the coronavirus pandemic, many have suggested printing money as a solution.
But, while there are many advantages of controlling the supply of money when the economy grows or shrinks, there’s also a danger that governments might print too much, resulting in hyperinflation. Moreover, the fact that a small group of people has total control over such an enormous aspect of the global economy is not acceptable by many groups. This has lead to the creation of bitcoin and other digital assets that were invented in order to eliminate third-party intermediaries who control the money supply in the market.
Why The United States Is the Only Country that Can Print Money?
Since the world has abandoned the gold standard in 1971, any government can essentially create as much money as it wants out of nothing. But because every country in the world uses US dollar USD for their trade, the United States is basically the only country that can print new money and pay its debts with USD, unlike other countries that cannot pay debts or trade with their own currency.
As the US dollar is the central currency for global trade, there’s an outsized demand for US dollars which means that the United States can print enormous amounts of the currency without significantly devaluating it.
Printing Money – Good or Bad?
Like so many other things, the notion of printing money is a perception, a belief. The debate about whether printing money is right or wrong is endless. Some might say that if we have the ability to control the supply of money, why not?? If we can crack the code of printing the right amount of money without damaging the value of currencies… Why not?? Others claim that creating money out of nothing is a disruption to the natural concept of money and is morally wrong. Perhaps some of use, rightfully, also oppose the general feeling that those who control money have become the masters of our lives.
Nonetheless, printing money is here to stay for the foreseeable future because it can be a solution to some of our biggest problems. As curiosity is part of human nature, it does not necessarily matter whether it is right or wrong, good or bad – it is here to stay.