I have to assume Murphy was aware that all he had to do was to write something—anything really—and claim it rebutted me, and the piece would be instantly snatched up by a right-wing echo chamber, mirrored on half a dozen websites and that followers of those websites would then dutifully begin appearing across the web declaring to everyone willing to listen that my work had been rebutted.
Let me begin by filling in some background on the current state of scholarly debate on this question, explain my own position, and show what an actual debate might have been like.
First, the history: 1) Adam Smith first proposed in ‘The Wealth of Nations’ that as soon as a division of labor appeared in human society, some specializing in hunting, for instance, others making arrowheads, people would begin swapping goods with one another (6 arrowheads for a beaver pelt, for instance.) This habit, though, would logically lead to a problem economists have since dubbed the ‘double coincidence of wants’ problem—for exchange to be possible, both sides have to have something the other is willing to accept in trade.
This was assumed to eventually lead to the people stockpiling items deemed likely to be generally desirable, which would thus become ever more desirable for that reason, and eventually, become money.
By David Graeber, who currently holds the position of Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths University London.
Prior to this he was an associate professor of anthropology at Yale University.
He is the author of ‘Debt: The First 5,000 Years’ which is available from Amazon Last week, Robert F.
Murphy published a piece on the webpage of the Von Mises Institute responding to some points I made in a recent interview on Naked Capitalism, where I mentioned that the standard economic accounts of the emergence of money from barter appears to be wildly wrong.
Since this contradicted a position taken by one of the gods of the Austrian pantheon, the 19th century economist Carl Menger, Murphy apparently felt honor-bound to respond. In the interview I’m simply referring to arguments made in my book, ‘Debt: The First 5000 Years’.
In his response, Murphy didn’t even consult the book; in fact he later admitted he was responding at least in part not even to the interview but to an inaccurate summary of my position someone had made in another blog!