Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Force of Habit in the Circulation of Money. - Money and the Mechanism of Exchange
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The Force of Habit in the Circulation of Money. - William Stanley Jevons, Money and the Mechanism of Exchange 
Money and the Mechanism of Exchange (New York: D. Appleton and Co. 1876).
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The Force of Habit in the Circulation of Money.
No one can possibly understand many social phenomena unless he constantly bears in mind the force of habit and social convention. This is strikingly true in our subject of money. Over and over again in the course of history, powerful rulers have endeavoured to put new coins into circulation or to withdraw old ones; but the instincts of self-interest or habit in the people have been too strong for laws and penalties. Though in particular instances it may be difficult to explain occurrences which happen in the circulation of coins, yet a close analysis of the character of those who handle money, and their motives for holding or paying it away, will throw much light upon the subject.
We must notice, in the first place, that the great mass of the population who hold coins have no theories, or general information whatever, upon the subject of money. They are guided entirely by popular report and tradition. The sole question with them on receiving a coin is whether similar coins have been readily accepted by other people. Thus in the remote parts of Norway at the present time, the old paper daler notes are preferred to the beautiful new twenty-kroner gold pieces. By far the greater number of the people possess no means of learning the metallic, or even the legal, value of an unfamiliar coin. Few people have scales and weights suitable for weighing a coin, and no one but an assayer or analytical chemist can decide upon its fineness. Many a traveller who has carried good new coin into a country where it happened to be strange, has had to suffer a loss in paying it away. When our bronze pence were quite a novelty, I happened to take some with me into a remote part of North Wales, and they were rejected.
People in general accept coin simply on the ground of its familiar appearance. So entirely is this the case among very ignorant populations, that it has often been found desirable to maintain unchanged the impress on successive issues of coins. In many cases coins have been struck for this purpose with the date of a long past year, or even the effigy of a dead sovereign. The Maria Theresa dollar is still coined by the Austrian mint, with exactly the same design and date as when first issued in 1780, because it is the favourite coin in some of the states of North Africa, and various parts of the Levant. The British Government, when undertaking the Abyssinian expedition, procured a large stock of these coins for paying the natives. In the same way Mexican dollars are usually worth rather more than silver bullion, because of their easy currency in the East.
To the supremacy of habit, and the absence of means of estimating the real value of coin, is obviously due the depreciation which currencies have undergone. False coiners and kings alike find that, if they can only make new coins look and feel exactly like old coins, the people will accept depreciated money without question.
The annals of coinage, in this and all other countries, are little more than a monotonous repetition of depreciated issues both public and private, varied by occasional meritorious, but often unsuccessful, efforts to restore the standard of the currency. A curious instance of successive attempts to beguile a people are found in certain Roman denarii of the Consular times. False coiners having issued plated denarii among the subject Germans, the people appeared to have notched them with files to test their genuineness. The Germans having thus become accustomed to see genuine notched coins, the Roman government found it desirable to issue new coins notched in a similar manner. But the forgers were not to be beaten. They issued plated denarii with the notches all complete, apparently displaying good metal within; and notched false coins of this kind exist to the present day in numismatic cabinets.