Department of Economics
University of Delaware
Working Paper #2007-07
Benjamin Franklin and the Birth of a Paper Money Economy
Paper money has often been controversial and misunderstood. Why it has value, why that value changes over time, how it influences economic activity, who should be allowed to make it, how its use and creation should be controlled, and whether it should exist at all—are questions that have perplexed the public, vexed politicians, and puzzled economic experts. Knowing how, when, and why paper money first became commonplace in America and the nature of the institutions propagating it, can help us better comprehend paper money’s role in society. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) dealt often with this topic and his writings can teach us much about it.