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Just Money Profiles
Christine Desan, Managing Editor

Christine Desan is the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the author of Making Money:  Coin, Currency, and the Coming of Capitalism (Oxford University Press, 2014).  The book argues that a radical transformation in the way societies produce money ushered in capitalism as a public project.  From creating money as a direct credit (coined or not) that linked the political community to members, sovereigns moved to intermediating the public medium.  They issued it through investors, nascent central bankers, and enshrined the profit motive as the incentive that regulated money’s production.  Those innovations exploded old strictures on money creation and revolutionized attitudes towards self-interest.

Desan’s research more generally explores money as a constitutional (small “c”) project that structures material life and governance. Earlier work focused on the adjudicative power of legislatures and sovereign immunity.  Desan teaches courses on the constitutional law of money, globalization as a monetary phenomenon, and monetary reform.  She is co-founder of Harvard’s Program on the Study of Capitalism, an interdisciplinary project that brings together classes, resources, research funds, and advising on that subject and has taught the Program’s anchoring research seminar, the Workshop on the Political Economy of Modern Capitalism, with Professor Sven Beckert (History, Harvard University) since 2005.  Desan is on the Board of the Institute for Global Law and Policy and is an editor of the journal Eighteenth Century Studies. She has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and at the Massachusetts Historical Society, and served on her municipality’s committee on campaign reform for ten years. 

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Winter 2020
Banking: Intermediation or Money Creation

Contributors: Morgan Ricks, Marc Lavoie, Robert Hockett, Saule Omarova, Michael Kumhof, Zoltan Jakab, Paul Tucker, Charles Kahn, Daniel Tarullo, Stephen Marglin, Howell Jackson and Christine Desan, Sannoy Das

Course Overview
The Legal Architecture of Globalization: Money, Debt and Development – Overview

Harvard Law School, Spring 2019
Professor Christine Desan

Course Syllabus [pdf] | Course Materials [page]

Course Description: An integrated political economy now covers much of the globe.  This course focuses on the monetary structure of that phenomenon as a matter created and contested in law.  Trade, extraction, exchange, debt, and economic development – for centuries, all have depended on money as their medium.  By examining the changing legal design of money, we will study globalization as a material, ideological, and distributive event of enormous significance.

Early sovereigns prioritized domestic law, both public and private, in developing the rules that provide the basic matrix for exchange. Those rules created the mediums that carry value – including money, credit, and circulating capital.  Nation-states today still claim sovereignty over those decisions; they are basic to self-determination and economic development.  But the latitude for those decisions had changed.  New monetary and financial relations now bind states, individuals, and other entities together and reconfigure the possibilities for their interaction.

We consider the way that political communities assert sovereignty in money and finance, the challenges that occur as different sovereign projects collide, interact, or compete with one another, and the character of the international orders that have resulted, including those of early Europe, the era of the Gold Standard, the Bretton Woods period, and the contemporary system.  We will focus, in particular, on the advent and development of finance-based money, a form of liquidity based on sovereign debt and expanded by commercial banks and capital markets. … more

Course Materials
Constitutional Law of Money – Materials

Professor Christine Desan (profile)
Harvard Law School – Fall 2017

Course Overview (Description and Syllabus)

I. Governing at the Material Level

Class 1: The Dollar as a Democratic Medium
Readings Notes and Discussion

Class 2: Money: the Basic Design
Readings Notes and Discussion

Class 3: Money: the Modern Design (a very brief introduction)
Readings Notes and Discussion

II. Experiments with Money: Economic Development, Sovereignty, and the Contest over Federalism (1690-1865)

Class 4: Money and Self-Determination — The Colonial  Experience
Readings, Notes and Discussion

Class 5: Money and Nation-building – the Revolution and the Constitution
Readings, Notes and Discussion

Class 6: The New Federalist Approach to Money: Public Debt and National Banking
 Readings, Notes and Discussion

Class 7: Revising Public Obligation: The Contracts Clause and Article I, Sec. 10 
Readings, Notes and Discussion

Class 8: State Development Strategies in an Illiquid World: Banks and Corporations
Readings, Notes and Discussion

Class 9: Federalism Contested: Jackson and the Battle over the Bank(s)
Readings, Notes and Discussion

Class 10: Free Banking: The High Tide of State Power
Readings, Notes and Discussion

III. Configuring Federal Monetary Power (1865-Present)

Class 11: National Banking I: Federal Entry into Retail Banking
Readings, Notes and Discussion

Class 12: National Banking II: Constitutional Claims to Credit Outside the Commercial System
Readings, Notes and Discussion

Class 13: Conceptualizing the Modern Market: Gold, Futures, and Economic Expertise
Readings, Notes and Discussion

Class 14: “Fed-eralizing” the Monetary System
Guest lecturer: Prof. Nadav Orian Peer, Tulane Law School
Readings, Notes and Discussion

Class 15: Liberating the Fed: the Movement towards Discretionary Monetary Policy
 Readings, Notes and Discussion

Class 16: Credit Allocation as a Political Project
Readings, Notes and Discussion

Class 17: Market Funding and Financialization
Readings, Notes and Discussion

Class 18: The Financial Crisis
Readings, Notes and Discussion

Class 19: The Constitutional Charge of Administrative Accountability and Independence: The Fed and Monetary Policy
Readings, Notes and Discussion

IV: Money in Constitutional Dimension: Contemporary Issues

Class 20: The Constitutional Right to Credit?more

Course Overview
Constitutional Law of Money – Overview

Professor Christine Desan (profile)
Harvard Law School – Spring 2019

Syllabus  |  Course Materials (coming soon)

Course Description:
According to one of the framers, the “soul of the Constitution” was the clause allocating authority over money.   Over the following centuries, money has remained at the center of debates over governance, including the division between state and federal sovereigns, American approaches to economic development and social welfare, the scope of judicial review, federal preemption, and the allocation of fundamental decisions about material distribution.  The authority of the Federal Reserve, for example, apparently includes the ability to make monetary policy decisions that move hundreds of billions of dollars.  This 3-credit course picks up an essential line of constitutional debate and determination, including those concerning the national debt, the contracts clause, state police powers, the Legal Tender Cases, the Gold Clause cases, and the role and responsibilities of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve.

Course Materials
The Legal Architecture of Globalization: Money, Debt, and Development – Materials

Harvard Law School, Spring 2019
Professor Christine Desan

Introduction and Overview

Class 01: Money, Debt, and Development: Challenges and Change in a Globalizing World
Reading, Background and Discussion

I. A Baseline: Money and its Design in the Early Western World

Class 02: Course Overview and Introduction to Money as a Legal Institution
Reading, Background and Discussion

Class 03: Commodity Money and Medieval Constitutionalism (the Law on Money Creation and Debasement)
Reading, Background and Discussion

Class 04: Medieval Money, Development, and the Law on Exchange (Usury and Nominalism)
Reading, Background and Discussion

Class 05: Sovereignty and International Law in an Age of Bullion: the Early Modern Settlement
Reading, Background and Discussion

II. The Early Modern Quartet: Modern Money, Public Debt, Securities Markets, and Commercial Banking in the Era of European Expansion

Class 06: The Invention of Modern (Bank-based) Money
Reading, Background and Discussion

Class 07: The New Public Law of Money: Public Debt and the Ascendance of Creditors’ Rights
Reading, Background and Discussion

Class 08: Securities Markets and the Accommodation of International Law: the Rise of Capital Out of the South Sea Debacle
Reading, Background and Discussion

Class 09: The Development of Commercial Banking
Reading, Background and Discussion

Class 10: Time-out – Contemporary Money-Making (a short introduction to the modern Fed, commercial banks, and the way they Interact)
Reading, Background and Discussion

III. The “First Globalization”: the International Gold Standard and its Legacies

Class 11: Modern Markets as a Radical Innovation: Power, Problems, and Commentary
Reading, Background and Discussion

Class 12: The Quartet on the Stage of Empire: Finance in the Ottoman World (i.e.,more

Podcast
MDM 2018: Welcoming Remarks

Podcast: Christine Desan opens the first Money as a Democratic Medium conference.

Christine Desan, Harvard Law School

Recognizing money and credit as public projects exposes issues of democratic purpose and possibility. In a novel focus, this conference makes those issues central. 

Podcast
MDM 2018: History and Theory

If money is a complex collective enterprise, protean in design possibilities both in practice and conception, then it has a history of change, carries profound moral significance, and lays a rightful claim to the concern of citizens and political theorists, lawyers and economists alike. How should an approach to money as a public medium re-orient fields that have ignored it? And how might the ideal of democracy matter in revised approaches?
Roundtable
Jeffrey Sklansky
– University of Illinois at Chicago
Stefan Eich
– Princeton, Society of Fellows
Stephen Marglin – Harvard University
Scott Ferguson – University of South Florida
Christine Desan – Harvard Law School
Moderator: Roy Kreitner, Tel Aviv University School of Law

Podcast
MDM 2018- Wrapping Up

We conclude with brief comments from participants on a small number of core questions, including (1) what themes emerged most powerfully across the conference sessions, and (2) what steps can we take to ensure that this conversation continues in ways that support future work?
Nadav Orian Peer – Tulane Law School
Patricia McCoy – Boston College Law School
Saule Omarova – Cornell Law School
Iain Frame – Kent Law School
Thank you – Christine Desan