Wed Nov 23rd, 2011 at 02:58:11 PM EST
I found a fascinating essay by one David Astle - The Tallies - a Tangled Tale - on the subject of the role of the Tally Stick in the financing and funding of sovereign states generally and the UK in particular.
What was a Tally Stick?
" 1. Formerly, a piece of wood in which notches were cut as marks of number. It was customary for traders after notching a stick to show the number or quantity of goods delivered, to split it lengthwise through the notches, so the parts exactly corresponded, the seller keeping one stick, and the purchaser the other.
In the English Exchequer were tallies of loan, one part called the counterstock, or countertally, being kept in the Exchequer, the other, the stock or tally being given to the creditor in lieu of an obligation for money lent to the Government. Certain tallies were used in the Exchequer as late as 1827, but all were destroyed by Act of Parliament, 1827."
Here we are.....
Maybe these instruments were relatively unimportant in the scheme of things?
In later years, at the time of the establishment of the so-called Bank of England, despite the confusion set up by the depredations of the goldsmiths from early Tudor times on, there were at least £17,000,000 of tallies in circulation : a fantastic sum in those days considering that the total cost of the operation of the Kingdom in those days would be no more than between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 per annum.
There should be no doubt of the efficacy of the tally in an earlier day when the King's word and rule were unchallenged absolutes.
So why have these credit instruments - for that is what they were - been largely airbrushed until recently from economic history as an irrelevance?
Little, if any, study seems to be available on the full functions of the tally stick in relations to State finance (without cumulative debt) in the many hundreds of years of its use in England prior to its final ending in 1834.
So far as Library of Congress is concerned, unbelievably, nothing seems to be available on the subject of the tallies other than the book written in Chinese previously mentioned in this essay.
As a consequence the "Economists" may have very good reason to be evasive on the subject of the tally stick, or to ignore its previous existence.
This attitude of course would be most desirable for what, from the 17th Century onwards, was a growing group of persons described as "Bankers".
The possibility of the State financing itself without cumulative debt would not fit in with the system it is clear they had in mind......
Tally sticks have also left a linguistic trail which gives further clues of the role and creditary function of the 'Stock' element of the Tally Stick which was given by the sovereign to creditors as a negotiable instrument redeemable in payment of taxes.
"Joint Stock Company"; "Stock Exchange"; "taking stock"; and so on.
Surely Tally Sticks are of historic interest only? Well yes and no: while the physical stock is obsolete, the creditary nature of this negotiable instrument offers the key to a simple but radical approach to public credit generally, and to the Euro crisis in particular.