The period after 1971, which saw the final abandonment of a gold standard tied to the American dollar, has revealed the logical trajectory of the conventional money sign. Since the introduction in Europe of paper money in the fourteenth century, and the first major financial crisis in Florence in 1343, the risks of detaching money volumes from finite, material parameters have repeatedly become evident. Between 1343 and 1971, the aggregate consequences of states, banks, and market actors maximizing their monetary assets have included long-term tendencies toward increasing economic inequalities and environmental degradation, punctuated by points of extensive monetary devaluation illustrating the fundamental vulnerability of states, financial institutes, and people at large.
Although a great number of policy suggestions have been presented to attempt to remedy such recurrent tendencies and events, mainstream proposals do not critically scrutinize the inherent features of the money sign itself. This policy brief considers what such a critical scrutiny would entail, and some possible conclusions. It does not belittle the technological and societal accomplishments in Europe since the fourteenth century, but suggests that current concerns with climate change and financial crises offer a historical moment for reflection on how the operation of the global economy might be reorganized in the interests of global sustainability, justice, and financial resilience.