I’m not going to give all the links (they are available if you click on the following), but here is the compilation of anthropologist David Graeber’s response to my article, and then here is my follow-up. An excerpt:
Graeber admits too that the temple authorities didn’t just independently pick silver because it was lying around. No, he says that silver was what was used to facilitate trades with foreigners.
This is exactly what I said the situation looked like, based on my reading of Graeber’s interview. Therefore, far from refuting my article, Graeber is here confirming it.
In conclusion, I still maintain that Graeber has yet to show us that the standard Mengerian story is wrong. Menger said that for money to emerge, you need to have antecedent barter transactions where at least one commodity outstrips its rivals in marketability. It then becomes the commonly accepted medium, and its exchange rate with other goods and services is determined through voluntary trades.
Graeber’s account is still consistent with that general explanation. The fact that the temples used silver as money, a practice which even he says they copied from the merchants who traded with foreigners, proves the point of my original article.