the plan for the future

Joseph in Egypt

27 June 2018 (latest update: 14 November 2020)

Joseph with the Pharaoh
Joseph with the Pharaoh

Natural Money may turn out to be a permanent solution for the ailments of the financial system. Natural Money already existed in ancient Egypt for more than 1,000 years. There is a story in the Bible that may explain how that happened. Once the Pharaoh had a few bad dreams his advisers could not explain. He dreamt about seven fat cows being eaten by seven lean cows and seven full ears of grain being devoured by seven thin and blasted ears of grain.

Joseph explained those dreams to the Pharaoh. He told the Pharaoh that seven years with good harvests would come followed by seven years with poor harvests. He advised the Egyptians to store food. They followed his advice and built storehouses for grain. In this way Egypt survived the seven years of scarcity.1

The food storage resulted in a financial system. The historian Friedrich Preisigke discovered that the Egyptians used grain receipts for money.2 Farmers bringing in the food received receipts for grain. Bakers who wanted to make bread, brought in the receipts which could be exchanged for grain. According to the Bible, Joseph took all the money from the Egyptians.3 As a consequence the grain receipts may have become money instead.

The storage costs were settled when the receipts were exchanged for grain. In this way the receipts gradually lost value over time. It was similar to buying stamps to keep the money valid as happened in Wörgl. During the reign of Ramesses the Great, Egypt became a leading power again. Some historians have suggested that Egypt's wealth during the reign of Ramesses was built upon the grain money.

The grain money remained in circulation after the introduction of coins around 400 BC until the Romans conquered Egypt around 40 BC. The grain money survived for more than a thousand years. It was not a crisis in the financial system that ended it but Roman conquest. This suggests that a holding fee on money and negative interest rates can create a stable financial system that lasts forever.

Featured image: Joseph interpreting the Pharaoh's dream. Illustrations for La Grande Bible de Tours. Gustave Doré (1866). Public Domain.


1. Genesis 41
2. A Strategy for a Convertible Currency. Bernard A. Lietaer, ICIS Forum, Vol. 20, No.3, 1990.
3. Genesis 47:15