PSYCHOECONOMY
7Jan/120

Non-state currencies: the Patagonia case.

There are a series of countries characterised by their non-state status. Some of these are unrecognised countries, others are ephemeral, virtual fantasy lands. What is it that distinguishes a state from a non-state? It is the mere fact of being recognised or not by the governments of other countries or by the major international organisations. As with state countries, some non-state countries also claim the right to having their own institutions and symbols (for example coats of arms, flags). Many of them even issue their own passports, their own stamps, their own currency. There are thus non-states that coin their own non-state currency. It will have its own characteristics in keeping with the type of non-state country to which it belongs. For example, the United Transnational Republics, an organisation that, as its name suggests, seeks to establish a democratic transnational regime within the trend for globalisation and proposes its own currency: the Payola. This currency would be characterised by its transnational nature at a time of collapse of national currencies. Another very different type of currency would be, for example, the common currency valid within Freetown Christiania, a self-proclaimed autonomous area situated in a sector of Copenhagen. Here a currency denominated Løn is in circulation and is coined annually. Examples of non-state currencies abound. Here we will deal with the case of non-state currencies that were in circulation in the mid-19th century in a particular geographic area: Patagonia.

Patagonia has always carried the connotation of mystery and remoteness. Its history shows it to be a semi-depopulated, unconquerable territory that throughout its history has seen the arrival of all kinds of adventurers, explorers, refugees and outlaws:  Francis Drake and other English pirates, Charles Darwin, Welsh pioneers, Butch Cassidy, dangerous convicts housed in the End of the World Gaol, refugees from the Russian Empire, covert Nazis, British nobles owners of estancias, Hollywood actors owners of estancias, media magnates owners of estancias. It was in fact here, around 1850, where two different currencies were registered: the currency of the Kingdom of Araucanía, also known as New France, an attempt at monarchy instituted by the noble Frenchman Orélie Antoine de Tounens, and the currency Lavaderos de Oro del Sud (Southern Gold Washers) coined by the Jewish Romanian adventurer Julius Popper, who arrived in southern Patagonia at a time of a short-lived gold rush.

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