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By Steven Johnstone

Content material: Haggling -- Measuring -- preserving song -- Valuing -- taking part -- Apportioning legal responsibility -- figuring out -- universal greek weights and measures

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Consider, however, the United States from 1838 to 1863, the era of “free banking,” a period during which the federal treasury minted coins 32 chapter two but printed no paper currency. Instead, banks, thousands of them, issued debt obligations, which looked like paper currency and functioned as money. 140 This gave rise both to an unsystematic expertise—there were knacks for assessing currencies141— and to privately published bulletins that listed the discount rates on various bank notes. 142 Of course, there were important differences between this and the Greek world: American notes had no intrinsic value but were always supposedly redeemable for something else (specie, travel miles, tax payments, merchandise), and the procedures of redemption affected the discounting.

More commonly, uncertainty about the goods prompted a distrust of the seller. The Isocratic practice attempted to allay distrust by having a third party hold the fee; the Protagorean attempted to overcome both ignorance and distrust. An Ethnography of Haggling Most of the evidence I use below for understanding the practice of haggling comes from Greek and especially Athenian comic writings. But you might ask: Can you take scenes from comedy as reliable depictions of real life? Might not the literary genre—and not some correspondence to the actual world—explain the ways that characters talk?

In two situations of endemic distrust, however, the polis intervened to enforce the use of standard measures: in retail trade in the agora and in transactions conducted by officials of the polis. I conclude with an examination of the trade in grain in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, in part as a contrast to that of the classical period, in part to indicate the limitations of ancient practices when considered in light of modern systems of standardization. The Standardized World Disenthrall yourself of a world saturated with exact measuring and systems of standardization.

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