A New Banking System_
Eighteen and Seventy Three_
;: +_ ;: – Legally, the system (as the author claims, and is prepared to establish) stands upon the same principle as a patented machine; and is, therefore, already legalized by Congress; and cannot, unless by a breach of the public faith, any more be prohibited, or taxed, either by Congress or this State, than can the use of a patented machine.
^_The reader will understand that the ideas presented in the following pages admit of a much more thorough demonstration than can be given in so small a space. Such demonstration, if it should be necessary, the author hopes to give at a future time.
_Boston, March, 1873
x-42/71 | _The Third of Chapters --
No Inflation of Prices_
Every dollar's worth of vendible property in the world is equal in value to a dollar in gold. And if it were possible that every dollar's worth of such property, in the world, could be represented, in the market, by a contract on paper, promising to deliver it on demand; and if every dollar's worth could be delivered on demand, in redemption of the paper that represented it, the world could then have an amount of currency equal to the entire property of the world.
The First of Sections_
In reality there is no such thing as an inflation of prices, relatively to gold. There is such a thing as a depreciated paper currency. That is to say, there is such a thing as a paper currency, that is called by the same names as gold—to wit, money, dollars, &c.—but that cannot be redeemed in full; and therefore has not the same value as gold. Such a currency does not circulate at its nominal, but only at its real, value. And when such a currency is in circulation, and prices are measured by it, instead of gold, they are said to be inflated, relatively to gold. But, in reality, the prices of property are not thereby inflated at all relatively to gold. It is only the measuring of prices by a currency, that is called by the same names as gold, but that is really inferior in value to gold, that causes the apparent, not real, inflation of prices, relatively to gold.
To measure prices by a currency that is called by the same names as gold, but that is really inferior in value to gold, and then—because those prices are nominally higher than gold prices—to say that they are inflated, relatively to gold, is a perfect absurdity.
If we were to call a foot measure a yard, and were then to say that all cloth measured by it became thereby stretched to three times its length, relatively to a true yard-stick, we should simply make ourselves ridiculous. We should not thereby prove that the foot measure had really stretched the cloth, but only that it had taxed our brains beyond their capacity.
It is only irredeemable paper—irredeemable in whole or in part,—that ever appears to inflate prices, relatively to gold. But that it really causes no inflation of prices, relatively to gold, is proved by the fact that it no more inflates the prices of other property, than it does the price of gold itself. Thus we say that irredeemable paper, that is worth but fifty cents on the dollar, inflates the prices of commodities in general to twice their real value. By this we mean, that they are inflated to twice their value relatively to gold. And why do we say this? Solely because it takes twice as many of these irredeemable paper dollars to buy any commodity,—a barrel of flour for example,—as it would if the paper were equal in value to gold. But it also takes twice as many of these irredeemable paper dollars to buy gold itself, as it would if the paper were equal in value to gold. There is, therefore, just as much reason for saying that the paper inflates the price of gold, as there is for saying that it inflates the price of flour. It inflates neither. It is, itself, worth but fifty cents on the dollar; and it, therefore, takes twice as much of it to buy either flour or gold, as it would if the paper were of equal value with gold.
The value of the coins—in any nation that is open to free commerce with the rest of the world—is fixed by their value in the markets of the world; and can neither be reduced below that value, in that nation, by any possible amount of paper currency, nor raised above that value, by the entire disuse of a paper currency. Any increase of the currency, therefore, by means of paper representing other property than the coins—but having an equal value with the coins—is an absolute bona fide increase of the currency to that extent; and not a mere depreciation of it, as so many are in the habit of asserting.
Practically and commercially speaking, a dollar is not necessarily a specific thing, made of silver, or gold, or any other single metal, or substance. It is only such a quantum of market value as exists in a given piece of silver or gold. And it is the same quantum of value, whether it exist in gold, silver, houses, lands, cattle, horses, wool, cotton, wheat, iron, coal, or any other commodity that men desire for use, and buy and sell in the market.
Every dollar's worth of vendible property in the world is equal in value to a dollar in gold. And if it were possible that every dollar's worth of such property, in the world, could be represented, in the market, by a contract on paper, promising to deliver it on demand; and if every dollar's worth could be delivered on demand, in redemption of the paper that represented it, the world could then have an amount of currency equal to the entire property of the world. And yet clearly every dollar of paper would be equal in value to a dollar of gold; specie payments—or the literal fulfilment of contracts—could forever be maintained; and yet there could be no inflation of prices, relatively to gold. Such a currency would no more inflate the price of one thing, than of another. It would as much inflate the price of gold, as of any thing else. Gold would stand at its true and natural value as a metal; and all other things would also stand at their true and natural values, for their respective uses.
On this principle, if every dollar's worth of vendible property in the United States could be represented by a paper currency; and if the property could all be delivered on demand, in redemption of the paper, such a currency would not inflate the prices of property at all, relatively to gold. Gold would still stand at its true and natural value as a metal, or at its value in the markets of the world. And all the property represented by the paper, would simply be measured by the gold, and would stand at its true and natural value, relatively to the gold.
We could then have some thirty thousand millions ($30,000,000,) of paper currency,—taking our property at its present valuation. And yet every dollar of it would be equal to a dollar of gold; and there could evidently be no inflation of prices, relatively to gold. No more of the currency could be kept in circulation, than should be necessary or convenient for the purchase and sale of property at specie prices.
It is probably not practicable to represent the entire property of the country by such contracts on paper as would be convenient and acceptable as a currency. This is especially true of the personal property; although large portions even of this are being constantly represented by such contracts as bank notes, private promissory notes, checks, drafts, and bills of exchange; all of which are in the nature of currency; that is, they serve for the time as a substitute for specie; although some of them do not acquire any extensive, or even general, circulation.
But that it is perfectly practicable to represent nearly all the real estate of the country—including the railroads—by such contracts on paper as will be perfectly convenient and acceptable as a currency; and that every dollar of it can be kept always at par with specie throughout the entire country—that all this is perfectly practicable, the author offers the system already presented in proof.