each specie dollar in their vaults, could they not afford to, and would they not in fact, materially reduce their rate of discount? Would not the competing banks be forced to reduce their rate in consequence? And would not this reduction lower the rate of interest throughout the nation? Undoubtedly; and yet the amount of capital in the country remains the same as before.
Suppose, further, that during the following year, in consequence of the stimulus given to business and production by this decrease in the rate of interest and also because of unusually favorable natural conditions, a great increase of wealth occurs. If then the banks of the nation, holding from the government a monopoly of the power to issue money, should combine to contract the volume of the currency, could they not, and would they not, raise the rate of interest thereby? Undoubtedly; and yet the amount of capital in the country is greater than it ever was before.
But suppose, on the other hand, that all these banks, chartered and regulated by the government and issuing money dollar for dollar, had finally been allowed to issue paper beyond their capital based on the credit and guaranteed capital of their customers; that their circulation, thus doubly secured, had become so popular that people preferred to pay their debts in coin instead of bank-notes, thus causing coin to flow into the vaults of the banks and add to their reserve; that this addition had enabled them to add further to their circulation, until, by a continuation of the process, it at last amounted to eight times their original capital; that by levying a high rate of interest on this they had bled the people nigh unto death; that then the government had stepped in and said to the banks: "When you began, you received an annual interest of six per cent. on your capital; you now receive nearly that rate on a circulation eight times your capital based really on the people's credit; therefore at one-eighth of the original rate your annual profit would be as great as formerly; henceforth your rate of discount must not exceed three-fourths of one per cent." Had all this happened (and with the exception of the last condition of the hypothesis similar cases have frequently happened), what would have been the result? Proudhon shall answer for us. In the eighth letter of his immortal discussion with Bastiat on the question of interest he exhausts the whole subject of the relation of interest to capital; and "Basis" cannot do better than read the whole of it. A brief extract, however, must suffice here. He is speaking of the Bank of France,
which at that time (1849) was actually in almost the same