CURRENCY AND GOVERNMENT.
[Liberty, August 15, 1891.]
To the Editor of Liberty:
There is not the slightest analogy between allowing theatres to be consumed on Sundays and allowing silver or iron to be sold on the same terms as gold. Currency is only buying and selling; it is not consuming. The customary adoption of gold as currency and the endorsement of this custom by edict involves only a very insignificant increase in its consumption. Most other commodities waste much more than gold in the processes of stocking, marketing, and distributing from points of production to points of consumption. An admission that if government allowed an increase in the consumption of theatres it would raise the price, in no way affects any known proposal or enactment in regard to gold as currency, because currency laws have so little effect upon the consumption of gold. There are laws which possibly affect the value of the precious metals. There are such as prohibit mixing them freely in all proportions, producing utensils or other articles of consumption. Thus, if the removal of the present restrictions should lead to a larger consumption of silver in culinary articles, this would slightly raise the price of silver.
But what is the use of pursuing a false analogy? If government simply facilitated the sale of theatres, how would that affect their price in the market? A comparison of the effects of facilitating consumption does not illustrate the effects of facilitating exchanges. It is in the power of government to alter the values of the precious metals enormously within the areas of their dominion by prohibiting their importation or exportation or by duties or bounties. It will be time enough to discuss these matters when they are proposed. They are not analogous to the attempts to fix the value of silver by the schemes of the bi-metallists, and they have still less analogy to the statutes which are supposed to determine the value of gold, but which, as a matter of fact, do nothing of the sort. To state that one-fourth ounce of gold shall exchange for one-fourth ounce of gold is simply to cumber the statute book with a "chestnut." No government ever does stipulate "that all money shall be made of or issued against gold or silver," and it is in supposing that it does so that some of our comrades get wrong. What is called money in the above sentence means a bond or promise to deliver coin. There is nothing to prevent any one from issuing bonds or promises to deliver something else, such as petroleum, pig-iron, wheat, lard, and so on. If you promise delivery of petroleum on demand or at a date named, you only discharge your bond by legally tendering the petroleum as specified. The law of England allows this. To prevent it would disorganize all trade. W'hat is prohibited is the production and issue of notes in one particular form,—namely, promises to pay gold to bearer on demand. It is a most vicious equivoque to call such instruments money, and to exclude checks, drafts, bills, notes, whether drawn for gold, silver, iron, lard, or even labor.
Space prohibits (even when a condensed statement, which will be misnamed dogmatism, is employed) showing that even under our truck laws no one is prohibited from using or taking as a payment, flour, bread, meat, calico, boots, and so on.