Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/190

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

the relative value of the two metals, the silver of India, Mexico, and other like countries would purchase correspondingly less of the commodities of foreign countries which are produced and sold on a gold basis. But the people of such countries have not thus far been sensible of any losses to themselves thereby accruing, for the reason that the gold prices of such foreign commodities as they are in the habit of buying have declined in a greater ratio since 1873 than has the silver which constitutes their standard of prices—a condition of things which Don Francisco Bulnes, the distinguished Mexican economist, in a recent official report, has exemplified to his countrymen by the following felicitous illustration:

"Two merchants, named Mexico and Foreigner, exchange annually cotton shirtings for silver dollars: Mexico delivers $100, and receives from Foreigner one hundred pieces of cotton shirting. By the depreciation of silver, it results that Foreigner only wishes to accept the Mexican dollar for eighty-six cents for each one, but gives in exchange each piece of cotton shirting for sixty-six cents. Which of the two will be the loser?" Nevertheless, if silver had maintained its former relative value to gold, the benefit accruing to silver-using nations from the decline in the prices of commodities through improvements in their production and distribution might have been greater; but, if so, the loss does not appear to have been made by them a cause of complaint.

All the evidence seems to indicate that the economic disturbances contingent on the decline in the value of silver, apart from what have been due to the apprehension of evil (or scare), have thus far been almost exclusively confined to the trade or financial intercourse between the gold-standard and the silver-standard nations, or between the states of Western Europe and the United States, and the nations of the Eastern hemisphere and of Central and South America; and that the manifestations of these disturbances have been greatest in England and Holland, where the foreign trade of the silver-using countries largely centers. And it seems further to be admitted that these disturbances have not resulted so much from a fall in the value of silver per se as from the uncertainties or fluctuations in its price, or, as commonly expressed, in the rates of exchange—an eminent merchant of Manchester, England, largely engaged in trade with India and the East, being reported as saying, at the last meeting of the British Association (September, 1887), that with the present excellent telegraph service, and a level (non-fluctuating) monetary basis, exchange in India would be as steady as in New York. In all this, there is, however, nothing unprecedented or in the nature of the unexpected; nothing which the world has not heretofore repeatedly experienced. For it is to be remembered that fluctuations in exchange are the invariable accompaniment of trade with nations using a depreciated and fluctuating currency; and that there is no good