Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/194

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

But, in forming an opinion concerning it, it is important to steadily keep in mind the fact, that international trade is trade in commodities, and not in money; and that the precious metals come in only for the settlement of balances. In fact, all such exchanges are, to within a very minute fraction, the result of an organized and elaborate system of barter, and the principle of barter prevails in them, and determines to a great extent the methods employed. The trade between England and India is an exchange of service for service. Its character would not be altered if India should adopt the gold standard to-morrow, or if she should, like Russia, adopt an irredeemable paper currency, or, like China, buy and sell by weight instead of tale. Will India give more wheat for a given amount of cloth because she uses silver instead of gold in her internal trade? Will England give less of cloth for a given amount of wheat because she keeps her accounts in pounds, shillings, and pence instead of in rupees? Unless all the postulates of political economy are false—unless we are entirely mistaken in supposing that men in their individual capacity, and hence in their aggregate capacity as nations, are seeking the most satisfaction with the least labor, we must assume that India, England, and America produce and sell their goods to one another for the most they can get in other goods, regardless of the kind of money that their neighbors use or that they themselves use. A silver currency does not give any additional strength to a Hindoo ryot, nor does it increase the fertility of his soil, or add to the number of inches of his rainfall. Nor does a gold currency detract in any way from the capability and resources of his rival, the American farmer. Nor does the difference in their respective currencies affect the judgment of the buyer of wheat in Liverpool. Is any single factor in the elements of production and transportation, by which alone the terms of competition are settled, changed by the local currencies of the several countries, or the mutations thereof? Surely no mutations were ever more sudden or violent than those of the currency of the United States during the late war. They were not without their effects; but the effects were not of a kind to change the terms of competition in international trade. It may be that the Indian wheat-grower has been enabled by the decline in silver to get labor for less wages than before, and has thus gained an advantage over his competitors in America and Australia; but the evidence is all to the effect that wages generally in India in recent years have advanced and not declined. But the terms of international competition are not altered by any division of the joint product of labor and capital in one of the competing countries. The person that has the most of a grievance growing out of the present state of the wheat-trade is the American farmer, who is restricted from buying in the same market in which he sells his surplus wheat to as good advantage as his competitors; but this is not due to any change in the value of silver, but to the fiscal policy of his own Government.