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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/197

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CHANGES IN VALUES OF PRECIOUS METALS.

Any discussion of the economic disturbances resulting from changes in the relative values of the precious metals, would be incomplete, that failed to point out how the events that originated the so-called "bimetallic" controversy were the natural outcome of the revolutionary changes in the methods and production and distribution that have occurred in recent years in all countries in proportion to their advance in civilization.

It is not easy to imagine that any person of ordinary intelligence can seriously believe, that the enactment of laws looking to the recognition of gold as the single standard of value, thereby effecting what is called the demonetization of silver, could ever have resulted from mere whim or caprice, or with a view of occasioning either domestic or international economic disturbance. There was a time when nations, with the expectation of receiving benefit, did adopt policies and enact laws with the undisguised and sole intent of injuring the industry and commerce of neighbors with whom they were at peace; but happily such days have long past. And the inference is, therefore, fully warranted that whatever steps have been taken, which have resulted in any territorial restriction of the use of silver as money, have been in consequence of a belief by the parties—nations—thus acting, that such a policy was called for by change in the economic condition of their affairs, and was likely to be to them productive of benefit. And the answer to the pertinent question as to what benefit, is simply, that which might be expected to accrue from the using of the best rather than an inferior tool; of a money instrumentality adapted to new, rather than to old conditions of production and distribution.

One needs but to stand for a brief time at the marts of trade in countries of varied degrees of civilization, to quickly recognize and understand, that the kind of money a country will have and use, depends upon and will vary with, the extent and variety of its productions, the price of its labor, and the rapidity and magnitude of its exchanges; and investigation will further inform him that when mankind, savage, semi-civilized, civilized, or enlightened, find out by experimentation what metal or other instrumentality is best adapted to their wants as a medium of exchange, that metal or instrumentality they will employ; and that statute law can do little more than recognize and confirm the fact. In truth, legislation in respect to money, as is the case in respect to other things, never originates any new idea; "but merely enacts that that which has been found beneficial or prejudicial in many cases, shall be used, limited, or prohibited in all similar cases within its jurisdiction." Thus, in all countries where prices are low, wages small, transactions limited, and exchanges sluggish, nothing more valuable can be used as money for effecting the great bulk of the exchanges, than copper; and in countries like Mexico and China, even the copper coin corresponding to the American "cent," the English "half-penny," and the French "sou" is often so disproportionate in