Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/600

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denied that on the whole and in the long run general prosperity has been great and wide during the last generation. The usual cycles of speculative activity and industrial depression have appeared, and at the successive periods of surface depression the cry has been raised that some unusual cause, like the demonetization of silver, was leading to general calamity. But the upward turn of the wave soon reappeared, and the growth of material prosperity, good years and bad years taken together, has not been interrupted.

Looking, too, at the relations of debtors and creditors, we find on the whole little to complain of. No doubt a period of simple rise or fall in general prices operates unjustly. When prices and money incomes rise, creditors do not get their dues; when they fall, debtors are subjected to a painful burden. But where we have the phenomenon of money wages and money incomes which are steady and on the whole probably increasing—and this is what the world has seen during the last generation—the situation approaches as near justice as is possible in things human. A debtor who borrowed five, ten, or twenty years ago has an undiminished money income, and can not be said to feel special hardship when he repays his debt, even though the prices of commodities may have decreased. That individual debtors and classes of debtors may have suffered is beyond question; but in the mass the situation has not given rise to general hardship.

Hitherto, therefore, the adoption of the gold standard, the drift toward restricting silver to use as a quasi-subsidiary coin, have not worked ill. Indeed, it may be said to have prevented ill, since the use of silver side by side with gold, in view of the enormous increase of the production of silver, in all probability would have disturbed seriously the stability of the monetary medium. What, now, of the future? Are the same tendencies likely to appear in years to come, and is the gold standard likely to work well in the future as it has in the past?

In answering these questions we must not refuse to face certain facts in the situation insisted upon by the bimetallists. The supply of gold available for monetary use is not likely to increase rapidly in the future. The production of gold has been nearly stationary for the past twenty years. In the last two or three years an upward movement has appeared; it remains to be seen, however, whether any permanent advance will be maintained. The use of gold in the arts is apparently increasing, and is likely to continue to increase; and it absorbs a growing part of the annual supply. Meanwhile the wealth and population of civilized countries are advancing rapidly. If stability in money affairs is to be secured, some steady increase in their circulating medium must be provided for. If we regard gold coin alone, and