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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/227

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213
THE MONETARY PROBLEM.

During the Christian era the ratio between the values of the two metals has varied from eleven to one to thirty-two to one, which is about the commercial ratio to-day. The question at the root of the present bimetallic controversy, therefore, is:

Can a definite ratio be preserved between the values of silver and gold, notwithstanding that under the law of supply and demand the ratio rises and falls?

There are those who think that such a definite ratio can be fixed and maintained by legislative enactment, either national or international, but the possibility of the maintenance of a fixed ratio is negatived by the history of at least five centuries. This is nowhere shown more clearly than in the valuable History of Currency, by W. A. Shaw; the verdict is "clear, crushing, and final"—that is, the purchasing power of a pound of gold or a pound of silver in the markets of the world is never a matter of certainty for any extended period. This is not alone because of the fluctuation in the value of other commodities, but also because of the unequal fluctuations in the value of these commodities themselves. The results that naturally follow these fluctuations legislation is powerless to change. Since 1890 the United States has been learning this fact through bitter experience. As stated on a previous page, the nation has incurred an indebtedness that will approximate three hundred millions of dollars in the effort to maintain the ratio of 15·98 to one.

It was long claimed by radical advocates of silver, that if the mints were open to the unrestricted coinage of that metal, as they are to the unrestricted coinage of gold, coins of the two metals would circulate together, and a double standard be thereby established. But it is clear that the silver coins would inevitably be accepted at their bullion value only. The effort of the national administration to maintain the parity of the two metals, which has been strained even under the restricted use of silver, would be broken by the deluge that its unrestricted use would bring. The four hundred and twelve and a half grains of silver that were worth one dollar in gold a generation ago would be worth but fifty cents in gold to-day. If four hundred and twelve and a half grains of silver were still molded and stamped as one dollar, gold dollars would be worth twice as much as silver dollars: there would be two separate and distinct standards of value. If, notwithstanding this, it should be the edict of Congress that dollars of the two metals should circulate side by side, it is evident that gold dollars would be hoarded, sent out of the country or melted, for no one would pay a gold dollar for an article that could be purchased with a silver dollar worth but half as much. The currency of the country would fall to the silver basis, and, as the bul-