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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/228

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214
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

lion price of silver is subject to great and continual fluctuation, all values would be uncertain, commerce would be restricted, manufacturing retarded. And it is obvious that the objections to the too extensive use of silver apply also to the use of paper representatives of value based upon silver.

But it must be recognized that the taking of such a step, disastrous as its total consequences would be, would not be absolutely without warrant of justice. Because of improved appliances and improved methods of production and distribution, the prices of nearly all the great staple products—clothing, shoes, furniture, grain, nails, tools, watches, drugs, glass, carpets—have in the last generation fallen in about the same degree that the price of silver has fallen. Therefore a silver dollar of four hundred and twelve and a half grains, taken at its bullion value to-day, will now buy about as much of the most needed results of human effort as a silver dollar of four hundred and twelve and a half grains thirty-five years ago, taken at its bullion value then, would buy of the most needed results of human effort at that time. Therefore a debt of one hundred dollars incurred thirty-five years ago, if paid to-day in gold, would inure to the creditor double the amount of benefit that the borrower obtained at the time the debt was incurred. Apply this reasoning to the indebtedness of the United States. It is claimed that, notwithstanding the great reduction in this debt since the war, the decrease in the prices of staple commodities, as measured by gold, has been so great that the amount of gold necessary to pay the present indebtedness would purchase at this time as much of the staple commodities as gold to the total of the indebtedness at the close of the war would have purchased at that time. That is, although the indebtedness of the Government, as expressed in gold dollars, has been vastly reduced, that indebtedness, as expressed by universally desired results of human effort, has not been reduced at all. In this connection it is significant that the depreciation in the price of silver has not led the people of Mexico to adopt other than the silver standard. Indeed, the depreciation has scarcely been noticed by them, largely because of the greater depreciation in the value of other commodities.

But as there are two sides to every question, so also are there two sides to every phase of every question. Wages, salaries, and incomes of all sorts, on the average, are far higher to-day than they were a generation ago. In many a pursuit it is easier for a man in a given time to earn two hundred dollars in gold to-day than it would have been for a man in the same pursuit to have earned one hundred dollars in gold then. So that the payment of a debt of one hundred dollars incurred then, in its gold equivalent now, would work no injustice to him. But this is not the