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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/229

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215
THE MONETARY PROBLEM.

case in all pursuits. And does the application hold good with the United States bonds, whose holders in many cases have acquired them by inheritance and have throughout their lives made no contribution to that totality of effort from which is poured into their purses an annual interest that constantly increases in purchasing power? And the original holders of these bonds may have procured them by means of the revenue obtained from land that has appreciated in value through no possible effort or foresight of theirs. Do not all these considerations point to the fact that a standard of value which may measure justice to all and injustice to none must be based directly upon the results of human effort? It is not for an instant to be intimated that existing obligations shall be repudiated, nor can it be conceived that such an ideal standard will be attained save through slow and painful development. But the theoretical demonstration of such an ideal may even at this time not be beyond the bounds of possibility. And there may be all the more need for such demonstration because of the increase, both present and prospective, in the production of gold, which may at some future time cause the fluctuations in the value of that commodity to be no less than they have been in the value of silver.

But even the adoption of an ideal monetary system would not entirely deprive the precious metals of a positive monetary function. Until one such system were adopted by all of civilization, gold would be needed in international exchange; and for various reasons, perhaps, whether the basis for circulating notes were the assurance of the result of human effort as given in promissory notes, or whether it were stocks, bonds, or other securities depending for their value upon the result of human effort, it might now and then happen that the holders of the notes might want to make an immediate test of their value. The issuing source to preserve confidence in the notes emitted by it must be able to satisfy this test. As the medium of exchange that antedated notes and that has not been entirely superseded by the issue of notes is coin; as coin has a definite intrinsic value, which notes have not; as coin is durable, portable, and readily exchangeable—it follows that a natural and practical immediate test of a note's security is the readiness with which it may be exchanged for coin. To this end, when authority to issue notes has been given, it has usually been required that specie in a certain minimum ratio to the value of the note circulation be held by the issuing source for the redemption of notes presented for that purpose. The facility for the exchange of notes for coin may be not only a test of their security, but, as in the Dominion of Canada, a means whereby through the competition of various banks the note circulation may be contracted as need for it is lessened, each of the Canadian