MODERN ECONOMIC PROBLEMS
FRANK A. FETTER, PH.D., LL.D.
PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
TO THE MOTHER WITH A YOUTHFUL HEART AND SYMPATHETIC INTEREST IN ALL THINGS HUMAN
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I. RESOURCES AND ECONOMIC ORGANIZATION.
1. Material resources of the nation
2. The present economic system
PART II. MONEY AND PRICES.
3. Nature, use, and coinage of money
4. The value of money
5. Fiduciary money, metal and paper
6. The standard of deferred payments
PART III. BANKING AND INSURANCE.
7. The functions of banks
8. Banking in the United States before 1914
9. The Federal Reserve Act
10. Crises and industrial depressions
11. Institutions for saving and investment
12. Principles of insurance
PART IV. TARIFF AND TAXATION.
13. International trade
14. The policy of a protective tariff
15. American tariff history
16. Objects and principles of taxation
17. Property and corporation taxes
18. Personal taxes
PART V. PROBLEMS OF THE WAGE SYSTEM.
19. Methods of industrial remuneration
20. Organized labor
21. Public regulation of hours and wages
22. Other protective labor and social legislation
23. Social insurance
24. Population and immigration
PART VI. PROBLEMS OF INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATION.
25. Agricultural and rural population
26. Problems of agricultural economics
27. The railroad problem
28. The problem of industrial monopoly
29. Public policy in respect to monopoly
30. Public ownership
31. Some aspects of socialism
The present volume deals with various practical problems in economics, as a volume published a year earlier dealt with the broader economic principles of value and distribution. To the student beginning economics and to the general reader the study of principles is likely to appear more difficult than does that of concrete questions. In fact, the difficulty of the latter, tho less obvious, is equally great. The study of principles makes demands upon thought that are open and unmistakable; its conclusions, drawn in the cold light of reason, are uncolored by feeling, and are acceptable of all men so long as the precise application that may justly be made of them is not foreseen. But conclusions regarding practical questions of public policy, tho they may appear to be simple, usually are biased and complicated by assumptions, prejudices, selfish interests, and feelings, deep-rooted and often unsuspected.
No practical problem in the field of economics can be solved as if it were solely and purely an economic problem. It is always in some measure also a political, moral, and social problem. The task of the economist "as such" is the analysis of the economic valuation-aspects of these problems. We may recall Francis A. Walker's comparison of the economist's task with that of the chemist, which task, in a certain case, was to analyze the contents of a vial of prussic acid, not to give advice as to the use to make of it. Accordingly, in the following pages, the author has endeavored primarily to develop the economic aspects of each problem, and has repeatedly given warning when the discussion or the conclusions began to transcend strict economic limits. In many questions feeling is nine-tenths of reason. If the reader has different social sympathies he may prefer to draw different conclusions from the economic analysis.
The outlook and sympathies that are expressed or tacitly assumed throughout this work are not so much those personal to the author as they are those of our present day American democratic society, taken at about its center of gravity. When the people generally feel differently as to the ends to be attained, a different public policy must be formulated, tho the economic analysis may not need to be changed. Therefore, in some cases, the author has discussed merely the economic aspect, or has referred to the general principles treated in volume one, and has purposely refrained from expressing his personal judgment as to "the best" policy for the moment.
The present volume was planned some years ago as a revision of a part of the author's earlier text, "The Principles of Economics" (1904). The intervening years have, however, been so replete with notable economic and social legislation and have witnessed the growth of a wider public interest in so many economic subjects, that both in range and in treatment this work necessarily grew to be more than a revision. Except in a few chapters, occasional sentences and paragraphs are all of the specific features of the older text that remain. Suggestive of the rapid changes occurring in the economic field is the fact that a number of statements made in the manuscript a few months or a few weeks ago had to be amended in the proof sheets to accord with recent events.
The author's debt for information, inspiration, and assistance in various phases of the work is a large one. The debt is owing to many,—authors, colleagues, and students. A few of the sources that have been drawn upon will be indicated in a pamphlet following the plan of the "Manual of References and Exercises in Economics," already published for use in connection with Volume I; but the limits of space will prevent a complete enumeration. I wish, however, in particular, to acknowledge gratefully the aid and friendly criticisms given in connection with the chapters on money and banking, on labor problems, and on the principles of insurance, respectively, by my colleagues, E.W. Kemmerer, D.A. McCabe, and N. Carothers.
In completing, at least provisionally, the present work, the author cherishes the hope that it will be of assistance not only to teachers and to students in American colleges, but also to citizen-readers seeking to gain a better and a non-partisan insight into the great economic problems now claiming the nation's conscience and thought.
Princeton, N.J., October, 1916.
MODERN ECONOMIC PROBLEMS
PART I RESOURCES AND ECONOMIC ORGANIZATION
MATERIAL RESOURCES OF THE NATION
Sec. 1. Politico-economic problems. Sec. 2. American economic problems in the past. Sec. 3. Present-day problems: main subjects. Sec. 4. Attempts to summarize the nation's wealth. Sec. 5. Average wealth and the problem of distribution. Sec. 6. Changes in the price-standard. Sec. 7. A sum of capital, not of wealth. Sec. 8. Sources of food supply. Sec. 9. The sources of heat, light, and power. Sec. 10. Transportation agencies. Sec. 11. Raw materials for clothing, shelter, machinery, etc.
Sec. 1. Politico-economic problems. The word "problem" is often on our tongues. Life itself is and always has been a problem. In every time and place in the world there have been questions of industrial policy that challenged men for an answer, and new and puzzling social problems that called for a solution. And yet, when institutions, beliefs, and industrial processes were changing slowly from one generation to another and men's lives were ruled by tradition, authority, and custom, few problems of social organization forced themselves upon attention, and the immediate struggle for existence absorbed the energies and the interests of men. But our time of rapid change seems to be peculiarly the age of problems. The movement of the world has been more rapid in the last century than ever before—in population, in natural science, in invention, in the changes of political and economic institutions; in intellectual, religious, moral, and social opinions and beliefs.
Some human problems are for the individual to solve, as, whether it is better to go to school or to go to work, to choose this occupation or that, to emigrate or to stay at home. Other problems of wider bearing concern the whole family group; others, still wider, concern the local community, the state, or the nation. In each of these there are more or less mingled economic, political and ethical aspects. Economics in the broad sense includes the problems of individual economy, of domestic economy, of corporate economy, and of national economy. In this volume, however, we are to approach the subject from the public point of view, to consider primarily the problems of "political economy," considering the private, domestic, and corporate problems only insomuch as they are connected with those of the nation or of the community as a whole. Our field comprises the problems of national wealth and of communal welfare.
What then are our politico-economic problems in America? They are problems that are economic in nature because they concern the way that wealth shall be used and that citizens are enabled to make a living; but that are likewise political, because they can be solved only collectively by political action.
Sec. 2. American economic problems in the past. With the first settlements of colonists on this continent politico-economic problems appeared. Take, for example, the land policy. Each group of colonists and each proprietary landholder had to adopt some method of land tenure whether by free grant or by sale of separate holdings or by leasing to settlers. In one way and another these questions were answered, but rapidly changing conditions soon forced upon men the reconsideration of the problem as the old solution ceased to be satisfactory.
In large part our political history is but the reflection of the economic motives and economic changes in the national life. Thus the American Revolution arose out of resistance to England's trade regulations, commercial restrictions, and attempted taxation of the colonies. The War of 1812 was brought on by interference with American commerce on the high seas. The Mexican War was the result of the colonization of Texan territory by American settlers and the desire of powerful interests to extend the area of land open to slavery. The Civil War arose more immediately out of a difference of opinion as to the rights of states to be supreme in certain fields of legislation, but back of this political issue was the economic problem of slave labor. Illustrations of this kind, which may be indefinitely multiplied, do not prove that the material, economic changes are the cause of all other changes, political, scientific, and ethical; for in many cases the economic changes themselves appear to be the results of changes of the other kinds. There is a constant action and reaction between economic forces and other forces and interests in human society, and the needs of economic adjustment are constantly changing in nature.
Sec. 3. Present-day problems: main subjects. The particular economic problems in America at this time are determined by the whole complex economic and social situation. Two main factors in this may be distinguished: the objective and the subjective, or the material environment and the population composing the nation. The one is what we have, the other is what we are, as a people. These factors are closely related; for what we are as a people (our tastes, interests, capacities, achievements) depends largely on what we have, and what we have (our wealth and incomes) depends largely on what we are. We may consider the following phases; the first two of the objective factor, and the last two of the subjective factor.
(a) The basic material resources, consisting of the materials of the earth's surface and the natural climatic conditions which together provide the physical conditions necessary for human existence, and which furnish the stuff out of which men can create new forms of wealth.
(b) The industrial equipment, consisting of all those artificial adaptations and improvements of the original resources by which men fit nature better to do their will. These two (a and b) become more and more difficult to distinguish in settled and civilized communities, and become blended into one mass of valuable objects, the wealth of the nation.
(c) The social system under which men live together, make use of wealth and of their own services, and exchange economic goods.
(d) The people, considered with reference to their number, race, intelligence, education, and moral, political, and economic capacity.
The particular economic problems which are presented to each generation of our people are the resultant of all these factors taken together. A change in any one of them alters to some extent the nature of the problem. The problems change, for example, (a) with the discovery or the exhaustion (or the increase or decrease) of any kind of basic material resources; (b) with the multiplication or the improvement of tools and machinery or the invention of better industrial equipment; (c) with changes in the ideals, education, and capacities of any portion of the people whether or not due to changes in the race composition of the population; (d) with the increase or decrease of the total number of people, and the consequent shift in the relation of population to resources. Many examples of such changes may be found in American history, and some knowledge of them is necessary for an appreciation of the genesis and true relation of our present-day problems.
Sec. 4. Attempts to summarize the nation's wealth. If we seek to compare the material resources of the nation at one period in our history with those at another period, we find that it is impossible to find a single satisfactory expression for them. Let us examine the figures for the (so-called) "wealth of the people of the United States", as it has been calculated by the census officials.
Average total per capita Population. "wealth." wealth.
1850 23,200,000 $7,136,000,000[a] $308 1860 31,400,000 16,160,000,000[a] 514 1870 38,600,000 24,055,000,000[a b] 624 1880 50,200,000 43,642,000,000 870 1890 62,900,000 65,037,000,000 1,036 1900 76,000,000 88,517,000,000 1,165 1904 82,500,000 107,104,000,000 1,318 1912 95,400,000 187,739,000,000 1,965
[Footnote a: Taxable only; all other figures include exempt.]
[Footnote b: Estimated on a gold basis.]
A detailed comparison of the classes of concrete things making up the totals is possible only in the last three sets of figures (1900 to 1912), and they are here given (omitting 000,000).
1900. 1904. 1912. 1. Real property (excepting some items below) 52,538 62,331 110,700 2. Irrigation enterprises [a] [a] 360 3. Agricultural equipment (livestock, tools, etc.) 3,822 4,919 7,706 4. Manufacturing equipment 2,541 3,298 6,069 5. Transportation agencies 11,249 14,434 22,360 6. Telegraph and telephones 612 813 1,304 7. Waterworks (privately owned) 263 275 290 8. Electric lighting plants 403 563 2,099 9. Products (still in trade)[b] 8,294 10,212 21,577 10. Direct goods in use[c] 6,880 8,250 12,758 11. Gold and silver 1,677 1,999 2,617
[Footnote a: No figures for these years.]
[Footnote b: The main items are agricultural and mining products and imported merchandise.]
[Footnote c: The main items are clothing, personal adornment, furniture, and carriages.]
Sec. 5. Average wealth and the problem of distribution. The foregoing figures make a most satisfactory showing, and appear to indicate that mere economic problems are rapidly being solved by the growth of national wealth. But unfortunately these figures have little significance in connection with such an inquiry, if indeed they are not badly misleading.
In the first place, the final figures of "per capita wealth" are merely averages; a per capita increase, therefore, may appear when total wealth increases, altho the total may be due to the growth of comparatively few very large fortunes. The fact is evident that vast numbers of individuals and families are nearly propertyless and in so far as this is true there is involved one of the greatest of our socio-economic problems, that of the distribution of wealth and income among the people. The more unequal the distribution, the greater, in all likelihood, is the discontent; and the greater the effort of many men to find some methods by which greater equality may be attained.
Sec. 6. Changes in the price-standard. These figures, moreover, are expressed in terms of the monetary price-unit, in dollars of the gold standard, and therefore the increasing total figure (and correspondingly, the increasing per capita) may be but the reflection of a change in the value of the monetary unit. It is well known that the gold dollar has now less purchasing power than in 1880, and less also than at any intervening time. To the extent that this is true the increase in the figures of wealth (total and per capita) is only nominal and does not indicate increase in the quantity and betterment in the quality of real wealth. This fact is so evident that it would seem unnecessary to call attention to it, if it were not constantly overlooked in citing these figures.
Sec. 7. A sum of capital, not of wealth. Consider further, that the figures here given for wealth really express but the sum of capitals of the individuals (or private corporations) of the nation. These do not constitute a sum of social wealth in any proper sense of the term. Arithmetically it is a fallacious kind of a total, for the sum of the individual capitals contains some items that should be canceled to find the sum of wealth. Moreover, capital is an acquisitive concept. It is an expression of the value of a man's possessions, and not of the utility of them. It measures intensity of desire for goods and not necessarily the degree of welfare. Such a total, therefore, embodies the difficulties of the paradox of value; in some cases increased value reflects a growing scarcity and not greater abundance.
For example, between 1900 and 1915, with the growth of population, the total number of improved acres in farms in the United States increased but little, and the per capita number diminished. At least in part as a result of this fact, the prices of nearly all kinds of food rose rapidly, as did also the price of farm land. The prices (and estimated values) of farm lands are the expression of the individual capitals, which formed each year an increasing statistical total of so-called wealth. The people had less land per capita, and were poorer per capita as respects this item of landed-wealth, had less meat per capita, and had to give more labor in exchange for food, at the same time that the statistical per capita of land values increased.
So it may be as respects forests, coal, cotton, and eventually iron, copper, and many other things. When forests were plentiful, lumber and fire wood were free goods in many neighborhoods. Forests entered into the total of national "wealth" in 1850 and 1860 at a comparatively small sum. But in 1910 when the forests had been half used up they appeared as a greater total and probably as a greater per capita item of "wealth" than in 1850. The figures reflect changes in the paradoxical section of the scale of values, and express scarcity rather than wealth.
Altho the wealth of a nation may not be expressed as a single sum of values that accurately reflects the weal-bringing things composing its environment, some conception of the situation is to be gained by an enumeration of goods in their kinds and quantities and by studying their relations to the life of the people. Objects of wealth may be grouped in various ways. The following may serve our purpose of a general survey of our present resources.
Sec. 8. Sources of food supply. The land area of the country in 1910 was about 1,900,000,000 acres, of which 879,000,000 acres were in farms, this being 46 per cent of the total area. A very small part of the remainder is used for residential and commercial purposes, the rest being barren mountains, deserts, swamps, and forests. Of the total in farms a little more than one-half was improved, 478,000,000 acres altogether, a per capita average of 5.2 acres; and a little less than one-half was unimproved, 400,000,000 acres altogether, a per capita average of 4.3 acres. The improved land produced not merely food but many kinds of materials, such as cotton, wool, hides, and lumber, while much of the unimproved land was either in farm wood-lots, or in rough range pasture. Of course the kinds and amounts of produce per acre vary with the climate, particularly with sunshine and rainfall; possibly the proportion of the area of the United States that is true desert and infertile mountain land is greater than that of any other equal area in the temperate zones. The actual productive capacity per acre of the lands of America cannot be expressed in a very helpful way as a general average per acre, but each area must be carefully studied in respect to its climate, rainfall, and possibility of irrigation and drainage. It is evident that a very large number of economic problems must arise in connection with the land supply for food: such as problems of land-ownership, taxation, irrigation, drainage, forestry, and encouragement or limitation of population. We are just beginning to awaken to the needs in this direction.
The rivers, lakes, and ocean waters near our coasts are other great sources of food, but no statistics are available to show adequately their yield. Few of them are in private possession and they do not appear at all in a total of "capitals," yet they are more important to the nation than a large part of the land area. They are only beginning to be developed artificially by the propagation of oysters, clams, and fish. The development of a proper policy in this matter is one of our economic problems.
There were in 1910 (mostly on farms) about 64,000,000 beef and dairy cattle, 60,000,000 swine, 56,000,000 sheep and goats, and there were raised in the one year nearly 500,000,000 fowls of all kinds.
Sec. 9. The sources of heat, light, and power. The law of the conservation of energy expresses the fundamental likeness of heat, light, and power. The principal sources from which man derives these agencies are coal and falling waters, tho wood is of importance as fuel in some localities. About 500,000 square miles of land (about 13 per cent of the area of the country) are underlaid with coal. These deposits are widely distributed, so that nearly every part of the country is within 500 miles of a mine. The enormous deposits if used at the present amounts per year would last probably 2,000 to 4,000 years, but if used at the present increasing rate (doubling the product every ten years) they would, it has been estimated, last but 150 years. What shall be the actual rate as between these extremes is a question whose answer depends on our economic legislation as to ownership, exploitation, prices, use, and substitution. This is another of our important socio-economic problems.
The one great available substitute for coal as a source of heat and light and power is water power. It is estimated that in 1908 but 5,400,000 horse power was being developed from water falls, whereas about 37,000,000 primary horse power was available; but, by the storage of flood waters so as to equalize the flow, at least 100,000,000 horse power, and possibly double that amount, could be developed. As it requires ten tons of coal to develop one horse power a year in a steam engine by present methods, there is here a potential substitute for coal equal to two to four times our present annual use of coal (about 500,000,000 tons in 1912).
But this does not mean that it would be economical, at present costs of mining coal and of building reservoirs, to make this substitution now. To determine when, how far, and by what methods to develop this water power from lakes and rivers for the use of the people and to make this substitution, is another of our great economic problems.
Petroleum and natural gas, of which our original reservoirs were perhaps the richest in the world, are being rapidly exhausted. These may be merely mentioned as being related to coal in the source of their supply, in the nature of their uses, and in the economic problems to which they give rise.
Sec. 10. Transportation agencies. First to mention among the means of transportation are the navigable waters—oceans, lakes, rivers, and canals, with the necessary equipment of dredged inlets, harbors, docks, locks, and lighthouses. Few of these appear in the total of "capitals," for they are not in private possession. Yet a good system of natural waterways may be greater wealth to one nation than costly additional railroads are to another. Good natural harbors on the waterways leading out to the oceans are a most important kind of national wealth, as are the navigable great lakes within the boundaries or on the borders of a country. Just in proportion as these natural means of transportation are lacking, is the need to build costly artificial means of transportation.
Both in natural and in artificial means of transportation, America is well provided. The straight coast line is 5700 miles long, and the line following indentations of the coast is about 64,000 miles. The Great Lakes with a straight shore line of 2760 miles are the most important inland waterways in the world. The 295 navigable rivers in the country have a length of 26,400 miles of navigable water. About 2000 miles of canals are still in operation. On the waterways some 27,000 American vessels are in use, with a capacity of 8,000,000 gross tons.
There are about 250,000 route miles of steam railroads, or with additional tracks, yard tracks, and sidings, a total of about 370,000 miles. On these are over 63,000 locomotives, 52,000 passenger cars, and 2,400,000 freight and company cars. Besides these are 45,000 track miles of electric railways and nearly 100,000 cars. These railroads include an enormous aggregate of works and structures in the form of tunnels, cuts, banks, bridges, stations, and shops.
There are in the country (1914) about 2,228,000 miles of public roads, of which 10 per cent are "surfaced" roads. No figures are now available of the number of wagons, horses, automobiles, and other vehicles in use on the roads and streets for purposes of transportation.
Many of our economic problems are presented by these transportation agencies, from the question of opening a new dirt road in a rural township to that of building an inter-oceanic canal, from the question whether to have free public roads or toll roads to that of regulating the railroad rates on the whole railroad system of the country.
Sec. 11. Raw materials for clothing, shelter, machinery, etc. The farm lands supply, besides food, a large part of the raw materials for many other goods, such materials as cotton, flax, wool, hides, feathers, lumber, and firewood. The farm woodlots compose about 200,000,000 acres, and the large forests, public and private, about 350,000,000 acres, a total of about one-fourth the area of the country in forests, containing about one-half of the lumber that the country once possessed. The economic problem of a sound forestry policy is one of the largest we have to solve.
The most important other sources of raw materials for industry are the mineral deposits in the earth's surface. This country is stored more bountifully, probably, than is any other country, with the metal ores of iron, copper, lead, zinc, gold, and silver. Aluminum is the most abundant metal, composing about 8 per cent of the crust of the earth, but by present methods it can be extracted only at considerable cost from certain compounds that are limited in amount. The details as to our metal stores are too complex for fuller treatment here, and may be found in treatises on economic geology or on industrial geography. The determination of wise policies as to the use of these stores involves many economic problems, private and public.
Another great class of material wealth is in the form of tools, machinery, and other agencies for carrying on the industrial processes of farming and of manufacturing. These are sometimes called instrumental goods, or the industrial equipment. Still another class consists of the great mass of completed direct goods, such as houses to live in, libraries, museums, school buildings, theaters, all kinds of buildings and equipment for pleasure and entertainment, parks, and pleasure resorts in mountains, at lakes or sea shore. The possession and use of these forms of wealth give rise to some economic problems of public ownership and to others connected with the institution of private property in general, as sketched in the following chapter.
[Footnote 1: It is to be observed that these figures appear under the general title of Part I, "Estimated valuation of national wealth: 1850-1912," and the tables are spoken of (volume on Wealth, Debt, and Taxation, p. 20) as "estimates of the aggregate wealth of the nation as prepared by the United States censuses," but the tables themselves are described (pp. 23-25) as the "estimated true valuation of all property," this phrase being used as equivalent to "wealth." For the definitions of wealth and property see Vol. I, pp. 264-265.]
[Footnote 2: This change will be described below in ch. 6, in treating of the standard of deferred payments.]
[Footnote 3: See Vol. I, pp. 265, 278, 508 for the distinction between wealth and capital.]
[Footnote 4: See Vol. I, p. 25, for the definition of utility.]
[Footnote 5: See Vol. I, p. 510 on the paradox of value.]
[Footnote 6: That is, "the amount which can be developed upon the basis of the flowage of the streams for a period of two weeks in which the flow is the least," all the rest being allowed to escape unused. Van Hise, "Conservation of Natural Resources," p. 119.]
[Footnote 7: These and other figures in this section relate to the year 1913.]
[Footnote 8: Coal has been mentioned above, sec. 9.]
THE PRESENT ECONOMIC SYSTEM
Sec. 1. The place of private property. Sec. 2. Nature of property. Sec. 3. Relation of wealth, property, and capital. Sec. 4. Some theories of private property. Sec. 5. Origin vs. justification. Sec. 6. Limitations of private property. Sec. 7. Limitations of bequest and inheritance. Sec. 8. Social expediency of private property. Sec. 9. The monetary economy. Sec. 10. The competitive system. Sec. 11. Limitation of competition by custom. Sec. 12. Effect of modern forces upon custom. Sec. 13. Adam Smith's influence. Sec. 14. The wage-system.
Sec. 1. The place of private property. Of fully equal importance with material wealth in determining the economic power of a people is the social system under which the nation lives. This is the term applied to the whole complex of institutions and arrangements in which and by which people live together in society. It is the embodiment of the opinions, ideas, and habits of life inherited by each generation from its forbears. It is, indeed, a people's whole state of civilization with its political, economic, intellectual, scientific, religious, and esthetic aspects.
The most important economic aspect of the existing system is, broadly speaking, the institution of private property. So closely connected with this that they are hardly more than different phases of the same thing, are the use of money (the monetary economy), the wage system, and competition as a mode of distribution. "The institution of private property" is the general expression for the way in which men in the modern state make use of their own energies and of material wealth within the nation. Nearly all the total of the things mentioned in the table in Chapter 2, section 4, are owned by private citizens. We live in a regime of private property, and all our economic problems are affected by that fact. The determination of the exact boundaries of private property makes up a large part of the politico-economic problems which the people in each generation have to solve. A large share, possibly, in a certain sense, every one of the economic problems that are discussed involve change, limitation, definition, or, more radically, abolition of present laws of property. Broadly understood, as above, therefore, determination of the nature of private property is the essential economic problem.
Sec. 2. Nature of property. Property means ownership, and "ownership" is the abstract noun expressing the quality of possessing a thing. Correspondingly, "owner" is the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of "proprietor." Property thus, fundamentally, means not an object held, or possessed, but the right in or belonging to a person to control something that he owns. Ownership is a legal right to control under certain conditions. Physical, possession of an object is not necessarily ownership.
There are different kinds of ownership. It may be private, as that of individuals, families, partnerships, or corporations; or it may be public, as that of nations, states, counties, cities and towns, owning such things as public buildings, parks, highways, the Adirondack forest-reserve, or the Erie Canal. These two kinds are equally effective as against the claims of outsiders, but the rights of those inside the circle of ownership differ. For example, the rights of one shareholder against another, or the rights of one member of a family as against another, are not the same as the rights against outsiders. Private property is the characteristic feature of our present industrial society, but it exists side by side with public property and with many intermediate grades between private and common property.
Tho property meant originally and essentially the intangible right to a thing, the word came to be applied also to the object of the right. This is done both in common speech and in judicial decisions, with inevitable ambiguity. This may be readily seen by trying to substitute the word ownership for property, a thing quite simple in some cases but impossible in others. One would not point to a house and say, "This is my ownership," but either, "This is my property," or "I exercise ownership over it." It is well recognized that a man may have a property right in this abstract sense in or over his own services, as to practise a trade or in the "good will" of a business or in an intangible patent or a copyright, quite as well as in a material object.
Sec. 3. Relation of wealth, property, and capital. A failure to see this distinction and to keep it clearly in mind has led to confusion, even on the part of legislatures, learned judges, and able economists. If property is said to be (for example) a house and lot and at the same time the right to that house and lot, then there are two properties at once for each economic good, viz.: the object itself and the right to it.
This difficulty could be avoided by the consistent definition and use of terms. A material economic object is a good, is a form of wealth. The usance of wealth and the service of laborers at the moment rendered constitute forms of income. The right of ownership, i.e., the right to control, use, or direct the use of wealth and services, is property, which is therefore the right to receive incomes. The value of the incomes of an individual constitute his capital. Goods, rights to goods, value of rights to goods: these three things are clearly distinguishable.
Sec. 4. Some theories of private property. Various theories have been framed to explain the origin and to justify the existence of private property. The occupation theory is that property is based upon the priority of claim of one who finds wealth without an owner and appropriates it. This is not an explanation of the property rights that are arising every moment, nor does it give a logical reason for the continuance of ancient property rights. It is a statement applying to a case that has rarely happened, the settlement of an unoccupied territory.
More adequate to explain many cases is the conquest theory, that property is based on force; for nearly all lands to-day are occupied by the descendants of conquering invaders who took the lands and natural resources from the former inhabitants, who in turn had taken them from other occupants, many centuries before. The conquest theory applies, for example, to the invasion of the Roman provinces by barbarian tribes who divided the country and developed the feudal system based on land tenure. But it hardly applies to present-day happenings, and at its best it cannot, to modern minds, "justify" present property rights.
The labor theory, meeting some queries where others fail, is that ownership is based on the act of production. It is declared that every man has a right to that to which his brain and his muscle have imparted value. It is evident that this test leaves without explanation or justification a great number of things that do exist and have existed as property. Usually the basis of the labor theory of property is declared to be each individual's natural right to the results of his own labor, which claim is assumed to be an ultimate, undebatable, axiomatic fact. However, that type of natural-right doctrine, which makes no appeal to experience and results, is now quite discredited in political science.
Another form of natural-rights theory is that property is necessary for the realization of the dignity of human nature and every individual has the natural right to self-realization. This theory is, in a way, based on an appeal to experience, as to the effect of property on human character, and it has the virtue of expressing one of the ideals of modern democracy. Altho, in common with various other "natural-rights" theories, it must be deemed too absolute and too individualistic, it contains a far-reaching truth, of which due account must be taken in our social philosophy.
The legal theory is that property exists because the law says it shall. This expresses a truth, but is no more than a truism. The law determines the limits of property, but what determines the limits of the law? What practical or social justification is there for passing and continuing such law? The legal theory does not contain a final explanation. Each of these theories has its defects, but each points to some fact important and significant, at certain times and places, in the explanation of this widespread institution.
Sec. 5. Origin vs. justification. The question of the origin is not the same as that of the present justification of the existing system of private property. The institution of private property has evolved under diverse conditions. In early societies individual property rights were not very clearly marked. Every tribe asserted against other tribes, and tried to uphold by war, its claims upon its customary hunting grounds; but the claims of the individual hunters on land within the tribe did not often come into conflict. Private property at the outset was in personal possessions, ornaments, weapons, utensils, which were very meager in that primitive society in which it was the custom "to go calling with a club instead of a card-case." Only later came individual property in land. A few years ago it was generally believed that the organization of the old German tribes was politically an almost perfect democracy, and economically a communism in which all had equal claims upon the land. To-day this opinion is very seriously questioned. It seems probable that there was a goodly measure of communism in the control and use of lands (tho not in other things), but this was largely confined to an oligarchy of the favored; whereas the masses lived in subjection, cut off from all but a meager share in the common lands. However that may have been, strong forces within historic times have put an end to the common ownership and tillage of land as it existed among the peasants of Europe. That system was shown by experience to be wasteful. Competition tended to bring the economic agents into more efficient hands, and the movement was furthered by many acts of injustice and violence on the part of those in power.
Inquiries into the origin and development of any social institution are interesting and helpful in forming an estimate of its present significance, but the problems of the past are not those of to-day. Whether or not the ancient beginning of property in Europe was in violence and evil has but a remote bearing on the question as to the present working of it. Social conditions and needs have not changed more than have the forms and limits of property itself. Each generation has its own problems to solve, and ignoring for the most part the evils of the distant past, each generation must test existing institutions by their present results.
Sec. 6. Limitations of private property. It is well, in discussing private property, to rid the mind at once of the idea that it is an absolute and unchanging thing. Few realize the manifold ways in which property rights are limited. Unmodified private control of property is unknown; the public makes many reservations in its own interest. There is, first, a whole set of limitations to prevent nuisances. An owner in many situations is not free to build a slaughter-house or to start a glue-factory on his land. Property is governed by general public utility, and anything that threatens to become a nuisance or a danger may be excluded. Under the right of "eminent domain," the state or the railroad takes the old homestead from the owner who would live and die there.
Altho pecuniary damages are paid to him, this is a limitation of his property rights. Rights of way on property exist either by contract or by prescription permitting its public use. Most important of all limitations is the right of taxation, by which society takes more or less of private incomes for purposes of which the individual owners may not approve.
The law enforces a multitude of private claims by some persons against others. A variety of rights called easements or servitudes may attach to private property, modifying its exclusive use. Leases for any period are a limitation of the owner's control. Both the holder of the lease and the owner of the property have certain rights before the law. The lender of money secured by mortgage has a legally recognized and enforceable interest in the mortgaged wealth. Property is left in trust for the benefit of persons or of institutions or of the public, and is administered by trustees who are strictly bound to execute the terms of their instructions. Contracts of many sorts are entered into by owners, limiting their control in manifold ways, and the law enforces these contracts. These all form a complex of equitable claims, which together equal in value one undivided property right, which in turn equals the value of the wealth.
Sec. 7. Limitations of bequest and inheritance. The term bequest implies a will, usually a written will in which the person, in anticipation of death, expresses his wishes as to the disposition of his property. It is said sometimes that bequest is a "logical" result of private property, but the law does not treat it as such. The right of bequest, or of gift at death, is limited in various ways in different countries. In countries where hereditary aristocracies exist, primogeniture is in some cases required by law, in others so strongly favored by public opinion that it is practically always followed. Custom limits bequests in England to members of the family, and wills given outside the family are rare, and are almost always broken in the courts. John Stuart Mill contrasted this with the practice in America, frequent even in his day and still more frequent now, of rich men giving for public purposes. In France the right of bequest outside the family is legally limited; only the share of one child can be willed away by the father, and the rest must be equally divided among the children. Settlements and fidei commissa are limited in many countries, because of the recognized social evils resulting from the tying up of estates for generations. Throughout the history of England, Parliament has given attention to the question of mortmain, which chiefly concerned the drifting of great estates into the hands of the church or of corporations, as the result of bequests by the pious. In England, of late (and to a less extent in this country), the policy of permitting unlimited endowments to charitable institutions has been seriously questioned, and by legislation some of the old endowments have been diverted from their original purposes when these have ceased to be of social utility. Inheritance, in contrast with bequest, usually means succession to the property of one who has died intestate, that is, has made no will. The law of inheritance likewise varies greatly with time and place.
Sec. 8. Social expediency of private property. In the light of present political philosophy the explanation and justification of private property must be on grounds of social expediency. This is a broad explanation and it has the fault of a broad explanation, that it needs to be further explained. Under it can be brought the many varying conditions. Even if private property works hardship to individuals in many cases, yet it may be justified if, on the whole, it is best for the progress of society. Laws must be judged by their average working, not by exceptional cases. In general, the system of private property must be judged by this test: Does it further the welfare of the nation better than would any alternative plan for the control of economic wealth? The question is not whether it is faultless, for no human institution is so. Nor must it be assumed that the rule of property needs to be uniform in respect to all kinds of wealth. There are many kinds of property, and the test may be applied separately to the different forms and to the varying degrees of property rights. The varied and often strict limitations of property mentioned above are all determined by some thought, wise or foolish, of social expediency. Different parts of wealth may be treated in different ways: there may be private property in wagons, and public property in roads; private property in houses, and public property in forests; private property in automobiles, and public property in railway carriages. But any rule of property, like any other workable human law, must be applicable to all individuals that meet the conditions.
The very acceptance of the theory of social expediency implies the need of frequent readjustment of the institution of private property. The essential thought in the various attacks on the institution of property is that, because it either causes or makes possible the inequality of incomes, it is not socially expedient. Private property, as it is found to-day, is complicated by many historical accidents. Survivals of ancient injustice and relics of feudal institutions that rest on no vital reason remain in our new country as well as in the older ones. The limits of property in many respects are determined not according to the logic of expediency, but by the social inertia which often governs successive generations.
The question is raised in many minds: If private property is not an absolute right, what shall be its limits? What changes should be made in it? These questions put the greatest economico-political problem of our day, one that contains within it, indeed, many minor problems. A number of these will receive attention in the following pages.
Sec. 9. The monetary economy. So greatly does the use of money facilitate the transfer, buying, and selling of private property and so closely are property and pecuniary trade connected in practice and in the thoughts of men, that every radical proposal to abolish private property has included a plan to do away with money also. But money and private property are not essentially and logically bound up together, for a certain measure of private property always has been found where money was little or not at all used. True, if there were absolutely no private property, there would be little use for money, altho it might still be used as a form of counter by the communistic state. We have already seen how a monetary unit comes into use, and we shall treat more fully of the nature of money in later chapters. We may note here merely that the use of money is an outstanding feature of the present economic system and gives rise to many of the problems of political economy.
Sec. 10. The competitive system. The existing system is likewise characterized by competition in the buying and selling of wealth and of the usances and services of economic agents. By competition we mean here the condition of political freedom on the part of each man to trade his property (goods, uses, or services) as he chooses, and this combined with the disposition on his part to get what he values most highly for himself and his family. Whenever any one else (official or citizen) forbids and prevents a man from getting all he can, in so far competition is limited. Whenever any one is deterred by fear of, or by affection for, some other trader, from getting all he can, in so far competition is limited. Whenever any one conspires with another trader to act together with him to withdraw or to alter his bid, in so far competition is limited. Private property and economic competition do not merely happen to exist side by side, forming more or less favored conditions each for the other; they are essentially connected.
It is not our task at this point to present the advantages and disadvantages of competition, but merely to indicate its important place in the actual economic world. Like private property, competition is not the universal feature of our present system, but it is the most general and characteristic method of valuation, of price fixing, and of trade.
Sec. 11. Limitation of competition by custom. The relatively large influence of competition in present society appears more plainly in comparing the present system with that of an earlier state of society or with that of a present savage tribe. A member of the lowest human societies is subject to law; tho he is a savage he is not "untutored." On the contrary he is bound in many ways to follow customary lines of conduct, and a large part of his time is given to learning the traditions and then to observing the ceremonials of the tribe. Primitive customs always take on a religious sanction, and every member of the tribe is piously bound to do as his fathers have done and as his neighbors are doing. This limitation applies to the choice of food to eat, clothes to wear, time to hunt, plant, and harvest, weapons and tools to use, where and how to trade, how much to give or take, and to countless other details of economic choice. So, in early society, economic relations were complex and but slowly changing from generation to generation. Custom, rather than competition, ruled in manifold ways the economic actions of men.
Custom continued to rule a large share of the individual life of the peoples of northern Europe through barbarian and feudal times. Its force has gradually decreased, but even yet is not entirely set aside. Political and economic interests were not clearly distinct in the Middle Ages. Land was the all-important kind of wealth. Military and other public services were performed by the higher landlords (as vassals of their overlords) who in this way paid at the same time what we to-day would call rent and taxes. The landlord in turn received from his underlings services and goods in kind (food and supplies) and so (in modern eyes) was both a collector of taxes and a receiver of rent. The rent, however, was not a competitive price, but consisted of the dues and services which the forefathers had been accustomed to pay. In many ways also in the towns, close organizations of craftsmen and of merchants regulated prices and kept others out of their industries. Industrial privilege pervaded the life of that time.
Yet through all the Middle Ages ran the forces of competition. The inefficiency of customary services and the high prices charged by selfish privilege were constant invitations to men to become competitors. Men strove to break over the barriers of custom and of prejudice. Their efforts to attain freedom to compete was the vital force of the time. The industrial history of the Middle Ages was largely the story of the struggle of the forces of competition against the bonds of custom and privilege.
Sec. 12. Effect of modern forces upon custom. The industrial events following the discovery of America strengthened the forces making for economic freedom. Discoveries in the Western hemisphere opened up a wide field for the adventure and enterprise of Europe. Commerce is the strongest enemy of custom, and new opportunities gave a rude shock to the conservatism both of the manor and of the village. With the rapid growth of industry and manufactures, old methods broke down. In an open market custom declines; it flourishes best in sheltered places. Further, the movement of thought in the Reformation, and the spirit of the times which expressed the principle of personal liberty and allowed the individual to follow his own opinions and take the consequences, were favorable to competition. Despite these facts, the restraints of the national governments on trade continued great, in some respects increasing during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in France, Holland, and England. The regulation before attempted by towns and villages was employed on a larger scale by national governments with their industrial systems. The colonies in America were used for the economic ends of the "mother country" and for the selfish interests of the home merchants in Europe. The American Revolution was one of the bitter fruits of the English policy of trade restriction.
Sec. 13. Adam Smith's influence. "The Wealth of Nations," the first great work on political economy, was published in the year 1776. That was the "psychological moment" for its appearance, as public thought was so prepared for it that it had its maximum possible influence. The year of the American Declaration of Independence gave the most striking object lesson on the evils of a selfish colonial policy that interfered on a grand scale with economic freedom. The old customs had become ill fitted to life, ill adapted to the rapid industrial changes that were going on. What was needed in many directions, both in politics and in industry, was merely negative action by the government, the repeal of the old laws, the overthrow of old abuses. The French Revolution, following a few years later, emphasized this thought in the political field. The philosophers of the time believed in a "natural law" in industry and politics. The reformers of the time wished to throw off the trammels of the past and to give men opportunity to exert themselves "naturally." In America the old abuses never had taken deep root, as the conditions of a new continent were not favorable to monopoly and privilege. Altho the movement for the repeal of medieval laws has continued in Europe from 1776 till the present time, yet custom still is stronger to-day in Europe than in America. Serfdom was not abolished until the first half of the nineteenth century in Austria and southeastern Europe, and not until the last half in Russia. Many economic and cultured forces furthered this movement, but the most powerful intellectual force in its favor was the work of Adam Smith. So strong an impression did Smith's book make, that in the minds of men "free trade" became almost identical in thought with political economy, whereas that was but the temporary economic problem of the eighteenth century.
Many men then thought that in "free and unlimited competition" had been found a solution of all economic problems for all time. But soon, it was apparent that it was no such simple and absolute solution. Indeed many of the present economic problems—in one sense all of them—center around this one: to determine the proper forms and limits of competition. The varied aspects that this problem takes will appear in every portion of the following pages.
Sec. 14. The wage-system. Viewed in another aspect the present economic and social order is called the wage-system. The wage-contract, like the use of money, is not essential to the existence of a system of private property. Communities such as the American colonies and as many of the newly settled states, may consist almost entirely of self-employed owners of land. Bulgaria, before the Balkan wars called the peasant state, presented this organization (tho of course with some wage-payment), as did also its neighbor Serbia. But given the institution of private property with competition (freedom to buy and sell), let manufactures and commerce develop to any extent, and inequalities of fortunes increase while an increasing number of persons work for wages. It is noteworthy that as this goes on (as it has done in America at an increasing rate since the middle of the nineteenth century) it is the agricultural and rural hand industries that continue to be mainly worked by owner-managers and workers, while it is the manufacturing, transporting, and large commercial enterprises in which the labor is done for wages. The acceptance of the wage-system thus far has been the inevitable price to be paid for manufacturing and industrial development; and one of our economic problems is to determine whether this must continue, and if so, whether in the same measure as in the past.
[Footnote 1: The exceptions are probably unstated amounts of exempt real estate (owned by municipalities, state, and nation), some of the irrigation plants, part of the canals, and that part of the gold and silver which is in the public treasury.]
[Footnote 2: See Vol. I, pp. 264-267. The law makes between property rights and equitable rights some subtle distinctions, which have their reason in the history, if not in the logic, of the law but which are not essential to economic discussion. In some states this distinction has been in large measure abolished. What interests us are the rights (claims) that men have to the control of wealth and services, whether by technical law these are called legal or equitable, and this right is what is meant by "property" in our discussion of it.]
[Footnote: 3 This confusion has had important practical consequences in the field of taxation. See Vol. I, pp. 265-267, and below, ch. 17.]
[Footnote 4: These claims mutually delimit each other (whether they be called equitable claims, or liens, or property rights), and wealth is not multiplied by multiplying the claims, as is unfortunately sometimes assumed to be the case. See above, sec. 3.]
[Footnote 5: See Vol. I, p. 51.]
[Footnote 6: See Vol. I, p. 73.]
[Footnote 7: This will appear in comparing the competitive method of distribution with other methods in ch. 31.]
[Footnote 8: See Vol. I, p. 143, on medieval land tenures; p. 158, on customary rents; p. 190, on the effect of caste.]
[Footnote 9: See Vol. I, p. 227.]
MONEY AND PRICES
NATURE, USE, AND COINAGE OF MONEY
Sec. 1. Origin of money. Sec. 2. Qualities of the original money-goods. Sec. 3. Industrial changes and the forms of money. Sec. 4. The precious metals as money. Sec. 5. Gold-using countries. Sec. 6. Varying extent of the use of money. Sec. 7. Money defined and reviewed. Sec. 8. Metal money without or with coinage. Sec. 9. Technical features of coinage. Sec. 10. Seigniorage defined.
Sec. 1. Origin of money. Everywhere in the world where the beginnings of regular trade have appeared, some one of the articles of trade soon has come to be taken by many traders who did not expect to keep or use it themselves, but to pass it along in another trade. This made it money, for money is whatever comes to be used as a general price-good. The character of a general price good clearly distinguishes money from goods bought and sold by a particular class of merchants, such as grain, cattle, etc., to be sold again. It is only in so far as a particular good comes to be taken by persons not specially dealing in it, taken for the purpose of using it as a price-good to get something else which they desire, that a thing has the character of money. The thing called money thus is a durative good passing from hand to hand in a community, and completing its use in turn to each possessor of it only as he parts with it.
The use of money is of such social importance, that it would be impossible for modern industrial society to exist without it. The discussion of money touches many interests, it raises many questions of a political and of an ethical nature. There are perhaps more popular errors on this than on any other one subject in economics, but the general principles of money are as fully understood and as firmly established as are any parts of economics.
Sec. 2. Qualities of the original money-good. The selection of any money-commodity has not been mere chance, but has been the result of that object being better fitted than others to serve as a medium of exchange. The main qualities that affected the selection of primitive form of money were as follows: 1. Marketability (or saleability); that is, it must be easy to sell. The first forms of money had to be things which every one desired at some time and many people desired at any time. That was the essential quality that made any one ready to take it even when he did not wish to use it himself. Many kinds of food and of clothing are very generally desired goods. But few of these classes of goods have in a high measure certain other important qualities, now to be named.
2. Transportability; that is, the money material must be easy to carry, it must have a large value in small bulk and weight. To carry a bag of wheat on one's back a few miles requires as great an effort ordinarily as does the raising of the wheat, and the cost of carriage for fifty miles even by wagon will often equal the whole value of the wheat. Cattle, while not comparatively very valuable in proportion to weight, and not possessing the other qualities of money in the highest degree, have the advantage that they can be made to carry themselves long distances, and therefore they have been much used as money in simpler economic conditions.
3. Cognizability; that is, the money-good must be easy to know, and to judge as to quality. If expert knowledge or special apparatus are needed to test it in order to avoid counterfeits, few could be ready to take it and trading would be a costly process.
4. Durability; that is, the money-good must be easy to keep without much loss in amount or in quality, perhaps for long periods, until it can be passed on in trade. Few kinds of food answer very well to this last requirement, being organic and perishable. But all four qualities above named were pretty well embodied in primitive times in rock salt, in rare flints and bits of copper suitable for tools and weapons, in furs in northern countries, and in many articles of personal adornment, such as beads, feathers, jewels, and metal ornaments.
5. Divisibility; that is, the quality in the monetary material that permits it to be divided easily into smaller amounts and then to be united again into larger masses at little cost and without loss in amount or in quality. This quality is present only when the material is quite homogeneous throughout the whole mass, a condition fulfilled more completely by the metals than by any other goods. This quality makes it possible to put the governmental stamp upon the money material, and to produce pieces, some of which are exact duplicates and some exact multiples, of others. In this manner pieces of money are provided suitable for transactions of different magnitudes, down to small fractional amounts. A monetary system of this kind aids greatly the development of the sense and habit of exact estimation of price.
Sec. 3. Industrial changes and the forms of money. The money use, as has just been shown, is a resultant of a number of different motives in men. The changing material and industrial conditions of society change the kind of money that is used. Things that have the highest claim to fitness for money with a people at one stage of development have a low claim at another. The final choice of the money-good depends on the resultant of all the advantages. Shells are used for ornament in poor communities but cease to be so used in a higher state of advancement, and thus their saleability ceases. Furs cease to be generally marketable in northern climes, when the fur-bearing animals are nearly killed off and the fur trade declines. When tobacco was the great staple of export from Virginia, everybody was willing to take it, and its market price was known by all. It served well then as the chief money, but, as it ceased to be the almost exclusive product of the province, it lost the knowableness and marketability it had before. In agricultural and pastoral communities where every one had a share in the pasture, cattle were a fairly convenient form of money, but in the city trade of to-day their use as money is impossible. Thus, in a sense, different commodities compete, each trying to prove its fitness to be a medium of trade; but only one, or two, or three at the most, can at one time hold such a place.
While industrial changes and conditions affect the choice of money, in turn money reacts upon the other industrial conditions. If a new and more convenient material is found or the value of the money metal changes to a degree that affects the generalness of its use, industry is greatly affected. The discovery of mines in America brought into Europe in the sixteenth century a great supply of the precious metals, and this change in the use of money reacted powerfully upon industry. Money, being itself one of the most important of the industrial conditions, is affected by and in turn affects all others.
Sec. 4. The precious metals as money. Certain of the metals early began to show their superior fitness to perform the monetary function. The metals first used as money were copper, bronze (an alloy of copper with nickel), and iron. These were truly precious metals in early times for they were found only in small quantities in a few localities. They, therefore, were widely sought and highly valued as ornaments and for use as tools and weapons. But as the great ancient nations emerged into history, these materials were already being displaced in large measure. Their value fell greatly as a result of greater production due to somewhat regular mining. As wealth grew, as trade increased, as the use of money developed, as commerce extended to more distant lands, the heavier, less precious metals failed to serve the growing monetary need, especially in the larger transactions. Silver and gold, step by step, often making little progress in a century, became the staple and dominant forms of money in the world, while copper and nickel still continued to be used for the smaller monetary pieces. Every community has witnessed some stages of this evolution. In this contest silver had proved itself a few centuries ago to be on the whole the fittest medium of exchange for most purposes, though gold was at the same time in use in larger transactions and in international trade.
Sec. 5. Gold-using countries. At the beginning of the nineteenth century nations were divided, in accordance with the metals they used as standards, into two great groups, silver- and gold-using. Since that time, and more rapidly after 1850, gold has displaced silver as the standard money. In a higher degree than any other one material, gold has the qualities of a good standard for rich and industrially developed communities. England for a long period practically has had gold as its standard money; the United States since 1834 (except for the period of paper money from 1862 to 1879); France since about 1879, having shifted gradually from silver, after 1855, under the working of the bimetallic law; Germany since 1873; and Japan since the later nineties. Other countries have been striving to attain it. Since about 1890 some states (including Mexico) and some of the colonial possessions of the great nations (including India and the Philippines) have adopted the plan of "the gold-exchange standard." By this plan gold is the standard price unit, while silver continues to be used all but exclusively as the material in circulation, its amount being controlled and its value regulated on principles to be explained below under coinage, seigniorage, and foreign exchange. There are now left but a few silver-standard countries, the most important being China. There are, however, numerous countries, notably in South America and Central America, which have fiduciary paper-money standards.
Sec. 6.# Varying extent of the use of money#. Trade by the use of money at no time has become the exclusive method. Barter still lingers to-day. The extent to which, on an average, money is used in different parts of the world differs widely. The use of money in Siberia is less than in European Russia, and its use is less there than in western Europe. The use of money as compared with barter is generally much greater in the cities than in the rural districts. In the cities of Mexico not only money, but banks and credit agencies are in general use; whereas the rural districts are more backward and make far more use of barter than is the case in the United States. At the ports in the cities of China, India, and South America the use of money may be very like that in European cities; but go a little way into the interior of these countries and conditions as to the use of money change greatly.
However, the comparative per capita amounts of money (in terms of American dollars) in circulation in different countries is far from being a true index of their industrial development or of their commercial activity. Indeed, beyond a certain point the larger average amount of money in circulation in a country may indicate backwardness in the development of banks and other credit agencies rather than greater amount of wealth or of business. Notice, for example, the medium position of the great commercial countries, Germany and the United Kingdom, as compared with other countries above and below them in the following list.
PER CAPITA CIRCULATION OF MONEY IN LEADING COUNTRIES DECEMBER 31, 1912.
France..................$48.91 America (U.S.)..........$32.98
Australia............... 38.45 Portugal................ 29.46
Canada.................. 33.57 Netherlands............. 26.86
Switzerland............. 24.32 Mexico.................. 9.17
Germany................. 21.36 Finland................. 8.38
United Kingdom.......... 21.21 Chile................... 8.24
Spain................... 19.96 Turkey.................. 7.09
Brazil.................. 18.79 Russia.................. 6.45
Denmark................. 17.73 Japan................... 5.68
Belgium................. 15.83 Bulgaria................ 5.57
Austria-Hungary......... 14.68 Serbia.................. 5.49
Rumania................. 13.24 Venezuela............... 5.51
Italy................... 13.09 India (British)......... 5.19
South Africa............ 12.93 Ecuador................. 4.62
Norway.................. 12.50 Peru.................... 3.17
Sweden.................. 11.59 Colombia................ 2.32
Greece.................. 11.02 Paraguay................ .57
7. Money defined and reviewed. Money may be defined as a material means of payment and medium of trade, generally accepted as the price-good and passing from hand to hand. The definition contains several ideas. The words "generally accepted" imply that money has a peculiar social character, is not an ordinary good. As a price-good, money itself must be a thing having value, otherwise it could not be accepted. Trade means the taking and giving of things of value. Money is, therefore, not merely an order for goods, as a card or paper requesting payment; it is itself a thing of value (tho this value may be due partly or solely to its possessing the money function). Such things as a telegram when transferring an order for the payment of money, as the spoken word, and as a mere promise to pay, are not money. Even checks and drafts are merely substitutes for money. Money passes from hand to hand, is a thing that can be handled, and is or can be bodily transported.
The application of the definition is not always easy, for money shades off into other things that serve the same purpose and are related in nature. In many problems money appears to be at the same time like and unlike other things of value, and just wherein lies the difference often is difficult to determine. Even special students differ as to the border-line of the concept, but as to the general nature of money there is essential agreement.
8.# Metal money without or with coinage#. In antiquity the metals were used as money in bulk; that is, the amount was weighed at each transaction and the quality was tested whenever there was doubt. In countries industrially backward, payments are still made in this manner. For some time after the discovery of gold in California, gold dust was roughly measured out on the thumb-nail. In shipments of gold to-day by bankers to settle international balances, metal may be in the form of bars that bear the mark of some well-known banking house. In all of the cases of this kind the gold is money in fact, but not by virtue of any act of government. The metal is simply a valuable good, the receiver of which values it according to its weight and fineness. This is true even when the government mint, for a small charge, tests and stamps the bars at the request of citizens.
Very early it became the practice of governments to shape and stamp pieces of metal to be used as money, so as to indicate their weight and fineness. The act of shaping and marking metal for this purpose is called coinage. The coinage by government had notable advantages in giving to the monetary units uniformity of size, fineness, and value, with the stamp that was readily recognized. But in its simplest form coinage in no way changed the value of the money, and any other mark equally plain put upon it would have served equally well, if only it had carried with it equal assurance of the quality and weight of the metal.
9. Technical features of coinage. For each kind of metal money there is an established ratio of fineness for the more precious material, which is mixed with baser metals used as alloys. In the United States all gold and silver coins are made nine-tenths fine; in Great Britain, eleven-twelfths. The established weight of the gold dollar in the United States is 25.8 grains of standard gold which contain 23.22 grains of fine gold. The limit of tolerance is the variation either above or below the standard weight or fineness that a coin is allowed to have when it leaves the mint. This is different for each of the principal coins, being about one-fifth of one per cent on a gold eagle. The par of exchange between standard coins of different countries is the expression of the ratio of fine metal in them. Thus the par of exchange between the American dollar and the English sovereign (the "pound") is 4.866; that is, that number of dollars contains the same amount of fine gold as an English gold sovereign. The embossed design is merely to make the coins easily recognizable and difficult to counterfeit; and milled or lettered edges are to prevent clipping and otherwise abstracting metal from the coins.
10. Seigniorage defined. Coinage, as practised by early governments and rulers, came to be a function of great importance politically as well as economically. The right to issue money came to be one of the most essential prerogatives of sovereignty. The prince, king, or emperor stamped his own device or portrait upon the coin; hence the term seigniorage from seignior (meaning lord or ruler). Seigniorage meant primarily the right the ruler, or the estate, has to charge for coinage, and hence it has come to mean also the charge made for coinage, and often, in a still broader sense, the profit made by the government in issuing any kind of money with a value higher than that of the materials (whether metal or paper) composing it. Coinage is rarely without charge, and often has been a source of revenue to the ruler. In antiquity and in the Middle Ages this right was frequently exercised by princes for their selfish advantage to the injury and unsettling of trade. This introduced a very great problem of value into the use of money.
The coinage is said to be gratuitous when no charge is made for coinage. Coinage is said to be free if the subject or citizen may take bullion to the mint whenever he pleases, paying the usual seigniorage. Coinage is limited if the government or ruler determines when coinage is to take place. Thus, coinage may be both free and gratuitous, when citizens are allowed to bring bullion whenever they please and have it converted into coins without charge or deduction. But coinage is free without being gratuitous when any citizen may bring metal to the mint, whenever he chooses, to be coined subject to the seigniorage charge.
[Footnote 1: See Vol. I, pp. 15-16 and 50-53 for an introductory statement of the origin of money in connection with markets.]
[Footnote 2: See ch. 5.]
[Footnote 3: See Vol. I, p. 43, on the decline of barter.]
[Footnote 4: "I will ... refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried." Zech. xiii, 9. "I bought the field ... and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver. And I ... weighed him the money in the balances." Jer. xxxii, 9, 10. A shekel was 224 grains, troy weight, which is about equal to six-tenths of the pure metal in a silver dollar to-day and worth now about twenty-four cents in gold. At that time, however, the purchasing power of silver was many times greater than it now is.]
[Footnote 5: From the French coin, in turn from Latin cuneus, wedge, suggestive either of an earlier wedge-shaped piece, or of a wedge-shaped mark on the piece. The German word Muenze is from the Latin moneta (as is the English mint, the place where coins are made), which meant money, that name being taken from the temple of Juno, called Moneta, where coins were made.]
THE VALUE OF MONEY
Sec. 1. Standard-commodity money. Sec. 2. Alternative uses of the money-good. Sec. 3. Money as a valuable tool. Sec. 4. Relative importance of money. Sec. 5. Concept of the individual monetary demand. Sec. 6. Concept of the community's monetary demand. Sec. 7. The money-material in its commodity uses. Sec. 8. The general level of prices. Sec. 9. Effect of increasing gold production. Sec. 10. The quantity theory of money. Sec. 11. Interpretation of the quantity theory. Sec. 12. Practical application of the quantity theory.
Sec. 1. Standard-commodity money. The actual money in use in almost every country to-day consists of a wide and confusing variety: gold, silver, nickel, copper, paper in various forms, issued by various authorities under various conditions as to amount and as to seigniorage. But among all the kinds, in each country some one kind is found standing preeminent and in a peculiar position, as the standard money to which the value of all the other kinds of money is in some manner adjusted. Usually this standard money is composed of a material (gold or silver) which is a commodity; but there are many examples of paper money being for the time the standard. The difficulties of the money problem must be attacked at the point of standard-commodity money, where it is nearest to ordinary value problems and is less complicated than when the various other kinds of money and the various money substitutes are included.
We mean by standard money that kind, no matter what its form, which serves in any country as the unit in which the value of other kinds of money is expressed. The standard usually is a quantity of metal of a certain weight and fineness, which, as a commodity, has a value also in industrial uses. Coins of this standard are called full, or real, money by some writers that deny the title of money to everything else.
Sec. 2. Alternative uses of the money-good. Let us consider the problem of money-value as it would present itself if only one kind of commodity money were in use. This doubtless was in large measure, if not entirely, the case for a time in early societies after one material had proved itself to be the best suited for the purpose. The history of many kinds of money may, we have seen, be traced back to a point where they were not money, but commodities with a direct value-in-use. Such were ornaments, shells, furs, feathers, salt, cattle, fish, game, and tobacco. Each of these materials has, in each situation, a value which is the reflection of its power to appeal to choice. Now, if to the commodity-use is added the money-use, this increases the demand for that good. No new theory is required to explain the value of a commodity as it gradually acquires the added use of a medium of trade. The money use is one that works no physical or visible change in goods except a slight unavoidable abrasion, and at any time a person receiving a piece of commodity money may retain it for its use-value, as food, ornament, tool, or weapon, or may retain it for a time and then spend it as money. This case of value is no more difficult than that of anything else having two or more uses. For example, cattle are used for milk, for meat, and as beasts of burden. Each of these uses is logically independent as a cause of value, yet all are mutually related, the value of cattle to a particular person being determined by the consideration of all the uses united into one scale of varying gratification.
Sec. 3. Money as a valuable tool. Money is often, by a figure of speech, called a tool. A tool is a piece of material taken into the hand to apply force to other things, to shape them or move them. Figuratively, this is what money does. A man takes it not to get enjoyment out of it directly, but to apply force, to move something, and that which he moves is the other commodity. Money thus (as money) is always an indirect agent. Adam Smith aptly likened money to the roads and wagons that transport goods, thus gratifying desires by putting goods into more convenient places. The fundamental use that money serves is to apportion one's income conveniently as it accrues and as it is spent. The use of money increases the value of goods by increasing the ease with which trade takes place. Like any tool or agent, money is valued for what it does or helps to do. It enhances the value of the goods that it buys and sells by dividing them into quantities convenient for use and by making them available at the right times. In the light of the principles of diminishing gratification and of time-preference it is clear that the amounts in which, and the times at which, goods are available have an essential bearing on their values. Money is the most successful device ever discovered for distributing the supplies of a journey along its course, and the goods of daily need over a period of time. The use of money as a storehouse of value by hoarding it is merely a more extreme case of keeping income until a time when it will have a greater value to the owner than it has in the present.
Sec. 4. Relative importance of money. Because money is the general expression of purchasing power, and comes to symbolize all other wealth, it often assumes undue and exaggerated importance in men's eyes. Money is but one of many forms of wealth. It constitutes but a small percentage of the total wealth of a country, and it is far from being the most indispensable to human welfare. Yet its importance, as a whole, in determining the form of industrial organization is enormous. In a society without money, industrial processes would be very different, and trade would be hampered in manifold ways.
A poor community has little money because it cannot afford more; it gets along with less money than is convenient just as it gets along with fewer agents of every other kind that it could use. Pioneers in a poor community where the average wealth is low cannot afford to keep a large number of wagons, plows, good roads, or schoolhouses. If the members of the community were wealthy enough each would have more of these and of other things, and the sum total of money would be greater. Great as is the convenience of money, poorer communities have to do with little of it. It is, therefore, a confusion of cause and effect when poor communities imagine that their poverty is due to lack of money.
Sec. 5. Concept of the individual monetary demand. Let us now seek to get in mind the idea of an individual monetary demand, as that amount of money which at any time is required by an individual to make his purchases in expending his income. Every man may be thought of as having an average monetary demand, or his average individual cash reserve, throughout a period. A man with a salary of $50 a month paid monthly has ordinarily a maximum monetary demand of $50. If his expenditures are made in two equal parts, the one on pay-day, the other thirty days later, his average monetary demand during the month is a little over $25. If most of his purchasing is done in the first week of the month, his average monetary demand may be perhaps $10. Many a workman purchases on credit, running accounts at the stores for a month. Then on pay day he spends his entire month's wages the day he receives it, and goes without money for the rest of the month. His average monetary demand throughout the month would then be about equal to one day's wages. Evidently any person's cash reserve may be expressed as that proportion of his income that is to him of more value retained in money form for any period than if at once expended.
In this conception of the individual monetary demand, must, however, be included not merely the demands of retail purchasers, made by themselves, but also those of all agencies such as merchants, bankers, and transportation companies, serving the needs of ultimate consumers of goods. The use of money may be necessary several times before a commodity completes its journey from producer to consumer.
Of two persons whose expenditures of money are of the same kind and made at the same rate, the one having the larger amount of purchases to make has the larger monetary demand. But the amount of purchases does not always vary directly with the amount of real income; for example, a farmer and a village mechanic may have at their disposal incomes equal in the quantities of goods, such as food, fuel, clothing, and house-uses (worth, let us say, $1000 for each), but the farmer would be getting a larger part of his goods directly from his farm and by his own labor, while the mechanic would be getting first a money income to be expended afterward for food, clothing, and rent. The mechanic would in this case have an average monetary demand much larger than the farmer.
We see thus that a person's monetary demand at any time is that amount of money which rests in his possession as the necessary condition to making his purchases as he desires. Individual monetary demand varies in proportion directly to the delay, and inversely to the rapidity with which the individual passes the money on; and directly to the amount of the person's income that is received and expended in monetary form.
Sec. 6. Concept of the community's monetary demand. The monetary demand of a community at a given time is the sum of the monetary demands of the various individuals and enterprises. It is that stock of money which is necessarily present to effect the exchanges of the community in the prevailing manner at the existing price level. A single dollar as it circulates helps to supply the monetary demand of many individuals in turn: the more quickly each person spends the piece of money he receives, the greater its rapidity of circulation. Let us suppose that every piece of money passed from one person to another once each day. Then a dollar would, in the course of a business year (about 300 days), serve to buy (and at the same time to sell) $300 worth of goods. If the average purchases of each individual amounted to $1000 a year, the average monetary demand of each would be about 3-1/3 dollars.
But every moment beyond the average time that any one kept money would increase his monetary demand. If he delayed a day, a week, or a month in spending the money, waiting until he could buy in some other market, or until a better time to buy, he would thus increase insomuch the amount of money needed to make the trade (on that scale of prices). It requires more slow dollars than swift dollars to make a given volume of purchases.
Evidently the times of maximum monetary demand of the different individuals do not coincide; rather they alternate with each other, and the community's total monetary demand at a given time is a composite of the many individual variations. The amount of money that will remain in circulation in a community depends on several factors, the chief among them being the amount of goods to exchange, the methods of exchange, and the prevailing scale of prices. The amount of goods to be exchanged may change even when the amount produced is unaltered (e.g., a change from agricultural to industrial conditions). The methods of exchange may alter so as to require either more money (e.g., cash instead of credit business), or less money (e.g., use of bank checks displacing use of money by individuals). Or, apart from the other factors, the scale of prices may change as the conditions of gold and silver production are altered. The interrelations of gold and silver production, paper money issues, banking growth, and money-inflow and outflow in foreign exchanges give rise to the most interesting and important problems in the field of monetary theory.