Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VI.: AMOUNT OF CURRENCY NEEDED. - The Shorter Works and Pamphlets of Lysander Spooner, Vol. 2 (1862-1884)
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CHAPTER VI.: AMOUNT OF CURRENCY NEEDED. - Lysander Spooner, The Shorter Works and Pamphlets of Lysander Spooner, Vol. 2 (1862-1884) 
The Shorter Works and Pamphlets of Lysander Spooner, vol. 2 (1862-1884) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010).
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AMOUNT OF CURRENCY NEEDED.
It is of no use to say that we do not need so much currency as the proposed system would supply; because, first, if we should not need it, we shall not use it. Every dollar of paper will represent specific property that can be delivered on demand in redemption of it, and that will have the same market value as gold. The paper dollar, therefore, will have the same market value as the gold dollar, or as a dollar’s worth of any other property; and no one will part with it, unless he gets in exchange for it something that will serve his particular wants better; and no one will accept it, unless it will serve his particular wants better than the thing he parts with. No more paper, therefore, can circulate, than is wanted for the purchase and sale of commodities at their true and natural values, as measured by gold.
Secondly, we do not know at all how much currency we do need. That is something that can be determined only by experiment. We know that, heretofore, whenever currency has been increased, industry and traffic have increased to a corresponding extent. And they would unquestionably increase to an extent far beyond any thing the world has ever seen, if only they were aided and permitted by an adequate currency.
We, as yet, know very little what wealth mankind are capable of creating. It is only within a hundred years, or a little more, that any considerable portion of them have really begun to invent machinery, and learned that it is only by machinery that they can create any considerable wealth. But they have not yet learned—at least, they profess not to have learned—that money is indispensable to the practical employment of machinery; that it is as impossible to operate machinery without money, as it is to operate it without wind, water, or steam. When they shall have learned, and practically accepted, this great fact, and shall have provided themselves with money, wealth will speedily become universal. And it is only those who would deplore such a result, or those who are too stupid to see the palpable and necessary connection between money and manufacturing industry, who resist the indefinite increase of money.
It is scarcely a more patent fact that land is the indispensable capital for agricultural industry, than it is that money is the indispensable capital for manufacturing industry. Practically, everybody recognizes this fact, and virtually acknowledges it; although, in words, so many deny it. Men as deliberately and accurately calculate the amount of machinery that a hundred dollars in money will operate, as they do the amount of machinery that a ton of coal, or a given amount of water, will operate. They calculate much more accurately the amount of manufactured goods a hundred dollars will produce, than they do the amount of grain, grass, or vegetables an acre of land will produce. They no more expect to see mechanics carrying on business for themselves without money, than they do to see agricultural laborers carrying on farming without land, or than they do to see sailors going to sea without ships. They know that all mechanical, as well as agricultural, laborers, who have not the appropriate capital for their special business, must necessarily stand idle, or become mere wage-laborers for others, at such particular employments as the latter may dictate, and at such prices as the latter may see fit to pay.
All these things attest the perfect knowledge that men have, that a money capital is indispensable to manufacturing industry; whatever assertions they may make to the contrary.
They know, therefore, that prohibitions upon money are prohibitions upon industry itself; that there can be no such thing as freedom of industry, where there is not freedom to lend and hire capital for such industry.
Every one knows, too—who knows any thing at all on such a subject—that it is, intrinsically, as flagrant a tyranny, as flagrant a violation of men’s natural rights, for a government to forbid the lending and hiring of money for manufacturing industry, as it is to forbid the lending and hiring of land, or agricultural implements, for agricultural industry, or the lending and hiring of ships for maritime industry. They know that it is as flagrant a tyranny, as flagrant a violation of men’s natural rights, to forbid one man to lend another money for mechanical industry, as it would be to forbid the former to lend the latter a house to live in, a shop to work in, or tools to work with.
It is, therefore, a flagrant, manifest tyranny, a flagrant, manifest violation of men’s natural rights, to lay any conditions or restrictions whatever upon the business of banking—that is, upon the lending and hiring of money—except such as are laid upon all other transactions between man and man, viz.: the fulfilment of contracts, and restraints upon force and fraud.
A man who is without capital, and who, by prohibitions upon banking, is practically forbidden to hire any, is in a condition elevated but one degree above that of a chattel slave. He may live; but he can live only as the servant of others; compelled to perform such labor, and to perform it at such prices, as they may see fit to dictate. And a government, which, at this day, subjects the great body of the people—or even any portion of them—to this condition, is as fit an object of popular retribution as any tyranny that ever existed.
To deprive mankind of their natural right and power of creating wealth for themselves, is as great a tyranny as it is to rob them of it after they have created it. And this is done by all laws against honest banking.
All these things are so self-evident, so universally known, that no man, of ordinary mental capacity, can claim to be ignorant of them. And any legislator, who disregards them, should be taught, by a discipline short, sharp, and decisive, that his power is wholly subordinate to the natural rights of mankind.
It is, then, one of man’s indisputable, natural rights to lend and hire capital in any and every form and manner that is intrinsically honest. And as money, or currency, is the great, the indispensable instrumentality in the production and distribution of wealth; as it is the capital, the motive power, that sets all other instrumentalities in motion; as it is the one thing, without which all the other great agencies of production—such as science, skill, and machinery—are practically paralyzed; to say that we need no more of it, and shall have no more of it, than we now have, is to say that we need no more wealth, and shall have no more wealth, and no more equal or equitable distribution of wealth, than we now have. It is to say that the mass of mankind—the laborers, the producers of wealth—need not to produce, and shall not be permitted to produce, wealth for themselves, but only for others.
For a government to limit the currency of a people, and to designate the individuals (or corporations) who shall have the control of that currency, is, manifestly, equivalent to saying there shall be but so much industry and wealth in the nation, and that these shall be under the special control, and for the special enjoyment, of the individuals designated; and, of course, that all other persons shall be simply their dependants and servants; receiving only such prices for their property, and such compensation for their labor, as these few holders of the currency shall see fit to give for them.
The effect of these prohibitions upon money, and consequently upon industry, are everywhere apparent in the poverty of the great body of the people.
At the present time, the people of this country certainly do not produce one third, very likely not one fifth, of the wealth they might produce. And the little they do produce is all in the hands of a few. All this is attributable to the want of currency and credit, and to the consequent want of science, skill, machinery, and working capital.
Of the twenty million persons, male and female, of sixteen years of age and upwards—capable of producing wealth—certainly not one in five has the science, skill, implements, machinery, and capital necessary to make his or her industry most effective; or to secure to himself or herself the greatest share in the products of his or her own industry. A very large proportion of these persons—nearly all the females, and a great majority of the males—persons capable of running machinery, and of producing each three, five, or ten dollars of wealth per day, are now without science, skill, machinery, or capital, and are either producing nothing, or working only with such inferior means, and at such inferior employments, as to make their industry of scarcely any value at all, either to themselves or others, beyond the provision of the coarsest necessaries of a hard and coarse existence. And this is all owing to the lack of money; or rather to the lack of money and credit.
There are, doubtless, in the country, ten million (10,000,000) persons, male and female—sixteen years of age and upwards—who are naturally capable of creating from three to five dollars of wealth per day, if they had the science, skill, machinery, and capital which they ought to have, and might have; but who, from the want of these, are now creating not more than one dollar each per day, on an average; thus occasioning a loss to themselves and the country of from twenty to forty millions of dollars per day, for three hundred days in a year; a sum equal to from six to twelve thousand millions per annum; or three to six times the amount of our entire national debt.
And there are another ten million of persons—better supplied, indeed, with capital, machinery, &c., than the ten million before mentioned—but who, nevertheless, from the same causes, are producing far less than they might.
The aggregate loss to the country, from these causes, is, doubtless, equal to from ten to fifteen thousand millions per year; or five, six, or seven times the amount of the entire national debt.
In this estimate no account is taken of the loss suffered from our inability—owing simply to a want of money—to bring to this country, and give employment to, the millions of laborers, in Europe and Asia, who desire to come here, and add the products of their labor to our national wealth.
It is, probably, no more than a reasonable estimate to suppose that the nation, as a nation, is losing twenty thousand millions of dollars ($20,000,000,000) per annum—about ten times the amount of our national debt—solely for the want of money to give such employment as they need, to the population we now have, and to those who desire to come here from other countries.
Among the losses we suffer, from the causes mentioned, the non-production of new inventions is by no means the least. As a general rule, new inventions are made only where money and machinery prevail. And they are generally produced in a ratio corresponding with the amount of money and machinery. In no part of the country are the new inventions equal in number to what they ought to be, and might be. In three fourths of the country very few are produced. In some, almost none at all. The losses from this cause cannot be estimated in money.
The government, in its ignorance, arrogance, and tyranny, either does not see all this, or, seeing it, does not regard it. While these thousands of millions are being lost annually, from the suppression of money, and consequently of industry, and while three fourths of the laborers of the country are either standing idle, or, for the want of capital, are producing only a mere fraction of what they might produce, a two-pence-ha’-penny Secretary of the Treasury can find no better employment for his faculties, than in trying, first, to reduce the rate of interest on the public debt one per cent.—thereby saving twenty millions a year, or fifty cents for each person, on an average! And, secondly, in paying one hundred millions per annum of the principal; that is, two and a half dollars for each person, on an average! And he insists that the only way to achieve these astounding results, is to deprive the people at large of money! To destroy, as far as possible, their industry! To deprive them, as far as possible, of all power to manufacture for themselves! And to compel them to pay, to the few manufacturers it has under its protection, fifty or one hundred per cent. more for their manufactures than they are worth!
He has been tugging at this tremendous task four years, or thereabouts. And he confidently believes that if he can be permitted to enforce this plan for a sufficient period of years, in the future, he will ultimately be able to save the people, annually, fifty cents each, on an average, in interest! and also continue to pay, annually, two dollars and a half for each person, on an average, of the principal, of the national debt!
He apparently does not know, or, if he knows, it is, in his eyes, a matter of comparatively small moment, that this saving of $20,000,000 per annum in interest, and this payment of $100,000,000 per annum of principal, which he proposes to make on behalf of the people, are not equal to what two days—or perhaps even one day—of their industry would amount to, if they were permitted to enjoy their natural rights of lending and hiring capital, and producing such wealth as they please for themselves.
He apparently does not know, or, if he knows, it is with him a small matter, that if the people were permitted to enjoy their natural freedom in currency and credit, and consequently their natural freedom in industry, they could pay the entire national debt three, four, or a half dozen times over every year, more easily than they can save the $20,000,000, and pay the $100,000,000, annually, by the process that he adopts for saving and paying them.
And yet this man, and his policy, represent the government and its policy. The president keeps him in office, and Congress sustain him in his measures.
In short, the government not only does not offer, but is apparently determined not to suffer, any such thing as freedom in currency and credit, or, consequently, in industry. It is, apparently, so bent upon compelling the people to give more for its few irredeemable notes than they are worth; and so bent upon keeping all wealth, and all means of wealth, in the hands of the few—upon whose money and frauds it relies for support—that it is determined, if possible, to perpetuate this state of things indefinitely. And it will probably succeed in perpetuating it indefinitely—under cover of such false pretences as those of specie payments, inflation of prices, reducing the interest, and paying the principal, of the national debt, &c.—unless the people at large shall open their eyes to the deceit and robbery that are practised upon them; and, by establishing freedom in currency and credit—and thereby freedom in industry and commerce—end at once and forever the tyranny that impoverishes and enslaves them.