Page images

people would be better off than they are now. If the exportation of merchandise

. could be facilitated by the Treasury's buy. ing an increased amount of silver

per month, still, in the absence of any assurance that the Treasury can ever sell its silver, such buying, for such a purpose, would be foolhardy.

I am told that “Some of the large Indian native bankers have been so disturbed by the late violent fluctuations in silver that they have begun to carry part of their reserve in gold." I do not know how far this custom extends, but I should think it likely to grow.

Note. — The flow of silver to India is not increased by the high nominal value which is placed on silver in the coinage of rupees. In our mint, 16 ounces of silver are called equal to one ounce of gold ; in the mints of the Latin union, 1572 to i is the ratio ; and in coining rupees only 15 ounces of silver are supposed to be needed to represent the value of one ounce of gold. But no mint in the world buys silver bullion at any price above the market price, excepting those mints which use depreciated coins to pay for the bullion. It is not important to the seller of bullion to receive high prices in depreciated coins, rather than low prices in money which has not depreciated.

NOTE TO THIRD EDITION, 1896.-The Indian mints stopped coining rupees in June, 1893. The distress from money depreciation had become great, particularly among the wage-earning and salary-earning classes. Their incomes had not been proportionately advanced

India may now be cited as a horrible exam. ple instead of an example to follow.

never are in such cases.



The silver advocate may not be convinced that the cause of the fall in prices is an industrial progress hitherto unparalleled, although, if he would look in the direction of the facts, they would stare at him from every vast farm, every great factory, every fast or cheaply run steamship or railway train, and from every modernly managed industry. If he be obstinate on the subject of the cause of the decline in prices, then, what will he say to this bold statement ?the decline itself has been a good thing for the world. Evidently, whatever may be said regarding the cause of the fall in prices, it will be folly to continue to complain, provided we can show that the fall has been, on the whole, beneficial.

A fall in the price of an article is, generally speaking, a benefit to the buyers and


an injury to the sellers of that article. A fall in the prices of many articles is a bene. fit to many buyers and an injury to many seller's. In this limited view of the case one man's loss is another man's gain, and if the number of buyers and the number of sellers were equal, the whole community could neither gain nor lose by either a rise or a fall in prices, for the quantity of things bought necessarily equals the quantity of things sold. But it is not true that there are in any community as many sellers as there are buyers; on the contrary, the buyers far outnumber the sellers, always and everywhere. Everybody is a buyer, but that great proportion of the people who (themselves and their families) have fixed incomes, who live by fees for professional services, who earn salaries, and who earn wages, are not sellers. And if a vast proportion of the population obtain money without selling anything but their time or labor, and if they pay out their money for all kinds of merchandise, then it follows that a fall in the prices of merchandise must benefit the vast majority. Now, this bene.


fit would not be so clear if it could be shown that incomes, fees, salaries, and wages had gone down with the prices of commodities, To the best of my knowledge, however, while incomes from investments have declined and rich people have had to be content with smaller incomes, yet there is no proof that fees, salaries, and wages have declined at all. There is proof, indeed, that wages have advanced. Wage-earners and their families alone make up a majority of the people, and if wage-earners now receive more money than formerly, while everything the wage-earner buys can be bought for less money than formerly, how shall we escape from the conclusion that the waye-earners have been benefited by the decline in the prices of commodities? And if the majority have been benefited, then how can it be contended that the fall in prices has been a bad thing? Certainly many individuals and many communities have been hurt when other individuals and other communities have captured the former's industries, but the law of the survival of the fittest holds absolute sway, and it is worse than useless to quarrel with it. We may offer sympathy to the unfortunate ones, but cannot help thinking that their misfortune is due to their inability to keep up with the lightning speed of the time. The world has not stepped backward, and the times cannot be far out of joint, when employers of laborers can afford to pay more for labor than ever before. The employers of to-day do better for the community than the employers of yesterday, both in selling goods at lower prices and in paying out more money to each of their employees, and while we should not undervalue the sympathy which is due to those employers who have been beaten, yet we ought not to withhold congratulation from those employers who have succeeded. They, and the inventors and discoverers allied with them, have given the world its necessary articles and its luxuries at lower prices than ever before, and without redu. cing the sum annually paid to the workmen employed.

The vital point in the silver question lies in the rate of earnings of laborers and of


« PreviousContinue »