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and on the other, debts amounting to $10,000; C has credits for $15,000, and debts for $10,000. In a short space of time, and in the ordinary course of events, each one of these individuals may so change his position as to have $5,000 in the bank, and be free of all debt. Before the change is made, will you insist that A belongs to “ the debtor class,” and that B or C does not? Alter the figures as you like, keeping the balance on the right side so that you do not bring in the insolvent debtors, and you will find that every
, debtor is more properly a creditor or a property-owner than a debtor. Search where you will, and yet you cannot find a “Debtor Class."
Gold bullion, gold money, silver money, and paper money, are each of them worth about thirty per cent.' more than silver bullion is worth ; but it is not proposed that A, B, and C shall be permitted to collect in, or to sell for, gold bullion, gold money, silver money, and paper money, and be permitted at the same time to pay off debts in silver bullion. If sales or col.
1 In 1896, say ninety per cent.
lections could be made for or in one of the four more valuable things, and at the same time debts be paid off with the less valuable thing, then debtors would be benefited, excepting that most debtors would be obliged first to collect in the less valuable thing in order to obtain the means of making their own payments. Carrying this absurdity a little farther, and referring to the A, B, and C already introduced, we may see that a law which should permit the payment of debts in silver bullion might possibly enable A to pay off $10,000 of debt with only about $7,700 of real money; enable B to do as well; but compel C to lose about $1,150, for C, instead of having a balance of $5,000 in money, would
, have a balance of $5,000 in silver bullion, worth only $3,850. Absurd as would be a proposition to benefit some debtors in this way, it becomes more ridiculous if you stop to consider that neither A nor B would be likely to be really benefited, for each one, in order to obtain the means for
pay. ing his debts, would be obliged to sell his farm or his merchandise for silver bullion,
for if people could pay debts with silver bullion, most people would use it when buying farms or merchandise. A, B, and C, of course, would all suffer from the financial disturbance, due to the passage of such a foolish law.
This is not the proposed law, but the idea is to benefit debtors by making silver bullion worth about thirty per cent. more than it is now worth, or by bringing the purchasing power of money down to the purchasing power of silver bullion, or, what is the same thing, advancing prices about thirty per cent. It is claimed, for instance, that A's farm, which is now worth $15,000, can be made to be worth, say $19,000 to $20,000, and that the mortgage of $10,000 will then represent about one half instead of, as at present, two thirds of the value of the farm. B, it is claimed, would be able to sell his merchandise for $19,000 to $20,000, instead of for $15,000, and be able to realize a balance of $9,000 to $10,000, instead of $5,000. C, being so unfortunate as to have all his assets in credits, would be obliged to lose something like $1,150 in the purchasing power of his $5,000 balance.
B is the merchant or store-keeper, and if free coinage should advance prices he would obtain more for his stock of goods, but the money which he would accumulate would be worth less than money is now worth. In all probability, however, the financial disturbance would interfere with the free selling of merchandise. Banks would not so willingly lend money, because of the necessity to take depreciated, or further depreciated money, in settlement of loans, and if we reflect upon the enormous power of banking facilities in the making of prices, we shall see that our merchants and store-keepers are not in the way to be benefited by any cheapening of money, and this is true, whether our friend B or our friend C be considered typical “ debtors.” And certainly any benefit derived by either A or B would disappear if he should be in a similar situation when the United States should endeavor to return to the gold basis. Any good results possible to A or B from reducing the value of money would be matched by bad results to the A or B of the future, for the United States would as surely try to get back to the gold basis, as it did try to get back to that basis from the paper basis of 1862-1879.
Farmer A is the only "debtor” who is at all likely to be benefited by moneycheapening, and even he is not likely to be benefited unless his mortgage have some years to run. Promptness in the monetary change and avoidance of financial disturbance are requisite to enable most debtors to reap any benefit, but farmer A could hope that during the years which his mortgage has to run, the country would over. come the financial shock; and that his farm would be salable for $19,000 or $20,000, when his mortgage of $10,000 should fall due. If it should become clear before the mortgage falls due, that we are drifting upon a silver basis, then in renewing the mortgage farmer A would be obliged to agree to a "gold clause" in the contract, forcing him to pay gold or its equivalent in settlement of the mortgage. When we shall arrive at the time for the