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securities, and would therefore create a sudden fall-in the rate of interest, which would probably send a great part of the twenty millions of gold out of the country as capital, to seek a higher rate of interest elsewhere, before there had been time for any action on prices. But we will suppose that the notes are not issued by bankers, or money-lenders of any kind, but by manufacturers, in the payment of wages and purchase of materials, or by the government in its ordinary expenses, so that the whole amount would be rapidly carried into the markets for commodities. The following would be the natural order of consequences. All prices would rise greatly. Exportation would almost cease; importation would be prodigiously stimulated. A great balance of payments would become due ; the exchanges would turn against England, to the full extent of the cost of exporting money; and the surplus coin would pour itself rapidly forth, over the various countries of the world, in the order of their proximity, geogra
hically and commercially, to England.
he efflux would continue until the currencies of all countries had come to a level; by which I do not mean, until money became of the same value everywhere, but until the differences were only those which existed before, and which corresponded to permanent differences in the cost of obtaining it. When the rise of prices had extended itself in an equal degree to all countries, exports and imports would everywhere revert to what they were at first, would balance one another, and the exchanges would return to par. If such a sum of money as twenty millions, when spread over the whole surface of the commercial world, were sufficient to raise the general level in a perceptible degree, the effect would be of no long duration. No alteration having occurred in the general conditions under which the metals were procured, either in the world at large or in any part of it, the reduced value would no longer be remunerating, and the supply from the mines would cease partially or wholly, until the
twenty millions were absorbed;# after which absorption, the currencies of all countries would be, in quantity and in value, nearly at their original level. I say nearly, for in strict accuracy there would be a slight difference. A somewhat smaller annual supply of the precious metals would now be required, there being in the world twenty millions less of metallic money undergoing waste. The equilibrium of payments, consequently, between the mining countries and the rest of the world, would thenceforth require that the mining countries should either export rather more of something else, or import rather less of foreign com. modities; which implies a somewhat lower range of prices than previously in the mining countries, and a somewhat higher in all others; a scantier currency in the former, and rather fuller currencies in the latter. This effect, which would be too trifling to require notice except for the illustration of a principle, is the only permanent change which would be produced on international trade, or on the value or quantity of the currency of any country. Effects of another kind, however, will have been produced. Twenty millions which formerly existed in the unproductive form of metallic money, have been converted into what is, or is capable of becoming, productive capital. This gain is at first made by England at the expense of other countries, who have taken her superfluity of this costly and unproductive article off her hands, giving for it an equivalent value in other commodities, By degrees the loss is made up to those countries by diminished influx from the mines, and finally the world has gained a virtual addition of twenty millions to its productive resources, Adam Smith's illustration, though so well known, deserves for its extreme aptness to be once more repeated. He compares the substitution of paper in the room of the precious metals, to the construction of a highway through the air, by which the ground now occupied by roads would become available for agriculture. As in that case a portion of the soil, so in this a part of the accumulated wealth of the country, would be relieved from a function in which it was only employed in rendering other soils, and capitals productive, and would itself become applicable to production; the office it previously fulfilled being equally well discharged by a medium which costs nothing. The value saved to the community by thus dispensing with metallic money, is a clear gain to those who provide the substitute. They have the use of twenty millions of circulating medium which have cost them only the expense of an engraver's plate. If they employ this accession to their fortunes as productive capital, the produce of the country is increased and the community benefited, as much as by any other capital of equal amount. Whether it is so employed or not, depends, in some degree, upon the mode of issuing it. If issued by the government, and employed in paying off debt, it would probably become productive capital. The government, however, may prefer employing this extraordinary resource in its ordinary expenses; may squander it uselessly, or make it a mere temporary substitute for taxation to an equivalent amount; in which last case the amount is saved by the taxpayers at large, who either add it to their capital or spend it as income. When paper currency is suplied, as in our own country, by ankers and banking companies, the amount is almost wholly turned into Fo capital: for the issuers, ing at all times liable to be called upon to refund the value, are under the strongest inducements not to squander it, and the only cases in which it is not forthcoming are cases of fraud or mismanagement. A banker's profession being that of a money-lender, his issue of notes is a
* I am here supposing a state of thing
in which gold and silver mining are a permanent branch of industry, carried on under known conditions; and not the present state of uncertainty, in which gold-gathering is a game of chance, prosecuted (for the present) in the spirit of an adventure, not in that cfs regular industrial pursuit.
simple extension of his ordinary occupation. He lends the amount to farmers, manufacturers, or dealers, who employ it in their several businesses. So employed, it yields, like any other capital, wages of labour and profits of stock. The profit is shared between the banker, who receives interest, and a succession of borrowers, mostly for short periods, who after paying the interest, gain a profit in addition, or a convenience equivalent to profit. The capital itself in the long run becomes entirely wages, and when replaced by the sale of the produce, becomes wages again; thus affording a perpetual fund, of the value of twenty millions, for the maintenance of productive labour, and increasing the annual produce of the country by all that can be produced through the means of a capital of that value. To this gain must be added a further saving to the country, of the annual supply of the precious metals necessary for repairing the wear and tear, and other waste, of a metallic currency. The substitution, therefore, of paper for the precious metals, should always be carried as far as is consistent with safety; no greater amount of metallic currency being retained, than is necessary to maintain, both in fact and in public belief, the convertibility of the . paper. A country with the extensive commercial relations of England, is liable to be suddenly called upon for large foreign payments, sometimes in loans, or other investments of capital abroad, sometimes as the price of some unusual importation of goods, the most frequent case being that of large im: ortations of food consequent on a bad i. To meet such demands it is necessary that there should be, either in circulation or in the coffers of the banks, coin or bullion to a very consi. derable amount, and that this, when drawn out by any emergency, should be allowed to return after the emergency is past. But since gold wanted for exportation is almost invariably drawn from the reserves of the banks, and is never likely to be taken directly from the circulation while the banks remain solvent, the only advantage
which can be obtained from retaining partially a metallic currency for daily purposes is, that the banks may occasionally replenish their reserves from it.
§ 3. When metallic money had been entirely superseded and expelled from circulation, by the substitution of an equal amount of bank notes, any attempt to keep a still further quantity of paper in circulation, must, if the notes are convertible, be a complete failure. The new issue would again set in motion the same train of consequences by which the gold, coin had already been expelled. The metals would, as before, be required for exportation, and would be for that purpose demanded from the banks, to the full extent of the superfluous notes; which thus could not possibly be retained in circulation. If, indeed, the notes were inconvertible, there would be no such obstacle to the increase of their quantity. An inconvertible paper acts in the same way as a convertible, while there remains any coin for it to supersede : the difference begins to manifest itself when all the coin is driven from circulation (except what may be retained for the convenience of small change), and the issues still go on increasing. When the paper begins to exceed in quantity the metallic currency which it superseded, prices of course rise; things which were worth 5l. in metallic money, become worth 6l. in inconvertible paper, or more as the case may be. But this rise of price will not, as in the cases before examined, stimulate import, and discourage export. The imports and exports are determined by the metallic prices of things, not by the paper prices; and it is only when the paper is exchangeable at pleasure for the metals, that paper prices and metallic prices must correspond.
Let us suppose that England is the country which has the depreciated paper. Suppose that some English production could be bought, while the currency was still metallic, for 5.l., and sold in France for 5l. 10s., the difference covering the expense and risk,
and affording a profit to the merchant. On account of the depreciation, this commodity will now cost in England 6l., and cannot be sold in France for more than 5l. 10s., and yet it will be exported as before. Why? Because the 5l. 10s, which the exporter can get for it in France, is not depreciated aper, but gold or silver: and since in 2ngland bullion has risen, in the same proportion with other things—if the merchant brings the gold or silver to England, he can sell his 5l. 10s. for 6l. 12s, and obtain as before 10 per cent for profit and expenses. It thus appears, that a depreciation of the currency does not affect the foreign trade of the country: this is carried on precisely as if the currency maintained its value. But though the trade is not affected, the exchanges are. When the imports and exports are in equilibrium, the exchange, in a metallic currency, would be at par; a bill on France for the equivalent of five sovereigns, would be worth five sovereigns. Dut five sovereigns, or the quantity of gold contained in them, having come to be worth in England 6l., it follows that a bill on France for 5l., will be worth 6l. When, therefore, the real exchange is at par, there will be a nominal exchange against the country, of as much per cent as the amount of the depreciation. If the currency is depreciated 10, 15, or 20 per cent, then in whatever way the real exchange, arising from the variations of international debts and credits, may vary, the quoted exchange will always differ 10, 15, or 20 per cent from it. However high this nominal premium may be, it has no tendency to send gold out of the country, for the purpose of drawing a bill against it and profiting by the premium; because the gold so sent must be procured, not from the banks and at par, as in the case of a convertible cur. rency, but in the market, at an advance of price equal to the premium. In such cases, instead of saying that the exchange is unfavourable, it would be a more correct representation to sa that the par has altered, since there is now required a larger quantity of English currency to be equivalent to the same quantity of foreign. The exchanges, however, continue to be computed according to the metallic par. The quoted exchanges, therefore, when there is a depreciated currency, are compounded of two elements or factors; the real exchange, which follows the variations of international payments, and the nominal exchange, which varies with the depreciation of the currency, but which, while there is any depreciation at all, must always be unfavourable. Since the amount of depreciation is exactly measured by the degree in which the market price of bullion exceeds the Mint valuation, we have a sure criterion to determine what portion of the quoted exchange, .# referable to depreciation, may be struc off as nominal; the result so corrected expressing the real exchange. he same disturbance of the exchanges and of international trade, which is produced by an increased issue of convertible bank notes, is in like manner produced by those extensions of credit, which, as was so fully shown in a preceding chapter, have the same effect on prices as an increase of the currency. Whenever circumstances have given such an impulse to the spirit of speculation as to occasion, a great increase of purchases on credit, money prices rise, just as much as they .# have risen if each person who so buys on credit had bought with money. 'o. effects, therefore, must be similar. As a consequence of high prices,
exportation is checked and importation stimulated; though in fact the increase of io seldom waits for the rise of prices which is the consequence of speculation, inasmuch as some of the great articles of import are usually among the things in which speculative overtrading first shows j; There is, therefore, in such periods, usually a great excess of imports over exports; and when the time comes at which these must be paid for, the exchanges become unfavourable, and gold flow out of the country. In what precise manner this efflux of gold takes effect on prices, depends on circumstances of which we shall presently speak more fully; but that its effect is to make them recoil downwards, is certain and evident. The recoil, once begun, generally becomes a total rout, and the unusual extension of credit is rapidly exchanged for an unusual contraction of it. . Accordingly, when credit has been imprudently stretched, and the speculative spirit carried to excess, the turn of the exchanges, and consequent pool. on the banks to obtain gold or exportation, are generally the F. cause of the catastrophe. ut these phenomena, though a conspicuous accompaniment, are no essential part, of the collapse of credit called a commercial crisis; which, as we formerly showed,” might happen to as great an extent, and is quité as o to happen, in a country, if any suc there were, altogether destitute of foreign trade.
possible to understand the one without the other, and in many minds the two subjects are mixed up in the most inextricable confusion. In the preceding Book* we defined the relation in which interest stands to profit. . We found that the gross profit of capital might be distinguished into three parts, which are respectively the remuneration for risk, for trouble, and for the capital itself, and may be termed insurance, wages of supérintendence, and interest. After making compensation for risk, that is, after covering the average losses to which capital is exposed either by the general circumstances of society or by the hazards of the particular employment, there remains a surplus, which partly goes to repay the owner of the capital for his abstinence, and partly the emloyer of it for his time and trouble. }. much goes to the one and how much to the other, is shown by the amount of the remuneration which, when the two functions are separated, the owner of capital can obtain from the employer for its use. . This is evidently a question of demand and supply. Nor have demand and supply any different meaning or effect in this case from what they have in all others. The rate of interest will be such as to equalize the demand for loans with the supply of them. It will be such, that exactly as much as some people are desirous to borrow at that rate, others shall be willing to lend. If there is more offered than demanded, interest will fall; if more is demanded than offered, it will rise; and in both cases, to the point at which the equation of supply and demand is re-established. oth the demand and supply of loans fluctuate more incessantly than any other demand or supply whatsoever. The fluctuations in other things depend on a limited number of influencing circumstances; but the desire to borrow, and the willingness to lend, are more or less influenced by every circumstance which affects the state or prospects of industry or commerce, either generally or in any of their branches. The rate of interest, there* Supra, book ii. ch. xv. § 1.
fore, on good security, which alone we have here to consider (for interest in which considerations of risk bear a part may swell to any amount) is seldom, in the great centres of money transactions, precisely the same for two days together; as is shown by the neverceasing variations in the quoted prices of the funds and other negotiable securities. Nevertheless, there must be, as in other cases of value, some rate which (in the language of Adam Smith and Ricardo) may be called the natural rate; some rate about which the market rate oscillates, and to which it always tends to return. This rate partly depends on the amount of accumulation going on in the hands of persons who cannot themselves attend to the employment of their savings, and partly on the comparative taste existing in the community for the active pursuits of industry, or for the
leisure, ease, and independence of an
§ 2. To exclude casual fluctuations, we will suppose commerce to be in a quiescent condition, no employment being unusually prosperous, and none particularly distressed. In these circumstances, the more thriving producers and traders have their capital fully employed, and many are able to transact business to a considerably greater extent than they have capital for. These are naturally borrowers: and the amount which they desire to borrow, and can give security for, constitutes the demand for loans on account of productive employment. To these must be added the loans required by Government, and by landowners, or other unproductive consumers who have good security to give. This constitutes the mass of loans for which there is an habitual demand.
Now it is conceivable that there might exist, in the hands of persons disinclined or disqualified for engaging personally in business, a mass of capital equal to, and even exceeding, this demand. In that case there would be an habitual excess of competition on the part of lenders, and the rate of interest would bear a low proportion to