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for providing himself with more; and prudence also requires that he should not attempt to issue notes beyond the amount which experience shows can remain in circulation without being presented for payment.
The convenience of this mode of (as it were) coining credit, having once been discovered, governments have availed themselves of the same expedient, and have issued their own promissory notes in payment of their expenses; a resource the more useful, because it is the only mode in which they are able to borrow money without paying interest, their promises to pay on demand being, in the estimation of the holders, equivalent to money in hand. The practical differences between such government notes and the issues of private bankers, and the further diversities of which this class of substitutes for money are susceptible, will be considered presently.
§ 6. A fourth mode of making credit answer the purposes of money, by which, when carried far enough, money may be very completely superseded, consists in making payments by checks. The custom of keeping the spare cash reserved for immediate use or against contingent demands, in the hands of a banker, and making all payments, except small ones, by orders on bankers, is in this country spreading to a continually larger portion of the public. If the person making the payment, and the person receiving it, kept their money with the same banker, the payment would take place without any intervention of money, by the mere transfer of its amount in the banker's books from the credit of the payer to that of the receiver. If all persons in London kept their cash at the same banker's, and made all their payments by means of checks, no money would be required or used for any transactions beginning and terminating in London. This ideal limit is almost attained in fact, so far as regards transactions
between dealers. It is chiefly in the retail transactions between dealers and consumers, and in the payment of wages, that money or bank notes now pass, and then only when the amounts are small. In London, even shopkeepers of any amount of capital or extent of business have generally an acconnt with a banker; which, beside the safety and convenience of the practice, is to their advantage in another respect, by giving them an understood claim to have their bills discounted in cases when they could not otherwise expect it. As for the merchants and larger dealers, they habitually make all payments in the course of their business by checks. They do not, however, all deal with the same banker, and when A gives a check to B, B usually pays it not into the same but into some other bank. But the convenience of business has given birth to an arrangement which makes all the banking houses of the city of London, for certain purposes, virtually one establishment. A banker does not send the checks which are paid into his banking house, to the banks on which they are drawn, and demand money for them. There is a building called the Clearing-house,* to which every city banker sends, each afternoon, all the checks on other bankers which he has received during the day, and they are there exchanged for the checks on him which have come into the hands of other bankers, the balances only being paid in money. By this contrivance, all the business transactions of the city of London during that day, amounting often to millions of pounds, and a vast amount beside of country transactions, represented by bills which country bankers have drawn upon their London corre
* According to Mr. Tooke (Inquiry into the Currency Principle, p. 27,) the adjustments at the clearing house "in the year 1839 amounted to £954,401,600, making an average amount of payments of upwards of £3,000,000 of bills of exchange and checks daily effected through the medium of little more than £200,000 of bank notes."
spondents, are liquidated by payments not exceeding on the average £200,000.
By means of the various instruments of credit which have now been explained, the immense business of a country like Great Britain is transacted with an amount of the precious metals surprisingly small; many times smaller, in proportion to the pecuniary value of the commodities bought and sold, than is found necessary in France, or any other country in which, the habit and the disposition to give credit not being so generally diffused, these "economizing expedients," as they have been called, are not practiced to the same extent. What becomes of the money thus superseded in its functions; and by what process it is made to disappear from circulation, are questions the discussion of which must be for a short time postponed.
INFLUENCE OF CREDIT ON PRICES.
1. HAVING now formed a general idea of the modes in which credit is made available as a substitute for money, we have to consider in what manner the use of these substitutes affects the value of money, or what is equivalent, the prices of commodities. It is hardly necessary to say that the permanent value of money-the natural and average prices of commodities are not in question here. These are determined by the cost of producing or of obtaining the precious metals. An ounce of gold or silver will in the long run exchange for as much of every other commodity, as can be produced or imported at the same
cost with itself. And an order, or note of hand, or bill payable at sight, for an ounce of gold, while the credit of the giver is unimpaired, is worth neither more nor less than the gold itself.
It is not, however, with ultimate or average, but with immediate and temporary prices, that we are now concerned. These, as we have seen, may deviate very widely from the standard of cost of production. Among other causes of fluctuation, one we have found to be, the quantity of money in circulation. Other things being the same, an increase of the money in circulation raises prices, a diminution lowers them. If more money is thrown into circulation than the quantity which can circulate at a value conformable to its cost of production, the value of money, so long as the excess lasts, will remain below the standard of cost of production, and general prices will be sustained above the natural rate.
But we have now found that there are other things, such as bank notes, bills of exchange, and checks, which circulate as money, and perform all the functions of it; and the question arises, Do these various substitutes operate on prices in the same manner as money itself? Does an increase in the quantity of transferable paper tend to raise prices, in the same manner and degree as an increase in the quantity of money? There has been no small amount of discussion on this point among writers on currency, without any result so conclusive as to have yet obtained general
I apprehend that bank notes, bills, or checks, as such, do not act on prices at all. What does act on prices is Credit, in whatever shape given, and whether it gives rise to any transferable instruments capable of passing into circulation, or not.
I proceed to explain and substantiate this opinion.
2. Money acts upon prices in no other way than by being tendered in exchange for commodities. The demand which influences the prices of commodities consists of the money offered for them. But the money offered, is not the same thing with the money possessed. It is sometimes. less, sometimes very much more. In the long run indeed, the money which people lay out will be neither more nor less than the money which they have to lay out; but this is far from being the case at any given time. Sometimes they keep money by them for fear of an emergency, or in expectation of a more advantageous opportunity for expending it. In that case the money is said not to be in circulation; in plainer language, it is not offered, nor about to be offered, for commodities. Money not in circulation has no effect on prices. The converse, however, is a much commoner case; people make purchases with money not in their possession. An article, for instance, which is paid for by a check on a banker, is bought with money which not only is not in the payer's possession, but generally not even in the banker's, having been lent by him (all but the usual reserve) to other persons. We just now made the imaginary supposition that all persons dealt with a bank, and all with the same bank, payments being universally made by checks. In this ideal case, there would be no money any where except in the hands of the banker; who might then safely part with all of it, by selling it as bullion, or lending it, to be sent out of the country in exchange for goods or foreign securities. But though there would then be no money in possession, or ultimately perhaps even in existence, money would be offered, and commodities bought with it, just as at present. People would continue to reckon their incomes and their capitals in money, and to make their usual purchases with orders for the receipt of a thing which would have literally ceased to exist. There would be in all this nothing to complain of, so long as the