Banking and Currency
THE PRACTICAL SIDE OF A BETTER FINANCIAL SYSTEM.
Those who are accustomed to deal with social problems from the standpoint of true basic principles as well as from the standpoint of what is in common practice in politics, business and social intercourse, will find sufficient in the foregoing chapters to outline the coming changes that are inevitable to the ultimate control of the financial dealings of men. It does not follow that the changes will take place at once. In fact, plans have already been made by the special interests and bills have been drafted and are ready for an early adoption, unless the people arise in opposition to these bills and in defense of their own rights. The truth is, the people cannot defend their own rights unless they awake generally to the importance of those rights, which will require a most careful study of the political, industrial and financial problems, and they are so much handicapped because of the great pressure that is placed upon them to eke out an existence under the present system that it is difficult for them to secure enough extra time to give to these problems the proper study. Men ought not, however, to be discouraged, because, with all the modern advantages and means of production, it is hard to understand how the people could get less than they do now, but if they continue to seek to become better informed, the future will be characterized by evidences of progression and not of reaction.
I have not set forth any bills in drafted form ready for enaction, because that is a mere detail which should come at a time when things have shaped themselves so as to make that step necessary. The ground must be plowed before the seeding is done. The people themselves must do the plowing. After that they must seed the land and keep possession of the field if they wish to harvest and reap the fruits of their labor. They have always done the plowing, the seeding, the cultivating, and practically all of the work in the field of industrial enterprise, but they have never reaped the results of their labor. There has always been a Rothschild, a Gould, a Rockefeller, a Carnegie, a Morgan and men of their kind, and a few thousand lesser harvesters who have gathered in the best fruits out of the fields of industry. They are on hand and active at every point of vantage. They understand human selfishness and know how to deal with the individuals whom the people have selected to represent them. They know that the individual citizen whose interest is the same as that of the citizens in general, will not find it practicable to spend the time, in the legislative halls or in Congress, to exert a direct influence over his official representative. But the other parties to whom I have alluded send their representatives to influence the peoples representatives, and the manner of their influence is so varied in its application that no description of its application in one case would serve as an index to another. I shall deal with that particular phase of the subject on another occasion, but before dropping it at this point, let me call the attention of the citizen to the fact that he must be on guard that the new progressive spirit and movement is kept alive, and that the special interests are made to understand that it is alive. The special interests are more alert individually than the people themselves are individually, for the reason that the interests get the bulk of the wealth that grows out of the work of the people, and, therefore, the special interests are seeking to convert the progressive movement into another victory for themselves.
I started as an original progressive when there were but a few on the battle line of progressiveness, and I had known the wily moves employed by the interests in their efforts to divert this progressive movement to their own advantage, not only in dividing the progressives into factions and parties, which means one and the same thing in its effect upon the people, but in what is worse than that, the attempt on their part to fill the ranks of the progressives with spies and traitors and then presume through selfish influence to convert many of those who honestly started the movement. Temptation, thou art a mighty power in the hands of those who hold the seductive bait. The interests base their hope of victory upon the temptation furnished by that bait. Their first hope was to win by ridiculing the progressives and taking patronage from those whom the people had elected, but this proved a failure.
The interests, ever alert to their purposes, selected from amongst their own attorneys and agents, and others willing to take their bait, the most wily ones and posed them as progressives in order to meet the emergency forced on them by the progressive movement. These men advocated the progressive principles and, while still claiming to be progressives, became candidates for office, and are dangerous because they pass as one thing and are at heart something wholly different. That is now the principal danger that confronts the progressive movement. There is one way by which it may be overcome, and I have advocated it from the very start. Destroy all party government ! In other words, let the people as a Nation govern, the same as, hereafter, Minnesota will have a legislature made up from and by the people as a whole and not from a faction as it has been hitherto. Congress at this time is an example of party government. A single party claims to usurp the powers and the rights of the people in general, and, what is more, they brazenly state that they have taken control as a party. That is only following the tracks in an old beaten path.
Several of the same things that I originally advocated as wise provisions for the people have now been adopted in my own State, Minnesota. One of these, and I emphasized it whenever an opportunity was presented, was to destroy party lines and unite the people in such a way that the interests could not whip us by their use of the boss system in the contest, and because of our separate divisions. I am proud to state that in the State of Minnesota, and it is the first State of which the statement can be made, a man can no longer run for a county office or for the Legislature and get the name of a party appendix affixed to his name on the official ballot. When I first advocated that, the stand-patters to a unit ridiculed me for it, but they were forced to yield because the people were determined to have it, and public sentiment is supreme.
To be a true Progressive it is not sufficient to stand up and say that one believes in what has been promulgated as progressive principles. One must be progressive in heart and active in promoting the progressive principles of today, tomorrow and always. There is no resting point, for humanity is ever ascending to a higher and better goal. All that has been promulgated thus far as political doctrines by the progressives would, if adopted in toto, be standpat tomorrow if the people were generally content to let it go at that. It is on that theory, and in the hope that that will happen, that so many agents from the special interests are being sent into the progressive ranks. They are willing to take an advance step if there is a hope that it can be stopped at that. But that is not the purpose of the true progressives. Their aim is to take step after step toward higher and nobler purposes and the general elevation of mankind. They recognize the advantages that Gods Creation furnishes and the advantage that mans intelligence can make of the conditions existing. They propose to utilize these in every practical way as well as to supply the instruments and the means to create a better condition for the people generally. There is no monopoly of the principle by party or sect. It is open and free to anyone who wishes to embrace it, but if one becomes a party to a faction, even if the faction is called a party, and lets a majority of that faction take him away from the broader field of national activity, by that act he ceases to be a progressive.
Returning to our financial study. The citizen who would acquire the greatest efficiency as a citizen of a great commonwealth, and at the same time consistently hold the individual independence that people generally are entitled to, must realize that a new medium of exchange is necessary. We must get away from the idea that money is created to serve any other purpose than that of an exchange agent. As long as it is used for any other purpose it does not serve as a true exchange agent. If we want the agent more than we want the substance it commands, our life activities become a gamble. This we have already shown. Men generally must be made to understand that property is not produced to obtain money for it, but to serve the general needs, and that money is wholly a secondary matter created to facilitate the exchange of the property and to bring the producer into intimate relations with the consumers needs. Under any well-regulated system the people generally would be consumers and producers continually. We cannot educate people in such a manner that they would have no incentive to speculate if the opportunity was presented or believed to offer profit. As long as we have a speculators system the great majority of us,and I may as well say all, because the exceptions are very few,will speculate if we think we can make a profit out of it. Therefore, it does no good to condemn the system alone. We shall have to appeal to the selfish side of our natures, and I use the word selfish in no faulty sense, because even selfishness may serve a good purpose, and in the sense in which I now use it, it would. Every citizen who does not enjoy a special privilege has a commendable selfish interest in destroying all special privileges because then he, and all other citizens similarly situated, would be very much more successful. Since that includes all but a very small fraction of all of the people, it is easy to understand that when it becomes generally known that the people would be almost infinitely more successful if they were to make certain political, industrial and financial changes, they will most certainly do so in their own selfish interest. I am appealing to this selfish interest as the best way in which to secure a reform of our political, industrial and financial relations. I am not pessimistic, but I know the inducement is sufficient to accomplish the end that is sought. It is on that account that I would have all of the elements of inducement for speculation removed from our legal tender money. It is because it is for the interest of the people generally that I am sure it can be accomplished through them as soon as they realize the advantages they would procure as a result of the change. Once it is made easy for the industrious, and those who have the accumulated results of industry, to obtain money when they need it in order to effect an exchange of one kind for something of another kind, it will be good-bye to the multi-millionaire and the parasite. They will then become citizens who will be given credit for what they can do that is of worth to the general public. Then the true conservation will be known, and it will be found that the people may have very much more than they now have with less than half the waste, both in time and material.
Now, let us bear strictly in mind that there would naturally be two kinds of exchange. One a commodity exchange measured absolutely by the relations of the commodities to each other in the proportion of the demand and service for them. That has already been explained. The other would be the legal tenderthe money issued by the Government, which has already been partly explained. There would be no limit to the amount for which goods could be exchanged for other goods or services for other services. One can conceive that there might be combinations to corner certain commodities somewhat like the combinations that now take place, but the opportunity for such corners would be immensely reduced by the fact that there could be no corner in money which would be directly controlled by the people themselves through their Government. If something of which they were in need was cornered they would be free to start an industry for its immediate production, because the funds would be supplied. The truth is that no corners would occur for the very reason that the object for which corners are made would not be accomplished. Of course, perfection would not be attained, but immense improvement would be. It will not be difficult for almost anyone to understand the manner in which commodities would exchange one for the other, and that gold or silver bullion might be used more or less as an agency of exchange, at least as long as other countries used it. But it is more difficult to understand how the legal tender, the real money, would be kept so that it could at all times be exchanged with about the same advantage and not be fluctuated in a way that would make its possessor uncertain as to what office it would perform for him if he had it on his hands for any considerable period of time.
One of the serious objections that I interpose to the present system is that people should wish to hoard money. It does not serve its place as money when it is hoarded. Its office is to serve as exchange and when it shall be used for that, and the Government (by which is understood all of the people) shall regulate its value as the Constitution provides, the general welfare will be to preserve the value of the exchange at as nearly a uniform standard, measured by the general average of prices, as it is possible to do under any system, and far better than it is being done under the present system. After that, if some people wish to hoard money, they may do so without its interfering with the commerce of the people. When it is taken from its hoarding quarters and put back into circulation it will relieve the pressure for the issue by the Government of that much money. There will be no inflation of prices because the comparative supply (service) of and demand for a commodity or service will determine its price instead of being controlled by those who monopolize money.
Of course, under a true system of exchange the interest problem will be almost eliminated. It should be, but the experts in dealing in exchange will continue because of the good service they can render. The banking business will still be a necessity to mankind, but instead of having all deals measured in interest terms, as they are now, there will be charges for the work done and the responsibility assumed. Property will not be monopolized by a few and given a status that is superior to personal rights, and sums of money and properties will not then perpetually offset in earning power the work and energy of human beings. This money and property will, of course, serve humanity as products of the prior industrial accumulation and therefore reduce the requirements for present production to the extent of the accumulation, and the owners would be able to take advantage of that fact, and go off on a vacation if they cared to while they were consuming what they had received as a result of such an advantage. But they cannot set it aside and contract, with the Government backing such a contract, that the equivalent of each dollar should form the basis on which to extort compound interest from the present and future generations that should not and cannot be paid. Again I refer the reader back to the table of compound interest for a positive proof of the impossibility of continuing our present system.
I have not advocated in this volume anything that is impracticable. What I advocate is natural and just, but inasmuch as it differs from what we are accustomed to hearing sanctioned, it will be bitterly attacked by those who have the special advantages at the present time. They are in a position to make us trouble, because the system is so arbitrary that they can bring on a panic even if Gods Glorious Creative Forces should respond to mans desires in a more bountiful way than ever before.
There are many things in connection with this great subject of Banking and Currency that I would discuss further in this volume if the interests were not urging the early adoption of the kind of banking and currency laws that they wish Congress to enact, and which would only favor them. I consider it necessary to put this volume out as rapidly as it can be done. I do that in the belief that at least in some measure it will result in reducing the number of the jokers that are certain to go through Congress in the next banking and currency bill that will be passed. I know enough about the situation here in Congress to be aware of the fact that the legislation that will be enacted will be favorable to the special interests. It may contain some sop to the people, as the conniving politicians here in Washington state with a wink at each other, but it will not be a peoples banking and currency measure that will be next adopted. There may be some compromise, and it may be better than what we now have, but the people are entitled to all that is due to them, and they will not get it from this Sixty-third Congress. If the people were to study and understand their rights, and elect men to represent them who understand and favor just and fair legislation, it would not be difficult to frame honest and just laws for the practical government of the financial dealings of the people. That could be done before the election of the Sixty-fourth Congress, and that Congress could be elected for that purpose. I do not make that statement from the standpoint of any party, because I do not believe in the control of Congress by any party.
The present Congress is run by a caucus system and so long as that is done there is little chance of getting into a bill provisions that have not been approved by the bosses, because the bosses will only approve of things favorable to the people as a whole when they believe that the people themselves will fail to re-elect them if they do not. Under this present system of running Congress by a party caucus, the minority of the people are bound to rule. Even honest members, misguided by a false notion of party obligation, submit to the dictates of an unofficial caucus and become the tools of the boss system. No man should be re-elected to Congress who has entered into the councils of a caucus with the public excluded, unless he unequivocally promises never again to do so. In other words, no one should be left without hope if he reforms. Let him be ever so honest, and even very able, his submission to such an ordeal as a method of transacting public business is proof of his incapacity to appreciate the purposes for which the Government of the United States was organized-namely, to be run by the people in the interests of all of the people, and not as a party movement to be controlled by a faction of the people in the interests of a faction of the people.
This volume advises of many of the present inconsistencies in the practice of finances. I shall follow it later with a revision which will show how the farm and other credits should be provided for.