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Units Of Value, And Honesty Of Payment

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A dollar, wo are sometimes told with all gravity, is nothing else than "a unit of valué ;" and we are expected to beliove that whether th dollar in a certain quantity of silver, or only a piece of papar printod in a certain fashion, i of no consequence at all, inasmuch as its valué is tixed by Congress. But what are we to understand by that matheinatical phrase, " unit of valuó '? The phraseimplies that " valué " is a quality that can be in some seuso measured by comparing one valué with another. As we say that the longth of a oertain building isone hundred feet, or that the weight of a barrel of flour is two hundred pounds - measuring the length by units of length, and the woight by units of weight - so we measure valué by units of valué. If the barrel of nour is worfch ten dollars, and if the building with the land under it isequal in valueto tive thousand such barrels of flour, we express the fact by saying it is worth fifty thousand dollars. It is more convonient to define and compare the two values by oxpressing each of them in units of value. We say, arithmetically, the barrel of flour is worth ten dollars, and the building is worth fifty thousand dollars. In just the same way, it is more convenient and more intelligible to say that the building is one hundrod feet long, than to say it is thirty times as long as my umbrella ; or to say of the barrel that it weighs two hundred pounds, than to say thatit vreighs five hundred times as muoh as iuy inkstand. The unit of length and the unit of weight are ascertained with great exactness and fixed by law. That they be so ascertained and fixed is. of much importance not only to industry and commerce, but to moráis. Without safety against variation in measurement - that is in " weights and measures " - there would be very little buying and selling, jroduction would be rapidly diminished. Would a farmer in Illinois raiso much wlïeat for a d8tant market, if the bushei in New York were not pecisely the same with the bushei in which he measured thegrain at bis own throshing-floor ? If a man ordering goods from a distant market could not know definitely the length of the yard-stick in that market, or the capaoity of the bushei, or the weight of the pound, how long could he continue to trade on thoso terms - payingfora thousand yards, aud receiving, perhaps, nine hundred - paying for a hundred bushels, and receiviug, perhaps, seventy - paying for his order of a ton weight, and receiving, perhaps, fifteen hundred pounds? Can any believer in a balloon currency - inflated and elastic - give a roason why a definite and invariable unit of value is less important to the production and exchange of commodities or to good inoráis, than a definite and invariable unit of length or of weight '( The unit of length cannot be that which has no length of its own, but is longer or 8horter at the caprice of a despot ; nor will it make any difference whether that despot be a Sultan, a Seoretary, or an ignorant majority in Congress. So the unit of weight must be something that has actual weight independently of any law or usage that makes it the unit by which othor weights are measured. Why then must not thelunit of value be something that has a value of its own ? Values can no more be expressed in múltiples of something which has no value than goods can be weighed in the balance against pounda tbat aro imponderable. What then is the value of our unit of value, the dollar Ï The valuó of a dollar is - liko the value of a pair of shoes or a bushei of potatoes - just what the thing can be exchanged for in open market, or in othe r words, just what it will buy. To ascertain the value of a dollar, we must first know what sort of a dollar we are inquiring about. Do you mean a silver dollar, or the piece of printed paper which our wise government gives out as the equivalent of a dollar!' Everybody knows that these two things are not equal in value, and thattheActof Congress which ordained that they should be equal was no less impotent, and is to-day a great deal more mischievous, than if Congress liad ordained that there should be rain every Saturday afternoon. The newspapers teil us every morniug what the difference is between these two values ; and hour by hour any fluctuation of that difference is tiashed by the telegraph into all the shops of the money-changers. The value of either unit of value may be expressed in terms of the other. If to-day the silver dollar is worth a hundred and ten cents of our legal tender paper, the va!ue of the greenback is one mili more than ninety cents worth of silver, and no arbitrary power in Congress, or any where else can. add another mili to the value of that piece of paper. Undoubtedly, then, the greenback dollar has a value that can be measured by the universally recognized standard of value, namely the precious metáis. It is worth to-day (we will say) not (alas!) one hundred cents, but ninety. What gives it that value ( First, it is valuable to deblors as a ineans of obtaining a legal discharge from their obligations. Secondly, the government will receive it in payment of internal taxes and of postage - the value received by the collector and the postmaster being in reality reduced just as much as the greenbaok dollar is worth less than the true dollar. Thirdly, it is a promise, in the name of the United States, to pay a dollar ; and the hope that sooner or later way, perhaps, from now to never - that promise wül be redeemed is what keeps it in circulation as a means of effecting exchanges. The value then of this paper unit - as compared with all the values which it is to measure and express - is liable to great fluotuation. Assuming that to-day it is worth only one-tenth less than the value of the gold or silver unit, who can teil us that within ninety days it will not be two-tenths less ? With a sutíicient expansión of the currency - with successive floods of greenback paper emitted by a generous Congress - the value of this olastic unit will be three tenths or four tenths less than the value of the gold or silver which it pretends to stand for. - Nay, it has been proved by many an experiment that every expansión of the volume is a lessening of the value, and that in that method the value of tho greenback unit may be made " small by dogrees and beautifully lees " till it shall arrive at tho vanishing point. Once more, then, in the face of all contradiotion from theorists who assume that value can be created out of nothiug by the fi at of legislation, I appeal to comïiioii sense and to the moral sense. The principies on which I insist are such as these : I. The promise to pay a dollar is one thing ; the dollar promised is another thing. II. A promise which is not duly performed is a broken promise ; and the promise which is issued with the intention of not porforming it is a lie ; and if it was issued as a conisideration 'for something received by the promiser - a fraudulent lie. III. The value of a" piece of paper inscribed with a promise to pay money is just what that piece of paper will buy in open raarket ; and how much it will buy depends on the degreeof confidence which buyers and sellers have that the money promised will be paid, and the nearuess or remoteness of the day of payment. IV. A promise to pay is equally a promise, and the violation of it is equally shameful, whether the promiser be an individual, a Corporation, or a government; the only difference being that the holder oL a government promise has no redress iu case of a failure to pay. Individuals and corporations can be sued, and by proceRS of luw can be couipelled either to pay thoir obligations or to surrender their property. So much tho more shame for a government which, taking advantage from its irresponsibility, defrauds its creditors with promises which it does uot intend to pay. V. The honest man who finds himself unable tö pay his promissory notes, but is confident that his resources will enable hiui to make payment at some future day, asks for an extensión of time. Ile proposes a definite day when h will make full payment, or perhaps ft series of daya for successive installments. If bis creditors have oonfidence in his honesty and his resources, they consent to the arrangement ; and the relieved debtor goes on with his husmean. Why 'should not the government which finds itsolf at present unable to pay its prouiissory notes do just the same tbiiig 'r1 It would do so, if it woro honost. So ftir as relatos to this great national disgrace- the 1400,000,000 of dishonorod Treasury notes, the government is not the President, nor tho Secretary of the Treasury, but Congress. The majority in both houses 8eon)s determined to make the greenback currenoy worse, instead of taking any ineasures to make it botter. - What is the use of the Republican party with its great majority in each of those two houses ? That party is as much responsible for the financial polioy of the government as it can be for anything ; and what is it doing ? It is pormitting the Congress under its control to pursue a policy which, makes the nation a dishonored and dishonest debtor, which. stimulates reckless speculation, and unsettles the ethics of commerce, and which by tending to all sorts of extravaganoe in private as well as public expenditure, tends to all sorts óf immorality. - Chritll)l I' II OU.


Old News
Michigan Argus