Essai sur la Nature du Commerce in Général (Essay on the Nature of Trade in General)

Cantillon, Richard
(1680-1734)
BIO
Display paragraphs in this book containing:
Editor/Trans.
Henry Higgs, ed. and trans.
First Pub. Date
1730?
Publisher/Edition
London: Frank Cass and Co., Ltd.
Pub. Date
1959
Comments
Includes "Richard Cantillon and the Nationality of Political Economy," by W. Stanley Jevons (1881).
Start PREVIOUS
36 of 43
NEXT End

Part III, Chapter V

Of the augmentation and diminution of coin in denomination

III.V.1

According to the principles we have established the quantity of money circulating in exchange fixes and determines the price of everything in a State taking into account the rapidity or sluggishness of circulation.

III.V.2

We often see however in the increases and decreases practised in France such strange variations that it might be supposed that market prices correspond rather to the nominal value of coin than to its quantity in exchange, the quantity of livres tournois in money of account rather than the quantity of marks and ounces, which seems directly opposed to our principles.

III.V.3

Suppose, as happened in 1714, the ounce of silver or écu is current for 5 livres and the King publishes an Arrêt which orders the lowering of the écu every month for 20 months, viz. 1 per cent. per month to reduce its nominal value to 4 livres instead of 5. Let us see will be naturally the consequences of this having regard to the spirit of the Nation.

III.V.4

All those who owe money will make haste to pay it during the diminutions so as not to lose by them. Undertakers and Merchants find it easy to borrow money, which decides the least able and the least accredited to increase their enterprise. They borrow money, as they fancy, without interest and load themselves with merchandise at current prices. They even raise prices by the violence of their demands. Vendors have difficulty in getting rid of their merchandise for money which must diminish in their hands in nominal value. They turn towards foreign merchandise and import considerable quantities of it for the consumption of several years. All this causes money to circulate more rapidly and raises the price of everything. Then high prices prevent the foreigner from taking merchandise from France as usual. France keeps her own merchandise and at the same time imports great quantities. This double operation is the reason why considerable amounts of specie must be sent abroad to pay the balance.

III.V.5

The rate of exchange never fails to shew this disadvantage. Exchange is commonly seen at 6 and 10 per cent. against France during these diminutions. Enlightened people in France hoard their money in these times. The King finds means to borrow much money on which he willingly loses the diminution, proposing to compensate himself by an augmentation at the end of the diminution.

III.V.6

With this object after several diminutions they begin to hoard money in the King's Treasury, to postpone the payments, pensions, and army pay. In these circumstances money becomes extremely rare at the end of the diminutions both by reason of the sums hoarded by the King and various individuals and by reason of the nominal value of the coin, which value is diminished. The amounts sent abroad also contribute greatly to the scarcity of money, and this scarcity gradually brings it about that the merchandise with which the Undertakers are loaded up is offered at 50 or 60 per cent. below the prices prevailing at the time of the first diminutions. Circulation falls into convulsions. Hardly enough money can be found to send to market. Many Undertakers and Merchants go bankrupt and their merchandise is sold at bargain prices.

III.V.7

Then the King augments anew the coinage, settles the new écu or ounce of silver of the new issue at 5 livres, begins with this new coinage to pay the troops and the pensions. The old coinage is demonetised and received at the Mint at a lower nominal value. The King profits by the difference.

III.V.8

But all the sums of new coinage which come from the Mint do not restore the abundance of money in circulation. The amounts kept hoarded by individuals and those sent abroad greatly exceed the nominal increase on the coinage which comes from the Mint.

III.V.9

The cheapness of merchandise in France begins to draw thither the money of the foreigner, who finding it 50 or 60 or more per cent. cheaper sends gold and silver metal to France to buy it. In this way the foreigner who sends his bullion to the Mint recoups himself easily from the tax paid there on this bullion. He finds the double advantage of the low price of the merchandise he buys, and the loss of the Mint charge falls really on the French in the sale of their merchandise to the foreigner. They have merchandise enough for several years' consumption. They resell to the Dutch, for example, the spices which they bought of them for two thirds of what they paid. All this takes place gradually, the foreigner decides to buy these merchandises from France only because of their cheapness. The balance of trade, which was against France at the time of the diminutions turns in her favour at the time of augmentation, and the King is able to profit by 20 per cent. or more on all the bullion brought into France and taken to the Mint. As Foreigners now owe a trade balance to France and have not in their country coins of the new issue they must take their bullion and coins of the old issue to the Mint to obtain new coins for payment. But this trade balance which Foreigners owe to France arises only from the merchandise which they import from it at low prices.

III.V.10

France is all round the dupe of these operations. She pays very high prices for foreign goods during the diminutions, sells them back at very low prices at the time of the augmentation to the same foreigners, sells her own merchandise at low prices which she had kept so high during the diminutions and so it would be difficult for all the money which left France during the diminutions to come back during the augmentation.

III.V.11

If coins of the new issue are counterfeited abroad, as is nearly always the case, France loses the 20 per cent. which the King has established as the Mint charge. This is so much gained for the Foreigner who profits further by the low prices of merchandise in France.

III.V.12

The King makes a considerable profit by the Mint tax, but it costs France three times as much to enable him to make this profit.

III.V.13

It is well understood that when there is a current balance of trade in favour of France against the foreigner the King is able to raise a tax of 20 per cent. or more by a new coinage and an increase in the nominal value of coins. But if the trade balance was against France at the time of this new coinage and augmentation the operation would have no success and the King would not derive a great profit from it. The reason is that in this case it is necessary to send money continually abroad. But the old écu is as good in foreign countries as the new. That being so the Jews and Bankers will give a premium or bonus in secret for the old coins and the individual who can sell them above the Mint price will not take them thither. At the Mint they give him only about 4 livres for his écu, but the Banker will give him at first 4 livres 5 sols, and then 4 livres 10, and at last 4 livres 15. And this is how it may happen that an augmentation of the coinage may lack success. It can hardly happen when the raising is made after the lowerings indicated, because then the balance naturally turns in favour of France, as we have explained.

III.V.14

The experience of the augmentation of 1726 may serve to confirm all this. The diminutions which had preceded this augmentation were made suddenly without warning, which prevented the ordinary operations of diminutions. This prevented the trade balance from turning strongly in favour of France at the augmentation of 1726, few people took their old coin to the Mint, and the profit of the Mint tax which was in view had to be abandoned.

III.V.15

It is not within my subject to explain the reasons of Ministers for lowering the coinage suddenly nor the reasons which deceived them in their project of the augmentation of 1726. I have mentioned the increases and decreases in France only because their results seem sometimes to clash with the principles I have established that abundance or scarcity of money in a State raises or lowers all prices proportionably.

III.V.16

After explaining the effects of lowering and raising the coinage, as practised in France, I maintain that they neither destroy nor weaken my principles, for if I am told that what cost 20 livres or 5 ounces of silver before the lowering referred to does not even cost 4 ounces or 20 livres of the new money after the augmentation, I will assent to this without departing from my principles, because there is less money in circulation than there was before the diminutions, as I have explained. The difficulties of exchange in the times and operations of which we speak cause variations in the prices of things and in that of the interest of money which cannot be taken as a rule in the ordinary principles of circulation and dealing.

III.V.17

The change in the nominal value of money has at all times been the effect of some disaster or scarcity in the State, or of the ambition of some Prince or individual. In the year A.U.C. 157 Solon increased the nominal value of the drachma of Athens after a sedition and abolition of debt. Between A.U.C. 490 and 512 the Roman Republic several times increased the nominal value of its copper coins, so that their as came to be worth six. The pretext was to provide for the needs of the State and to pay the debts incurred in the first Punic War. This did not fail to cause great confusion. In 663 Livius Drusus, Tribune of the people, increased the nominal value of silver coins by one eighth, lowering their fineness by that amount, and this gave occasion to introduce confusion into exchange. In A.U.C. 712 Mark Antony in his Triumvirate increased the nominal value of silver by 5 per cent., mixing iron with the silver, to meet the needs of the Triumvirate. Many Emperors subsequently debased or increased the nominal value of the coinage. The Kings of France at different times have done likewise. This is why the livre tournois, which was worth a pound weight of silver has sunk to so little value. These proceedings have never failed to cause disorder in States. It matters little or nothing what is the nominal value of coins provided it be permanent. The pistole of Spain is worth 9 livres or florins in Holland, about 18 livres in France, 37 livres 10 sols at Venice, 50 livres at Parma. In the same proportion values are exchanged between these different countries. The price of everything increases gradually when the nominal valne of coins increases, and the actual quantity in weight and fineness of the coins, taking into account the rapidity of circulation, is the base and regulator of values. A State neither gains nor loses by the raising or lowering of these coins so long as it keeps the same quantity of them, though individuals may gain or lose by the variation according to their engagements. All people are full of false prejudice and false ideas as to the nominal value of their coinage. We have shewn in the Chapter on Exchanges that the invariable rule of them is the price and fineness of the current coins of different countries, marc for marc and ounce for ounce. If a raising or lowering of the nominal value changes this rule for a time in France it is only during a crisis and difficulty in trade. A return is always made little by little to intrinsic value, to which prices are necessarily brought both in the market and in the foreign exchanges.

Start PREVIOUS
37 of 43
NEXT End

Part III, Chapter VI

Of Banks and their Credit

III.VI.1

If a hundred economical gentlemen or Proprietors of Land, who put by every year money from their savings to buy Land on occasion, deposit each one 10,000 ounces of silver with a Goldsmith or Banker in London, to avoid the trouble of keeping this money in their houses and the thefts which might be made of it, they will take from them notes payable on demand. Often they will leave their money there a long time, and even when they have made some purchase they will give notice to the Banker some time in advance to have their money ready when the formalities and legal documents are complete.

III.VI.2

In these circumstances the Banker will often be able to lend 90,000 ounces of the 100,000 he owes throughout the year and will only need to keep in hand 10,000 ounces to meet all the withdrawals. He has to do with wealthy and economical persons; as fast as one thousand ounces are demanded of him in one direction, a thousand are brought to him from another. It is enough as a rule for him to keep in hand the tenth part of his deposits. There have been examples and experiences of this in London. Instead of the individuals in question keeping in hand all the year round the greatest part of 100,000 ounces the custom of depositing it with a Banker causes 90,000 ounces of the 100,000 to be put into circulation. This is primarily the idea one can form of the utility of banks of this sort. The Bankers or Goldsmiths contribute to accelerate the circulation of money. They lend it out at interest at their own risk and peril, and yet they are or ought to be always ready to cash their notes when desired on demand.

III.VI.3

If an individual has 1000 ounces to pay to another he will give him in payment the Banker's note for that amount. This other will perhaps not go and demand the money of the Banker. He will keep the note and give it on occasion to a third person in payment, and this note may pass through several hands in large payments without any one going for a long time to demand the money from the Banker. It will be only some one who has not complete confidence or has several small sums to pay who will demand the amount of it. In this first example the cash of a Banker is only the tenth part of his trade.

III.VI.4

If 100 individuals or Landowners deposit with a Banker their income every six months as it is received, and then demand their money back as and when they have need to spend it, the Banker will be in a position to lend much more of the money which he owes and receives at the beginning of the half years, for a short term of some months, than he will be towards the end of these periods. And his experience of the conduct of his clients will teach him that he can hardly lend during the whole year more than about one half of the sums which he owes. Bankers of this kind will be ruined in credit if they fail for one instant to pay their notes on their first presentation, and when they are short of cash in hand they will give anything to have money at once, that is to say a much higher interest than they receive on the sums they have lent. Hence they make it a rule based on their experience to keep always in hand enough to meet demands, and rather more than less. Many Bankers of this kind (and they are the greatest number) always keep in hand half the amount deposited with them and lend the other half at interest and put it into circulation. In this second example the Banker causes his notes of 100,000 ounces or écus to circulate with 50,000 écus.

III.VI.5

If he has a great flow of deposits and great credit this increases confidence in his notes, and makes people less eager to cash them, but only delays, his payments a few days or weeks when the notes fall into the hands of persons who are not accustomed to deal with him, and he ought always to guide himself by those who are accustomed to entrust their money to him. If his notes come into the hands of those of his own business they will have nothing more pressing than to withdraw the money from him.

III.VI.6

If those who deposit money with the Banker are Undertakers and Merchants who pay in large sums daily and soon after draw them out it will often happen that if the Banker divert more than one third of his cash he will find himself in difficulty to meet the demands.

III.VI.7

It is easy to understand by these examples that the sums of money which a Goldsmith or a Banker can lend at interest or divert from his cash are naturally proportionable to the practice and conduct of his clients; that while we have seen Bankers who were safe with a cash reserve of one-tenth, others can hardly keep less than one half or two-thirds, though their credit be as high as that of the first.

III.VI.8

Some trust one Banker, some another. The most fortunate is the Banker who has for clients rich gentlemen who are always looking out for safe employment for their money without wishing to invest it at interest while they wait.

III.VI.9

A general national bank has this advantage over the bank of a single Goldsmith that there is always more confidence in it. The largest deposits are willingly brought to it, even from the most remote quarters of the city, and it leaves generally to small Bankers only the deposit of petty sums in their neighbourhood. Even the revenues of the State are paid in to it in countries where the Prince is not absolute. And this, far from injuring credit and confidence in it, serves only to increase them.

III.VI.10

If payments in a national bank are made by transfers or clearings there will be this advantage, that they are not subject to forgeries, but if the Bank gives notes false notes may be made and cause disorder. There will be also this disadvantage that those who are in the quarters of the city at a distance from the Bank will rather pay and receive in money than go thither, especially those in the country. But if the bank notes are dispersed they can be used far and near. In the national Banks of Venice and Amsterdam payment is made only in book credit, but in that of London it is made in credit, in notes, and in money at the choice of the individuals, and it is today the strongest Bank.

III.VI.11

It will then be understood that all the advantage of Banks, public or private in a city, is to accelerate the circulation of money and to prevent so much of it from being hoarded as it would naturally be for several intervals.

Start PREVIOUS
38 of 43
NEXT End

Part III, Chapter VII

III.VII.1

It is of little importance to examine why the Bank of Venice and that of Amsterdam keep their books in moneys of account different from current money, and why there is always an agio on converting these book credits into currency. It is not a point of any service for circulation. The Bank of England has not followed it in this. Its accounts, its notes and its payments are made and are kept in current coin, which seems to me more uniform and more natural and no less useful.

III.VII.2

I have not been able to obtain exact information of the quantity of sums ordinarily brought to these Banks, nor the amount of their notes and accounts, loans, and sums kept as reserve. Some one who is better informed on these points will be better able to discuss them. As, however, I know fairly well that these sums are not so huge as commonly supposed I will not omit to give an idea of them.

III.VII.3

If the bills and notes of the Bank of England which seems to me the most considerable, amount weekly on an average to 4,000,000 ounces of silver or about 1 million sterling, and if they are content to keep regularly in reserve a quarter or £250,000 sterling or 1 million ounces of silver in coin, the utility of this Bank to circulation corresponds to an increase of the money of the State by 3 million ounces or £750,000 sterling which is without doubt a very large sum and of very great utility for the circulation when it has need to be speeded up: for I have remarked elsewhere that there are cases where it is better for the welfare of the State to retard the circulation than to accelerate it. I have heard that the notes and bills of the Bank of England have risen in some cases to 2 millions sterling, but it seems to me this can only have been by extraordinary accident. And I think the utility of this Bank corresponds in general only to about one tenth part of all the money in circulation in England.

III.VII.4

If the explanations given to me in round figures in 1719 on the receipts of the Bank of Venice are correct it may be said of national banks generally that their utility never corresponds to the tenth part of the current money circulating in a State. This is approximately what I ascertained there.

III.VII.5

The revenues of the State of Venice may amount annually to 4 million ounces of silver, which must be paid in Bank money, and the Collectors set up for that purpose who receive at Bergamo and in the most distant places taxes in money, are obliged to change them into bank money when they make payment of them to the Republic.

III.VII.6

All payments at Venice for negociations, purchases and sales above a certain modest sum must by law be made in Bank money. All the retailers who have collected current money in their dealings are compelled to buy Bank money with it to make their payments for large amounts. And those who need for their expenses or for the detail of small circulation to get back current money have to sell their Bank money to obtain it.

III.VII.7

It is found that the sellers and buyers of the Bank money are regularly equal when the total of all the credits or inscriptions on the books of the Bank do not exceed the value of 800,000 ounces of silver or thereabout.

III.VII.8

Time and experience (according to my informant) have given this knowledge to the Venetians. When the Bank was first set up individuals brought their money to the Bank to have credit at the Bank of the same value. This money deposited at the Bank was later spent for the needs of the Republic and yet the Bank money preserved its original value because there were as many people who had need to buy it as those who had need to sell it. Finally the State being pressed for money gave to the War Contractors credits in Bank money instead of silver and doubled the amount of its credits.

III.VII.9

Then the number of sellers of Bank money being much greater than the buyers Bank money began to be at a discount against silver and fell 20 per cent. below. By this discredit the revenue of the Republic fell off one fifth and the only remedy found for this disorder was to pledge part of the State revenue to borrow Bank money at interest. By these borrowings of Bank money half of them were cancelled and then the sellers and buyers being about equal the Bank regained its original credit and the total of Bank money was brought back to 800,000 ounces of silver.

III.VII.10

It is thus that it has been ascertained that the utility of the Bank of Venice as regards circulation corresponds to about 800,000 ounces of silver: and if it is supposed that all the current money in the States of that Republic amount to 8 million ounces of silver the utility of the Bank corresponds to one tenth of that silver.

III.VII.11

A national Bank in the Capital of a great Kingdom or State must, it seems, contribute less to the utility of circulation because of the distance of its Provinces, than in a small State. And when money circulates there in greater abundance than among its neighbours a national Bank does more harm than good. An abundance of fictitious and imaginary money causes the same disadvantages as an increase of real money in circulation, by raising the price of Land and Labour, or by making works and manufactures more expensive at the risk of subsequent loss. But this furtive abundance vanishes at the first gust of discreet and precipitates disorder.

III.VII.12

Towards the middle of the reign of Louis XIV there was more money in circulation in France than in neighbouring countries, and the King's revenue was collected there without the help of a Bank, as easily and conveniently as it is collected today in England with the help of the Bank of England.

III.VII.13

If the clearings at Lyons in one of its four Fairs amount to 80 millions of livres, if they are begun and finished with a single million of ready money, they are doubtless of great convenience in saving the trouble of an infinity of transports of silver from one house to another. But with that exception it seems that with this same million of cash which began and ended these clearings it would be quite feasible to conduct in three months all the payments of 80 millions.

III.VII.14

The Paris bankers have often observed that the same bag of money has come back to them 4 or 5 times in the same day when they had a good deal to pay out and receive.

III.VII.15

I think pubic banks of very great utility in small States and those where silver is rather scarce, but of little service for the solid advantage of a great State.

III.VII.16

The Emperor Tiberius, a Prince strict and economical, had saved up in the Imperial Treasury 2700 millions of sesterces, equal to 25 millions sterling or 100 million ounces of silver, an enormous sum in coin for those times and even for today. It is true that in tying up so much money he embarrassed the circulation and that silver became scarcer at Rome than it had been.

III.VII.17

Tiberius, who attributed this scarcity to the monopoly of Contractors and Financiers who farmed the Imperial revenues, ordered by an edict that they should buy land up to at least two thirds of their capital. This Edict, instead of animating the circulation threw it completely into disorder. All the Financiers hoarded and called in their capital under the pretext of putting themselves into a position to obey the Edict by buying land, which instead of rising in value sunk to a much lower price owing to the scarcity of silver in circulation. Tiberius remedied this scarcity by lending to individuals on good security only 300 million sesterces, a ninth part of the money which he had in his Treasury.

III.VII.18

If the ninth part of the Treasury sufficed at Rome to re-establish the circulation it would seem that the establishment of a general Bank in a great Kingdom where its utility would never correspond to the tenth part of the money in circulation when it is not hoarded, would be of no real and permanent advantage, and that considered in its intrinsic value it can only be regarded as an expedient for gaining time.

III.VII.19

But a real increase in the quantity of circulating money is of a different nature. We have already spoken of it and the Treasure of Tiberius gives us again occasion to say a word of it here, This treasure of 2700 millions of sesterces, left at the death of Tiberius, was squandered by the Emperor Caligula his successor in less than a year. Money was never seen so abundant at Rome. What was the result? This mass of money plunged the Romans into luxury and into all sorts of crimes to pay for it. More than 60,000 pounds sterling left the Empire every year for the merchandise of the Indies, and in less than 30 years the Empire grew poor and silver became very scarce there without any dismemberment or loss of a Province.

III.VII.20

Though I consider a general Bank is in reality of very little solid service in a great State I allow that there are circumstances in which a Bank may have effects which seem astonishing.

III.VII.21

In a city where there are public debts for considerable amounts the facility of a Bank enables one to buy and sell capital stock in a moment for enormous sums without causing any disturbance in the circulation. If at London a person sells his South Sea stock to buy stock in the Bank or in the East India Company, or hoping that in a short time he will be able to buy at a lower price stock in the same South Sea Company, he always takes Banknotes, and generally money is not asked for in respect of these Notes but only for the interest on them. As one hardly spends one's capital there is no need to change it into coin, but one is always forced to ask the Bank for money for subsistence since cash is needed for small dealings.

III.VII.22

If a Landowner who has 1000 ounces of silver pays 200 of them for the interest of public stock and spends 800 ounces of them himself, the thousand ounces will always require coinage. This proprietor will spend 800 and the Owners of the funds will spend 200 of them. But when these Proprietors are in the habit of speculation, selling and buying public stock, no ready silver is needed for these operations, bank notes suffice. If it were necessary to draw hard cash out of circulation to serve in these purchases and sales it would amount to a great sum and would often impede the circulation, or rather it would happen in that case that the stocks could not be sold and bought so often.

III.VII.23

It is doubtless the origin of these capitals or money deposited in the Bank and drawn out only on rare occasions, such as when an owner of capital engages in some transaction or needs cash for small purchases, which explains why the Bank keeps in reserve only the fourth or sixth part of the silver against which it issues notes. If the Bank had not the funds of many of these capitals it would in the ordinary course of circulation find itself compelled like private banks to keep half its deposits in hand to be solvent. It is true that the Bank books and its dealings do not distinguish those capitals which pass through several hands in the sales and purchases made in Change Alley. These notes are often renewed at the Bank and changed against others in purchases. But the experience of purchases and sales of stock show clearly that the total of them is considerable, and without these purchases and sales the sums deposited at the Bank would be certainly smaller.

III.VII.24

This means that when a State is not in debt and has no need of purchases and sales of stock the help of a Bank will be less necessary and less important.

III.VII.25

In 1720 the capital of public stock and of Bubbles which were snares and enterprises of private companies at London, rose to the value of 800 millions sterling, yet the purchases and sales of such pestilential stocks were carried on without difficulty through the quantity of notes of all kinds which were issued, while the same paper money was accepted in payment of interest. But as soon as the idea of great fortunes induced many individuals to increase their expenses, to buy carriages, foreign linen and silk, cash was needed for all that, I mean for the expenditure of the interest, and this broke up all the systems.

III.VII.26

This example shews that the paper and credit of public and private Banks may cause surprising results in everything which does not concern ordinary expenditure for drink and food, clothing, and other family requirements, but that in the regular course of the circulation the help of Banks and credit of this kind is much smaller and less solid than is generally supposed. Silver alone is the true sinews of circulation.

Start PREVIOUS
39 of 43
NEXT End

Part III, Chapter VIII

Of the Refinements of Credit of General Banks

III.VIII.1

The national Bank of London*9 is composed of a large number of shareholders who make choice of Directors to govern its operations. Their primitive advantage consisted in making a yearly distribution of the profits made by interest on the money lent out of the Bank deposits. Later the public debt was incorporated with it, on which the State pays an annual interest.

III.VIII.2

In spite of such a solid foundation when the Bank had made large advances to the State and the holders of notes were apprehensive that the Bank was in difficulties, a run on the Bank has been seen and holders of notes went in crowds to the Bank to draw out money. The same thing happened on the collapse of the South Sea Company in 1720.

III.VIII.3

The refinements introduced to support the Bank and moderate its discredit were first to set up a number of clerks to count out the money to those bringing notes, to pay out large amounts in sixpences and shillings to gain time, to pay some part to individual holders who had been waiting whole days to take their turn; but the most considerable sums were paid to friends who took them away and brought them back secretly to the Bank to repeat the same manœuvre the next day. In this way the Bank saved its appearance and gained time until the panic should abate. But when that did not suffice the Bank opened a subscription engaging trusty and solvent people to join as guarantors of large amounts to maintain the credit and circulation of the Bank notes.

III.VIII.4

It was by this last refinement that the credit of the Bank was maintained in 1720 when the South Sea Company collapsed. As soon as it was publicly known that the subscription list was filled by wealthy and powerful people, the run on the Bank ceased and deposits were brought in as usual.

III.VIII.5

If a Minister of State in England, seeking to lower the rate of interest or for other reasons, forces up the price of public stock in London and if he has enough credit with the Directors of the Bank (under the obligation of indemnifying them in case of loss) to get them to issue a quantity of bank notes without backing, begging them to use these notes themselves to buy several blocks and capitals of the public stock, this stock will not fail to rise in price through these operations. And those who have sold stock, seeing the high price continue, will perhaps decide (so as not to leave their bank notes idle and thinking from the rumours spread about that the rate of interest will fall and the stock go up further in price) to buy it back at a higher price than they sold it for. If several people seeing the agents of the Banks buy this stock step in and do likewise thinking to profit like them, the public funds will increase in price to the point which the Minister wishes. And it may happen that the Bank will cleverly resell at a higher price all the stock it has purchased at the Minister's request, and will not only make a large profit on it but will retire and cancel all the extraordinary banknotes which it had issued.

III.VIII.6

If the Bank alone raises the price of public stock by buying it, it will by so much depress it when it resells to cancel its excess issue of notes. But it always happens that many people wishing to follow the Agents of the Bank in their operations help to keep up the price. Some of them get caught for want of understanding these operations, in which there enter infinite refinements or rather trickery which lie outside my subject.

III.VIII.7

It is then undoubted that a Bank with the complicity of a Minister is able to raise and support the price of public stock and to lower the rate of interest in the State at the pleasure of this Minister when the steps are taken discreetly, and thus pay off the State debt. But these refinements which open the door to making large fortunes are rarely carried out for the sole advantage of the State, and those who take part in them are generally corrupted. The excess banknotes, made and issued on these occasions, do not upset the circulation, because being used for the buying and selling of stock they do not serve for household expenses and are not changed into silver. But if some panic or unforeseen crisis drove the holders to demand silver from the Bank the bomb would burst and it would be seen that these are dangerous operations.


Notes for this chapter


9.
The Bank of England is alluded to here and in the previous chapter as the Banque of Londres.

Jevons, "The Nationality of Political Economy"

Footnotes below are by Jevons except as noted.

End of Notes


Start PREVIOUS
39 of 43
NEXT End

Return to top