Cranky Notions

[2]Cranky Notions

by Joseph A. Labadie

Bro. Hinshaw’s letter in last week’s paper must have been written on the spur of the moment and without due consideration, because I feel sure he can now see the errors in it himself. What matters if the federal constitution did have to be changed? Is the constitution the sum of all human wisdom? and is it not possible to improve upon a document written a hundred years ago? Have we not learned anything in social and economic sciences in all these years? It doesn’t matter anything to me what Jefferson would think of a changed constitution? I believe he himself was a revolutionist and helped to make some very noticeable changes in the affairs of this country. And if I am not mistaken he once wrote a document in which the following occurs: That to secure these rights [certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness] governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter and abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organising its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

He also wrote: Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he then be trusted with the government of others?

Now, it seems to me that our government has been destructive of our unalienable rights. Has it not given our lands and moneys to corporations, and made merchandise of the gifts of nature which by right belong to every human creature alike?

Has it not arranged its financial system so that it works against the masses and in the interests of banking corporations and Shylocks?

Under government and law and order does not the thief Ward, who stole millions of dollars, get only 10 years in prison; and a poor cuss in Michigan who only stole $2 get 10 years also?

These cases are not special—they are general.

If our Congress is too corrupt to have charge of creating the tool of exchange, it is also too corrupt to exist—better abolish it, says Bro. Hinshaw. Amen, I say; and that is just exactly what we propose to do. If men can govern themselves, what do we want a Congress for? Are congressmen better and wiser than other men? It is quite likely Congress will go on abusing the power it has.

If it is the prerogative of Congress to coin money and regulate the value thereof, why has it not done so? Why is it that a gold dollar stamped by the government was worth in February, 1862, $1.02 of paper money stamped by the same government, and in July, 1864, it was worth $2.85? It will be answered that Congress was influenced by the bankers to put a depreciating clause in the act creating its greenback paper money. And pray, when was the time that Congress was not influenced by bankers and corporations?

At any rate, I don’t believe it is possible for Congress to regulate the value of money. The common definition of the term value is simply this: The value of a thing is what you can get for it. I don’t say this is the correct definition, because at best it is a misleading term and has been the cause of more disputes and misunderstandings in economic discussions than almost any other term. Today on an average $1 may pay for a day’s labor; five years from now it may pay for only half a day’s labor, and possibly two days’ labor. Today $1 will buy 1 11-89 bushels of wheat; in 1874 it would buy two bushels.

The value of one thing compared with the value of other things must always maintain the same relation of supply and demand in order not to fluctuate.

Owing to unfavorable weather the wheat crop may be only half the ordinary crop. In the same year, and with the same outlay of labor and capital, the yield of corn might be extremely abundant, so much so that one bushel of wheat will buy five bushels of corn. The next season the conditions may be so altered that one bushel of wheat will buy only two bushels of corn. Now, the relative value of these two commodities have changed, and the relative value of both to a given amount of money may also be changed. Therefore the value of this given amount of money has fluctuated. In order to obviate this fluctuation, this rise and fall of the value of money, what will Congress have to do? Regulate its volume, it may be answered. But how can Congress keep its volume of money so as always to maintain the same relative value to labor and the bulk of labor-products? In my opinion, it cannot be done. Value is a thing beyond human control, and therefore Congress cannot control it any more than it can control the revolutions of the planets.