Money has several different uses. It is used for exchanging, comparing, computing, dividing, storing, and transporting values. But the peculiar and essential function and use of money is to help mankind make exchanges and compare the value of one thing with that of another. How money can take the place of a third person: how an exchange of two things can be made by converting one or both of them into a third article, and then exchanging this third article for the desired object; and how money is used as a help and guide in comparing values, must be clearly understood before any definite conception of the various currency problems is possible. At the risk of being tedious, I will therefore use further illustrations as an aid to the reader in thinking these matters slowly over.
Whether a related series of statements which purport to be “scientific” are actually so, we must first ascertain if the premises be true. We must examine the alleged foundation facts and see if they actually exist. If we find that such facts have been correctly stated, we must then consider whether the reasoning from those facts has been properly done. If we find any statement or theory which is the result either of bad reasoning, or at variance with positive facts, we have conclusive proof that such statement or theory is partially or wholly false. Moreover, we have reason to suspect that the whole fabric of the so-called science is built on foundations more or less rotten and defective.
A plow is comparatively a simple tool. But no one can fully understand the meaning of the word “plow ” without carefully watching one in operation. He must learn why and how it is used before he thoroughly knows what the tool is and why it is made just as it is. The same is true of everything. In order to clearly understand the meaning of the term ” money ” we must act just as we do when we want to fully understand anything else. We must begin at the bottom of the subject; we must first learn the uses of money — why we use it and the purpose we accomplish by using it.
As the chief use of money is to act as the symbol and representative of wealth and capital, those terms must be understood before the use of money can be comprehended. Many persons suppose that the labors and sacrifices of mankind have for their object the possession of money. There are a small number of insane persons called misers, who spend years of hard labor and privation for the sole purpose of collecting money and fondly gazing at it. But, with these few exceptions, human industry is not incited by the desire to obtain money. The first and ever dominant motive to labor is the imperative necessity of providing food, shelter, warmth and clothing sufficient to maintain life.
After the actual necessities of man’s animal life are supplied, his intellectual and moral nature makes still further demands. Men labor to supply the wants which they have in common with the lower animals; they labor to obtain means to gratify their emotions, passions and tastes, and they are continually goaded to industry by an ever widening circle of real or fancied wants. These objects of human endeavor are comprised by the term “wealth.”
The miner for silver and gold has not fully attained his object when those metals are in his possession. He exchanges them for a homestead, a farm, or such other commodity or thing as his necessities and fancy may dictate. Man’s vanity continually prompts him to desire an honorable and prominent position among his fellows, and in the estimation of the majority such a place is reached by the possession of a greater abundance and better quality of the necessaries and luxuries of life. Wealth is also desired as a means of gratifying social, moral, and religious sentiments.
When wealth can be obtained without money, men care nothing for money. Beyond the small amount of wealth absolutely necessary to maintain life, men care nothing for wealth whenever their desires can be obtained without wealth. An office which brings little money and much honor is eagerly sought for. Human desires of various kinds generate the force which makes the world a scene of unceasing struggles. Money is eagerly sought as a means of getting wealth, and wealth is desired as a stepping-stone to gratify the myriad cravings of the human mind