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MONEY AND MORALS.
The popular notion of morals is that they experience of life, from his independent reconstitute a code of action which has its flections, from tradition and authority, from origin and its sanctions in theology or meta- the suggestions of philosophers and scholars, physics, and which contravenes human in- from the public opinion of his generation, clinations and interests. It is therefore as well as from the absolute and universal believed that morals are the peculiar do ideas to which he gives his faith. There is main of the preacher, who must try to per- not a single relation of life which does not suade his hearers to abandon the natural exert a moral discipline and produce moral instincts of interest, and to take for their education. There is not an experience of guide motives and objects whose authority life which does not have its effect upon is derived from absolute and universal ideas, character, that is upon moral being. the product of philosophy or revelation. Of all the experiences which are thus at The man so persuaded, acting from the faiths work, that set of them which is involved in and motives given to him, is expected to the acquisition of material good is the most act, often, if not always, without regard to universal to mankind, demands the most his interests, tastes and inclinations. From immediate attention, absorbs the most time. this point of view money seems to be little It would be a sorry outlook for the human congenial to morals, if it is not always di- race, if it were true that these experiences rectly hostile.
Money," as the term is were all the time exerting an influence which popularly and incorrectly used, (as a syno the preacher and moralist must regard as nym for wealth or capital,) seems to be the immoral. A careful examination will show symbol for self-interest. It seems to be that such is not the case. The satisfaction separated from all self-sacrifice, all care for of material wants is the first condition of others, for the whole, for posterity, 'for existence for the individual, the family, the thought, for eternity, by the most sordid care state, the church, the school, and every for the material, the immediate, the egoistic, institution which is useful to man. The and the perishable.
man eager for grand moral results, the imIt is not necessary for our present pur. petuous reformer, the impatient philanthropose to analyze this motive so as to show pist, fret and chafe at the restrictions how much truth there is in it. A man ab- imposed by the necessity of satisfying this sorbed in the care for his own health is just first condition; but it remains true neveras selfish and immoral as one who is absorb theless that the capital of any undertaking, ed in his own wealth. An ainbitious man however beneficent that undertaking may be may care for neither health nor wealth, yet is the limitation on its possibilities. For develop in the pursuit of power and fame the individual the acquisition or command the same sordid egoism. The immorality of capital is the necessary condition of adseems to lie, upon closer inspection, in the vancement to intellectual good. For the undue or exclusive devotion to one set of in- state there is no possibility of activity for terests, rather than in the devotion to wealth the general good without the use of wealth, alone. But the popular notion has other which the people must produce. Now the limitations and includes other falsehoods truest science simply coincides with the lonwhich are still more mischievous. The dis- gest and most homely experience, which cipline and education of man comes not generations of men have condensed into from one set of influences alone, but from popular maxims; in teaching that this wealth all which are brought to bear upon him by is only to be procured by means which exert human life. His morals are his judgments the most wholesonie moral influence on as to what things are wise and right for mankind,-industry and economy. Cominen, such as men are in this world, such as bined or coöperative efforts to shorten the this world is. lle gathers and forms these road to wealth, whenever they are sound and judgments, it may be insensibly, from his true, always prove to be only facilities for industry (to make it more productive), or consequences. We must, therefore, hold for economy (to make it more tempting and fast to our distinction that the acquisition more remunerative in its first stages). The of material good by industry and economy, immoral influences exerted by the pursuit belongs to the moral order, while it alone of wealth all lie in the “short cuts” which has any economic guarantees of success. men seek under impatience at the slow and We must look to our economic mistakes for sober methods of industry and economy. the explanation of the immoral products, as Industry and economy never trained any well as for the explanation of the economic men to immorality, and the wealth won in penalties, of the pursuit of wealth. that way never demoralized its possessor. So much we have said conceding someIndeed the tendency of things in modern thing to the popular misuse of money as a times, with the destruction of class privi- synonym for wealth or capital. Some illusleges, the extension of liberty, the populari- trations of the general doctrine are offered zation of education, and the introduction of if we look at money in its narrower sense of machinery, is to enhance every day the im- the medium of exchange. Stability of value portance of the economic virtues, industry, is one of the essential qualities of a good frugality, prudence, and temperance, and to money. We know of nothing which has an increase the penalties of the economic vices, absolutely stable value. We are driven to idleness, thriftlessness, improvidence, in- choose between good and better. We must temperance, and extravagance; because true regard it as a great advance in money if we and permament success is less and less likely can find anything more stable in value to to be attained save by practicing the vir- use for that purpose than the things which tues and avoiding the vices mentioned. we have been using; we must regard it as a Every sound reform which corrects inherited backward step to sink down to the use of a abuses, tends to make success in the pursuit material having less stability of value than of wealth depend more strictly upon industry the most stable known. If capital which is and economy. Every instance of bad legis- loaned is measured, as to its value, by monlation, and every economic mistake, forms a ey, and then if the value of money changes shelter for idleness, craft and fraud, and en- before the capital is repaid, the borrower ables those who practice the economic vices pays back either more or less capital than to live at the expense of those who practice he obtained. If fluctuations in the value of the economic virtues. Hence it appears money take place from natural causes there that the satisfaction of our material wants is this injustice, but there is no help for it. by the normal methods which are dictated by It must be counted amongst the ills and the facts of human observation and ex- risks of life. If the government or a clique perience, not only is not immoral, but it make use of legislation to adopt for money trains men directly forward to the point at something which is liable to great fluctuawhich the moralist or the religious teacher tions in value, they expose the community ought to meet them. When he comes to to these evils in a great degree, and make men so trained, with his absolute and uni- them a factor in all exchanges. If they versal doctrines, he will not find himself in adopt for money any sort of printed papers collision with their observation and ex- or notes which have no value as commodi. perience. Men trained to industry, thrift, ties, then these notes owe their value in cirand integrity in business, are not cynics orculation to the principle of monopoly. The epicureans; neither are they fanatics or en- community wants a certain number of “dolthusiasts. They know that the immediatelars” to do its business with. If the notes good is not always the real good. They are supplied for not more than that number understand patient and persevering effort of dollars they will circulate at their nomifor a remote result. They want to see the nal value. If more are issued, they will cirmeans provided adequate to the effect pro- culate in proportion to their number as composed to be attained, and they want to pared with the number of dollars wanted. look beyond immediate results to remoter The management of their value is therefore in the hands of the issuers. They can productive, but the employments now in depreciate them by issuing more. They question are exciting and irregular, more or can appreciate them by withdrawing some. less akin to gambling, and they require for Furthermore, if the amount of the notes be success craft and duplicity and audacity, not maintained at the same point, any change industry. Such occupations are followed by in the number of dollars required will affect a certain number under any currency systhe value of the notes. The consequence is tem, but a system of irredeemable paper that a currency of this kind not only is lia- nourishes them directly. Under that sysble to the fluctuations above described in a tem two men, both honest and well intenfar higher degree than any value money, but tioned, may sit down to make a contract, it may be made to fluctuate by the arbitrary and they are forced to lay a wager as to will of the issuers. If, therefore, the issuers what the fluctuations of the currency will increase the issues, or withdraw part of them, be before the time of the expiration of the they transfer a percentage of all the capital contract. If the paper advances, the debtor which is engaged in credit operations either will be robbed ; if it falls, the creditor will from the debtor to the creditor, or from the be robbed. An importer or an exporter creditor to the debtor. Such a power in the may exert himself to the utmost to carry on hands of any one, and such a risk to all who a legitimate business, but he will find that may be affected, must produce numerous the profits will depend at last on whether and complicated effects, not only on business he sold or bought gold correctly; that is, he directly, but on individual and national is perforce a gold gambler. A manufacturer character.
and his employes are set at war with each It is not a full description of the effect of other over the same risks and chances. If such a system to say that it tempts to gam- the paper falls and the manufacturer can bling. It forces everybody who makes a sell his goods higher in currency, he wins contract to gamble. The steady, methodi- until his men force up currency wages, cal, persevering pursuit of wealth which we which they never do until they suffer from described at the outset is not possible under the advancing prices. If the paper rises a system of redundant and depreciated pa- and prices fall, the manufacturer is ruined per. A gentleman not long ago replied to unless he can cut down currency wages, a remonstrance and warning about a certain which of course he tries to do immediately. speculation, that the men who were cautious If farmers export their products and sell had not made any money since the war, them for gold, the lower the paper falls the while those who never looked ahead twenty- more debts they can pay with a bushel of four hours had been getting rich all the wheat; if it rises the less debts will a bushel time. His observation had an element of pay. Thus the whole community, instead truth, and was at the same time a complete of being made up of industrious people, commentary on the paper system. While each pursuing his avocation in peace and prices were rising and credit was expanding contentment, and each contributing to the the gains went to those who would borrow national wealth, is divided up into cliques most recklessly, and who bought to sell and interests which are perforce at war with again, or to the middle men who handled each other. People are educated to believe the goods between the producer and con- that this is the normal and true aspect of sumer, or to those who handled the fluctu- the economic interests of society. The greatating currency in which the consumer paid est cleverness in business is directed to the the producer. The population, especially formation of combinations and monopolies the young who were growing up and seeking —that is, to the enlistment of armies for openings, were drawn away from the indus- this war. One is considered a vain theorist tries which are directly productive into those if hexries to teach that a community has no which are speculative, and add nothing to means of getting wealth but its lahor, its the wealth of the country. Speculation has capital, and its land ; that if the people will forms which are legitimate and indirectly simply go to work, each in such occupation
as suits him best, he and all will prosper to- standards of honor which rest distinctly on gether, and because of each other's prosper- what is true, as distinguished from false preity; and that they want nothing of the tence, decline until honor is considered only money save to measure each man's earnings an empty sound. The highest standard of and savings as accurately as possible. Such honesty is “ law-honesty,” and it is only an is the education which the paper system exaggeration when even arithmetic is imgives. It is not strange that public opinion pugned, and it is declared that 92=100. is found to be flaccid and vitiated when it Why not? A bit of paper never is a dollar. comes to attempting either economic, politi- We call it so, and find that a conventional cal or moral reforms. The active generation fiction to that effect can be made to operate changes every fifteen years. The men now so as at least to conceal the more glaring forty years of age, in the prime of life, have untruth from superficial observation. Only had no experience of anything but the pa- those who are trained to observe the facts, per system. If they have not traveled or or those who are situated at the proper point studied history to a sufficient degree, then for observation, can see how the falsehood they have no conception, even in theory, of is forced to pay toll to the truth, or how the other methods of industry and business toll is collected from those who have yielded than those which the paper system develops. their faith to the falsehood. The falsehood Every man is subject to these influences of the breaks down at last, as all falsehoods do; community and generation in which he lives. but then it exerts its most baneful effects No philosophy will enable him to break out when its devotees rise up and declare that of them entirely, and no other influences act the only trouble is that the falsehood was so deeply upon the individual character as not big enough, or that we did not stick to ? those which come from the accepted faiths it as we ought. If that is true, then why of the community in which he is educated. not swear that 92=100 and stick to it, and
It would therefore be a great error to sup- go on? The logic is perfect, if the premiss pose that a money of fluctuating value is an be granted; but the premiss is that “a lie evil only because it puts into the hands of well-stuck-to is as good as the truth.” some men opportunities, by arbitrarily in- The frauds, false oaths, breaches of trust creasing the amount of the currency, to and pretentious swindles which shock the transfer capital from those who have earned public mind when they are discovered, are and saved it to those who have only bor- all natural consequences of the great circurowed it. It corrupts public opinion as to lating falsehood. If the government or a methods of business; it puts the commu- bank can so violate the distinction between nity under fictitious relations to the natural truth and falsehood that it shall have no efconditions of acquiring wealth ; it destroys fect, and that a lie can be made to prosper, men's clear perception of the value of indus- why should not every one else do it? The try and economy; it inculcates the sophis- only important thing is to secure " confitries of the gambler; it substitutes for the dence.” The distinction between commerself-interest of the industrious producer, the cial credit and the confidence of the “confiselfishness of the robber. Will not these dence man,” is lost sight of. It would be tendencies produce moral fruits? Will they easy to prove this by quoting from some of not corrupt individual and national charac- the eager arguments with which we have ter? They cannot fail to do it; and the been assailed during the last two or three history of any paper money epoch, in any years. The writers and speakers pass from country, shows that a moral deterioration is true mercantile credit to that faith which is a certain consequence. There is not simply the basis of swindling apparently without decay in good sense and sound judgment, any perception of the difference. but also in the distinction of mine and Against such educational influences the thine, in the conception of rights and duties, moralist and preacher keep up a hard and in the notion of what is true and real as losing fight. Every man and woman is distinguished from what only seems. The forced to make exchanges and to use money.
In doing so they are engaging in the struggle way of the chance profits offered in one case, for existence—the widest, longest, deepest, or to avoid the equally chance losses inflicted and closest interest of life. In that interest in another. Steady industry and correct the greatest fact of all is value. It is a fact foresight will still be fruitless, and gambling or reality of the sternest order. Truth and luck must rule over all. falsehood in regard to it are divided by just These are economic errors, and the econo as sharp a line as in regard to any other mist, in his own sphere, insists that they fact. It is easier for us to deceive ourselves waste and destroy wealth; but that is not all. about value than about many other things, They undermine individual and national but our delusions are no more true on that character. The conception of national honor account. A value money educates all who fades until it has no distinctness. National use it to know what value is, and it performs promisès lose their sacredness. People be the true function of value, which is to dis- come so much accustomed to technical and tribute products equitably amongst the pro- artificial distinctions which blur over truth ducers. A fictitious currency trains all who and equity and honor that they are glad to use it to error and confusion in regard to find standing ground of the same kind for value; it obscures the pure, clear truth of obscuring national honor. They are no value; it violates equity in distribution, and longer shocked even at the notion of an inteaches people to believe that this equity tentional and unnecessary bankruptcy, which must be sought by artificial interferences. to an intelligent business community ought They then set out in pursuit of the chimera to be the worst abomination. That delicacy equality, under the name of equity. When of feeling or instinct which knows no rules, error springs from such deep roots, and its which shows the man of honor what he canmoral results are only secondary, assaults not do, whether it will pay or not, and which upon the immoral consequences which use is the only sure mark of a righteous man, is only the usual moral arguments, must needs lost. How, then, can we expect that nabe weak. The range is too long. The mor- tional honor will develop vigor and force ? alist affirms the immorality of all falsehood, A moral question is a question: What ought and he is right; because the material and we to do? We ought to keep all our promimmaterial welfare of man, his salvation, in ises according to their spirit and meaning, short, depends upon the correctness of the as we and the pronrisees understood them conception he forms of his relations to all when they were made. It is undeniable the facts of life. The moralist, furthermore, that there is such a moral question involved declares that the lines of truth and falsehood in the choice of financial policies now offered never meet or converge, but that they go on to this country, and that such is the answer diverging towards infinite woe on the one to it. The fact that some deny that there hand, or infinite bliss on the other. Our is any such question only shows how deep is conceptions of woe and of bliss may change, the demoralization which has been wrought but the moral truth here asserted cannot be by financial errors in the past. A permanent questioned; although to one educated under cure can be effected only by correcting the false standards of value and false theories of economic errors out of which the evils grow. value in all the practical affairs of life, it Even then it will be necessary for time to may well seem like empty declamation. work its long and slow educational effects,
If, instead of an entirely fictitious cur- training up another generation by other rency, we take the case of one which is lia- methods to other convictions. Moral arguble to great fluctuation, the inferences are ments have their best use in unfolding and all still the same. They differ in degree exposing to the people the true significance but not in kind. The community cannot of the doctrines and faiths into which they then become the seat of honorable, harmo- have drifted, when these are tested by the nious and prosperous industry. Its different permanent standards which embody the long industrial groups will still be forced to jostle traditions of the human race as to what is pereach other in their efforts to come in the manently wise and right. W. G. Sumner.