Co-operative Free Money

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J. William Lloyd

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Co-operative Free Money.

Suppose a Confederation of Free Individuals, divided into groups.

Suppose the members of each group appraise—through the agency of a committee selected by some mutually satisfactory method—the amount of exchangeable wealth in labor products possessed by them. The same being placed on a record, publicly published, which should show at a glance the amount possessed by the members of the entire Confederation considered collectively, by the members of each group considered collectively, and by each individual member separately.

The standard, or unit of measure, used by the committee in appraising the cost or exchangeable-value of these labor products being an hour’s labor of “the average intensity and extensity,” as Andrews puts it. Suppose that, now, the several committees, met in convention, issue a call to the inventers to invent a paper suitable for currency,—waterproof, fireproof, acidproof, untearable, non-counterfeitable; to the paper manufacturers to furnish this paper in desired quantities; and to the printers to print an amount of paper money exactly representative of the nine of the property on the record.

These matters settled by a free competition calculated to secure the best work and material possible, at the nearest approach to ideal labor-cost possible, suppose the money printed, and its distribution by the committees to the members of the groups to each individual in an amount exactly representative of his wealth as declared by the record. Said recipient buying said money at cost; said cost including all the labor of inventing, manufacturing, printing, and committee work.

Suppose the value represented by these notes expressed, not in dollars and cents, but in hours and parts of hours spent in labor. The notes to he actually called Quarter Hours, Half Hours, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, etc.; thus clearly symbolizing to the parties in a bargain the amount of lifetime's labor exchanged. Any marked increase in the wealth of the Confederation, occurring in the course of time, and requiring an increased currency, to be met by a re-appraisement and new issue on the same plan as before; the new bills being of a different pattern from the old ones, which retire front circulation simultaneously with the new issue, to prevent fraud on the part of those who might hide part of their notes, and then plead that some accident had deprived them of tools of exchange for the labor products they possessed, if an issue wore made of new notes similar to the old; those who had exchanged alt or part of their labor-products for labor notes exchanging these old notes, now, for the new ones. It being provided, too, that any one could, at any time, exchange worn-out or defaced notes for new ones of the same denomination at the printers, the old ones to be counted and destroyed by the printer in the presence of the applicant and other witnesses, and a record made of the same, and the applicant paying cost of new notes.

If re-appraisement revealed decreased wealth in labor-products, obviously the entire volume of currency, and each particular nuts, would he depreciated in purchasing power accordingly, thus constituting, in the easiest possible way, the entire Confederation a mutual insurance company hearing mutually the lessee suffered by individual members.

It being, of course, understood and agreed upon by all the members that these notes were to be received by each and all in payment of debt, and as fulfilling in every respect the present functions of good money.

Would not the currency supplied by this method fulfill all the requisites of a scientific medium of exchange—cheapness, portability, indestructibility, inappreciable intrinsic value, uniformity, difficulty of counterfeiting, exact representation of all the labor-products to be exchanged, absolute security of basis, public confidence—to the greatest possible extent? Being unsupported by law, it could not prevent the competition or coexistence of any better or complementary system, if devised.

Counterfeiting, being obviously a form of theft, contrary to equitable commerce, could be resisted by the Confederation acting defensively, and the passer of the bogus notes compelled to make restitution to those defrauded. Is there any need of redemption in a currency which is never refused?—or, In other words, does it not redeem itself every time it effects an exchange? Being perfectly equitable, leaving all in the same relative positions of wealth or poverty In which it found them, does this schema offer an unfair advantage to any?

As it offers tools of exchange for alt possible exchangeable wealth, does it not abolish all necessity for interest? Would not a method so simple, and whose single issue would afford all the currency needed for a long period of time, probably, be far less expensive, less cumbersome, every way more convenient, than the mutual- or mortgage-banking plan, with its multitude of rival bankers, foreclosing of mortgages, forced sales of mortgaged property, frequent losses, and general complexity and disorganization, or possible organization against the people?

Would not its currency command the confidence of outsiders and aliens, much more than that offered by the mortgage-banking plan on the credit of petty bankers and obscure individuals? Is it not easier to comprehend, and therefore to teach, and better fitted in every way to meet popular objections to free money than any other schema?

Could not such a scheme he adopted now, by groups of confederating individuals, just as easily and successfully as any free-banking plan?

Comrades, I present this scheme with the utmost modesty, for I am no financier, and the money question has always been a most formidable one to me. I am haunted by a fear that there is some radical and fatal defect in it, which less dull brains than mine instantly perceive, or else, so simple is it, it would certainly have been advocated before. Perhaps it has been advocated before, and its weakness so thoroughly demonstrated that nobody even mentions it now.

Anyway it has banned my brain so long that at last I have resolved to give it utterance. If an error—he who brings an error to the trial does that much, negatively, to establish the truth.

I invite criticism.

J. Wm. Lloyd.

  • J. William Lloyd, “Co-operative Free Money,” Liberty 6, no. 21 (April 24, 1890): 6.