Page:Economic Development in Denmark Before and During the World War.djvu/83

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DEVELOPMENT OF AGRICULTURE

the decline was rapid. Within ten years the average price per Tönde Harikorn had fallen 15 per cent, and was still falling. This state of affairs bore the more heavily on the farmers for the reason that many of them had availed themselves of the new facilities for obtaining loans from credit associations which came into existence from the middle of the century. In good times it was very advantageous. A farm valued at, say, 100,000 kroner and mortgaged up to 70,000 kroner would give its owner a net capital of 30,000 kroner. If its value increased 15 per cent, while it was still under mortgage, the net capital of the owner would be increased by 15,000 kroner or by 50 per cent. But when prices went down, on the other hand, the case was reversed. A decrease of 15 per cent, on 100,000 kroner meant that the owner's net capital was reduced by exactly one-half. Farmers who had raised larger loans in order to satisfy joint heirs or to make improvements, or because otherwise they could not have taken over so large a property, suddenly found themselves reduced to penury, their whole fortune having been swallowed up by the debt. This was the fate of many farmers, most of whom, as always is the case at such times, had a very vague idea of the cause. Many of them were of the opinion that if the transition from the silver standard to the gold standard had not been carried out in 1873, the depression of the last quarter of the nineteenth century would not have occurred. The silver standard and bimetalism consequently had many enthusiastic advocates in those days.

The change was more severely felt for the reason that many farmers during the prosperous years had become accustomed to easy circumstances and were now compelled to lower their standard of living. It is always easier to become accustomed to a large income than to return to a small one. But the sturdy and economical Danish peasants soon adjusted themselves to their straitened circumstances and energetically set about to keep what they still had. And this brings us to a very interesting and instructive chapter in Danish economic history.