Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 67.djvu/215

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THE development of thinking about money is the most interesting portion of the history of political economy. The first dawn of economic principles came with the discussion of monetary phenomena, and monetary science has not only always had a peculiar practical interest of its own, leading to its constant appearance in political campaigns in all countries, but it has also had an organic life persisting in its full vigor to the present day. In the United States, the monetary question is not at this very moment—as it has been—the football of the political parties; but there has been very recently an active upheaval in scientific discussion which is healthy and worthy of attention. In Europe, while the active discussions of bimetallism have simmered down to relative quiet, yet the interest in the fundamental monetary questions among scholars is burning with a clear flame. These present monetary problems are not only enlisting the interest of economic thinkers and reach the very center of systematic exposition, but they also happen to be those which have to do with the truth or error of convictions which are widespread among great masses of our countrymen.

It is passing strange that the vast literature of money has not been marked by a burning zeal for the statement of an organic body of principles. Discussions of money have usually been started in some local, or practical, problem; and interest has centered largely in the acquisition of historical data, without any considerable success in the formulation of the principles explaining such data. Once the problem of special interest to the public had been settled for good or for ill, the real scientific interest seemed to wane. To-day, in my judgment, the case is entirely different. The attention now being given by scholars in both Europe and America to the vital questions of monetary doctrine is nearly as intense as that given to questions of wages and interest.


II. Functions of Money.

Since the time of Ricardo there has been a magnificent confidence that the theory of money has been so well settled that there was little

  1. Read at the International Congress of Arts and Science, at the Universal Exposition, St. Louis, in September, 1904.