The force of the demand for money operating against the supply is represented by the earnest, incessant struggle to obtain it. All men, in all trades and occupations, are offering either property or services for money. Each shoemaker in each locality is in competition with every other shoemaker in the same locality, each hatter is in competition with every other hatter, each clothier with every other clothier, all offering their wares for units of money. In this universal and perpetual competition for money, that number of shoemakers that can supply the demand for shoes at the smallest average price (excellence of quality being taken into account) will fix the market value of shoes in money; and conversely, will fix the value of money in shoes. So with the hatters as to hats, so with the tailors as to clothes, and so with those engaged in all other occupations as to the products respectively of their labor.
The transcendent importance of money, and the constant pressure of the demand for it, may be realized by comparing its utility with that of any other force that contributes to human welfare.
In all the broad range of articles that in a state of civilization are needed by man, the only absolutely indispensable thing is money. For everything else there is some substitute—some alternative; for money there is none. Among articles of food, if beef rises in price, the demand for it will diminish, as a certain proportion of the people will resort to other forms of food. If, by reason of its continued scarcity, beef continues to rise, the demand will further diminish, until finally it may altogether cease and centre on something else. So in the matter of clothing. If any one fabric becomes scarce, and consequently dear, the demand will diminish, and, if the price continue rising, it is only a question of time for the demand to cease and be transferred to some alternative.
But this cannot be the case with money. It can never be driven out of use. There is not, and there never can be, any substitute for it. It may become so scarce that one dollar at the end of a decade may buy ten times as much as at the beginning; that is to say, it may cost in labor or commodities ten times as much to get it, but at whatever cost, the people must have it. Without money the demands of civilization could not be supplied.
GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS,
OF NEW YORK (BORN 1824, DIED 1892.)
On the spoils system and the progress of civil service reform.
An Address delivered before the American Social Science Association at its Meeting in Saratoga, New York, September 8, 1881.