Money & Credit

Among all of the monopolies functioning to deprive labor of its full and proper reward, many of the Individualists (e.g., Benjamin Tucker) regarded the Money Monopoly as the most baleful of all, the pivot point of the entire system of economic abuse. Because assorted, coercive barriers to entry confined the issuing of money and credit to a privileged few, the Individualists argued, those few were allowed to exact oppressive interest from all of commerce, amounting to yet another tax on labor. The Money Monopoly both prevented labor from capitalizing on what little it did possess in the way of wealth, and allowed an idle privileged class to profit without work and at no cost whatsoever. Such a system was not the natural result of individual rights and free exchange, but, quite oppositely, of the restriction of exchange and abrogation of individual prerogatives. In its place, then, the Individualists advocated for genuinely free banking, grounded on mutualistic principles and giving way to competition without artificial limit. The result of that competition would leave little or no room for lending at interest, the gap between cost and price effectively closed by the lack of legal privileges to screen it. Here are the Individualists in their own words...

"The Anarchists are the extreme free traders; and they, to a man, favor free trade in money,—most of them, in fact, recognizing it as a necessary condition of free trade in products." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"Ships and houses that are insured, machinery, in short, any thing that may be sold under the hammer, may be made the basis of mutual money. Mutual banking opens the way to no monopoly; for it simply elevates every species of property to the rank which has hitherto been exclusively occupied by gold and silver. It may be well (we think it will be necessary) to begin with real estate: we do not say it would be well to end there!" - William B. Greene

"The money problem is essentially very simple and easy to solve. That solution is the abolition of interest, which may be achieved when the issue of money is no longer monopolized through government privilege and when the basis for the issuance of currency is extended to other commodities than gold.

"But most learned professors of economics are either blind or else afraid to tell us what they see. At any rate, they have succeeded wonderfully in circulating such a host of misconceptions and misconstructions regarding this problem that the simple layman stares at it in utter bewilderment, unable to make up his mind one way or another." - Clarence Lee Swartz

"It is this intimate connection between money and credit, indeed, their identity, which makes all legislation in regard to it a doubtful and uncertain element." - Joshua King Ingalls

"What the friends of free money are fighting for is the right both of individuals and of cooperators to issue money when and as they choose, and what they are fighting against is the laws which in any way make it impossible for either individuals or cooperators to exercise this right. This, and nothing else, is the free money theory . . . ." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"I consider the question of the status of money—whether money be capital or not—as of very great importance. It is because money has been generally regarded as a form of wealth that interest seems to have a real justification. Once let it be understood that money is not a thing, but a system, and many of the misconceptions circumscribing the subject will be dispelled.

"Money is a labor-saving system of book-keeping. It is a convenient modus of keeping accounts of credits.

"A merchant's books are not wealth; hence they cannot be capital. They are memoranda of wealth which he has agreed to deliver and which has been agreed to be delivered to him. The books are merely aids to his memory. When a merchant deplores the 'credit system,' it is really the complicated book system he has in mind. The less complex system of credit by certificates insured by a good bank would be satisfactory to him, without doubt.

"There are two ways in which commerce can be conducted. One is exchange of commodity for commodity,—barter. The other is exchange of commodity for credit, and, if the credit take form,—as, for instance, the form of certificates insured by a bank,—money.

"Money is an evidence of debt. If the debt be well secured, and the certificate of the debt be so drawn as to carry forceful conviction that it is well secured, then such evidences of debt will pass from hand to hand in exchange for wealth, and such certificates of debt will be money.

"Money is a labor-saving device for the facilitation of exchanges. It avoids the need of sending the wealth along with the promise to exchange or deliver wealth or services." - Herman Kuehn 

"Another class of lawmakers have been satisfied with nothing less than such a monopoly of money, as should enable the holders of it to suppress, as far as possible, all industry and traffic, except such as they themselves should control; such a monopoly of money as would put it wholly out of the power of the great body of wealth-producers to hire the capital needed for their industries; and thus compel them—especially the mechanical portions of them—by the alternative of starvation—to sell their labor to the monopolists of money, for just such prices as these latter should choose to pay. This monopoly of money has also given, to the holders of it, a control, so nearly absolute, of all industry—agricultural as well as mechanical—and all traffic, as has enabled them to plunder all the producing classes in the prices of their labor, or the products of their labor." - Lysander Spooner

"There is a great deal of mystification connected with the subject of money, but if we remember that when we sell anything for money, we buy the money, and when we buy anything with money, we sell the money, our ideas will grow wonderfully clear. All legitimate trade is barter." - William B. Greene

"Nothing but laissez-faire, free competition, free money, in short, as far as it goes, pure Anarchism, can abolish interest on money." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"A progressive inequality of wealth is also assured by exclusive currency. Since money is the common measure of products and distributes them to consumers, and most contracts and exchanges must be made in the accepted currency, it is apparent, that if speculators control this medium, dictating its nature, amount, and value, they are masters of both labor and trade, and can tax us on the chance to do business, and also for the privilege of living. Assuming that money represents all property in the nation, instead of the property of those only who issue it, they bribe government to indorse the usurpation, and thereby are enabled to produce hard times, bankruptcies, panics, and wars to any extent." - Ezra Heywood 

"But the use of land alone will not secure economic emancipation as long as the medium of exchange is monopolized, as long as the privilege of exchanging products is subject to the monopoly government now bestows upon money. Liberty demands the same right to cooperate in securing credit as in securing insurances. There is no more reason for government assuming paternal function in the one respect than in the other. The very absence of governmental regulation, as in insurance, would lead to cooperative action to capitalize wealth, to place all products upon the same level with that now artificially bestowed upon the so-called precious metals. With liberty to capitalize all products of industry, in other words, to obtain credit upon labor performed, use would be joined to possession of land, ability to exploit nature would be secured to all, and in the absence of rent and interest nothing else would remain to exploit. Profits are but a sequence to interest and would fall with it." - Dyer D. Lum

"Really free currency means, in the first place, no legal-tender laws. Why? Because a really sound currency people will receive on its merits. Only an unsound currency needs a legal-tender law to compel people to take it. Our present currency needs it because it is necessarily unsound; there is supposed to be enough gold to redeem it, but everybody knows that there is not; consequently it requires law to compel people to receive it. Take away the law, and the fact that a currency commands confidence is assurance of the sufficiency of its security.

"Really free currency means, in the second place, no legal requirement of any particular kind of wealth to redeem it,—not gold or silver or anything else,—leaving that to the judgment of those who are to receive it, but who cannot be compelled to receive it, in the absence of compulsory legal tender laws, if they do not like the security.

"Really free currency means, in the third, fourth, fifth, and nth places, the removal of all other taxes, inspections, certifications, and restrictions of every kind." - John Beverley Robinson

"[A] direct act of aggression is the only thing which warrants any interference with the acts of any individual. I challenge anyone to show how I can commit an act of aggression by refusing to accept a certain form of money for my merchandise or my labor. If I know that the money is good, I will need no legal-tender act to make me accept it. If I do not know that it is good, it is the most flagrant act of injustice to compel me to take it." - Francis D. Tandy 

"[A]ll the economists of the Manchester school are fond of clamoring for free trade; but an examination of their position always shows them the most ardent advocates of monopoly in the manufacture of money,—the bitterest opponents of free trade in credit. They agree and insist that it is nothing less than tyranny for government to clip a large slice out of the foreign product which any one chooses to import, but are unable to detect any violation of freedom in the exclusive license given by the government to a conspiracy of note-shaving corporations called national banks, which are enabled by this monopoly to clip anywhere from three to fifteen per cent. out of the credit which the people are compelled to buy of them. Such free trade as this is the most palpable sham to any one who really looks into it." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"[Anarchism] wants to make the issuing of currency, money, the tool of exchange, call it what you will, as free as the issuing of a personal note or mortgage. This would wipe out the interest-takers and make them more useful to society." - Joseph A. Labadie

"The reason why the banks are able to make such large profits, on what, after all, is the simple and safe business of certifying to the solvency of a man whose solvency is assured, is that the amount of current notes is limited by a series of governmental restrictions.

"In the first place, there is the legal tender law, that all debts must be paid in gold. This includes the current notes of the bank, which are supposed to be redeemable at any moment in gold. . . . 

"In the second place, there are various laws of the different States and of the United States, arbitrarily prohibiting the manufacture and loan of current notes by anybody but a lawfully organized bank; with penalties ranging from fine to imprisonment. By the federal law the fine takes the form of a ten per cent tax upon the notes circulated, which acts as a complete prohibition.

"Were it not for these restrictive and prohibitory laws which support the money privilege or banking monopoly, it would be easy to start competitive banks; and, with free competition, the charge for money lent would be brought down to a minimum, as in other kinds of lending business." - John Beverley Robinson

"That the free and open market, in which all honest money and all honest commodities are free to be given and received in exchange for each other, is the true, final, absolute, and only test of the true and natural market value of all money, as of all the other commodities that are bought and sold for money." - Lysander Spooner

"If all men could use their own credit in the form of money, there could be no such thing as interest." - Benjamin R. Tucker 

"Our economists speak of the failure of free exchange when, in the most vital process of exchange, namely, the development of the expression of mutual trust evidenced in the issue and circulation of paper promises to pay gold, we have absolutely prohibited the most rudimentary freedom.” - Henry Meulen

"The state controls the economic life of the people through the power of issuing currency and credit." - William B. Greene

"All I ask is that insured credits be given an opportunity to compete with monopoly money. If, in the competition, legal tender money can 'hold its own' against insured credits no one will be at all injured by the experiment. If, on the contrary, insured credits prove more satisfactory, money, as the term is now currently used, will become obsolete without requiring the formality of abolition." - Herman Kuehn

"Three elements are indispensable to a sound currency—security, choice and cheapness; it must be reliable, unmonopolizable and obtainable at cost. . . . But why issue certificates of credit against coin only, which is but one of many species of property, and not on farms, buildings, warehouse goods, or other commodities?" - Ezra Heywood

"Auberon Herbert, in his paper, Free Life, asks me how I justify a campaign against the right of men to lend and to borrow. I answer that I do not justify such a campaign, have never attempted to justify such a campaign, do not advocate such a campaign, in fact am ardently opposed to such a campaign. In turn, I ask Mr. Herbert how he justifies his apparent attribution to me of a wish to see such a campaign instituted. It is true that I expect lending and borrowing to disappear, but not by any denial of the right to lend and borrow. On the contrary, I expect them to disappear by virtue of the affirmation and exercise of a right that is now denied,—namely, the right to use one’s own credit, or to exchange it freely for another’s, in such a way that one or the other of these credits may perform the function of a circulating medium, without the payment of any tax for the privilege." - Benjamin R. Tucker 

"Such are the laws by which our old state-banks exempted their bills from the salutary influences of competition, and enforced usury, until—a large vampire swallowing lesser ones—the local banks were taxed out of existence to make room, for that monstrous monopoly, the present national-baking system. Capitalists object to trades-unions of working people, as attempted monopolies of mechanical skill. . . . But there is a trades-union of money lenders, of infinitely greater, more oppressive and fraudulent power, than any combination ever devised among working people." - Ezra Heywood

"[I]f government were to prohibit directly all businesses, except such as it should choose to license, and, by direct grants, were to make all these licensed businesses subjects of monopoly, its acts, in so doing, would be no more flagrant tyrannies, and no more flagrant violations of men's natural rights, than are its acts in establishing the single monopoly of money." - Lysander Spooner

"Labor-reform asks only that the recognized principles of property and trade which are the life of business, may be applied to money. If we want 'protection' we will contract for it. Abhorring favoritism we think that one privilege only should be guaranteed to usurers equally with other classes—the beneficent privilege of earning their own living. Rich people have been subject of charity long enough. Money covers a multitude of sins in which too many take stock." - Ezra Heywood

"A note given by each individual for his own labor, estimated by its cost, is perfectly legitimate and competent for all the purposes of a circulating medium. It is based upon the bone and muscle, the manual powers, the talents and resources, the property and property-producing powers of the whole people: the soundest of all foundations. The only objection to it is, that it would immediately abolish all the great money transactions of the world—all stock-jobbing, money corporations, and money movements; all systems of finance, all systems of national policy and commercial corruption; all distinctions of rich and poor—and compel every one to live and enjoy at his own cost." - Josiah Warren

"I deny emphatically that the present congested system of swollen trusts and underpaid wage-earners results from unrestricted freedom of contract or free competition; on the contrary, the industrial evil is due to State interference with the free development of that essential mechanism of exchange, the credit system.” - Henry Meulen