Silvio Gesell: The Natural Economic Order
Part 4: Free-Money or Money as it Should Be


B. The Cashier

Upon the introduction of Free-Money we cashiers were pitied. Prophecies were made that we should be overwhelmed with work and worry, that we should always be short in our accounts, and so forth. But what has actually happened ? To begin with, office hours were reduced, as there was not enough work. Instead of ten hours I now work six. Next, the number of employees was gradually reduced, the older clerks being pensioned and the younger ones dismissed. But not even that was enough; most banking establishments have now been closed.

This development might indeed have been foreseen, but the banks were too firmly convinced of their indispensability! Bills of exchange and cheques, which used to be the cashier's daily bread, have almost disappeared. According to the returns of the National Currency Office, the currency now in circulation does not amount to one-third of our previous issue. That is because our present money circulates three times as rapidly as the old money. Scarcely a hundredth part of the former sums now passes through the hands of the banker. Money remains on the move, in the market, in the hands of buyers, merchants, manufacturers. It passes uninterruptedly from hand to hand, it has no time to accumulate in the banks. Money is no longer a bench on which the producer may repose after the fatigue of selling his goods and wait indolently until personal needs admonish him to turn over his money. The resting point in exchange is now the commodity itself - not of course the commodity one produces, but that produced by others. The holder of money is hunted and worried by his possession, just as formerly the producer was hunted and worried by his goods until he had passed them on to someone else. From what is the word "bank" or "banker" derived ? It comes from the benches on which the holders of money sat at ease, while the holders of goods ran about and fretted. With Free-Money, it is the holders of money who run about and fret, and the sellers of goods who sit on the benches.

Again, the circulation of money having become so rapid, and everyone being in a hurry to pay, bills of exchange are no longer required and have been replaced by ready money. Neither does anyone need reserves of money, the regularity of the monetary circulation making these reserves unnecessary. The living, perpetually-welling spring has taken the place of the stagnant reservoir.

These money reserves had seduced men into the greatest folly of the century, namely the cheque. Yes, it is I, the cashier, who proclaim that the cheque was rank folly! The use of money is to make a payment, and gold was supposed to be the most convenient means of payment conceivable, so why, then, was it not used as such ? Why let the cheque take the place of ready money, if ready money meets all requirements, as gold was vaunted for doing ? Compared with ready money the cheque is an exceedingly unwieldy instrument of payment. It is bound up with the observance of various formalities; it must be cashed at a certain place, and the security of payment depends on the solvency of the drawer and of the bank. Yet cheques were supposed to denote progress It was even hoped to carry matters as far as the English have done, and to pay cab fares with a cheque. As if that were an honour and an advantage for the cabman ! The model cheque, for the recipient at least, is hard cash, for this cheque can be cashed in any shop or public house, it is bound by no formalities, and its security is never in question. We were so proud of our golden money and so convinced that we had reached the acme of perfection with it, that we were blind to the contradiction that lay in the use of cheques. Gold was too good for common use; therefore we looked for a substitute, the cheque. We resembled the man who went for a walk with an old coat and a new umbrella and could not bear to open the new umbrella lest it should become wet. So he hid it under his coat. No one scrupled to thrust whole parcels of cheques upon us cashiers, and we were able to find the total amount only by noting down the separate sums in long columns and adding them up. Disgusting work, compared to which the counting of money is child's play. Only the pieces of money have to be counted, since they are all equal in amount.

Moreover the cheques had to be cleared among the various banks, every single cheque charged to its drawer. And then the calculation of interest! At the end of every quarter an account had to be handed in with every cheque specifically entered. Thus every cheque was entered ten times over. And that was called progress ! What an absurdity ! The unwieldiness of the gold currency and the irregularity of the circulation made bank accounts necessary, and these in their turn gave rise to the cheque, but this circumstance, instead of being considered a serious drawback of the gold currency, was regarded as something to be proud of !

And besides the cheques those heavy bags of gold, silver, copper and nickel, and paper money into the bargain! Eleven different kinds of coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 marks, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 pfennigs ! For small change under one mark alone six different coins of three different metals ! Hundreds of cheques, eleven different coins and ten different kinds of paper money !

With Free-Money I have only a few denominations and no cheques. And everything is light and clean, and always new. My cash account which formerly took me an hour is now finished in a few minutes!

I am asked how I deal with the depreciation on my cash balance. The matter is simple enough. At the close of the, week, on Saturday at four o'clock, I count my cash, calculate the depreciation for the week, and enter it among expenses. With private banks this sum is charged to general expenses, which are covered by a reduction of the rate of interest on deposits. With public treasuries the loss is only nominal, since the State profits by the depreciation of the total circulation.

Considered from the standpoint of cash-keeping technique there is nothing disadvantageous in Free-Money. The best proof of this is the fact that nine out of every ten cashiers have become superfluous. A machine that saves labour must be doing good work.


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