Home > History, Monetary Policy > “Paper Money Men and Bullion Men”

“Paper Money Men and Bullion Men”

I enjoy reading the Hansard achives from the 1930s… what an amazing resource.  It is not hard to find parallels to modern-day debates about macro policy.  The following quote is from David Mason MP speaking in Parliament in July 1934 during a debate which appears to be mostly about monetary policy:

It is rather interesting to see how complete is the analogy in many respects between that period of history after the Napoleonic Wars and the period through which we are now passing. Of course, there is the difference of time, and increases of population and so forth, but there were inflationists and deflationists, paper money men and bullion men just as there are now, and it is curious and interesting to find, if one will take the trouble to read up the Debates in this House, comments and statements made almost similar to those that are being made to-day.

It is a cliché, but history keeps repeating itself.  A contribution from a Pierse Loftus MP contains many gems:

I believe that, if His Majesty’s Government would announce in due course that they were prepared to set up an inquiry into the monetary system and into monetary policy, they would be astonished at the flame of enthusiasm that they would arouse throughout the country, especially among the younger people. They are not satisfied with world conditions as they are to-day; they are not satisfied with any policy of going back to 1924 or 1914; they feel that the productive capacity of the world is immense, but that it is not being utilised owing to the defects in the monetary system, which should facilitate the exchange of goods and services all over the world.

I love that clarity.  So many today talk about monetary policy only in terms of borrowing and lending or banks or interest rates… how about sticking with “facilitating the exchange of goods and services”?  A little later from Loftus, here is that history we’re repeating:

We know the effect which, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen has pointed out, deflation has had upon our people; and we know also that to-day the economic problem is linked with the political problem. In Yugoslavia you have revolutionary discontent. Why? There is deflation. In Italy under the surface there is revolutionary discontent, Why? Deflation. In France, riots and revolutionary discontent. Why? Deflation. What was that bloody business in Germany the other day caused by but the pressure of deflation constantly driving down the standard of living? That was the main cause.

The loci of the riots and deflation only a little different this time around.

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Categories: History, Monetary Policy
  1. W. Peden
    October 16, 2013 at 12:36

    Great post. Hansard is a fantastic resource.

    “how about sticking with “facilitating the exchange of goods and services”?”

    Or even “Oiling the wheels of trade”, in the words of David Hume?

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