“In a genuinely free banking market, any voluntary grouping of individuals could form a cooperative bank and issue mutual bank notes against any form of collateral they chose, with acceptance of these notes as tender being a condition of membership.
Abundant cheap credit would drastically alter the balance of power between capital and labor, and returns on labor would replace returns on capital as the dominant form of economic activity.
As compensation for labor approached value-added, returns on capital were driven down by market competition, and the value of corporate stock consequently plummeted, the worker would become a de facto co-owner of his workplace, even if the company remained nominally stockholder-owned.
Near-zero interest rates would increase the independence of labor in all sorts of interesting ways. For one thing, anyone with a twenty-year mortgage at 8% now could, in the absence of usury, pay it off in ten years. Most people in their 30s would own their houses free and clear. Between this and the nonexistence of high-interest credit card debt, two of the greatest sources of anxiety to keep one’s job at any cost would disappear. In addition, many workers would have large savings (“go to hell money”). Significant numbers would retire in their forties or fifties, cut back to part-time, or start businesses; with jobs competing for workers, the effect on bargaining power would be revolutionary.
Under industrial capitalism, Tucker argued, the money monopoly reinforced the monopoly of land and capital. Site rent, as such, depended mainly on the enforcement of absentee land titles. The availability of all vacant land for homesteading would cause ground rent, as such to fall to zero through competition. But in built-up areas, the value of improvements and buildings outweighed that of the site itself. And the availability of interest-free credit would, likewise by competition, would cause house rent to fall to zero. Nobody would pay rent on a house when he could get the wherewithal, interest free, to build one of his own. And by the same token, nobody would accept significantly less than his labor product in return for the use of the means of production, when he and his fellow workers could mobilize the interest-free capital to buy their own.
In addition to all this, central banking systems perform an additional service to the interests of capital. First of all, a major requirement of finance capitalists is to avoid inflation, in order to allow predictable returns on investment. This is ostensibly the primary purpose of the Federal Reserve and other central banks. But at least as important is the role of the central banks in promoting what they consider a “natural” level of unemployment–until the 1990s around six per cent. The reason is that when unemployment goes much below this figure, labor becomes increasingly uppity and presses for better pay and working conditions and more autonomy. Workers are willing to take a lot less crap off the boss when they know they can find a job at least as good the next day. On the other hand, nothing is so effective in “getting your mind right” as the knowledge that people are lined up to take your job.”
The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One
…the money monopoly, which consists of the privilege given by the government to certain individuals, or to individuals holding certain kinds of property, of issuing the circulating medium, a privilege which is now enforced in this country by a national tax of ten per cent., upon all other persons who attempt to furnish a circulating medium, and by State laws making it a criminal offense to issue notes as currency. It is claimed that the holders of this privilege control the rate of interest, the rate of rent of houses and buildings, and the prices of goods, – the first directly, and the second and third indirectly. For, say Proudhon and Warren, if the business of banking were made free to all, more and more persons would enter into it until the competition should become sharp enough to reduce the price of lending money to the labor cost, which statistics show to be less than three-fourths of once per cent. In that case the thousands of people who are now deterred from going into business by the ruinously high rates which they must pay for capital with which to start and carry on business will find their difficulties removed. If they have property which they do not desire to convert into money by sale, a bank will take it as collateral for a loan of a certain proportion of its market value at less than one per cent. discount. If they have no property, but are industrious, honest, and capable, they will generally be able to get their individual notes endorsed by a sufficient number of known and solvent parties; and on such business paper they will be able to get a loan at a bank on similarly favorable terms. Thus interest will fall at a blow. The banks will really not be lending capital at all, but will be doing business on the capital of their customers, the business consisting in an exchange of the known and widely available credits of the banks for the unknown and unavailable, but equality good, credits of the customers and a charge therefor of less than one per cent., not as interest for the use of capital, but as pay for the labor of running the banks. This facility of acquiring capital will give an unheard of impetus to business, and consequently create an unprecedented demand for labor, – a demand which will always be in excess of the supply, directly to the contrary of the present condition of the labor market. Then will be seen an exemplification of the words of Richard Cobden that, when two laborers are after one employer, wages fall, but when two employers are after one laborer, wages rise. Labor will then be in a position to dictate its wages, and will thus secure its natural wage, its entire product. Thus the same blow that strikes interest down will send wages up. But this is not all. Down will go profits also. For merchants, instead of buying at high prices on credit, will borrow money of the banks at less than one per cent., buy at low prices for cash, and correspondingly reduce the prices of their goods to their customers. And with the rest will go house-rent. For no one who can borrow capital at one per cent. with which to build a house of his own will consent to pay rent to a landlord at a higher rate than that. Such is the vast claim made by Proudhon and Warren as to the results of the simple abolition of the money monopoly.
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