non serviam #11

Contents


Editor's Word

Ken Knudson's article is coming to and end. This is the second part of the chapter on Mutualism. The next and last chapter is his "after- word to communist-anarchist readers." And so, his article is complete. For those who wish, the full article is available by ftp from etext.archive.umich.edu/ together with the current and back issues of non serviam and some other material relevant to Stirner. The files are stored in /pub/Politics/Non.Serviam

Paul Southworth (pauls@umich.edu) is responsible for the ftp site. If you have trouble retrieving files, he is the man to write to.

Svein Olav


A Critique of Communism
and
The Individualist Alternative (continued)

Ken Knudson

Given the advantages of the division of labour, what is to be the method by which man exchanges his products? Primitive man devised the barter system for this purpose. But it wasn't long before the limitations of this system became apparent:

Thus currency (i.e, money) was born. Many things have served as money throughout the ages: slaves, gunpowder, and

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even human skulls, to name but a few. The New Hebrides used feathers for their money and in Ethiopia salt circulated as the currency for centuries. But by far the most popular medium of exchange became the precious metals, gold and silver. There were several reasons for this: (1) Unlike feathers or skulls, they have intrinsic value as metals. (2) They are sufficiently rare as to impose difficulty in producing them and sufficiently common as to make it not impossible to do so. (3) Their value fluctuates relatively little with the passing of time. Even large strikes - such as those in California and Alaska - failed to devalue gold to any appreciable extent. (4) They are particularly sturdy commodities, loosing relatively little due to the wear and tear of circulation. (5) They are easily divisible into fractional parts to facilitate small purchases. For these and other reasons, gold and silver became universally recognised as standards of value. Certain quantities of these metals became the units by which man measured the worth of an object. For example, the pound sterling, lira, and ruble were originally terms for metallic weight while the drachma means literally a handful.

As long as these metals served purely as just another commodity to be bartered - albeit a very useful commodity - there was no inherent advantage in possessing these metals as such. It was not until governments declared them the sole legal medium of exchange that gold and silver became intrinsically oppressive. Governments, by monetising gold and silver automatically demonetised every other item of capital. It is this monopoly which has been the chief obstacle in preventing men from obtaining the product of their labour and which permitted the few men who controlled the money supply to roll up such large fortunes at the expense of labour.

As long as the monetary structure was directly tied to gold and silver, the volume of money was limited by the amount of gold and silver available for coinage. It is for this reason that paper money - backed by "hard money" - came into being. The paper money was simply a promise "to pay the bearer on demand" its equivalent in specie (i.e. gold or


A natural question arises here: "That may have been true up until 40 years ago, but haven't governments since abandoned the gold standard?" The answer is no. As long as the United States government promises to buy and sell gold at $35 an ounce and as long as the International Monetary Fund (which stabilises the exchange rates) is based on gold and U.S. dollars, the world remains on the gold standard.

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silver). Hence the words "note" and "bill," which imply debt. Governments were at first reluctant to issue paper money. But the scarcity of money in an increasingly commercial world soon forced them to recant. The men of wealth, well aware of the threat that "easy money" posed to their "hard money," insisted that such money be based solely on the wealth they already possessed. Governments readily fell into line. In the United States, from 1866, anyone issuing circulating notes was slapped with a tax of 10% until it was completely outlawed in 1936. The British government was even more severe; it gave the Bank of England monopoly rights to issue "bank notes" as early as 1844. [102]

When a man is forced to barter his products for money, in order to have money to barter for such other products that he might want, he is put at a disadvantage which the capitalist is all too ready to exploit. William B. Greene was one of the first to observe this fact: