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What is Money?

What Is Money?
Frédéric Bastiat


``Hateful money! hateful money!´´ cried F—, the economist, despairingly, as he came from the Committee of Finance, where a project of paper money had just been discussed. ``What's the matter?´´ said I. ``What is the meaning of this sudden dislike to the most extolled of all the divinities of this world?´´

F. Hateful money! hateful money!

B. You alarm me. I hear peace, liberty, and life cried down, and Brutus went so far even as to say, ``Virtue! thou art but a name!´´ But what can have happened?

F. Hateful money! hateful money!

B. Come, come, exercise a little philosophy. What has happened to you? Has Croesus been affecting you? Has Jones been playing you false? or has Smith been libeling you in the papers?

F. I have nothing to do with Croesus; my character, by its insignificance, is safe from any slanders of Smith; and as to Jones...

B. Ah! Now I have it. How could I be so blind? You, too, are the inventor of a social reorganization — of the F—-system, in fact. Your society is to be more perfect than that of Sparta, and, therefore, all money is to be rigidly banished from it. And the thing that troubles you is, how to persuade your people to throw away the contents of their purses. What would you have? This is the rock on which all reorganizers split. There is not one but would do wonders, if he could contrive to overcome all resisting influences, and if all mankind would consent to become soft wax in his fingers; but men are resolved not to be soft wax; they listen, applaud, or reject and — go on as before.

F. Thank heaven I am still free from this fashionable mania. Instead of inventing social laws, I am studying those which it has pleased Providence to invent, and I am delighted to find them admirable in their progressive development. This is why I exclaim, ``Hateful money! hateful money!´´

B. You are a disciple of Proudhon, then? Well, there is a very simple way for you to satisfy yourself. Throw your purse into the river, only reserving a small draft on the Bank of Exchange.

F. If I cry out against money, is it likely I should tolerate its deceitful substitute?

B. Then I have only one more guess to make. You are a new Diogenes, and are going to victimize me with a discourse on the contempt of riches.

F. Heaven preserve me from that! For riches, don't you see, are not a little more or a little less money. They are bread for the hungry, clothes for the naked, fuel to warm you, oil to lengthen the day, a career open to your son, a certain portion for your daughter, a day of rest after fatigue, a cordial for the faint, a little assistance slipped into the hand of a poor man, a shelter from the storm, a diversion for a brain worn by thought, the incomparable pleasure of making those happy who are dear to us. Riches are instruction, independence, dignity, confidence, charity; they are progress and civilization. Riches are the admirable civilizing result of two admirable agents, more civilizing even than riches themselves — labor and exchange.

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(PS this is a follow up to Lysiandad's post 'Frederic Bastiat's "That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen" : IX. CREDIT'

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