Credit, Vol. 3 (Classic Reprint)

Credit, Vol. 3 (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Credit, Vol. 3

The difference is wide: walking is one thing, the reasons why one walks (to one's office or to a funeral) are very different. Hence it is well not to assign much importance to the easy etymological derivation of credit from credere (meaning "to have confidence").

By general agreement, usage would never allow any obligation entered into for the future delivery of personal services to be spoken of as credit; and rightly. A contract to work ten hours a day for the coming three months should not be regarded as a credit obligation. We may, therefore, agree to confine credit operations to goods or property of a transferable kind. And, in the conception of credit, with the transfer goes the right to make any ordinary use of the goods; it carries with it the power, not merely to keep possession, but to destroy entirely (but always with the purpose of reproduction), if that is the best means of increasing product and getting back goods for repayment. Hence the lease of a house would not be a credit transaction. That is, we have in mind, generally, the transfer of quickly saleable goods, which need not always be returned in kind, but by an equivalent; not the same wheat, or wool, or gold which was borrowed, but the equivalent of them.

Many contracts appear as results of credit transactions. For instance, A borrows the means to finish the building of his house; he obtains certain goods which he inserts into his structure; and he gives a promissory note to B for its repayment, secured by a pledge of his property in the form known to the law as a mortgage. The note and the mortgage are merely the legal methods adopted to make repayment more certain; they are not essential in the credit itself. The real importance should be put on the transfer to A of means returnable to B in the future. Legal and customary forms intended to secure repayment have created different devices in the same community; while the prevailing habits of different countries have given rise to varying methods of obtaining the same result. In one situation, for instance, a book entry, in another a bill of exchange, in another a promissory note, are found most suitable. In short, the circumstances of the loan, the opinions and convenience of the parties to the contract, and the like, may bring into use a great variety of legal forms, all resulting from the primary transfer of goods. The undue insistence upon legal forms arising out of credit draws attention away from the economic processes essential and intrinsic in it to the non-essential and external forms outside of it. The familiar case of a bank loan illustrates this truth: there is the essential element in the transfer of capital to the borrower on an obligation to return an equivalent value at a fixed time in the future; but the evidences of the transaction, whether in the form of a book entry as a deposit, or the passing of the bank's own notes, or the giving of a cashier's draft for the sum, are secondary matters, or consequences, arising out of the original credit operation.

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