The Essential and the Unessential in Currency Legislation

The Essential and the Unessential in Currency Legislation

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Excerpt from The Essential and the Unessential in Currency Legislation: The Page Lecture Delivered at Yale University, May 1, 1913

The improvement of our banking and currency system can never be a popular issue. It is abstruse. We are only intermittently conscious of its necessity. It makes no appeal to the emotions. Whatever advocacy or support it may have must come not from the many, but from the few, not from the marching clubs and cheering throngs which give color and excitement to political campaigns, but from the quiet thinking men who are moved by the dry white light of reason.

Complexity of the Problem.

Currency questions have always been baffiingly intricate and difficult to grasp or resolve. They are in the field of economics what metaphysical questions are in the field of philosophy. They have to do with matters which underlie and are implicit in, all other economic questions. William James once said of metaphysics that it was only an unusually obstinate effort to think clearly, and if that be true, those who discuss the currency ought above all things, to be well grounded in metaphysics. Many years ago the English economist Jevons remarked that a kind of intellectual vertigo seemed to attack most persons who devoted themselves to this subject, and the Scotch economist Macleod was accustomed to assert that more people had gone insane over it than over anything else except religion and love.

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