Read CHAPTER XXXI of Frenzied Finance Vol. 1: The Crime of Amalgamated , free online book, by Thomas W. Lawson, on ReadCentral.com.

THE FUNDAMENTALS OF FINANCE

Finance is easy enough to comprehend if it be explained, but so long as an explanation is deadly to the interests of the men who control it, one can be sure none will be offered. There is no term more common to-day than “trusts,” and we are surrounded by “trusts,” institutions whose workings during the past twenty years have awakened intense public curiosity to know what a “trust” is. Yet there is not extant a definition of a “trust” which conveys to the rank and file of the people any real idea of what a “trust” is. So vague is the general understanding of the “trust’s” functions and purposes that the most intelligent and honest statesmen struggle and hopelessly flounder when they attempt to define them, and we have at the present time the able chief of our nation talking of regulating them by law, when, as a matter of fact, a “trust” is, top, sides, bottom, outsides, and insides, an absolutely illegal institution, created outside the law, existing outside the law, and having for its purpose the performance of those things and only those things which the law says cannot be performed legally. Imagine our law-makers gravely meeting to make laws for the control and regulation of the pick-pocket or burglar or counterfeiting industry, or endeavoring to prescribe legally the times, places, and amounts of national bank défalcations, or the kind of ink, paper, and pens which must be used by forgers in the pursuit of their profession imagine it!

In entering upon an explanation of the workings of the “System,” it is necessary to set forth plainly the fundamentals of finance, the few rules and inventions by and through which humanity regulates its affairs. In the beginning, of course, might was right and men supplied their wants by force, trickery, or cunning. In time the disadvantages of this became obvious, for while the stronger could overcome the weaker and satisfy desire, a combination of the weaker units acting together could always wrest the prize from the individual. To equalize things, the people got together and made for themselves rules and regulations governing the conduct of their lives and their relations with one another. This was invention N: Law. Presently it developed that the physical barter of the commodities of labor was not a satisfactory basis of exchange; so to the statutes already in existence a new one was added providing an interchangeable token of value. This was invention N: Money. The statute insisted that the money be of a fair and just standard, by which all the people should receive the equivalent of their labor, and no more. As conditions became more settled, there grew up a realization of the value of a man’s life to those dependent on him, and of the fact that when he died his wife and his children were deprived of the livelihood his labor won for them. A new regulation was added to the code, providing that men contributing to a fund during their lifetime should be entitled at death to leave to their heirs a sum in proportion to the amount of their contribution to the fund, less the actual expense of caring therefor. This was Life Insurance invention N. But there were other calamities less distant than death to be guarded against, and a common fund, also based on the contributions of individuals, to aid and relieve in case of fire and kindred calamities, was organized. Hence invention N: Fire Insurance.

And thus the fabric of civilization grew, each addition to the structure being made to cover a want which experience developed. As time went on, some of the people accumulated the fruits of labor, money, in greater quantity than was requisite for their own needs, but which less thrifty or less fortunate brethren could so profitably employ in their own affairs as to be able to pay for its use a fair proportion of what it could be made to earn. Thereupon provision was made for a common place of safety for this surplus money, a place where experts in the handling and putting to use of money could employ their talents, first, safeguarding it and, then, loaning it to others. And the law was made to say that all money put into this common place should be so guarded as to be ready for its owner when he demanded it; that its owner should receive all it earned less the necessary expense of holding it, and that the amount it earned should be only such as those who borrowed it could fairly make it earn. This was invention N: The Bank.

As the years followed one another, “the bank” became one of the most important of the people’s institutions and grew in number and variety. There came to be many different forms of banks. For instance, national banks, which, under the control and regulation of the Government, became depositories for the circulation of the Government’s money and were privileged to lend money to individuals or corporations with or without collateral. Funds confided by the people to these national banks had always to be ready for their owners. A second form was the savings-bank, which grew out of the requirements of small depositors and was governed by the laws of its community. The savings-bank used and safeguarded money confided to it in small sums, and these amounts could be withdrawn only by their owners in person, after an agreed term of notice. The savings-bank was allowed to lend only on real estate or certain other securities, the character of which was rigidly regulated by the law. In consequence, it could use its funds for long-time loans and mortgages, so it earned larger rates of interest than the national banks. The trust company was a third variation, coming somewhere between the national and the savings-bank, and was regulated, as was the latter, by the laws of the community in which it existed. The trust company, too, received deposits from the people, but was allowed a broader latitude in employing them. It was also authorized to engage in certain other business for example, to act as manager for a deceased person’s estate and even to buy and sell securities. Because of the extra-hazardous business in which it engaged and from which the other two institutions were legally debarred, the trust company earned and paid larger rates of interest to its depositors, and the men who handled its funds were allowed to take for their own remuneration profits in excess of those derived by the custodians of national and savings-banks.

Another deficiency in the business structure growing out of the increasing prosperity of the people was next provided for. When an enterprise became so large as to necessitate several owners for its conduct, the prescribing and defining of the relation of these owners to each other and to the common property became a task of increasing difficulty. So the idea arose of welding the enterprise itself into a separate entity which could do all the things the individual might, and yet exist apart from the individual and independent of his personal dealings and comings and goings. His ownership should be an undivided interest in the whole represented by certificates of stock or bonds, which could pass from him to another without interfering with the enterprise. This was invention N: The Corporation. The law then provided regulations for the creation and conduct of these corporations which compelled them to keep their affairs in such shape that all could ascertain of what each consisted.

When these six organizations had been founded, the machinery for the conduct of the business of a civilized people was almost complete. But still one other want developed: with the multiplication of the corporation tokens of property, it became necessary that there should be some place where the worth of these might be ascertained either by purchase, sale, or loan under the regulation of experts. So there was created a common market-place, to which came all those who had corporation tokens of property to sell and those who desired to purchase them; and the prices these brought were announced to the world and became the measure of the value of the institution they represented. Rules for the regulation of the business of the market-place were gradually formulated, and invention N the Stock Exchange came into existence.

With this addition, the people’s organism for safeguarding and economically handling the funds of their labor to the best advantage of all concerned and without interfering with the rights and privileges of individuals was fully equipped. Each separate institution had grown out of an actual necessity and had its own legal organic function, fully understood and defined. And there was no branch of human industry which could not be safeguarded, handled, and perpetuated through this organism, nor could evil come from the existence of any one of these seven components. The robber, the thief, and the pirate, as defences against whom they had been erected, could not seize any of them or the people’s savings which they were created to safeguard, because the constitution of each provided adequate penalties for such a seizure. As long as the members of the organism performed their ordained functions the fabric of the people’s fortunes was safe from plunder.