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are only worth about sixteen gold shillings and eightpence, that is, of a pound. It is necessary to make the silver coin thus of less value than it is taken for, in order to render it unprofitable to melt the coin. In the same way, the metal in a bronze penny is worth only about the sixth part of a penny, so that people would lose a great deal by melting up or destroying pence.
82. Paper Currency. Instead of using actual coins of gold, silver, or bronze, it is common to make use of paper notes containing promises to pay money. When the sum of money to be paid is large, a bank note is much more convenient, being of far less weight than the coins, and less likely to be stolen. A five-pound bank note is a promise to pay five pounds to any person who has the note in his possession, and who asks for five pounds in exchange for the note at the office of the bank issuing the note. A convertible bank note is one which actually can be thus changed into the coins whenever it is desired, and so long as this is really the case, it is evident that the note is just as valuable as the coins, and is more convenient. The only fear is that, if a banker be allowed to issue these bank notes, he will not always have coins enough to pay them when presented. Very frequently banks have been obliged to stop payment; that is, to refuse to perform their promises. Nevertheless, when there is no other currency to be had, the bank notes often go on circulating like money. They are then called inconvertible notes, and there is said to be a paper money. A person is willing to receive paper currency in exchange for goods, if he believes that other people will take it from him again. But such paper currency is very bad, because its value will rise or fall according to the quantity issued, and people who owe money will often be able to pay their debts with less value than they received. The subject of bank notes and paper money, however, is too difficult for us to pursue in this Primer.
CREDIT AND BANKING.
83. What Credit means. It is very important for those who would learn political economy to understand exactly what is meant by credit. John is said to give credit to Thomas when John leaves some of his property in the use of Thomas, expecting to have it returned at a future time. In short, any one who lends a thing gives credit, and he who borrows it receives credit. The word credit means belief, and John believes that he will get back his property from Thomas, though this, unfortunately, does not always prove to be the case. John is called the creditor, and Thomas the debtor.
It is not common, indeed, to speak of credit in the case of most articles : when a man borrows a horse, a book, a house, an engine, or other common article, and pays for its use, he is said to hire it, and what he pays for the use is called the hire, fare, or rent. In some countries, where coins are not yet used, people lend and borrow corn, oil, wine, rice, or any common commodity which all like to possess. In the parts of Africa where palm oil is produced in great quantities, people give and take credit in oil. But in all civilised countries it has become the practice to borrow and lend money. If a man needs an engine, and has nothing to buy it with, he goes and borrows money enough from the person who will lend it on the lowest terms, and then he buys the engine where he can get it most cheaply. Frequently, indeed, the man who sells the engine will give credit for its price, that is, will lend the sum of money to the buyer, just sufficient to enable him to buy it.
Credit is a very important thing, because, when properly employed, it enables property to be put into the hands of those who will make the best use of it. Many people have property but are unable to go into business, as is the case with women, children, old men, invalids, &c. Rich people perhaps have so much property that they do not care to trouble themselves with business, if they can get others to take the trouble for them. Even those who are engaged in business often have sums of money which they do not immediately want to use, and which they are willing to lend for a short time. On the other hand, th are many clever active men, who could do a great deal of work in establishing manufactories, sinking mines, or trading in goods, if they only had enough money to enable them to buy the requisite materials, tools, buildings, land, &c. A man must have some property of his own before he can expect to get credit; but with some property to fall back upon in case of need, and with a good character for honesty and ability, a trader can by credit obtain other people's capital to deal with.
84. Loans on Mortgage. Credit is given in many different ways; sometimes a man is assisted by a permanent loan from a relative or friend who has confidence in him. Enormous sums of money are lent, as it is called, upon mortgage. A man, for instance, who has built a cotton mill with his own money, pledges the mill as security for a loan, that is, he gives his creditor a right to sell the mill unless the debt is paid when required. The mill is called a mortgage or dead pledge, because it becomes dead to the former owner, if he breaks the conditions of the loan. There are many institutions, such as insurance companies, building societies, &c., which have a great deal of capital to lend on mortgage, and many rich people invest their money in the same way. Thus a very large part of the houses, land, factories, shops, &c., are not really owned by the people who seem to own them, but by mortgagees, who have lent money on them.
Generally speaking, the interest paid for such loans is 472 or 5 per cent. per annum, when the security is quite good, that is, when the property mortgaged is sure to sell for more than is lent upon it. A considerable margin is always left to cover mistakes or alterations as regards the value of the property; thus, if a house be said to be worth £1000, it will usually be security only for a debt of £700 or £800. When the security is not so good, because the ownership or the value of the property mortgaged is doubtful, the rate of interest charged will be higher, and may be six, seven, or more per cent. The surplus covers the risk, that is, compensates the lender, for the chance of losing what he lends. Mortgage loans are generally made upon fixed capital like houses, mills, ships, &c., which last a long time; but sometimes stocks of goods, such as cotton, wine, corn, &c., are mortgaged as security for temporary loans.
85. Banking. A large part of the credit given, in a civilised country, is given by bankers, who may be said to deal in credit, or which comes to the same thing, in debt. A banker usually carries on three or four different kinds of work, but his proper
work is that of borrowing from persons who have ready money to lend, and lending it to those who want to buy goods. As a shopkeeper sells his stock of goods, he receives money for it. And, until he buys a new stock, he has no immediate need of this money. Those, again, who receive salaries, dividends, rents, or other payments once a quarter, do not usually want to spend the whole at once. Instead of keeping such money in a house, where it pays no interest and is liable to be stolen, lost, or burnt, it is much better to deposit it with a banker, that is, to lend it to a banker who will undertake to pay it back when it is wanted. Generally speaking a merchant, manufacturer, or tradesman sends to his banker every day the money which he has received, and only keeps a few pounds to give change or make petty payments. The advantages of thus depositing money with the banker are chiefly as follows :
(1.) The money is safe, as the banker provides strong rooms, locked and guarded at night.
(2.) It is easy to pay the money away by means of cheques or written orders entitling the persons named therein to demand a specified sum of money from the banker.
(3.) The banker usually allows some interest for the
money in his
Bankers receive deposits on various terms; sometimes the depositor engages to give seven days' notice before withdrawing his deposit ; in other cases the money is lent to the banker for one, three, or six months certain, and the longer the time for which it is lent the better the rate of interest the banker can usually give. But a great deal of money is deposited on current account, that is, the customer puts his money into the bank, and draws it out just when he likes, without notice. In this case the banker gives very little interest, or none at all, because he has to keep much of the money ready for his customers, not knowing when it will be wanted.
Nevertheless, while some depositors are drawing their money out, others will be putting more in, and it is exceedingly unlikely that all the thousands of customers of a large bank will want their deposits at the same time. Thus it happens that the banker, in addition to his own capital, has a large stock of money always on hand, and he makes profit by lending out this money to other customers, who need credit.
There are various ways in which a banker arranges his loans ; sometimes he lends upon the mortgage of goods, houses, and other property, or of shares in railways and government funds, in the way described ; but this is not a proper way for a banker to employ much of his funds, because he may not be able to get back such loans rapidly enough when he needs them. One of the simplest ways of lending money is to allow customers to overdraw their accounts, that is, to draw more money out of the bank than they have put in.