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Appendix A: On the Classification of Monetary Theories

1. Catallactic and Acatallactic Doctrine

The phenomenon of money occupies so prominent a position among the other phenomena of economic life, that it has been speculated upon even by persons who have devoted no further attention to the problems of economic theory, and even at a time when thorough investigation into the processes of exchange was still unknown. The results of such speculations were various. The merchants and, following them, the jurists who were closely connected with mercantile affairs, ascribed the use of money to the properties of the precious metals, and said that the value of money depended on the value of the precious metals. Canonist jurisprudence, ignorant of the ways of the world, saw the origin of the employment of money in the command of the state; it taught that the value of money was a valor impositus. Others, again, sought to explain the problem by means of analogy. From a biological point of view, they compared money with the blood; as the circulation of the blood animates the body, so the circulation of money animates the economic organism. Or they compared it with speech, which likewise had the function of facilitating human Verkehr (interchange, trade). Or they made use of juristic terminology and defined money as a draft by everybody on everybody else.

All these points of view have this in common: they cannot be built into any system that deals realistically with the processes of economic activity. It is utterly impossible to employ them as foundations for a theory of exchange. And the attempt has hardly been made; for it is clear that any endeavor to bring, say, the doctrine of money as a draft into harmony with any explanation of prices must lead to disappointing results. If it is desired to have a general name for these attempts to solve the problem of money, they may be called acatallactic, because no place can be found for them in catallactics.

The catallactic theories of money, on the other hand, do fit into a theory of exchange ratios. They look for what is essential in money in the negotiation of exchanges; they explain its value by the laws of exchange. It should be possible for every general theory of value to provide a theory of the value of money also, and for every theory of the value of money to be included in a general theory of value. The fact that a general theory of value or a theory of the value of money fulfills these conditions is by no means a proof of its correctness. But no theory can prove satisfactory if it does not fulfill these conditions.

It may seem strange that acatallactic views on money were not completely suppressed by the growth of the catallactic doctrine. There were many reasons for this.

It is not possible to master the problems of theoretical economics unless questions of the determination of prices (commodity prices, wages, rent, interest, etc.) are at first dealt with under the supposition of direct exchange, indirect exchange being temporarily left out of account. This necessity gives rise to a division of the theory of catallactics into two parts—the doctrine of direct, and that of indirect, exchange. Now so abundant and difficult are the problems of pure theory, that the opportunity of putting part of them on one side, at least for the time being, has been very welcome. So it has come about that most recent investigators have devoted either no attention at all or very little to the theory of indirect exchange; any way, it has been the most neglected section of our science. The consequences of this omission have been most unfortunate. They have been expressed not only in the sphere of the theory of indirect exchange, the theory of money and banking, but also in the sphere of the theory of direct exchange. There are problems of theory full comprehension of which can be attained only with the aid of the theory of indirect exchange. To seek a solution of these problems, among which, for example, is the problem of crises, with no instruments but those of the theory of direct exchange, is inevitably to go astray.

Thus the theory of money was meanwhile surrendered to the acatallactists. Even in the writings of many catallactic theorists, odd relics of acatallactic views are to be found. Now and then statements are met with which are not in harmony with their authors' other statements on the subject of money and exchange and which obviously have been accepted merely because they were traditional and because the author had not noticed that they clashed with the rest of his system.

On the other hand, the currency controversy had aroused greater interest than ever in questions of monetary theory just at the time when the coming modern theory was devoting very little attention to them. Many "practical men" ventured into this sphere. Now the practical man without general economic training who begins to meditate upon monetary problems at first sees nothing else and limits his investigation to their immediate restricted sphere without taking account of their connections with other things; it is therefore easy for his monetary theory to become acatallactic. That the "practical man," so proudly looked down upon by the professional "theorist," can proceed from investigations of monetary problems to the most penetrating comprehension of economic theory, is best shown by the development of Ricardo. The period of which we speak saw no such development. But it produced writers on monetary theory who did all that was necessary for the monetary policy of the time. From among a large number it is only necessary to mention two names—Bamberger and Soetbeer. A considerable portion of their activity was devoted to fighting the doctrines of contemporary acatallactists.

At present, acatallactic doctrines of money find ready acceptance among those economists who have no use for "theory." Those who, openly or implicitly, deny the necessity of theoretical investigation are not in a position to demand of a monetary doctrine that it should be possible to fit it into a theoretical system.