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Part Two: The Value of Money > Chapter 9. The Problem of the Existence of Local...

1. Inter-local Price Relations

Let us at first ignore the possibility of various kinds of money being employed side by side, and assume that in a given district one kind of money serves exclusively as the common medium of exchange. The problem of the reciprocal exchange ratios of different kinds of money will then form the subject matter of the next chapter In this chapter, however, let us imagine an isolated geographical area of any size whose inhabitants engage in mutual trade and use a single good as common medium of exchange. It makes no immediate difference whether we think of this region as composed of several states, or as part of one large state, or as a particular individual state. It will not be necessary until a later stage in our argument to mention certain incidental modifications of the general formula which result from differences in the legal concepts of money in different states.

It has already been mentioned that two economic goods, which are of similar constitution in all other respects, are not to be regarded as members of the same species if they are not both ready for consumption at the same place. For many purposes it seems more convenient to regard them as goods of different species related to one another as goods of higher and lower orders.1 Only in the case of money is it permissible in certain circumstances to ignore the factor of position in space. For the utility of money, in contrast to that of other economic goods, is to a certain extent free from the limitations of geographical distance. Checks and clearing systems, and similar institutions, have a tendency to make the use of money more or less independent of the difficulties and costs of transport. They have had the effect of permitting gold stored in the cellars of the Bank of England, for instance, to be used as a common medium of exchange anywhere in the world. We can easily imagine a monetary organization which, by the exclusive use of notes or clearinghouse methods, allows all transfers to be made with the instrumentality of sums of money that never change their position in space. If we assume, further, that the costs associated with every transaction are not influenced by the distance between the two parties to the contract and between each of them and the place where the money is (it is well known that this condition is already realized in some cases; for example, in the charges made for postal and money-order services), then there is sufficient justification for ignoring differences in the geographical situation of money. But a corresponding abstraction with regard to other economic goods would be inadmissible. No institution can make it possible for coffee in Brazil to be consumed in Europe. Before the consumption good "coffee in Europe" can be made out of the production good "coffee in Brazil," this production good must first be combined with the complementary good "means of transport."

If differences due to the geographical position of money are disregarded in this way, we get the following law for the exchange ratio between money and other economic goods: every economic good, that is ready for consumption (in the sense in which that phrase is usually understood in commerce and technology), has a subjective use-value qua consumption good at the place where it is and qua production good at those places to which it may be brought for consumption. These valuations originate independently of each other; but, for the determination of the exchange ratio between money and commodities, both are equally important. The money price of any commodity in any place, under the assumption of completely unrestricted exchange and disregarding the differences arising from the time taken in transit, must be the same as the price at any other place, augmented or diminished by the money cost of transport.

Now there is no further difficulty in including in this formula the cost of transport of money, or a further factor, on which the banker and exchange dealer lay great weight, namely, the costs arising from the recoinage which may be necessary. All these factors, which it is not necessary to enumerate in further detail, have a combined effect on the foreign exchange rate (cable rate, etc.) the resultant of which must be included in our calculation as a positive or negative quantity. To prevent any possible misunderstanding, it should once more be explicitly remarked that we are concerned here only with the rate of exchange between places in which the same kind of money is in use, although it is a matter of indifference whether the same coins are legal tender in both places. The essentially different problems of the rate of exchange between different kinds of money will not occupy us until the following chapter.

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