Summer Semester, 2002

Monetary Economics 101: The Real Bills Doctrine of Adam Smith

Lecture 3


– The Invisible Vacuum Cleaner –
– The Quantity Theory of Money –
– Destruction of the Gold Standard –
– And Discrediting the Real Bills Doctrine –
– Are Two Sides of the Same Coin –
– The Working Man As the Guardian of Sound Money –

Lending versus Clearing

July 15, 2002

I dedicate this lecture to the memory of Ely Moore, the first union official ever to have been elected to the Congress in 1834. He was a solid gold-standard man who believed, with Daniel Webster, that

“Of all the contrivances for cheating the laboring classes of mankind, none has been more effective than that which deludes them with paper money.”

Daniel Webster

In the first two Lectures I dealt with a new blueprint for a gold coin standard for America and the world, designed to avoid two great pitfalls: (1) the pitfall of breakdown of social peace between creditors and debtors, (2) the pitfall of entrusting gold coins that represent the savings of the people to the banks. In this Lecture I shall recommend that the guardianship to preserve the system of sound money should, instead, be entrusted to the laboring classes and their representatives, the Credit Unions, which would be the only financial institutions chartered to carry deposit accounts denominated in Gold Eagle coins, and which would act as clearing houses for the circulation of real bills.

Recall that real bills provide credits to move urgently demanded consumer goods from the producers to the retail outlets. We don’t need banks for that. In any event, short term commercial credits arise not through lending but through clearing. As the supply of consumer goods emerge in production, purchasing media to finance its movement to the consumer emerge simultaneously through the process of clearing. No lending is involved. Coin, credit, circulation, clearing – the four C’s – are central ideas that economics has ignored. We are going to revive them here in preparation to pave the way to a new gold coin standard. Continue reading


Detractors of Adam Smith’s Real Bills Doctrine

Courtesy of Professor Antel E Fekete of Safehaven:

Credit versus clearing

Strictly speaking a bill of exchange, pejoratively called “real bill” by Milton Friedman following his mentor Lloyd Mints, is not a credit instrument. It is a clearing instrument. It enables the market to clear goods in most urgent demand without needlessly invading the pool of circulating gold coins that would cause monetary contraction whenever division of labor is further refined and production processes are made more “roundabout” (to use the phrase of Bëhm-Bawerk) by the most progressive elements in the ranks of entrepreneurs and inventors. Lending and borrowing are not involved. The real bill circulates on its own wings and under its own steam by virtue of the urgent demand for the underlying consumer good.

Self-liquidating credit

In spite of the conceptual difference between credit and clearing, it is customary to extend the concept of credit to include, in addition to credit arising out of the propensity to save that financesfixed capital, self-liquidating credit arising out of the propensity to consume that finances circulating capital in the final phases of production of merchandise moving sufficiently fast to the final, gold-paying consumer. Thus, then, the bill of exchange is the embodiment of self-liquidating credit, so called as the credit is liquidated directly with the gold coin surrendered by the consumer in 91 days or less, 91 days being the length of the seasons of the year. With the change of seasons the type of merchandise demanded most urgently by the consumer also changes in the temperate zones where spontaneous bill circulation has taken its origin during the Renaissance. For this reason bills of exchange are limited to maturities 91 days or less. Under no circumstances would a bill circulate after maturity. If the underlying merchandise couldn’t be sold during the current season, then it wouldn’t be sold until the same season comes around again the following year. Continue reading