Truth Has a Power of Its Own by Howard Zinn

Truth Has a Power of Its Own by Howard Zinn

Author:Howard Zinn
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: The New Press
Published: 2019-09-07T16:00:00+00:00

You’re talking about a largely unregulated set of industries but also a time when money was tied to the value of gold and silver. It seemed that a set of rules made up for manufacturers and bankers wasn’t working so well for people who lived on credit, as farmers did. How did issue of gold and hard money versus paper money, one of the great controversies of the late nineteenth century, land on the shoulders of the individual farmer? What difference did it make to somebody farming wheat in the Great Plains whether or not the American currency was tied to gold and silver?

When money is scarce because it’s tied to the gold standard, then people who are debtors, people who owe money, have less and less chance to pay back and to take care of the debts that they have. The constriction of the money supply hurts them.

Farmers want inflation. Inflation is a bad word to consumers, but to people who are in debt, inflation means that money is more available for them to pay off their debts.

This goes back to the period right after the American Revolution, when farmers in the colonies were demanding the issuance of paper money not tied to the gold standard. The counterpart of paper money in the nineteenth century was silver—more plentiful than gold. If silver were used as a standard, the farmers thought, they’d be able to pay off their debts. That’s why the Populist Party became the party of silver versus the party of gold.

That’s why they ran candidates on a platform of “free silver.” Although the farmers themselves did not understand the niceties of finance, they gathered around what seemed like a good slogan: Free Silver. It became the campaign of the Populist Movement when in 1896 it supported Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, who ran on the program of free silver.


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