Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Other Kind of Welfare...

..has apparently been known to have been with us for a long time:
Whenever, in the actual state of things, a fresh issue of notes comes into the hands of those who mean to employ them in the prosecution and extension of profitable business, a difference in the distribution of the circulating medium takes place, similar in kind to that which has been last supposed; and produces similar, though of course comparatively inconsiderable effects, in altering the proportion between capital and revenue in favor of the former.  The new notes go into the market as so much additional capital, to purchase what is necessary for the conduct of the concern.  But, before the produce of the country has been increased, it is impossible for one person to have more of it, without diminishing the shares of some others.  This diminution is affected by the rise of prices, occasioned by the competition of the new notes, which puts it out of the power of those who are only buyers, and not sellers, to purchase as much of the annual produce as before:  While all the industrious classes -- all of those who sell as well as buy -- are, during the progressive rise of prices, making unusual profits; and, even when this progression stops, are left with the command of a greater portion of the annual produce than they possessed previous to the new issues.
-- Thomas Robert Malthus, 1811, from
Prices and Production by F. A. Hayek
Malthus apparently noticed that the issue of new notes created a boom in prices of capital goods, and that it caused wealth to accumulate preferentially to business owners -- "sellers as well as buyers" -- as opposed to wage earners and those living on fixed incomes -- "those who are only buyers, and not sellers."

Now, if he'd only followed through on that observation...

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