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Breaking open the economic “prison doors” that bound society

December 21, 2010

Thomas Attwood claimed that the money supply was potentially an agent of prosperity.

In pre-electronic days he saw publicly exchanged money only as coins and bank notes which he believed were “alive”; they could break open the “prison doors” that bound society. 

His biographer, David Moss, writes:

“Simply stated, he believed that markets depended upon the natural desires and needs of the populace. If the supply of objects which would satisfy those needs was facilitated, a market was consequently created and production stimulated . . . 

Controlling the money supply 

“The acceptance of these ideas raised the question of control. The exact total of the note issues in the country was still difficult to establish . . . (Attwood believed “that an efficient control system could be constructed to remove many of the features of note issue which were open to abuse.”[64]) He postulated two distinct actions upon currency that could reduce circulation generally. The Bank of England, through its discount policies and its preeminent position in banking controlled the first of these. It could cut total circulation by reducing or rationing discounts and accommodation as it had in 1796-7, prior to restriction . . . 

Should foreign trade be incidental to the nation’s wealth?  

“A further objection was raised to the notion of a controlled depreciation – the threat to overseas trade . . . since British goods would be too expensive to sell abroad. Attwood rejoined that the high prices would be only notional. Bills drawn and received would be unchanged in real terms. In any event foreign trade was incidental to the nation’s wealth. The vision of English prosperity deriving its life force from ‘sucking, as it were, the blood and strength of other nations’ was offensive . . . ” [64

 

Thomas Attwood: the biography of a radical, by David J. Moss, McGill-Queens University Press, 1990

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