In my recent article ‘Entrepreneurial Magic’, I discuss the topic of trust based credit… or how to make money without money. I discuss how trust based credit reduces the cost of doing business… any business. In today’s G’man dominated world, only fringe businesses can benefit from using trust based credit. These benefits should be available worldwide to all business. Indeed these benefits were available under the Classical Gold Standard; as observed by Natural Philosopher Adam Smith.
Adam Smith saw that the ‘heavy lifting’ in world trade was accomplished not by the circulation of money (Gold and Silver coin) but mainly by the circulation of Bills of Exchange. Indeed, some people call this observation ‘The Real Bills Doctrine of Adam Smith’… as if Adam Smith had invented this ‘doctrine’.
Like any true natural philosopher, Adam Smith observed reality, saw what was happening with clear, unbiased vision… and then proceeded to write up the observations and hypotheses based on his observations. Quite unlike today’s mainstream ‘science’; where observations are selected to support current dogmas.
In any case, Adam Smith saw the almost magical qualities of Real Bills… aka Bills of Exchange. If you missed the last couple of articles, Real Bills are commercial bills drawn against urgently needed consumer goods delivered to retailers, with terms… that is, the bills have an extended due date… unlike retail bills that need to be paid cash on the spot.
Until their due date when they must be paid in full, Real Bills carry the value of the merchandise they were drawn against, and will circulate as a means of payment… increasing the efficiency of Gold and Silver money virtually without bounds. They are called Bills of Exchange because they change hands in clearing payments.
They are also called Real Bills because they are drawn against real goods already delivered. These goods are in urgent demand by consumers… consumers who will pay for the merchandise in Gold coin, thus allowing the bill to be paid in time by the retailer… indeed, perhaps paid before due date if consumption is brisk; prepaid at a consideration. This ‘consideration’ for pre-payment is the origin of the discount rate. Unlike interest that originates as the cost of (borrowed) money, the discount originates as the consideration offered for early payment of Real Bills.
As discussed in my last article ‘Trust Your Neighbor-Tie Your Camel’, the cost of doing business by borrowing to pay for inventory is very high… around 50% of net realized profits go to pay the cost of funds…! To see how detrimental this is to employment, consider the idea of the Marginal Productivity of Labor…oops, bit of economic jargon slipped in here… but the idea is simple once you look at it more closely.
Margin is the line dividing two things… like the border of two countries for example. The productivity of labor is simply how much value an hour of work creates… whether the labor is shoveling coal, doing brain surgery, or cutting the patron’s hair. All work is called ‘labor’. Margin is the line between labor that is profitable… and labor that is not profitable. This is the Marginal Productivity of Labor; the line dividing profitable from non-profitable (loss making) economic activity.
Suppose the work of digging up 100 Lbs. of potatoes creates value of $20.00. That is, from a hundred pounds of potatoes in the ground to one hundred pounds of potatoes in a sack ready to ship creates (adds) value of $20.00. Now suppose an expert can dig 100 Lb. in one hour… ($20 worth) while a less experienced or less motivated picker digs 75 Lb. per hour ($15 worth), and a rooky, wimpy picker bags 50 Lb. ($10 worth).
Our expert creates value of $20.00 per hour, the journeyman creates value of $15.00, and the rooky creates $10.00. Assume the overhead cost of the potato digging business is $10.00 per hour, and the minimum wage is $5.00… Overhead is an indirect cost, wages are a direct cost. Overhead is the ‘cost of doing business’. It includes costs of capital, compliance costs, taxes, etc… Direct cost is the payment made to the worker; paid directly for the work of potato digging.
If we take $10.00 (overhead) and add $5.00 (wages) we can see that the net value created by the expert is $5.00 ($20.00 -$15.00 = $5.00). This net value pays profits… or bonuses, or expansion of the farm, or whatever. On the other hand, the journeyman digger creates net value of $15.00 – $15.00 = $0.00… Break even!
There is no room for profit, or bonuses, or growth of the farm… this is the margin… the ‘marginal productivity of labor’ in the potato digging business is $15.00 per hour. Finally, the rooky who produces $10 of value per hour, will not create any NET value; indeed, $10 – $15 = -$5.00 … a five dollar per hour loss. The farmer cannot afford to hire the rooky; he is ‘sub marginal’.
So what can we do to improve the situation? Clearly the liberal stance of ‘increasing the minimum wage’ will put more workers out of work… as an increase in the cost of doing business raises the marginal productivity of labor; more workers will become sub-marginal. If the minimum wage is pushed to $10.00, the expert will become marginal. This wage increase will put the expert out of a job, and force the farmer out of business… or cause an uptick in the cost of potatoes to compensate for the increase in costs.
On the other hand, the conservative stance of ‘getting rid of minimum wages’ may put more workers to work… but at starvation wages. Neither liberal nor conservative views are complete; the real answer is to reduce the cost of doing business… or, the same thing, to lower the marginal productivity of labor; make it profitable to hire less productive workers.
Suppose overhead costs are reduced from $10.00 to $5.00… by reducing the cost of capital (through the use of trust based credit instead of bank borrowing) and by reducing compliance costs and taxes; now the journeyman worker indeed produces a net positive value. $15 – $10.00 = $5.00 of net value. The expert picker would also produce more net value; $20.00- $10.00 = $10.00. Why, the expert may even get a raise.
And our rooky? He produces $10.00 value per hour; overhead costs are $5.00… so he may sneak in at wages of $5.00 per hour… The rooky is now the marginal labor, instead of the journeyman. A new, lower margin (break even) at $10.00 per hour has been established. If the minimum wage is reduced to $4.50, we can be pretty sure the rooky will be in a position to be hired… and be in a position to learn, to upgrade his skills, soon to become a journeyman who easily picks 75Lb per hour.
Now play this very same scenario out over ALL business, all jobs, and ALL workers worldwide… and it becomes very clear why there was no structural unemployment under Gold. Borrowing costs were replaced by Real Bill profits. Under a fully developed Bill market, there is no need for the retailer to pre-pay his bill to get a discount; he simply buys other merchant’s bills as his till fills with the consumer’s Gold coin… and earns profits on these Bills as they appreciate.
If you think this can be compared to the retailer using a savings deposit or a CD to earn income on surplus cash, you miss the point; the money the retailer gets for his CD or deposit is more than offset in the economy at large by other borrowers, who pay the banks a much higher interest rate. The money the retailer earns by buying Bills is never borrowed, does not reduce any other merchant’s profits… rather flows strictly from the propensity of consumers to spend.
Remember, both the retailer and wholesaler, that is both the acceptor and initiator of a Real Bill benefit; the retailer gets merchandise on consignment (at no cost) and the wholesaler gets to sell more merchandise. Both parties benefit… else they would not make the deal. Neither borrowing nor lending is involved.
The structural unemployment we suffer from will not go away on it’s own. Dole payments are no substitute for wages and profits honestly earned. The World economy will never turn around as a result of more borrowing, more spending… but it will indeed turn on a Dime… if the Dime is real Silver, and if Real Bills that mature into Silver and Gold circulate freely once again.
Rudy J. Fritsch
Editor in Chief