订阅

多平台阅读

微信订阅

杂志

申请纸刊赠阅

订阅每日电邮

移动应用

投资理财

《财富》经典回顾:黄金大辩论 (《财富》杂志,1931年)

《财富》 2011年08月22日

编者按:每周,《财富》网站(Fortune.com)将从往期《财富》杂志文章中精选出一篇最受读者欢迎的文章。本文摘自1931年2月刊,文章讨论了今天依然存在激烈争论的话题——黄金的真正价值何在?当时,美国正在经济大萧条中苦苦挣扎,黄金是当时的货币本位,交易价格仅为每盎司20美元。

    从黄金到信贷

    此时,银行开始登场。当前比较流行的做法是,国家通过中央银行【英格兰银行、美国联邦储备系统(Federal Reserve System)等】管理其财政,中央银行可能由政府拥有并控制,或政府在其中具有较大影响力,它们与国内的私营银行进行交易。中央银行是黄金供应(除了可能由国库持有的部分)的保管机构,并负责严格按照黄金比率发行该国的货币。私营银行则可以发放信贷(假定可兑换货币),而为控制私营银行的这一活动,私营银行必须在中央银行存有或习惯性存入一定比例的资金(存款)——国际惯例是10%到15%。因此,如果中央银行持有1美元等价黄金,便可以向下级机构发行2.50美元信贷,而从理论上来讲,下级机构又可以将其扩大到25美元的信贷,并向消费者发放,但这依然符合法律规定,且严格遵守了金本位制度。金本位制度规定,每一张纸币都可以兑换成黄金!

    可能影响这种灵活性的方式有很多。美国联邦储备系统共有十二家中央银行,每家银行都向会员银行提供借贷。目前,1.00美元等价黄金可支持约14美元信贷。在英国,1英镑可支持19英镑等价期票和信贷。发展程度较低的信贷机制允许的扩展性也较低。

    但在所有机制背后,都有一个核心事实,即每种机制都有黄金供应(或如在金汇兑本位制的国家,基于黄金的货币)作为支撑。通过这一点可以清楚地看出,去掉一般供应之后,世界上可能存在多余的黄金,而某个国家则可能存在黄金不足的情况。关于这个因素,我们希望读者能够记住,以便未来参考(将在之后进行讨论),首先来考虑一下能够将1美元扩大到25美元的杠杆机制的重要性。项目:从本质上来看,这是一种全新的发明,可以在衡量价值时,用纸币代替黄金(纸币被定义为可以兑换黄金,但由于没有足够的黄金可供兑换,因此实际上使用纸币需要维持一种平衡)。项目:纸币极其便利。除了方便之外,使用纸币可以加快黄金货币的流通速度(货币流通速度是本文提出的另外一个因素,将在依次讨论),使其更加有效。项目:通过随机观察可以发现,纸币应该是黄金短缺忧虑的解决方案。如果黄金产量跟不上商品的生产速度,各国必须允许小幅增加信贷。美国法律允许1.00美元等价黄金最高支持25美元信贷,但实际美国仅达到14美元;如果达到了25美元的限制水平,还可以通过修改法律将上限提高到50美元。但这样做存在一个问题,不论哪个国家在何时允许增加信贷,都可能面临失去信贷的危险。一般而言,保持30%至40%黄金储备的基本比例属于法律规定。但如果明天法律被废止,大部分国家可能不会利用这一暂缓期采取任何行动。如果有国家贸然行事,可能会将自己置身于丧失信贷的危机中。如果一国将金汇兑从1美元扩大到14美元,那它也能扩大到25美元。如果该国将限定标准提高到16美元或17美元(依然未超出法律规定的限制),则会有人惊呼,通货膨胀来了。此时,我们会发现“公众信心”发生了转变。全世界都在低声嘟囔,自称“对于通货膨胀有丰富的应对经验”。确实,所有货币都出现了膨胀。但它再次膨胀就会引发国民的不满。但这并非一种绝对的关系。美国扩大信贷的幅度高于巴西,但它的信用却更稳定;而且现在甚至比十九世纪中期更加稳定。当时,美国只是从1.00美元扩大到4.00美元或5.00美元。无论如何,各国政府对纸币代替黄金流通的问题都是非常慎重的。

    这一部分主要是从机制的角度讨论了一个问题——机制如何影响信贷。当然,如果反过来便是一个更大的概念。从根本上来说,一个人之所以扩大他的信贷,主要源于他的自信和对未来的信心。机制毕竟是人创造的。因此,从信贷角度来解读,可以说是人的自信(转化之后就是信贷)统领着这种机制。信心、信念以及其他与人对自己的信任有关的因素所起的作用怎么强调都不为过。

    在机制中还有一个非常活跃的部分,这是政府和国际委员会无法控制的,即贸易中的信贷扩展。商人、制造商、经纪人或零售商如果给客户的支付留出了一定的时间,实际上就是在向客户提供信贷。在这种情况下,客户从商人那里获得信贷,而不是通过银行借贷或支付现金。

    到这里,我们最好暂停一下,来研究机制中最不可控制、同时也是最不可思议的一个因素:货币流通速度。在此处讨论这个主题恰到好处,因为在上面最后提到的广泛存在的个人信贷扩展中,货币流通性是最强的。其实原理非常简单:同样一张一美元钞票,使用两次之后,便具有相当于两张一美元的效力;相同数量的黄金储备发挥了两倍的作用。如果你借给我的10美元,提供给我的信贷,这种信贷透过千丝万缕微妙的复杂关系,最终与深埋于地下的黄金相关联;但财富的数量与10美元流通的次数并无联系。如果我用支票偿还这10美元,而你从同一家银行将其兑现,则同样一笔钱在银行中通过支票兑现的次数与财富的数量也没有联系。众多研究和理论都提到了这个问题。流通速度似乎陷入一个“亲商业”循环,而在一次上升过程中,流动量可能增加两倍。有一点非常确定:随着文明的进步,流通速度将保持上升的趋势。

    快速回顾:将黄金作为工具衡量商品价值的机制以黄金作为基点呈扇形扩展。中央银行、发行银行等发放信贷(纸币等),但信贷数量不超过其黄金储备的2.5倍;私营银行、信贷接受者在此基础上再发放信贷;个人按其配置情况的比例和财政安全情况,在最后一关发力,为那些在守卫森严的金库中的珍贵金属又增添了一笔价值。在整个过程中,“货币流通速度”发挥了作用,但没有人能够确定,这些金属最终能够产生多大的效果。

    关于各国根据黄金储备已经创建的实际信贷的扩展,我们的研究先到此为止。下面,我们将回到之前提到的话题,即与黄金短缺问题相同,如果我们所持有的黄金进行流动,也容易引发问题。前文提到,采用金本位制的国家必须储备足够的黄金,作为该国货币的准备金。但在进行国际结算时,通用的金本位制将导致黄金在国家之间自由流通,以稳定各国货币与黄金的兑换比例。如果债权国要求,债务国必须用黄金偿还债务,而如果允许自由流通,黄金通常会流向(1)最安全的国家,和(2)最有利可图的国家。如果一个国家的商业出现问题,这意味着该国部分黄金可能会向其认为更有利可图或更安全的地方流失——或者用于支付该国所欠的外债。

    【此处,我们通过一个理论,采用最浅显的方式描述了机制,并概述了其中一小部分(黄金流动的原因),虽然这一理论非常通俗易懂,但依然不失为一种理论。关于黄金流动的原因,还有许多解释,并且更加详细。不论哪种解释是正确的,但有一点毫无疑问,黄金确实在不同国家之间流动。】

    目前,并没有什么灵丹妙药可以阻止黄金储备的日渐萎缩——这通常是经济不景气的症状,但确实无药可医。截止到目前,要想将黄金留在国内,最有效的方法就是比周边国家更加繁荣。如果心有余而力不足,一个国家可能禁不住诱惑,采取人为的(也是临时的)权宜之计。在发达国家中,为了保住黄金储备,约有六个国家采取了提高再贴现率的人为措施。这一措施的原理是:中央银行宣布将提高贷款利率(“再贴现”款项),因此其他银行必须收取更高的利息,于是,整个国家货币的价值被抬高。之前一分钟还渴望流向其他国家的黄金,此时会更倾向于留在本国,从高利率中获益。这一机制的缺点在于,它将增加本国国民的贷款成本,阻碍他们的发展,最终可能降低他们的生活水平。而且,也有可能出价过高,导致不得不再次提高利率。如果一个国家不想提高再贴现率,也可以对金税出口资本执行禁令,或仅以一种不可接受的方式提供黄金,例如,限制该金属的出口,减缓黄金流失的过程——甚至可以通过立法禁止黄金出口,这一措施通常被用于战争时期,而在和平时期则可能引发商界的不安,因为这意味着,该国取消了黄金兑换的保证,至少是禁止国外兑换。

    另外一种扩大和缩减信贷的方法也颇有价值,这种方法被称为“中央银行开放市场操作”,主要见于美国和英格兰。这种方法非常有创意。如果中央银行希望使人们更轻松获得货币,它可以进入市场,买入证券。而中央银行用支票支付证券,很快支票又会作为存款进入中央银行,并记入同一家会员银行的账户。结果是,会员银行在中央银行的存款数额增加,使会员银行可以将信贷扩大十倍之多。而中央银行只需要按照惯例保留存款背后的黄金比例即可。因此,用很少的黄金便可以实现大规模的信贷,准确地说是把大量信贷强加给了市场。如果是相反的情况,中央银行可以卖出证券,减少会员银行的存款,收紧信贷。

    虽然文章的描述比较简单,但千万不要被它迷惑。实际操作非常复杂,所涉及的问题也非常难以捉摸,而且,对开放市场操作的使用或滥用也一直存在激烈的争议。

    Gold Into Credit

    Here banking enters the picture. The fashion of today is for a country to organize its finances by means of a central bank (Bank of England, Federal Reserve System, etc.) either owned, controlled, or largely influenced by its government and doing business with the private banks of the country. This central bank is the custodian of the gold supply (except what part might be held by the Treasury) and issues the country's currency, governed strictly by the gold ratio. The private banks of the country, however, may issue their own credit (presumably redeemable in currency), and to control this, each is required to keep, or has made a habit of keeping, an amount equivalent to a percentage of the money it owes (its deposits) with the central bank -- 10 to 15 per cent is the rule. Thus for the possession of $1.00 of gold, the central bank may issue $2.50 of credit to a lesser institution which, in turn may, theoretically, extend $25 worth of credit to a customer and still be within the law, abiding strictly by the gold standard which says that each and every paper dollar may be redeemed in grains of gold!

    The exact methods of effecting this elasticity vary widely. In the U. S., we have our Federal Reserve System's twelve central banks, each lending money to member banks. At present, $1.00 of gold supports about $14 of credit. In Great Britain, £1 supports £19 of notes and credit. Less developed credit machinery allows less expansion.

    Underlying all systems, however, is the central fact that each must have its supply of gold to support it (or currency based on gold, as in the Gold Exchange Standard). From which it becomes immediately apparent that, having split up the common supply, there may be a plethora of gold in the world and a shortage of it in one country. Which factor we would like you to file away for future reference (it will be discussed presently) and consider first the significance of this involved system of levers whereby $1.00 may be stretched to $25. Item: it is essentially a contrivance which substitutes paper for gold in the process of weighing values (the paper is defined as being exchangeable for gold but there isn't enough gold to exchange for it, hence paper is really used in the balance). Item: it is immensely convenient. Besides being handy, it accelerates the speed with which gold money changes hands (the velocity of money is another factor suggested here, to be taken up in turn), which makes it more effective. Item: observed casually, it appears the answer to gold famine alarmists. If gold production doesn't keep pace with commodity production, all the world has to do is to allow itself a little more credit. The U. S. only stretches $1.00 into $14 when its laws allow it to reach to $25; when it reaches $25, change the laws to let it touch $50. One catch is that whenever the world, or any part of it, does allow itself more credit, it may lose its self-confidence. The basic ratios of around 30 per cent to 40 per cent gold in reserve are, generally, fixed by law. But if the laws were repealed tomorrow, most of the nations of the world would make no move to take advantage of the respite, and any that did would be in danger of finding their credit vanishing. This country stretches $1.00 to $14, can stretch to $25. Yet if it raised the mark to $16 or $17 (still well within the legal limits), the cry of inflation might be raised. Herein we observe the cogwheel "public confidence" turning. Collectively, the world mutters in its beard that it "has had a lot of experience with inflated currency." Yet, obviously, all its currency is inflated. It's inflating it any more which bothers our people. The relation is, patently, far from absolute. The U. S. extends more credit than Brazil, yet its credit is better; it is better now than when in mid-19th century, it only stretched $1.00 to $4.00 or $5.00. Still, governments have given a good deal of concern to the problem of palming off paper for gold in a genteel way.

    This section has dealt, characteristically, with the problem from the mechanical viewpoint -- how the machine might influence the credit. The converse is, of course, the larger conception. It is, essentially, man's confidence in himself and in his future that permits him, to extend himself credit. The machine is only a machine, man-made. Hence it would be quite proper to say that man's self-confidence, interpreted in credit, governs it. The part played by confidence, faith, or whatever you wish to label man's belief in himself, cannot be overemphasized.

    There is still another, and very active, part of the machine over which governments and international committees have no direct control, and that is the extension of credit in trade. Every merchant, manufacturer, broker, or tradesman who gives a customer time to pay is really loaning his customer the money. The customer gets credit from the merchant instead of borrowing from his bank and paying cash.

    At this point we had better pause to examine that least controllable and most mysterious of all elements in the machine, the velocity of money. The subject is apropos, for it is in the above last far-flung extension of credit by individuals that the velocity factor is especially potent. The principle advanced is simple: the same dollar bill, used twice, is as effective as two individual dollar bills; the same amount of gold reserve has done twice the work. The credit you extend to me in loaning me $10 is, far away across a sea of subtlety, linked to buried gold; but there is no link between that treasure and the number of times that $10 bill will be used. Nor the number of times the same amount of money in a bank may be checked against, if I pay you back with a check and you deposit it in the same bank and draw against it again. There has been much research done, and many theories have been advanced on the subject. The velocity seems to indulge in cycles "sympathetic to business," and the circulation may, in a single upswing, treble. This much is certain: the tendency is upward with the march of civilization, toward a higher velocity.

    To review rapidly: the machinery for the use of gold as an instrument for valuing commodities spreads fan-wise from a base of gold. Central banks, banks of issue, etc., grant credit (paper money, etc.) up to not more than two and one-half times their gold reserve; private banks, recipients of this credit, grant further credit based on it; individuals, in proportion to their dispositions and financial security, give one last-and powerful-fling to the value of those precious grains in the closely guarded vault. Through all of which the "velocity of circulation" factor enters, and no man knows, for certain, just how much work those same grains may eventually accomplish.

    Leaving the consideration of the extension of the total actual credit already created on the world's gold, let us return, as we promised, to the proposition that ills may arise as readily from shifting the gold we have as from any general shortage. It is written that each country committed to a gold standard must have its own gold to back up its own bank notes. But the idea of a common gold standard entails the free passage of gold from country to country in settlement of international balances, in stabilizing the world's moneys in terms of gold. Nations must pay their debts in gold (if asked) and, allowed to choose its home, free gold will always go where (1) it will be safest and (2) make the most money. A run of commercial bad luck, then, means a tendency on the part of a nation's gold to run where it can make more money or feel safer -- and in payment of the money the nation owes.

    (Here we have taken the easiest course in describing the machine and sketched in a part [the reason for gold movements] by the use of a theory, a popular one, but still a theory. Many and elaborate are the explanations advanced for why gold moves. Whichever is right, gold does move, from nation to nation, wandering.)

    Now there is no panacea for diminishing gold reserves -- no handy cure-all for what is often a symptom of economic distress. By far the happiest way to keep gold at home is to be more prosperous than your neighbor. But if, as a nation, you can't manage this, you may be tempted to resort to artificial (and temporary) expedients. And a common artificial respirator of gold reserves among perhaps half-dozen leading countries is the raised rediscount rate. It works thus: the central bank announces that it will charge more interest for the money it loans (in "rediscounting" obligations), hence other banks must charge higher rates, and money throughout the land becomes dear. The gold which was so anxious a minute before to get somewhere else now may prefer to stay at home to benefit by these higher rates. The disadvantages of this system are that it entails charging your own countrymen more money for their loans, handicaps them, and may eventually lower their scale of living. Also, you may be overbid and have to raise again. If you don't care to raise your rediscount rate, you may place some kind of an embargo on outgoing gold-tax exported capital, or only deliver gold metal in an unacceptable form, i.e., make it inconvenient for export and so slow the process -- or you can up and make it against the law to export gold, a drastic step almost always taken in war but extremely disturbing to peace-time commerce because it removes the guarantee of gold redemption, at least in foreign parts.

    Another method of expanding and n contracting credit which is worth your knowing about might be titled "Open Market Operations of Central Banks," and it is used, principally, by the U. S. and England. The idea is ingenious. When the central bank wants to make money easier to get, it goes out into the market and buys securities. For them, the bank gives a check which soon finds its way back to the central institution as a deposit, credited to the account of some member bank. The result is an increase in the member bank deposits with the central bank, which allows the former to extend some ten times as much credit. The central bank has only to maintain its customary percentage of gold behind the deposit. Thus large credit is made available with little metal, is literally forced on the market. Reverse the process, and you have the central bank selling securities, lowering member bank balances, and tightening credit.

    Do not let the comparative simplicity of this exposition deceive you. The physical operation is complicated, the issues involved are subtle, and the use or abuse of open market operations is hotly disputed.

上一页 1 2 3 4 5 下一页

我来点评

  最新文章

最新文章:

500强情报中心

财富专栏