It was just a little less than thirty years ago, at the time the dollar was devalued, that Franklin D. Roosevelt announced as the objective of government policy a dollar that would over the years purchase the same quantity of goods; that is, a dollar whose value in terms of purchasing power would be stable. The ideal was that you could invest dollars today—in bonds, notes, savings accounts, insurance—and be sure that those dollars would be worth just as much in the market twenty or thirty years hence.

Yet it is obvious to everyone that this objective has not been attained, and is not likely to be attained. In respect of spoilage, or deterioration, a bundle of greenbacks is different only in degree from a head of lettuce.

When coinage was developed by the Greeks about seven hundred years before Christ, the minting appears to have been done by the temple authorities.… The temples, we may assume, had a tradition of pure coinage, since only a pure metal, like an unblemished sacrifice, would be acceptable to the god or goddess. In the case of the Jews, the purity of the metal was elevated into a moral question. The Mosaic law forbade adulterating goods or tampering with weights and measures. Thus the devout Jew was forbidden to wear garments of mingled wool and linen; he was forbidden to sow his field with mixed seed, or to crossbreed, say, an ass with a mare. While concerning metals the prohibition is not explicit, we may assume that alloying metal was likewise forbidden. The Mosaic law also laid down the principle of honest weights—a moral achievement with which the world has not yet caught up. “Just balances, just weights; a just ephah and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the Lord your God”—so ran the Mosaic command (Lev. 19:36). ...

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