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THE  PRECIOUS METALS            137

the hides and tobacco and other commodities then
fulfilling the functions of currency in primitive com-
munities. They could also be carried about much
more conveniently than the cattle which have been
believed to have fulfilled the functions of currency
in certain places, and they were capable of sub-
division without any impairing of their value, that
is to say, of their acceptability. Merely as currency,
precious metals thus have advantages over any
other commodity that can be thought of for this

So far, however, we have only considered the
needs of man for currency ; that is to say, for a
medium of exchange for the time being. It is
obvious, however, that any commodity which fulfils
this function, that is to say, is normally taken ia
payment in the exchange of commodities and ser-
vices, also necessarily acquires a still more important
duty, that is, it becomes a standard of value, and
it is on the alleged failure of gold to meet the require-
ments of the standard of value that the present
attack upon it is based. On this point the defenders
of the gold standard will find a good deal of difficulty
in discovering anything but a negative defence. The
ideal standard of value is one which does not vary,
and it cannot be contended that gold from this point
of view has shown any approach to perfection in
fulfilling this function. It could only do so if the
supply of it available as currency could by some
miracle be kept in constant relation with the supply
of all other commodities and services that are being
produced by mankind. That it should be constant