Montesquieu

There are real monies and ideal monies. Organized poli­ties, almost all of which use ideal moneys, do so only because they have conver­ted their real moneys into ideal ones. At first their real moneys are a cer­tain weight and a cer­tain purity of some metal ; but soon bad faith or need leads to some reduc­tion of the metal in each coin on which they have left the same name. For exam­ple, from a coin wei­ghing one pound sil­ver, half the metal is remo­ved, and it conti­nues to be cal­led a pound ; the coin that was the twen­tieth part of the pound of sil­ver conti­nues to be cal­led a sou even though it is no lon­ger but the twen­tieth part of that pound. At that point the pound is an ideal pound and the sou an ideal sou, and the same goes for the other sub­di­vi­sions : and this can go so far that what will be cal­led a pound will be down to a very small por­tion of the pound, which will make it even more ideal. It can even hap­pen that no coin will any lon­ger be made that is worth pre­ci­sely one pound, and there will be no coin made either that is worth one sou : at that point the pound and the sou will be purely ideal moneys. Each coin will receive the deno­mi­na­tion of howe­ver many pounds and sous one wishes ; the varia­tion might be conti­nual, because it is as sim­ple to give ano­ther name to some­thing as it is dif­fi­cult to change the thing itself.

To remove the source of abu­ses, it will be a very good law, in all coun­tries that wish to make com­merce flou­rish, to decree that real moneys will be used, and that no ope­ra­tion will be per­for­med that can make them ideal.

Nothing should be so free of varia­tion as that which is the com­mon mea­sure of all things.

Doing busi­ness is in itself very uncer­tain, and it is a great shame to add a new uncer­tainty to the uncer­tainty which is based on the nature of the thing.