F. More purchases! and what should we buy? Doubtless, useful articles — things likely to procure for us substantial gratification — such as provisions, stuffs, houses, books, pictures. You should begin, then, by proving that all these things create themselves; you must suppose the Mint melting ingots of gold which have fallen from the moon; or that the printing presses be put in action at the Treasury Department; for you cannot reasonably think that if the quantity of corn, cloth, ships, hats, and shoes remains the same, the share of each of us can be greater, because we each go to market with a greater amount of real or fictitious money. Remember the players. In the social order the useful things are what the workers place under the candlestick, and the dollars which circulate from hand to hand are the counters. If you multiply the dollars without multiplying the useful things, the only result will be that more dollars will be required for each exchange, just as the players required more counters for each deposit. You have the proof of this in what passes for gold, silver, and copper. Why does the same exchange require more copper than silver, more silver than gold? Is it not because these metals are distributed in the world in different proportions? What reason have you to suppose that if gold were suddenly to become as abundant as silver, it would not require as much of one as of the other to buy a house?
Fictitious, fiat money is amazingly fraudulent in that it takes root in the complacency of the populace as a replacement for real wealth. Does anyone honestly believe that allowing a banking institution to increase the money supply without a parallel increase in the things is a sustainable effort? History seems to forget the similar efforts to increase the money supply without bounds, such as the former Soviet empire, the former British empire, and the soon-to-be-former American empire. Increasing the sign of wealth without an actual wealth is a disproportionate effort, increasing the social wealth gap. Money is not necessarily the measure of wealth.
A full transcript of the essay by Frederic Bastiat and an audio reading available at the Mises Institute.