A NEW ECONOMIC MECCA.
(Under the above heading, M. Claude Bourdet has published in L'lllustration (of 9 September 1933) a vividly written article, widely commented on in the French press, where he discusses the Wörgl experiment. In order to avoid repetition, only the portion conveying his personal impressions will be reproduced here.)
... I arrived at Wörgl in August 1933, after exactly a year's experiment. It must be frankly admitted that we stand here before a miracle. The roads, once in a scandalous condition, resemble autostrades. The parish hall, cheery and smart looking, is entirely reconditioned and has the appearance of a lovely toy. A new bridge in reinforced concrete proudly bears the legend : "Constructed in 1933, with free money". One sees everywhere up-to-date lamp standards. Gesell, the little saint of the village, has himself benefited by the socialist burgomaster's loyalty to his principles : he has now a niche allotted to him. The workers engaged on the numerous relief works are all fanatical partizans of " melting money )). I went shopping : "relief money" was everywhere accepted, just as if it were legal tender. Prices have not risen.
I paid a visit to the famous burgomaster. He received me in a spacious room, seated before a brand-new writing table of polished oak. At first he evinced the traditional distrust of strangers, common among Tyrolese peasants; but he soon relented, I showed him a special edition of a Vienna newspaper which spoke of "the example of Wörgl" and urged the introduction of "relief money" in Vienna.
When, towards the end of the month, an inhabitant of Wörgl does not know what to do with his ((money)) which is about to lose 1 % of it's value, he bethinks himself of paying therewith his taxes. This alternative has not only led to the payment of the heavy tax arrears which had accumulated for years, but, what is unprecedented, to the payment of taxes in advance !
Accordingly, people have been inclined to deny that the Wörgl experiment produced any new wealth, contending that it represented merely a shrewd method of bleeding the tax-payer. There is some mistake here. Who has ever seen, within the memory of man, a debtor who does not protest with all his might when he has to pay up ? Here, on the contrary, the tax-payer does not protest at all. Indeed, he enthusiastically favours the experiment and bitterly complains that the State Bank is attempting to stop new issues. This is because there is a general increase in well-being, the result of a new form of taxing. It does seem clear that, as the burgomaster claims, the new money fulfils its mission better than the old did.
I leave it to our economists to decide whether there is, in spite of a 100% cover, some sort of inflation. In. any case, a rise in prices, which is the first effect of an inflationist policy, has not taken place. Possibly this would be different if the system of using depreciating money were applied to a whole country. ...
(Translated by G. Spiller, London.)
Reprinted by permission from Annals of Collective Economy, Geneva, Switzerland, 1934.