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Books, Articles, Bibliographies, and Archival Resources from the Depression Era

Bibliographies on Barter and Scrip

Mary G. Lacy and others, "Barter and Scrip in the United States" Agricultural Economics Bibliography No. 40, United States Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Agricultural Economics (February 1933).

A compilation of 252 publications on barter and scrip, organized regions of the United States, through 1933. Annotations frequently include quotes from the texts. Includes an index.

Pauline A. Keehn, "The Barter Economy: A Partially Annotated Bibliography" CPL Bibliography No. 98, Chicago IL (December 1982).

A compilation of 262 publications on barter, listed by year of publication, between 1920 and 1982, with an extensive listing of items from the 1930s, some of which do not appear in the Lacy bibliography (above). Annotations are brief. Includes an index.

Princeton University, Industrial Relations Section, "Emergency Cooperative Exchanges for Unemployment Relief, 1933". Memoranda, Reports and Bibliographies of the Industrial Relations Section Vol III (1933-1936).

A briefer compilation, organized both alphabetically and by state. Cross-referenced by Lacy (above).




The following citations describe books pertaining to depression scrip that were published either during the Great Depression or shortly thereafter. These represent only a small portion of the extensive literature on monetary experimentation that was published at this time.

John B. Cheadle, Howard O. Eaton, Cortez A. M. Ewing, No More Unemployed (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1934)

The authors propose an "Industrial Stabilization Commission" that would rent idle capacity from private capitalists. Payment of rent and wages would take the form of I.S.C. notes, which would be backed by the goods produced. These notes would fluctuate against the U.S. dollar in an exchange market.

This plan, along with Frank Graham's (see below), was one of the more prominent proposals for economic recovery that involved the use of a supplemental currency. For critical discussion of such plans, see Reeve (below), pp. 342-345.

Irving Fisher, Stamp Scrip (New York: Adelphi Co., 1933).

The eminent monetary economist endorses Silvio Gesell's idea of a temporary circulating medium, of purely local extent, whose continued circulation requires the periodic affixing of purchased stamps. Fisher thinks stamp scrip would discourage hoarding and increase the velocity of money. Fisher also surveys local scrip experiments and discusses the Bankhead-Pettengill Bill (1933) which proposed to introduce scrip at the national level.

Frank D. Graham, The Abolition of Unemployment (Princeton University Press, 1933).

The Princeton economist proposes the establishment of an "Emergency Employment Corporation", which would rent idle plant and equipment and pay workers' wages using "consumption certificates". These certificates would be a non-legal tender form of purchasing power. To promote their circulation and to discourage hoarding, Graham proposes further to tax outstanding certificates at the rate of 5 per cent monthly.

This proposal is very similar to that of Cheadle et al. (see above). A discussion of such plans appears in Reeve (below), pp. 342-345.

L. H. Grinstead and Willis Wissler, Barter Scrip and Production Units as Self-Help Devices During the Great Depression (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University, 1933).

This academic report surveyed 31 different scrip systems, detailing the type of scrip used and its purpose. The authors note the problems encountered by stamp scrip, which circulates by accumulating the proper number of stamps. They are skeptical about the durability of self-help production units, alleging that most participants don't share an ideological commitment to them; rather, they are viewed as merely temporary vehicles for relief.

Margaret Myers, Monetary Proposals for Social Reform (Columbia University Press, 1940).

This is a critical analysis of the monetary and credit doctrines of Silvio Gesell (promoter of stamp scrip), Frederick Soddy (100% reserve banking), and Clifford Hugh Douglas (Social Credit). Chapter two is an extended discussion of Gesell's ideas; remarks about stamp scrip are on pp. 54-9, with discussion of scrip experiments on pp. 147-63. Myers faults all three monetary reform advocates for committing two typical monetary fallacies in their arguments: 1) treating money as an active force in economic life, and not a passive reflection of real activity; and 2) confusing the distinction between monetary and real variables.

Myers' book is a good example of the classical orthodox critique of monetary panaceas, and of the "underconsumptionist" economic theories in vogue since the 1930s.

Joseph E. Reeve, Monetary Reform Movements. A Survey of Recent Plans and Panaceas (Washington, D.C.: American Council on Public Affairs, 1943).

This remains the most comprehensive survey of American monetary experimentation during the Great Depression, with chapters on both the major advocates of reform—Irving Fisher, Senator Elmer Thomas, Father Coughlin—and the different proposals for currency expansion. Chapter eighteen ("miscellaneous expansion proposals") assesses plans associated with the issue of scrip and other types of emergency monies.

Wayne Weishaar and Wayne. W. Parrish, Men Without Money: The Challenge of Barter and Scrip (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1933).

A journalistic, and generally very laudatory, account of the rise of barter arrangements during the Great Depression. The book describes the early Hawarden, IA, experiment in stamp scrip, as well as the Emergency Exchange Association of New York City and the Natural Development Association (NDA) of Salt Lake City. The ideas animating the latter are compared to those of the Technocracy movement. Both the NDA and the Dayton, OH production units are cited as models for cooperative production that represent alternatives to a capitalistic profit system.

The authors venture that up to one million people were involved in barter arrangements by 1933, participating in 350 barter groups and 100 organizations of the unemployed.

David McCord Wright, The Creation of Purchasing Power (Harvard University Press, 1941).

Unlike Myers' book, this is a more sympathetic assessment, from a Keynesian perspective, of the various monetary nostrums proposed for economic recovery. "Velocity stimulators" like stamp scrip and demurrage schemes are reviewed on pp. 99-121. For remarks on Social Credit and the Townsend Plan, see pp. 162-170, 170-175. While Wright does not offer a monetary explanation for the Great Depression, he does see monetary measures as useful for reflation in the short run. Over the long term, Wright argues that the government should commit to creating purchasing power in order to manage aggregate demand.