International finance by Hartley Withers

By Hartley Withers

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But when the British Government borrows, there are no profits for the rank and file of financiers. No underwriting is necessary, and the business is carried out by the Bank of England. The commissions earned by brokers are smaller, and the whole City feels that this is no time for profit-making, but for hard and ill-paid work, with depleted staffs, to help the great task of financing a great war. The Stock Exchange is half empty and nearly idle. It is tied and bound by all sorts of regulations in its dealings, and its members have probably suffered as severely from the war as any section of the community.

If they do these things in such a way as to make the town a pleasanter and healthier place to live in, they may indirectly increase their revenue; but if they do them extravagantly and badly, they run the risk of putting a burden on the ratepayers that will make people shy of living within their borders. Whatever be the object for which the loan is issued, the procedure is the same by which the money is raised. The Government or municipality invites subscriptions through a bank or through some great financial house, which publishes what is called a prospectus by circular, and in the papers, giving the terms and details of the loan.

To send a ship with a cargo of English goods to a far off country to be exchanged into its products was a risk that our enterprising forefathers took readily. The ship took in its return cargo and came home, bringing its sheaves with it in a reasonable time, though the Antonios of the period sometimes had awkward moments if their ships were delayed by bad weather, and they were liable on a bond to Shylock. But it was quite another matter to lend money in a distant country when communication was slow and difficult, and social and political conditions had not gained the stability that is needed before contracts can be entered into extending over many years.

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