In the company of Mices, Jonathan pressed on. The buildings grew larger and more people filled the street. Sidewalks made walking easier, even for the ones on their knees. As he passed a large brick building, he heard the roar of machinery coming from above. The rapid clickety-clack sounded like a printing press. “Maybe it’s the town newspaper,” said Jonathan aloud, as if expecting a reply from the cat. “Good! Then I can read all about this island.”
Hastily he rounded the corner looking for an entrance and nearly bumped into a smartly-dressed couple walking arm-in-arm along the cobblestone street. “Excuse me,” apologized Jonathan, “is this where they print the town newspaper?”
The lady smiled and the gentleman corrected Jonathan. “I am afraid you’re mistaken, young man. This is the Official Bureau of Money Creation, not the newspaper.”
“Oh,” said Jonathan in disappointment. “I was hoping to find a printer of some importance.”
“Cheer up,” said the man. “There is no printer of greater importance than this bureau. Isn’t that right dear?” The man patted the woman’s gloved hand.
“Yes, that’s true,” said the woman with a giggle. “The Bureau brings lots of happiness with the money it prints.”
“That sounds wonderful!” said Jonathan excitedly. “Money would sure make me happy right now. If I could print some money then…”
“Oh no!” said the man in disapproval. He shook a finger in Jonathan’s face. “That’s out of the question.”
“Of course,” said the woman in agreement. “Money printers who are not appointed by the Council of Lords are branded ‘counterfeiters’ and thrown behind bars. We don’t tolerate scoundrels.”
The man nodded vigorously. “When counterfeiters print their faske money and spend it, too much money circulates. Prices soar; wages, savings, and pensions become worthless. It’s pure thievery!”
Jonathan frowned. What had he missed? “I thought you said that printing lots of money makes people happy.”
“Oh, yes, that’s true,” replied the woman. “Provided…”
“…that it’s official money printing,” the man interjected before she could finish. The couple knew each other so well that they finished each other’s sentences. The man pulled a large leather wallet from his coat pocket and took out a piece of paper to show Jonathan. Pointing to an official seal of the Council of Lords, he noted, “See here. This says ‘legal tender,’ and that makes it official money.”
“The printing of official money is called ‘monetary policy,'” she proceeded, as though reciting from a memorized school text. “Monetary policy is all part of a master plan.”
Putting his wallet away, the man added, “If it’s official, then those who issue this ‘legal tender’ are not thieves.”
“Certainly not!” said she. “The Council of Lords spends this legal tender on our behalf.”
‘Yes, and they are very generous,” he said with a wink. “they spend that official money on projects for their loyal subjects – especially those who help them get elected.”
“One more question, if you don’t mind,” continued Jonathan. “You said that when counterfeit money is everywhere, prices soar and wages, savings, and pensions become worthless. Doesn’t this also happen with that legal tender stuff?”
The couple looked at each other gleefully. The gentleman said, “Well, prices do rise, but we’re always happy when the Lords have more money to spend on us. There are so many needs of the employed, the unemployed, the exceptional, the unexceptional, the young, the unyoung, the poor, and the unpoor.”
The woman added, “The Lords research the roots of our pricing problems scrupulously. They’ve identified bad luck and poor weather as the chief causes. The whims of nature cause rising prices and a declining standard of living – especially in our woodlands and farmlands.”
“Indeed!” exclaimed her escort. “Our island is besieged by cataclysms that ruin our economy with high prices. Surely the high prices of lumber and food will mean our downfall one day.”
“And low prices,” she cried. “Outsiders, with their dog-eat-dog competition, are always trying to sell us candles and coats at ruinously low prices. Our wise Council of Lords deals severly with those monsters as well.” Turning to her companion she tugged impatiently at his sleeve.
“Quite right,” he told her. “I hope you will excuse us, young man. We have an engagement with our investment banker. Must catch the boom in land and precious metals. Come, dear.” The gentleman tipped his hat, the lady bowed politely, and both wished Jonathan a cheerful farewell.