upon a time, my father bought Time magazine every week, as I do
now. He paid 20 cents per issue; I’m paying $3.95. In my teens
I bought paperback editions of Shakespeare’s plays for 35 cents
each; now they cost about five bucks.
economist; these are just some of my rough indices of how prices
have risen in my memory. Things in general now cost ten to twenty
times as much as they used to. Don’t even ask about groceries
or cars. If prices increased 1000 per cent overnight, we’d
notice. Spread over decades, it seems natural. We hardly notice,
let alone suspect mischief.
going on? Is America under the sway of an enormous counterfeiting
ring? That’s one way to put it. The funny money operation is
formally known as the U.S. Government.
The money supply
is now managed by the Federal Reserve System, which was created
in 1913 and was supposed to protect the dollar from inflation. It
obviously hasn’t quite worked out as planned. Or maybe it has,
but the public wasn’t let in on the real plan. Somebody must
benefit from the constant sapping of the dollar, but don’t
look at me.
the “dollar” was more than a piece of paper with some
president’s face on it. It was a fixed amount of precious metal.
When paper money came in, you could demand, and get, solid gold
or silver for it.
the government took the dollar off the gold standard, meaning that
it was now just a piece of paper. Most people were a bit foggy about
that anyway, since they were used to paper money and supposed it
had some intrinsic value. In fact, its only value now lay in its
relative scarcity; it was no longer a promise to pay in precious
All this would
have shocked the Framers of the U.S. Constitution, who authorized
Congress to “coin” money, not private bankers to “print”
the stuff. The eventual decline of the dollar is just what they
would have expected when the Constitution’s prescription was
abandoned, which amounts to counterfeiting dollars with the permission
and encouragement of the government itself.
would have seen this as a moral issue – a government conniving
in the defrauding of its own citizens. But we accept it, take it
for granted, don’t get riled up, any more than sheep get indignant
about being sheared.
The chief business
of the U.S. Government today is fleecing us – through taxes,
spending, creating debt, and ensuring that we’re paid in shrinking
dollars. It may look like a conspiracy, but I’m inclined to
think it’s just the aggregate result of the doings of men who
are at once powerful and weak, venal and short-sighted, taking the
path of least resistance for men in their position.
And if the
public puts up with it, why not? Are your grandchildren going to
be furious at having to pay off huge debts bequeathed to them? Probably
no more furious than you are about the national debt you’ve
been paying off all your adult life.
really get angry about it myself, even though I sense what’s
happening to us every time I notice another price increase. I almost
admire the people who do make a fuss about it, but there are so
few of them that they sound crazy, like Ezra Pound ranting about
hard to make a melodrama out of a slow process. The government is
less like a bank robber who storms in with ski mask and pistol than
like a timid little bank clerk who quietly, over the years, embezzles
a large fortune without setting off alarms or getting caught.
clerk may look like nobody’s idea of a criminal, but he may
be an all-the-more-effective enemy to trusting people just because
they’d never suspect him of breaking the law. Why, they assume
he shares their concern about the general moral deterioration of
society! Crime has no better mask than outward respectability. And
a man who sticks up a bank for $50 is more noticeable than a man
who embezzles a million bucks over many years, while carefully fixing
So when the
government tells us it’s protecting us from the world’s
most ruthless criminals, we ought to wonder if perhaps we need to
be protected from criminals a little closer to home. The chances
of your being harmed by terrorists are mathematically minute. The
chance of your being robbed by your own government? That’s
easy: 100 per cent.
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