Not Money; Not Funny

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I spent an enjoyable hour recently watching a television program about the British counterfeiter Stephen Jory. He is renowned among counterfeiters because he reproduced British Twenty Pound notes, although the British currency is thought to be nearly impossible to counterfeit. Jory himself appeared in the program, and his most telling remark was at the very end, when he smiled broadly at the camera and said, of the Bank of England, "I guess they just didn’t want any competition." That about sums it up. The state demands a monopoly, and pouts, sulks, and sues, if it doesn’t get it. (Of course, non-state monopolies are bad).

Perhaps you’ve noticed a change in the legal system in recent years. Increasingly we find defendants in court who have hurt no one, but stand accused of violating some government rule or regulation: either not doing what they were supposed to do, or doing something they were not supposed to do. And even if a person violates another’s rights, punishment seldom consists in making retribution, but following some course of action deemed appropriate by the court. For instance, I learned recently of some popular singer who struck someone in the face with her fist. She was taken to court and convicted, and the punishment meted out by the judge was that she attend anger management classes. That certainly made things right.

When the state itself is the "injured" party in a lawsuit, it’s a dangerous situation, because one of the parties to the suit owns and operates the court, makes the rules, and pays the judge and prosecutor. Did I hear someone say "fair and impartial trial?"

Stephen Jory found himself in such a situation. He is estimated to have placed up to five billion pounds of "funny money" into circulation in England, starting in the 1990s. The Bank of England, and the government which it finances, were very indignant. Jory was denounced as a counterfeiter, which, in earlier times, meant a thief. In the days of specie, the counterfeiter settled a debt for a certain amount of gold (or silver) with a lesser amount, or a base metal disguised to resemble the precious metal. Or he "paid" with a note that was not redeemable, thereby depriving his victim of the money to which a genuine note entitled him.

The dictionary defines counterfeit as "made in imitation, with the intent to deceive." That may be an accurate description of Jory’s work, but what about the "real" money issued by the Bank of England? Although those paper devices are referred to as "notes," they bear no promise of payment to anyone. Nothing is on deposit to justify their issuance. No value is assigned to them, the term "pound" being as meaningless as "dollar." Is there an "intent to deceive" in operation with regard to the "genuine" currency?

Was anyone hurt by Jory’s contribution to the British economy? True enough, the influx of his Twenty-Pound notes probably diluted the buying power of the already-existing bills, but so does every issuance of "genuine" currency by the Bank of England. I assume England "backs" its "notes" with the full faith and credit of the British government, as our government "backs" the Federal Reserve Note; but I’m sure Jory would back his notes with his full faith and credit, also — whatever that means. The bank’s issuance of credit is always as a loan, meaning interest to be paid. Jory simply spent his pounds into circulation; no repayment necessary, and no interest burden. It could be argued that Jory’s Twenty Pound notes were a boon to Britain, compared with similar notes issued by the bank. The only injured party was the Bank of England, and its government.

A simple and direct way to control, i.e., govern, people, is via regulation of their spending. Anselm Rothschild knew this. "Give me the power to issue a nation’s money; then I do not care who makes the laws." So did President James A. Garfield (who was shot). "Whoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce." But for this power, this mastery, to be effective, it must be concentrated in the hands of the official, sanctioned, counterfeiter. If you are to regulate the economy, you cannot have some upstart pouring billions of his own notes into the marketplace. All variables must be eliminated if there is to be effective management. So Jory had to go, and he was hunted down and jailed. The British public, it’s fair to say, would never have known of Jory’s existence, were it not for the news media reporting on his "crime;" and the man on the street cared little who manufactured the bill in his pocket, as long as he could spend it. After all, it wasn’t good for anything else: you could save it, only to see it buy less when you got around to spending it. And, as mentioned above, you couldn’t take it to the bank and get anything of the bank’s for it.

John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson: "All the perplexities, confusions and distresses in America arise not from defects in the constitution or confederation, nor from want of honor or virtue, as much from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation." Things haven’t improved since then. The official counterfeiter will brook no competition; the government must not be affronted!

Governments assume that the control of the economy is too important to be left in the hands of the people; i.e., the market. In that belief, as in so many others, they are utterly wrong.

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.

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