Doing Something

Whenever an essay of mine appears on this website, my email inbox becomes flooded with responses from my loyal readers. Stripped to their essence, they both say about the same thing: "Yeah, yeah, but what are you suggesting we DO about it?"

The impression I get from these correspondents is that I should put my money where my mouth is: perhaps gain entry to the White House and put George W. in a hammerlock until he agrees to reduce the size of government by 99%, abolish taxation, and restore our freedom. It ain’t gonna happen! It has been suggested that I expose government involvement in such abominations as Oklahoma City, and 9-11, but to do that in the absence of irrefutable proof of such alleged involvement is to open myself to charges of being a "conspiracy freak," and to what benefit? Even were I able to prove that the administration hired and trained some Saudis to fly into the World Trade Center, what difference would that make? Angry readers would still complain: "But what can we DO about it?" Of course, some might find such official complicity with terrorism grounds for violent retribution, but that would only result in their destruction.

Yes, the Founders, and the minority of Americans who supported them, whipped the mightiest military force on earth. But that force was headquartered thousands of miles away, meaning reinforcements and supplies had to be shipped across the Atlantic; and its weapons were no more sophisticated than those of the Minute Men. To recommend some sort of violent rebellion — which I most emphatically do not!! — is madness. The empire is vulnerable — but its vulnerability is not to whatever physical force can be brought against it by disgruntled Americans.

What makes the empire strong and powerful is, at the same time, its Achilles heel: fiat money. Without the printing press to finance its adventures, the government would be forced to tax the people at such a high rate that rebellion WOULD occur. The IRS headquarters in D.C. already has very tight security; if the rulers had to support the empire entirely via direct taxes, no IRS agent would dare set foot outside it.

The unconstitutionality of the "monetary" system in this country is so blatant and striking that it goes unnoticed. I don’t need to "expose" it; it’s right there to see. The economic madness of a system that brings new "money" into existence only as a loan, thereby creating a debt that, with interest, is manifestly impossible to repay, is undeniable. But it can certainly be ignored, and is. I have lectured and written about this subject for years, and the response of the public is a profound and abiding disinterest. "What you say may be very true," a listener tells me after I’ve discoursed on the absurdity of our system, "but as long as I can keep buying stuff with it, it’s OK with me!" An old gent in a nursing home told me I was simply wrong: "You say our money isn’t redeemable. Of course it is. I redeem it every day." Good grief! Had my research, admittedly rather casual, been so sloppy as that? Was this geezer going to shoot me down with some bit of arcane knowledge? No. "I redeem it every time I buy groceries. The barber redeems it when I get a haircut." I attempted to explain that only the issuer of a note can redeem it (and our Federal Reserve Notes aren’t actual notes at all) but he’d have none of it. "I redeem them every day," he continued to cackle. Isn’t it remarkable? If I told an audience that I would buy any goods they wanted to sell, at a very good price, using notes which I’d printed in my basement that very day, indistinguishable from "genuine" Fed notes, they’d probably react with indignation and outrage. They might even call the cops. Yet they accept unquestioningly the "notes" of the Fed, although their intrinsic value as notes is not one whit better than those I might print myself. Moreover, "official" money enters circulation as a loan; mine would be debt-free.

But nobody cares. The government’s funny-money scheme seems immune to attack, at least directly. But what about indirectly?

Locally, there is considerable resentment about the recent increase in property valuations by the local assessor. Perhaps the same is true in your community: you receive a notice from the local government informing you that, lo and behold!, your home, aging and deteriorating, has somehow become more valuable. This does not sit well with the homeowner, who is often retired, and unhappy at the prospect of paying higher taxes to continue to live in the house on which he may already have paid more in property taxes than he did for the house! So how does this tie in with the fiat money? Read on.

The assessor’s assessment is in terms of "dollars." Since we stopped using tangible money in 1968 (several years earlier, for all practical purposes) the term "dollar," meaning a unit of money, has become meaningless. I have received letters from the Treasury, and the IRS, acknowledging that 1) there is no definition of the dollar, and 2) that no value is attached to the dollar. Actually, that’s just common sense. With our money intangible, how can there be a "unit" of it? A "unit" is a standardized amount used in measuring. There is nothing to measure about modern money.

Ah, you say, but there is! Buying power! The value of our fiat dollar is whatever it can buy. Well, OK, but how do you measure the value of what it can buy? In dollars! So we have this situation: the value of the dollar is, say, a loaf of bread. But what is the value of a loaf of bread? A dollar. That’s like defining the foot as twelve inches, when the inch is defined as a twelfth of a foot. It gets you nowhere.

So the question for the assessor is this: how can you determine the value of my home in terms of "units" of no specified value, or even definition? As you might suspect, I have put this question to that gentleman, and received the usual government response to a question that can’t, or mustn’t, be answered: silence, or a response that is irrelevant. Even a tinge of sarcasm: "No one else seems to have a problem knowing what a dollar is," or words to that effect. Have you ever noticed how often total ignorance is mistaken for wisdom? I’ve never talked to anyone who could tell me what the modern dollar is, but I’ve heard, a thousand times, "but everybody knows what a dollar is!"

Acting alone, I’ve gotten nowhere in forcing the local government to confront the fact that it is evaluating property in terms of undefined units of no stipulated valueu2014a clear impossibility. Nor does the fact that Missouri law makes only the silver coins of the United States a legal tender in this state make any impression upon the local czars. Nor does the Constitutional prohibition against the states making anything but gold and silver coin a legal tender carry any weight. But this situation would change if the questions were posed not by one single person, easily dismissed as a crackpot, but hundreds or thousands of persons demanding to know how the value of their homes can be stated in terms of units having no value. And they will not stop demanding until they get an answer. Imagine the pandemonium at City Hall! People may be indifferent to the nature of money, but they feel strongly about the taxes they pay on their homes, and if the "money argument" could help them reform the system, I think they would adopt it.

OK, so we started off talking about the federal government, and have ended up by throwing a monkey wrench (or is it a money wrench?) into the local community government. But you have to start somewhere. Remember the adage of a journey of a thousand miles starting with a single step. If actually faced with the Constitutional prohibitions regarding money, the states would have to turn to Uncle Sam, for only Congress can coin money, not the states. What began at the local assessor’s office would have a ripple effect, reaching Washington D.C.

I recently received an e-mail from a friend, containing a picture of the aircraft carrier Reagan. It was an awesome sight, steaming past the Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor, its flight deck rimmed with sailors in their dress whites. The accompanying text mentioned that it costs 250,000 daily to maintain the ship in port, and 2.5 million per day when at sea. And, of course, the Reagan is but one small part of our armed forces. Could this armed might be sustained without fiat money? Would war be possible if the people had to yield up their wealth to finance it? Even if you’re not a taxpayer, your acceptance of the government’s fiat makes it possible for the government to wage war and extend its empire throughout the world.

Are there better ways to bring the Washington behemoth under control, or even eliminating it entirely? Quite possibly. Is it written somewhere that tyranny can only be opposed by a single method? What I’ve suggested is a very modest beginning, but a modest beginning is better than no beginning at all.

Oh, and one more thing. Buy a gun. Or two — or three! If you wait until you need one, it’ll be too late to get it. When government is forced to abide by its own laws, it might get nasty.

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