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Birth of New Nations
Finance
Perspective on the News
Monday, May 31, 2010
Ed DeShields

As the debt crisis spreads throughout the world, we are now in a race against time over which happens first, the crisis or the reform.   In the U.S., financial reform is still a matter of diminishing faith and little has been done to solve our underlying debt problem.  The crisis is quite real and it’s on top of us.

What happens if the Federal Reserve Note crashes?   What are we going to use?  If you look at the hyperinflations of the 20th century—Weimar Germany, Hungary, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia—in every one of those systems there was, somewhere in the world, a first-class currency that they could use, directly or indirectly, when their own currency collapsed.

But, not this time.  Every other currency will likely experience the same fate as debt rips the value from paper currencies around the world.  But with the value of the dollar now at a historic low, everyone from the communist Chinese to the United Nations is fretting about the need for a new world reserve currency.

How have we managed to get so far from the law as the Founders wrote it? And what can be done to bring us back from the brink?

Our Founding Fathers were in a similar position in 1787.  They faced stagflation, dissension from those loyal to England, devastation from war in large sections of the country, and regional jealousies.  It is fortunate they came together in Philadelphia and worked it out through a work of practical genius – the U.S. Constitution.   It is a wonder that despite all the damage done to it over the years by politicians that it's still with us.

It might contain the answers to a failed currency.

Before the Revolution, the British colonies in America had relatively little currency. For the most part, they could not produce their own money in the form of coins or paper money, and it was illegal to take British currencies out of Britain.  Purchases in the colonies were made on credit based on the estimated value of the buyer’s crops or other goods in a form of barter. When there was a need for “ready currency” the colonists used foreign coins that were obtained by trading with other nations.  This ready currency was acceptable in the British colonies because it was made of gold, silver, or other metals with intrinsic value.  Therefore, it made little difference to a merchant where a coin came from or what its face value was;  it was simply a piece of gold or silver, worth whatever its weight determined.  A coin could even be cut into pieces and the pieces used separately – merchants had coin scales to determine the value of whatever coin or part of a coin was offered as payment.

Founding Fathers James Madison and Alexander Hamilton reckoned such dollars, and their free-market equivalent in gold and silver, should be the constitutional money in America.  They placed the authority to do so is in Article 1, Section 10, of the Constitution, which prohibits the states from making "anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts."

Today, there are some modern scholars that are arguing for the establishment by the States for separate monetary systems because by creating the Federal Reserve, Congress has delegated too much of its own law-making responsibilities – therefore deeming it unconstitutional. 

If, in the event of a monetary crisis, each state declared its own currency based on some intrinsic value, it would become a defacto independent market.   And when monetary systems are aligned with political (state) systems they are capable of declaring independence.   It is the way nations are birthed.

Could this mean that large super-states, like the U.S., could actually find itself newly reorganized around a number of new regional monetary and political governing systems independent of Washington? 

The Founding Fathers seemed to have considered this a distinct possibility.

About Ed DeShields

Last week: Rose-colored Glasses. Red-colored Bills.



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