Saturday, July 6, 2013

Free Money

On Sunday afternoons when I was I kid, my family used to drive westward along the Admiral Wilson Boulevard through Camden to visit our city cousins in Philly.  Along the way we would pass a shuttered storefront with the words “FREE HUEY” spray painted on the boarded up door.  I always wondered what “Huey” was and imagined it to be some hip urban slang for sex.  I oft wondered how I could get in on this free Huey myself.

Only later did I come to realize the word “free” in this case was not an adjective but verb and that the message “FREE HUEY” was a demand to release the jailed Black Panther leader, Huey Newton, from prison.

True story, I’m not that swift.

Therefore, if you are reading this article in the hope that the word “free” in the title is an adjective, you will be as sorely disappointed as I was back in Camden.  The objective of this essay is to heighten awareness as to how money can be unchained from its bondage to the Federal Reserve.

A number of states are considering, and two have passed, “Sound Money” acts that allow gold or silver to be used as legal currency for the payment of debts.  On a national level a bill with the same purpose, S.768 -- Sound Money Promotion Act, has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Lee and Cruz.
But let’s get back to the state level.  America’s Founding Fathers envisioned the individual states to be laboratories of democracy where new ideas could be introduced and tested.  Those ideas that were tested and proven beneficial could be adopted by sister states.  As for clunker ideas, their damage would be confined to only a small portion of the nation.   

Sound Money legislation is an idea that protects Americans’ savings from the destructive polices of the Federal Reserve.  It is a an idea whose time has come.  It is grassroots movement that is bubbling up through the states as the Founders envisioned.

Proponents of state level Sound Money bills cite Article 1 Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution as authorization for such legislation.  The clause reads:  “No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts”.

Let’s take a step back and take a look at what money is and where it comes from.

Money is a tool that enables people to engage in what economists call “indirect exchange”.   It enables the plumber to perform services for the lawyer and then obtain bread from the baker without ever providing any plumbing service to said baker. 

Money arises spontaneously in human civilization.  By moving from a barter economy to a money economy, new avenues of production and commerce are instituted because sellers of goods no longer need to find buyers who have goods that they desire to obtain (e.g. your fish for my chair).

That is because real money is typically a commodity that virtually everyone desires or at least accepts.  Thus the characteristics of true money are that:

a.       It has intrinsic value / use / utility of its own apart from just being a medium for exchange.
b.      It is easily divisible so that small units can easily be carried about or transported
c.       It is precious so that even small units have significant value
d.      It is durable, so that it can be stored for long periods without decay or corruption

Thus, over the centuries, precious metals have evolved to be the medium of exchange between people, businesses and nations.

However, most people today believe that money is an invention of government, that government creates it and gives it value by decree.  The money that we typically use today is precisely that.  Because it is created by the whim of governments and their central banks is called “fiat money”.

Simply put, fiat money is an exchange medium whose commodity value is nowhere near its legal face value.  Thus a $100 gold coin once contained $100 worth of gold.  Conversely a $100 bill contains but a few cents worth of paper and ink.  Governments legislate fiat money into existence so that they will never go broke nor ever have to pay their citizens full value for the goods that they purchase from them. 

For the government and its big banker friends this is indeed free (adjective) money.  It is worthless paper which they can exchange for valuable goods and services.  If you or I tried this, it would be call counterfeiting.

In order to ensure that their fiat currencies were accepted for “all debts public and private” governments instituted monopolies of the creation of money.  Then, through “legal tender” laws they outlawed the use commodity money (gold and silver) as legal currency. 

Because the U.S. government can print as much fiat money as suites it, the value of it declines as more becomes available.  Thus the U.S> dollar has lost about 95% of its purchasing power since the Federal Reserve, our central bank, began issuing fiat money nearly a century.  This discourages the virtues of thrift, saving and prudence as money held will devalue over time.  In turn, average consumers are pushed into either immediate consumption / over indulgence or into risky investment to try to outpace the devaluation of their currency.

Thus these new Sound Money laws seek free money creation from the monopoly of centralized government control.  They will enable average citizens to acquire, accumulate and exchange commodities (precious metals) with a time honored history of holding value. 

It is time to petition your state legislators to protect the savings of their constituents by drafting and passing Sound Money legislation in your state.  This is also an opportunity for each state to reassert its sovereignty apart from the overreaching Federal Leviathan.

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