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Archive for August, 2015

Below is a guest post from the Sound Money Defense League. CRI does not necessarily endorse or oppose the views expressed in the article below, but we do believe it’s important to understand the value of money and how currencies get debased.

We Americans no longer carry gold and silver money in our pockets and purses as our grandparents did during their lives. But we still carry the history, legacy and spirit of those gold and silver coins in our language – with more meaning than you might imagine.

“Sound money” has a clear message recognized for centuries around the world. It describes the musical, metallic ring of a gold, silver, or copper coin dropped on any hard surface of glass, stone, wood, or metal. Sound money literally refers to real wealth, with a natural, unmistakable signature of honesty and integrity, as opposed to the swishy paper and plastic debt used almost exclusively today.

The term “sound money” is believed to come from Ancient Rome, where small silver coins were standard in everyday commerce, for paying Roman soldiers to buying exotic goods from all corners of the known world. As Rome squandered its wealth, it found what seemed an easy shortcut to shore up the treasury. It gradually debased those silver coins with common metals, ultimately cutting the silver content to just 5 percent.

But that didn’t fool anyone for long, most of all disciplined Roman soldiers, who did not appreciate being paid with worthless mystery metal in return for risking their lives on Rome’s bloody battlefields.

Do You Want True Money or a Debased Dud?

Not every Roman soldier had room in his gear for a touchstone, usually fieldstone or slate, also used to test the purity of metals. But they quickly discovered the difference in the sound of true money and a debased dud.

They recognized that real silver had a distinctive melodious ring when bounced on a hard surface, such as the blade of a handy sword, a bronze breastplate, or an ornate marble floor. Sound money carried the ‘ring of truth,’ while debased coinage landed with a dull, disappointing thud.

The debasement of Rome’s silver currency unmasked the deceit of a bankrupt empire, which ended with the fall of Rome, a pattern repeated many times. Sound money’s “ring of truth” had found its place in the history of money and of nations.

As the United States grew westward to the Pacific Coast and north to Alaska, gold, silver and copper coins of all nations were legal tender in the young United States until the 1850’s, and were in use even long after that. Americans with no formal education in reading, writing and arithmetic relied on the sight, sound, and feel of the only money they knew. Learning the different musical ringing sounds of those coins could easily qualify even a prairie settler fresh off the wagon train as an economic expert.

In the Old West of the range roving American cowboy, the ring from that silver dollar tossed on the bar of polished oak told the saloon keeper he was pouring whiskey for sound money, and not for a counterfeit forgery.

The sound money test unmasked one of the most famous counterfeiting schemes in American coinage history. The Liberty Nickel (1883-1913) was originally struck without the words “Five Cents,” bearing instead only the Roman numeral “V.” Gold plated Liberty Nickels were passed off as a newly designed $5 gold piece, but the sound money test quickly identified the scandal. Within six months of issuing the first “V” nickels, the U.S. Mint added the words “Five Cents.” But for the next many years, every Liberty $5 Half Eagle in town was tested for its ring of truth.

Sound money means simplicity, honesty, and trustworthy recognition. It stands for strength and durability, which were also characteristics of those pioneering Americans who built our nation.

The ring of sound money for centuries has transcended borders and nationalities by singing its own melodic language. No matter what words were stamped into a precious metal coin, that ring of sound money certified its value, or exposed the deception.

Governments Have Distorted the Meaning of Money

“Sound money” carries such a powerful message there’s little wonder that governments issuing paper fiat currency have attempted to corrupt its meaning, with help from unimaginative and lazy educators and journalists.

“Hard currency” first referred to metal coins, not paper money, but the term over the years has come to mean that flimsy, paper, folding cash is more trustworthy than a handwritten check or IOU.

“Good as gold” is another aberration of “sound money,” usually referring to credit worthiness, even though there is no credit as good as gold.

When Washington and Wall Street began pushing plastic credit cards, which are nothing more than debt disguised as wealth, Americans were introduced to the gold card along with the credit rating and FICO score as a false measure of one’s financial worth. Today, the newest edition of the $100 Federal Reserve note carries a golden inkwell and feather pen, as if to sarcastically say money itself is a masquerade of paper script and not precious metal.

Americans today have no memory of those times when gold, silver, and copper coins were tossed across a store counter, or counted out by hand, to pay for everything from penny candies to Ford Model-T automobiles. That era began ending when President Roosevelt in 1933 outlawed the use of gold coins in everyday American commerce.

The separation of Americans from their Constitutional heritage to true money continued through 1964, with the end of small coinage containing 90% silver. The deception was complete by 1982 when copper quietly disappeared from the Lincoln penny.

But no government could remove the ringing echo of sound money from history, or from us. And government cannot camouflage its counterfeits with gold colored paint. You can experience sound money’s evident ring of truth for yourself. Toss any gold or silver coin on your kitchen table and you will hear the history of honest money ringing down through the centuries.

And perhaps, thanks to grassroots projects like the Sound Money Defense League, you will hear the trumpeting of better days to come.

Sound Money Defense League and MoneyMetals.com columnist Guy Christopher is a veteran writer living on the Gulf Coast. A retired investigative journalist, published author, and former stockbroker, Christopher has taught college as an adjunct professor and is a veteran of the 101st Airborne in Vietnam.

 

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August 16-22 is National Employee Freedom Week, an annual national campaign that informs union members about their workplace rights, specifically their right to decide if they want to be union members. NEFW consists of a record 101 organizations in 42 states. CRI is one of those 101 groups and Delaware is one of those 42 states.

This week brings a lot of hand-wringing from ardent union supporters and leaders, who are concerned about having as many union dues-payers as possible, even to the detriment of their own members. Within minutes of promoting #EmployeeFreedom on Twitter, we were bombarded with attacks such as:

  • “what a moronic statement they do decide if they want to unionize! They vote YES!”
  • “removes the right to unionize public employees. Get your facts in order before you advocate “.
  • And our favorite, “ = for oligarchy control over women”.

Let’s be clear about why CRI supports Right to Work. We have no interest in denying people who want to unionize the right to do so. We do not dispute the benefits unionization once brought to this country, in making work conditions better for millions of workers who were exploited by unscrupulous corporate bosses. If you want to know what we mean, visit a coal mine when you can and learn about the horrible manner in which employees were treated worse than animals, exploited to death. Their efforts led to changes in government law and nowadays treating employees like cattle is legally impossible, not to mention bad PR.

However, over time, unions became less about making the workplace safer and more about making money, both for workers and for union bosses, at the expense of business owners or the taxpayers. We will not even go into details about the money laundering for political purposes which offends a lot of union members, who don’t want any of their dues money going to political causes, especially ones they do not agree with. Do not be fooled by union talk about not giving money to candidates or causes. They do so, just often via PACs or other loopholes.

Over time, many union rank-and-file became dissatisfied with their union for one reason or another. Some didn’t like the union politics. Others did not feel as though they were receiving adequate benefits for the dues they pay. Some may simply have thought they could negotiate for themselves better and didn’t want to pay someone else to negotiate for them. Some others don’t like some of the union practices, such as unions which insist on promotions by seniority and not by merit, or “paying your dues first”.  Others may have seen the hurting economy around them, and realized that labor unions were becoming part of the problem (for proof, look at the auto industry.)

Meanwhile, private sector union membership is falling. In 1990, Delaware had about 49,000 private sector union members. Today that number is closer to 25,000 and going down. General Motors, Chrysler, DuPont, Georgia Pacific, and Evraz Steel have closed factories and left the state, leaving many blue collar workers without jobs.

Forced unionization is not the only reason businesses have left. A lot of it is due to a declining business climate created as a result of poor decisions made by the Executive and Legislative branches. The threat of union bosses coming to manufacturers and demanding exclusive bargaining rights, however, encourages businesses to just move to a state where no employee can be compelled to join a labor union if they do not want to. Some states have seen a decline in union membership, others have seen an increase due to the total number of jobs available. Those who want to be unionized, vote to do so. Those who do not, keep their money and eschew their benefits.

Rather than do right by their members and provide the rank-and-file with membership benefits that create happy union employees, union bosses instead attack the CRI’s of the world and complain we’re doing the Koch Brothers bidding, or something like that. They choose to go negative instead of going positive. Their actions do nothing to encourage their members to want to stay, which is the number one reason membership is declining. Rather than attack us for standing for employee’s rights, they ought to ask themselves WHY a large percentage of union members want to leave. No one should be surprised that Scott Walker got 38% of the union household votes in his 2012 recall election, according to Edison Research.

We all know there is a problem in this country when it comes to creating new job opportunities, and it’s heartbreaking to see so many decent-paying jobs leave our state. We know that so-called “Right to Work” and “Employee Freedom” laws will not solve our blue-collar jobs decline on their own. They are, however, important checkboxes employers look for before investing in a state.

We want more people to see that the solution to having better-paying jobs is to create an atmosphere which encourages businesses to come here and feel like they are wanted, not despised. We want employees to be able to have a say in who represents them and what benefits they receive. For these reasons, CRI proudly supports National Employee Freedom Week.

Union workers: Learn more about your rights here

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photo credit to learnaboutancientrome.weebly.com.

Below is a guest post from Lawrence Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education. The Foundation for Economic Education, founded in 1946, is the leader in education, publishing, and the production of ideas related to the economic, ethical and legal principles of a free society. Republished with permission.

More than 2,000 years before America’s bailouts and entitlement programs, the ancient Romans experimented with similar schemes. The Roman government rescued failing institutions, canceled personal debts, and spent huge sums on welfare programs. The result wasn’t pretty.

Roman politicians picked winners and losers, generally favoring the politically well connected — a practice that’s central to the welfare state of modern times, too. As numerous writers have noted, these expensive rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul efforts were major factors in bankrupting Roman society. They inevitably led to even more destructive interventions. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the old saying goes — and it took a while to tear it down as well. Eventually, when the republic faded into an imperial autocracy, the emperors attempted to control the entire economy.

Debt forgiveness in ancient Rome was a contentious issue that was enacted multiple times. One of the earliest Roman populist reformers, the tribune Licinius Stolo, passed a bill that was essentially a moratorium on debt around 367 BC, a time of economic uncertainty. The legislation enabled debtors to subtract the interest paid from the principal owed if the remainder was paid off within a three-year window. By 352 BC, the financial situation in Rome was still bleak, and the state treasury paid many defaulted private debts owed to the unfortunate lenders. It was assumed that the debtors would eventually repay the state, but if you think they did, then you probably think Greece is a good credit risk today.

In 357 BC, the maximum permissible interest rate on loans was roughly 8 percent. Ten years later, this was considered insufficient, so Roman administrators lowered the cap to 4 percent. By 342, the successive reductions apparently failed to mollify the debtors or satisfactorily ease economic tensions, so interest on loans was abolished altogether. To no one’s surprise, creditors began to refuse to loan money. The law banning interest became completely ignored in time.

By 133 BC, the up-and-coming politician Tiberius Gracchus decided that Licinius’s measures were not enough. Tiberius passed a bill granting free tracts of state-owned farmland to the poor. Additionally, the government funded the erection of their new homes and the purchase of their faming tools. It’s been estimated that 75,000 families received free land because of this legislation. This was a government program that provided complimentary land, housing, and even a small business, all likely charged to the taxpayers or plundered from newly conquered nations. However, as soon as it was permissible, many settlers thanklessly sold their farms and returned to the city. Tiberius didn’t live to see these beneficiaries reject Roman generosity, because a group of senators murdered him in 133 BC, but his younger brother Gaius Gracchus took up his populist mantle and furthered his reforms.

Tiberius, incidentally, also passed Rome’s first subsidized food program, which provided discounted grain to many citizens. Initially, Romans dedicated to the ideal of self-reliance were shocked at the concept of mandated welfare, but before long, tens of thousands were receiving subsidized food, and not just the needy. Any Roman citizen who stood in the grain lines was entitled to assistance. One rich consul named Piso, who opposed the grain dole, was spotted waiting for the discounted food. He stated that if his wealth was going to be redistributed, then he intended on getting his share of grain.

By the third century AD, the food program had been amended multiple times. Discounted grain was replaced with entirely free grain, and at its peak, a third of Rome took advantage of the program. It became a hereditary privilege, passed down from parent to child. Other foodstuffs, including olive oil, pork, and salt, were regularly incorporated into the dole. The program ballooned until it was the second-largest expenditure in the imperial budget, behind the military.It failed to serve as a temporary safety net; like many government programs, it became perpetual assistance for a permanent constituency who felt entitled to its benefits.

In 88 BC, Rome was reeling from the Social War, a debilitating conflict with its former allies in the Italian peninsula. One victorious commander was a man named Sulla, who that year became consul (the top political position in the days of the republic) and later ruled as a dictator. To ease the economic catastrophe, Sulla canceled portions of citizens’ private debt, perhaps up to 10 percent,leaving lenders in a difficult position. He also revived and enforced a maximum interest rate on loans, likely similar to the law of 357 BC. The crisis continually worsened, and to address the situation in 86 BC, a measure was passed that reduced private debts by another 75 percent under the consulships of Cinna and Marius.

Less than two decades after Sulla, Catiline, the infamous populist radical and foe of Cicero, campaigned for the consulship on a platform of total debt forgiveness. Somehow, he was defeated, likely with bankers and Romans who actually repaid their debts opposing his candidacy. His life ended shortly thereafter in a failed coup attempt.

In 60 BC, the rising patrician Julius Caesar was elected consul, and he continued the policies of many of his populist predecessors with a few innovations of his own. Once again, Rome was in the midst of a crisis. In this period, private contractors called tax farmers collected taxes owed to the state. These tax collectors would bid on tax-farming contracts and were permitted to keep any surplus over the contract price as payment. In 59 BC, the tax-farmer industry was on the brink of collapse. Caesar forgave as much as one-third of their debt to the state. The bailout of the tax-farming market must have greatly affected Roman budgets and perhaps even taxpayers, but the catalyst for the relief measure was that Caesar and his crony Crassus had heavily invested in the struggling sector.

In 33 AD, half a century after the collapse of the republic, Emperor Tiberius faced a panic in the banking industry. He responded by providing a massive bailout of interest-free loans to bankers in an attempt to stabilize the market. Over 80 years later, Emperor Hadrian unilaterally forgave 225 million denarii in back taxes for many Romans, fostering resentment among others who had painstakingly paid their tax burdens in full.

Emperor Trajan conquered Dacia (modern Romania) early in the second century AD, flooding state coffers with booty. With this treasure trove, he funded a social program, the alimenta, which competed with private banking institutions by providing low-interest loans to landowners while the interest benefited underprivileged children. Trajan’s successors continued this programuntil the devaluation of the denarius, the Roman currency, rendered the alimenta defunct.

By 301 AD, while Emperor Diocletian was restructuring the government, the military, and the economy, he issued the famous Edict of Maximum Prices. Rome had become a totalitarian state that blamed many of its economic woes on supposed greedy profiteers. The edict defined the maximum prices and wages for goods and services. Failure to obey was punishable by death. Again, to no one’s surprise, many vendors refused to sell their goods at the set prices, and within a few years, Romans were ignoring the edict.

Enormous entitlement programs also became the norm in old Rome. At its height, the largest state expenditure was an army of 300,000–600,000 legionaries. The soldiers realized their role and necessity in Roman politics, and consequently their demands increased. They required exorbitant retirement packages in the form of free tracts of farmland or large bonuses of gold equal to more than a decade’s worth of their salary. They also expected enormous and periodic bonuses in order to prevent uprisings.

The Roman experience teaches important lessons. As the 20th-century economist Howard Kershner put it, “When a self-governing people confer upon their government the power to take from some and give to others, the process will not stop until the last bone of the last taxpayer is picked bare.” Putting one’s livelihood in the hands of vote-buying politicians compromises not just one’s personal independence, but the financial integrity of society as well. The welfare state, once begun, is difficult to reverse and never ends well.

Rome fell to invaders in 476 AD, but who the real barbarians were is an open question. The Roman people who supported the welfare state and the politicians who administered it so weakened society that the Western Roman Empire fell like a ripe plum that year. Maybe the real barbarians were those Romans who had effectively committed a slow-motion financial suicide.

read the original post at the FEE website here

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