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Telling people how to live

Quick comment: I just read elsewhere online where I commented yesterday that, "Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats seem anxious to admit that telling people how to live (slavery) doesn't become right even if it is 'legal.'" This is certainly a lesson I'd like to see those political parties learn. But many in the church need to learn this: "Telling people how to live (slavery) doesn't become right even if we're telling them to live the right way."

Of course I don't mean simply communicating persuasively to people about how they are to live. The Gospel is very persuasive, and powerful. But I'm talking about using the force of law. This is prohibited to us in the Bible. Let's call it what it is: slavery.



What do you think about counterfeiting? Is there anything wrong with it? Counterfeiting is illegal, but should it be? Does it hurt anybody?

When a person counterfeits a dollar bill, he can immediately spend it (assuming he did a good enough job), so the faux bill has some value. It is worth roughly a dollar. Where did this value come from?

With a new dollar in circulation, everybody else's dollars are worth slightly less. If there were only one thousand dollars in existence before the counterfeit, then every one of those bills lost value equal to one-tenth of a cent, in order to make up the value that the new bill received.

This effect is trivial for one single one dollar bill. Nobody counterfeits "one spots," anyway. But if an operation cranks out hundreds and hundreds of twenties, suddenly the effect is not so insignificant. If a person or group were allowed to keep manufacturing money in this way, they would eventually steal a large portion of the value of the rest of the money supply. So counterfeiting hurts everybody.

Here's the lesson: your government can do the exact same thing. I'm not just talking about the ability to print money: through the sale of treasury instruments, through banking mechanisms, and through good old fashioned printing, the United States government has the power to manufacture new money. When this happens, it hurts people, just the same as if it were done by somebody else. It doesn't magically become helpful just because the government does it instead of a common criminal. It doesn't magically become safe just because we took a vote on it. And it doesn't magically become a good idea because some economists (paid by the government -- go figure) claim that the money supply needs to "expand." I already showed you above what happens when the money supply is expanded like this, and it is not a good thing.

Creation of money is stealing. It changes the value of everybody else's money. It violates the command of Leviticus 19:36 -- it makes the measure of our dollar unjust and changing. Originally a dollar was equal to about one ounce of silver, or about one-twentieth of an ounce of gold. If people wanted more dollars, they had to work for them, either by selling goods or services that they labored to produce, or by digging them out of the ground.

Should Christians support the government producing more money out of nothing? Because this is one area where both of the major political parties have the same stance. They are squarely in favor of government continuing to have this power.


Pizza for pesos, part two

Pizza Patrón has announced their intention to continue accepting the Mexican Peso at their stores. Good for them! I'm sure they are making a lot of money off of this service. Good for them! Unless somebody was using force to affect the transaction (for example, by pointing a gun at someone, or passing a law requiring authorities to point a gun at someone), such voluntary transactions mean that people were served, and society, on balance, advances. In general, they will prosper in proportion to the value of the service they provide.

Money liberty is a freedom we don't often think about. The authors of the United States Constitution intended American money to be limited to gold and silver. It is impossible for the government to inflate the supply of gold and silver. Inflation is a means of stealing some value from the entire money supply and using it to create new (stolen, counterfeit) money. It is a violation of Leviticus 19:35-36. Inflation does not add value to the total money supply; it merely redistributes the value that already exists. (And unlike other government programs, it usually doesn't make any pretense of redistributing the value to the poor. This value tends to go to bankers and other credit-driven industries like real estate.) After millenia of human existence, the free market had selected gold and silver as money, the medium of human exchange. Governments used force to confiscate gold from their citizens and force their populations to use paper money instead, giving government powers over the money supply, such as inflation. (They call this power "flexibility.")

The sole reason government insists on paper money is in order to have this power over the money supply. If left to the free market, trade would probably resume again in some commodity like gold or silver. Platinum has presented itself as a modern choice that some people think could be a good medium of exchange. In older times, some societies were known to trade in butter, cartwheels, and even cigarettes. But over time, gold and silver have always tended to win out as being the most convenient for trading.

If you own your property, you have the right to do whatever you want with it, including trade it to another property owner for whatever he is willing to trade for it. But we have decided that modern societies need to have limits on freedoms like this. We tell people they may keep their property, but then we limit what they may do with it. This is a violation of God's command that we honor private property: "Thou shalt not steal." If I tell you how to use your property, I've stolen it and left you as a mere custodian. On top of this fundamental abuse of freedom that occurred in order to bring about our present money situation, the whole reason for this system's existence is so that the government can create new dollars at will: in other words, so that the government can steal from every single dollar holder at once, any time it wishes. Is this a power that Christians should vote for?

The Constitution granted Congress the power to make coins out of gold and silver, and to establish their value. In its first act pertaining to money, the Congress declared the United States dollar would be equal to the amount of silver in a one ounce silver coin that was circulating at the time. This coin had a lengthy history: in the middle ages, some of the best silver coins came from the German area of Joachimsthal. The coins came to be known as the Joachimsthaler, or later the Thaler. If it's not obvious, this is where the name "dollar" came from. Eventually there were lots of sources for Thaler-sized coins, and they were all called Thalers or Dollars. It doesn't matter where an ounce of silver comes from as long as its the same weight as every other ounce.

Long before our modern paper money, the most popular coin for trade in America was a Thaler coin called the Spanish Milled Peso, or the Spanish Dollar. America's founders couldn't care less what was stamped on their silver and gold coins, as long as the coins were of the right valuable substance, and of the right weight. Even though America eventually started minting its own coins, Spanish Pesos and American Dollars circulated side by side for over a century. Nobody thought this was strange. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson -- all of them almost certainly traded in Spanish Pesos at some point in their lives, here in America.

Government came up with the idea that it should have a monopoly on coin production within its territory. It started teaching its people the idea that they should use only their own national coins, as a matter of national pride. Almost all governments did this. Eventually governments passed laws to try to require people to use their own national currencies in most day to day transactions. This was just a step on the road to currency the government could inflate. (If everybody can switch to gold or silver coins from another country or a private mint, then they will do so the minute the government starts issuing inflated coins with less gold or silver in them. Competition, the free market, protects people's interests far better than any government.) Search your Constitution -- you'll find the power to mint coins granted to the federal government, you'll find the power to mint coins and the power to issue paper money denied to the States, you'll find an amendment that says the federal government doesn't have any powers that aren't granted to it by the Constitution (this is in an Amendment because the original writers of the Constitution thought it was obvious). If you compare with the previous Articles of Confederation, you'll find that the phrase used to grant Congress the power to mint coins originally contained permission to issue paper money -- this was intentionally taken out when the sentence was moved to the Constitution. What you won't find in the Constitution is the right for the federal government to monopolize money. You won't find any sentence granting them the right to require people to use American coins. In 1920 it took an Amendment to the Constitution to give the federal government the right to outlaw alcohol. Why did it not take an Amendment to give Congress the power to monopolize money, or issue paper bills?

If you'll check this link, you can see how much value has been stolen from American dollars. Originally, a dollar was one ounce of silver, or one twentieth of an ounce of gold. How much silver is a dollar worth now? How much gold?

Given that America's founders used coins like the Spanish silver Peso interchangeably with American Dollars, and intended us to continue doing so, I find the uproar over Pizza Patrón's private business decision to take Mexican paper Pesos to be somewhat out of place. A more appropriate uproar would be one against the criminals in government who violated the Constitution and required us to start using fake paper dollars.


Pizza for pesos!

Pizza Patrón has announced their intention to continue accepting the Mexican Peso at their stores. Good for them! I'm sure they are making a lot of money off of this service. Good for them! Unless somebody was using force to affect the transaction (for example, by pointing a gun at someone, or passing a law requiring authorities to point a gun at someone), such voluntary transactions mean that people were served, and society, on balance, advances. In general, they will prosper in proportion to the value of the service they provide.

One reason people want to restrict immigration is because of security concerns. It's true that right now we are at great risk from people sneaking in to the country who might desire to harm us. We certainly need some diligence. But private property is a better way to resolve this. I don't let people on to my property unless I trust them. If we all followed the same policy, we'd be a lot safer than we are now. All of us would be on the lookout for dangerous or suspicious individuals. But unfortunately we have this "we are in this together" mindset about so much that "we" do. This mindset is just another name for socialism. We've socialized large portions of the land of this country, including land along the borders, and we've socialized the service of defending that land. The result of socialism is always that resources are misallocated.

Another reason people want to restrict immigration is to "protect American jobs." But this is a wrong position to take. There's nothing better about Americans than other people. It's not moral to use American guns to protect American jobs, period. Besides, America's economy would be better served if we allow the free market to make things more efficient. More efficient generally means lower costs, which generally means some people are going to have to find another line of work. Again, this is better for all of us.

People are also concerned about immigration because of our government's policy of giving so many free handouts. These handouts generally go even to illegal immigrants, and they consist of resources stolen from other people. Obviously these handouts are sinful and harmful, but as Walter Williams is fond of saying, "That's a problem of socialism, not a problem of freedom." In other words, if your socialism means you need to restrict my freedom, the real solution is that your socialism needs to be eliminated, not that my freedom should be curtailed.

God's immigration policy to Israel was amazingly broad: "You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Exodus 23:9) Over and over again the same sentiment is expressed. If somebody comes in, they are allowed to stay, unless they are stealing and harming people. Most of the thievery in our nation is committed by the government, not immigrants.

Prohibiting people from immigrating amounts to a sinful theft of property rights: you are denying people the freedom to do what they will with their own property, which is to decide who is and is not allowed on it. It's sinful. It's also economically harmful.

More on Pizza Patrón tomorrow.


Shared items

Sorry my posting has been light this week. I've lost a lot of sleep, and that makes it hard to turn one's mind toward writing early in the morning sometimes. Hopefully this weekend I will get well-rested and resume the normal pace. :)

In the meantime, you might like to check out my Google Reader shared items page, which mostly consists of articles on political theory, liberty, and other related topics that I've found interesting. If you use a feed aggregator/news reader software like Google Reader or bloglines, you can even subscribe to the feed from my shared items and have them delivered to you as soon as I add them. I like this system where I can easily click a button that gives something I find interesting to lots of people who may also like it.