Sobran's -- The Real News of the Month

 The Living Dollar 

August 26, 2003

I wish this were a joke, but like so many things these days that ought to be gags this is a real, honest-to-Pete news item. A man recently went to a clinic in Brazil complaining of an earache and walked out with a vasectomy.

I’ve heard of medical blunders I can understand, as when surgeons amputate the wrong leg. That’s pretty dumb, but at least the surgeons are right in principle: they know the patient is supposed to have a leg detached, and their error is one of mere detail. But how do you confuse an ear with the private parts? Would a woman with an earache have received a hysterectomy?

I’m not letting the patient entirely off the hook. He should have at least piped up at some point. Perhaps he trusted the experts too much and said to himself, “Well, I don’t quite get it, but presumably these guys know what they’re doing.”

If that’s what he thought, he isn’t so different from the American voter, who keeps electing people to uphold the U.S. Constitution, only to find himself getting the political equivalent of unwanted surgery on his private parts. He figures these guys must know what they’re doing.

Oh yeah? USA Today reports that gasoline prices in this country are at an all-time high. They’ve broken the old record of $1.41 per gallon, set in March 1981. “Wait a minute!” the naive reader will cry. “I’d kill to pay $1.41 for a gallon of gas!” Yes, but in today’s dollars that would be $2.87. Your money is now worth less than half its 1981 value.

When the Constitution speaks of a “dollar,” it doesn’t mean a piece of paper. It means 371.25 grains of silver. As Congressman Ron Paul, the Texas Republican, puts it, “This historical definition of the dollar has never been changed and cannot be changed — any more than the term inch, as a measure of length, can be changed.”

Paul subscribes to the quaint view that words in law should have stable meanings. This puts him in a tiny minority in Congress, the great majority of which believes that the Constitution is a “living document,” whose historical meanings don’t matter, and that the government can make it mean whatever it pleases.

[Breaker quote: Funny money is no laughing matter.]The Constitution says that Congress shall have the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof. The word regulate in this context meant regularize, not arbitrarily change. Congress is supposed to keep the value of money stable. Otherwise government becomes a huge counterfeiting ring, printing funny money according to its whims. And funny money is no laughing matter, except maybe on Mount Olympus, where the gods are said to get a kick out of observing mortal follies.

Ninety years ago, Congress unconstitutionally delegated this responsibility to the Federal Reserve System, a quasi-private agency. The idea was that private bankers would know how to protect the U.S. currency against inflation.

Result? The value of the dollar has been fluctuating — and mostly shrinking — ever since. Your “dollar” is actually a near-total counterfeit.

It bears the words This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private. That means you are legally required to accept it as money, even if you realize that its true value is meager and depreciating.

Paul quotes Stephen T. Byington, who wrote in 1895, “No legal tender law is ever needed to make men take good money; its only use is to make them take bad money.” There. You can’t put it more plainly than that.

So the “living Constitution” philosophy has given us what might be called the “living dollar.” As the power of government has grown, the value of our earnings, our savings, our investments, and our property has steadily diminished. In short, the government constantly robs us — through both taxes and inflation.

Probably nobody in Congress thinks of himself as part of a criminal enterprise, any more than a termite thinks of itself as a pest. They just do what comes naturally, without comprehending the destruction they wreak. And as long as they don’t comprehend it, they won’t care about it.

Congressman Paul is the exception — almost the lone exception. He wants Congress to resume its responsibilities by abolishing the Federal Reserve and restoring sound money based on precious metals.

Paul even wants to restore the Constitution he and his colleagues are sworn to defend. I suppose that makes him a utopian.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2003 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
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