A Heartless Radical

    As the shadows grow long and the rocking chair on the back deck beckons for more frequent workouts, I find my mind wandering back through a long life to scan incidents nearly forgotten.  How does the human brain do it?  How does it dredge up a memory from more than eighty years ago complete with details about the flavors of ice cream nearby adults were eating?

   My earliest recollection is riding in the passenger seat of an automobile peering at a sky full of small aircraft.  Mostly bi-planes.  It was an airshow, I was later told, and it was a time when people looked skyward whenever even one airplane passed over.  The view of so many planes all at once must have made a strong impression on me.  I also recall a blue bassinette suspended by chains from the ceiling of the sedan, and in the back seat my grandmother and mother eating ice cream from small round cardboard containers.  My grandmother had vanilla ice cream and my mother's was strawberry.  Their spoons resembled wooden tongue depressors with a hollow place at one end. 

  Not long ago I checked the air show schedule from that era in that location and concluded I was not yet three when the spectacular air show took place.  My younger sister was the occupant of the swinging bassinette.

  Fast forward through childhood and the teen years, all of which contain plenty of vignettes that intrude on these "waiting yiears."  Some aspects to an August visit to the 1939 World's Fair spring to mind with amazing clarity.  We spent three full days in the fairgrounds and remember several scenes with astonishing clarity such as the closeup of the trylon and perisphere, the time capsule (which is still buried in Flushing Meadow), seeing row upon row of television sets and wondering if such a wonderful device would ever appear in our own living room, and the memorable "World of Tomorrow," a panorama of cities of the future - including modern highways with looping cloverleaf intersections. 

  That August I also climbed the interior of the Statue of Liberty to peer out of the crown. I recall being disappointed that visitors were no longer permitted to climb a ladder up the statue's arm to the torch which Lady Liberty holds high. 

  Not long ago I went back through the newsreel of my life trying to find the point at which I took an interest in such things as politics and economics.  More important, to discover what led me up the path to the world of the lonely radical independewnt?  Practically everyone I knew had fallen into lockstop with the popular trend of ever-expanding government as a means to improve the lives of one and all.  And why, for Pete's sake, did I become interested in the dreadfully dull field of economics?  Particuarly such a boring thing as monetary history! 

  I have traced the turning point to nearly fifty years ago.  The assassination of President Kennedy brought me to earth with a thud and I began looking into the "why" of things.  By 1964 I became aware of the chatter about silver being in short supply and kept an ear on the public conversation about it. I began to notice such things as the disappearance of the solemn pledge printed on Federal Reserve notes stating they could be redeemed at any time in "lawful money."  However, one could always swap a paper note for silver coins, at least until 1965 when copper/nickel tokens quickly took the place of circulating dimes, quarter-dollars, and half-dollars.  Silver dollars had long since stopped circulating.  Who wanted to carry a heavy silver dollar when a paper $1.00 silver certificate was available?

  All of this triggered great interest in monetary history, which persists to this day.  I discovered great nations through the ages eventually disintegrated when they debauched their monetary base.  The Byzantine republic seems to have had the longest run chiefly because it stuck with a money unit of precious metal for several centuries.

  It wasn't possible to explore history from a monetary standpoint with bumping into the narratives of some of the early 20th century libertarians such as Albert J. Nock, Frank Chodorov, and several others.  From there we were drawn into the scholarship of Ludwig von Mises, surely one of the greatest economists to set pen to paper. 

  In the 1970s, when the U.S. was strangling itself with inflation, I came across excellent books, pamphlets and tracts published by the Committee for Monetary Research and Education, then based in Greenwich, CT.  One thing led to another and I found myself attending some of CMRE's meetings.  The famous Arden House conferences were well attended and it was there I had the chance to hob-knob with some remarkable people such as Otto Scott (who coined the phrase "The Silent Majority) and Ed Vieira, whose "Pieces of Eight" precisely explains what the Founders had in mind when they established the monetary system in the late 18th century. 

  Through CMRE I had the good fortune to meet and interview such sound money lumenaries as Henry Hazlitt, one of the most influential of the economics writers of the 20th century.  Hans Sennholz and several others sat for our series on inflation, and by the time we were finished I was convinced fiat printing press currency must eventually reach its intrinsic value and the rational  solution to a monetary crisis is to restore a monetary system which limits the political class to spending within the means of the people. 

  By 1980 I was following closely the establishment of the Gold Study Commission, appointed by Ronald Reagan.  I put my 2¢ worth in when public comments were solicited and my little argument for sound money appears in the Commission's final report along with many others, pro and con.  Those opposed to reestablishing a precious metals money standard prevailed, although it all led to the establishment of the 1985 Gold Bullion Coin Act which authorized the mintage and issue of legal tender gold coins.  Americans, by the way, had not been permitted to own gold coin or bullion from 1933 to 1974.  Why Americans were so docile about gold ownership I still can't understand. 

  My first awareness of Congressman Ron Paul occurred in the early '80s.  He was a member of the Gold Study Commission.  I had supper with him one evening in late 1988 when he was touring as presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party.  We agreed on everything from enduring marriages, large families, and sound money to smaller government, less military involvement around the world and more free commercial trade.  I'm still in general agreement with the Paulian principles.

  I'm not comfortable with the  excesses of the Democrat  Party and  wince when  the Republicans  insist on micromanaging private lives, and - in the  backround -  pound on the drums of war.  So I find myself wandering among the minority of minorities - the Radical Independents. 

  It really sounds stupid to say that restoring an honest money system is the only way to bring a spend-thrift Congress back to earth.  However, the evidence is mounting every day that the present debt-based money, which can be created by politicians from thin air in any quantity, is leading the United States (and the world) to financial ruin.  We have precise measuring standards for everything except our media of exchange, and not even the most influential economists can guess what the value of a dollar will be in the future.  We know there will be three feet in a yard, sixteen ounces to the pound, and 5,280 feet in a mile - but the unit with which we measure our financial transactions changes.  Chances are inflation will continue to nibble away at it thanks to Congress and the Administration.  As a measuring tool over time the dollar is all but useless.

 Should some miracle occur and sound money was reintroduced the effect would be painful.  Congress would suddenly have to restrain itself to spending whatever it could lay its hands on.   Gold and silver cannot be mined nearly as fast as printing presses can be run or digital numbers typed into Treasury Department computers.  And that's the beauty of a gold and/or silver standard.  Congress can't print it.  It's nature's own restraining mechanism defusing the human inclination to self-destruct under under the illusion that debt = wealth. 

  Another thing we've noticed since our epiphany nearly 40 years ago.  When nations become over-indebted and their currency loses most of its value, they tend to find a way to get themselves involved in war.  As smart as we consider ourselves we can't seem to avoid violence and massive destruction in settling our political (or religious) disagreements. 

~John Wrisley, March 7, 2013


Bailout Blues
  Great Depression, Part 2
Scuttled; The Ship of State
Américains crédules 
The Party is Ending
God and Public Schools
How to Die
Dear Motorist
Commitment to Posterity