Monday, January 10, 2011

Funny Money

Have you ever stopped to consider that perhaps the Teabaggers are an elaborate joke?

That they have been set up by a shadowy but well-funded political think-tank as a way to test the limits of the stupidity of the average American voter through the propagation of intentionally ludicrous “ideas” and aggressively infantile rhetoric? That if they ever bump up against those limits the people running this puppet show will just stand up, announce that Americans are no longer fit to run their own country and take over?

And that the good and the bad news is that we’re nowhere near these limits and more of the same awaits us?

Sometimes I am hard-pressed to find any other explanation. I just hope our new overlords will end the experiment before more innocent people get killed.

I think about this sort of thing when I contemplate what passes for politics these days.

Consider the set-up we have.

On the one side we have a group of people who swear they hold the Constitution in such reverence that they are entitled to use it as a cudgel to beat the rest of us into line behind their policies, except that their policies generally don’t show any evidence of their ever having read, let alone understood, the Constitution. They also talk a great deal about personal responsibility, even as they saturate their rhetoric with images of guns, violence and armed conflict and at the same time disavow any personal responsibility for the consequences such rhetoric may have among those even more unstable than they are.

And on the other side we have a group of people who seem willing to let this happen without mounting any kind of significant challenge to it whatsoever beyond the occasional scolding.

It would be comical if it weren’t quite so grotesque. James Madison, one of the few Founding Fathers who thought that political parties might be a good idea, is probably spinning in his grave fast enough to generate electricity. Perhaps that’s part of the plan, though – a way to harness stupidity to solve our energy problems.

Those clever overlords.

Just to take a far less serious example of this kind of thing than the one currently gathering most of the headlines, I present you with House Joint Resolution No. 557, recently introduced into the Virginia legislature by a right-wing radical who no doubt will insist with a straight face that he is a “conservative” if you ask him. The function of this Solomonic piece of legislation is to get the Commonwealth of Virginia to issue its own currency, on the grounds (according to the Washington Post) that it will “inject competition into the national economy.”

Uh, no.

First of all, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not have the authority to issue its own money. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution very clearly reserves that power to the federal government, while Article 1, Section 10 equally clearly prohibits the States from doing so, and anyone who has ever read that document carefully would know that.

But actually reading and understanding the Constitution is somehow not required these days, so long as one worships and glorifies it and proclaims its name unto the People and claims that it speaks directly to you in your dreams and that you are its Chosen One and can thus rule in its name for ever and ever, amen.

Kind of like the way they treat, well, something else important, I’m sure. There must be another parallel I’m just not getting right now. It’s on the tip of my tongue, I swear.

Second, that kind of competition is not really what the national economy needs.

There was a time when the federal government did not issue paper money. For most of the nineteenth century, in fact, the federal government confined its money-issuing activities to coins – gold, silver and copper – and left the issuing of paper money to private banks and local businesses. Those companies issued bills – essentially IOUs that promised to redeem them for either goods or actual coins should the bearer ever turn up in person at the main office – and those bills would then circulate as currency.

And the result was chaos. A mild sort of chaos, granted – the economy functioned, mostly, using this system. But it was not a good monetary system for any kind of large-scale economic development.

Since the bills were only as good as the companies themselves, they tended to lose value the further away they got from the people who knew whether the originating companies were still in business or not. And if they were not, the bills became so much litter. So nobody really knew whether the money in their pockets was worth what it said it was worth, or indeed anything at all, which is not a conducive environment in which to conduct business.

Bringing this situation back would take us just that much closer to the outer limits of stupidity, I suppose, though I’m hard pressed to see what other positive results it might bring.

The overlords are watching.


Eric said...

Someone in Virginia wants the state to print money?


::shakes head::

I'm not sure what I did in a past life to deserve being born into this era, but I hope I haven't accidentally gone and done it again this time through. Seems to me, I'm suffering enough. If the universe follows Twilight Zone logic, whatever I did must have been involved being some kind of fool whose foolishness brought much suffering to others. Or it was something terrible, I'm sure.

David said...

It's a good thing I didn't get around to writing about the guy in Georgia who wants people to have to pay their taxes in gold or silver - that would have really done you in! ;)

It's not such a bad era, really. It may be just that the fools are more obvious than they used to be.

Unknown said...

We're allowed to have alternative currencies over here:

David said...

British money is far more privatized than American money - the British government does not issue currency to my knowledge, leaving that to NGOs such as the Bank of England.

Britain also does not have a single written Constitution that sets up the framework of what government can and cannot do there.

You can barter here, but money comes from the federal government.

I had not heard of the Stroud Pound, though it seems on investigation to be less of a currency and more of a scrip - a private system accepted within a club and backed by the main currency. Interesting idea, though.

KimK said...

Hey, I want to print my own money, too. Why not? Oh, yeah. Jail. Darn it all.