Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Debasing the Currency of Truth

At a Christmas party in one of our town's fine old mansions last week, I happened to notice a bill of fare for a New Year's dinner in 1912, framed and hung on the wall. (The ancestors of the house's current owners had previously owned the town's only hotel, and the dinner was advertised for its dining room.) The menu consisted of five courses, including mock turtle consommé, broiled fresh salmon, a variety of salads and vegetables, beef rib roast, and brandied plum pudding (I assume of the flaming variety). The price for this grand fare: seventy-five cents. In 1912: seventy-five cents.

Does that illustrate for you sufficiently how the politicians have debased our currency in just under a hundred years? A meal like that today would cost seventy-five dollars. Thus in 97 years, using that meal as a yardstick, our currency has been debased to one one-hundredth of what it was. What seventy-five pennies bought back then, requires seventy-five hundred pennies to buy today.

There used to be some protection against the debasement of the currency: it was exchangeable for gold. Then in 1934, President Roosevelt and a willing Congress fixed the price of gold at $35 per ounce (debasing the dollar in a single stroke by nearly sixty percent, from the previous price of $20.67 per ounce). Within fifteen or twenty years, nearly all of America's gold mines had been forced to shut down, because the cost of mining the gold had risen far above what the mines could be paid for it. Eventually, the discrepancy between the quantity of paper dollars being printed and the amount of gold bullion in Fort Knox backing them up became too great. First the paper money was declared no longer redeemable in gold, and then even the silver certificates, which had been with us since the days of Grover Cleveland, were replaced by "Federal Reserve Notes". The legend printed on the obverse changed in 1934 as well. Prior to that, it had read: "Redeemable in gold on demand at the United States Treasury, or in gold or lawful money at any Federal Reserve Bank". But beginning with the notes issued in 1934, the legend read: "This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private, and is redeemable in lawful money at the United States Treasury, or at any Federal Reserve Bank."

"Redeemable in lawful money" -- just what did that mean? (Today's notes have eliminated the phrase altogether.) In 1934, it meant you could still get silver coinage for your paper dollars. However, Roosevelt had also issued an executive order forbidding citizens from holding more than $100 in gold coins, and demanding that excess gold be returned to the government (for $35 in paper dollars per ounce). He said that the order would be in effect only for the duration of the emergency, but he had not rescinded it when he died in April 1945. The executive order stayed on the books until Gerald Ford rescinded it in 1974. And by then, President Nixon had closed the gold window for foreign national banks. The dollar was completely free of its moorings, and had become a pure fiat currency. Its debasement now proceeded apace.

Simultaneously with the debasement of our nation's currency, there has occurred a debasement in what I will call "the currency of truth". Nearly anything passes for "the truth" these days, as when Secretary Napolitano can claim that "the system worked" when a Nigerian failed to blow up an airliner because he was unable to detonate his bomb in the cabin -- after smuggling the device aboard with no difficulty, while lacking a valid passport, and after having been specifically identified to the State Department (by his own father!) as a potential terrorist. Yes, certainly, "the system worked".

Also, President Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi all claim with a straight face that under the health care monstrosity to which they are giving birth, "you will be able to keep your existing plan." They claim with equal equanimity that expanding healthcare coverage to all, and extending coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, "will not add to the federal deficit." And to top it off, President Obama promised solemnly that he would not raise the taxes of anyone earning less than $250,000 per year. Guess what tax increases are included as part of the "health care" package?

This debasement of the currency of truth is rampant not only in politics, but in religion and science as well. Over at Stand Firm, Sarah Hey has just documented one monumental example in the Diocese of Western New York. The examples could be multiplied many times over -- just look at any of the posts collected on this site under the heading "The Presiding Bishop Defies, and Defiles, the Canons." The unbelievable exposure of hypocrisy and lying that is called "ClimateGate" has evoked equally unbelievable denials by those with a vested interest in the lies, to the point where they insist that the data and calculations on which their models are based are still valid. Fifteen thousand people descend on Copenhagen in the middle of a blizzard, flying in 140 private jets and driving thousands of private limousines, so they can discuss what to do about the problem of "global warming". Meanwhile, as in Copenhagen, hundreds and hundreds of new records for snowfall have been set for 2009 around the northern hemisphere.

As with any currency, however, eventually Gresham's Law kicks in. The bad money drives out the good; people start hoarding the valuable currency, and spending only the worthless money for as long as they can. Eventually, society breaks down to a state of barter and economic collapse. (It is very hard to feed your family by trading scholarly essays for eggs and bread.)

And so it is also with the currency of truth. President Obama lacks all credibility any more, to say nothing of Harry Reid, or Nancy Pelosi. People have stopped listening to what the politicians say, because it is meaningless; they are watching what they do, and are getting very angry as a result. In the Church, parishioners by the droves are voting with their feet. They can no longer be enticed by sermons telling them that "all is well", or by requests for donations in order to keep lawsuits going, as well as to allow the Church's activists at all levels the luxury of sponsoring pro-abortion groups and gay pride parades.

The bad communications are driving out the good. People are hoarding the truth, just like gold coins. The news media have lost most of their readership; the television news shows have lost their audiences. People now gather around a few trusted sources on the Internet -- Michael Yon's reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq is just one stellar example among many.

But as with any currency, the debasement cannot continue forever. Eventually the currency becomes too bulky for even the simplest transactions, or the printing presses run out of paper and ink. What will be the equivalent result of endlessly debasing the currency of truth?

The first casualty will be our government by carefully managed public relations. People will no longer find any point in watching or believing the staged images; speeches given by teleprompter will fail to communicate anything. Voters will gravitate toward those who promise a dose of hard reality -- there will be only a few such candidates at first, but then their success will attract others. There is a hunger for the truth. People sense that if only they are told the truth, they can handle it; what they cannot stand any more is being lied to as the economy crumbles. If by 2012 the national political conventions have not grasped this fact, they will be as meaningless as a General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA).

The next casualty will be a breakdown of law and order, to accompany the breakdown in the economy. Already we have been treated to the ludicrous spectacle of one corrupt government official after another -- including even the Secretary of the Treasury -- who cannot be bothered with the task of reporting their income accurately and paying the taxes due on it. The IRS is going to find that a good deal of damage has been done to the integrity of self-reporting, on which the whole system is based. And if people truly can be fined and jailed for failing to purchase health insurance -- if that is what our Congress and President are determined to foist upon us -- there will be massive resistance from young people, across the board. More and more of them will drop beneath the government's radar, and do business only in cash or barter; laws on the books will exist only to be evaded and ignored. Small businesses, unable to afford the increased premiums, will lay their remaining workers off. The loss in tax revenues will not be sufficiently offset by gains in productivity. Extending unemployment benefits, as Congress has just done yet again, serves only to prolong the period during which people will continue to be unable to find work. The government will continue to operate massively in the red -- can't it see that paying people not to work requires people actually working to provide the wherewithal to pay those who are not? It cannot, because the politicians are blind to that simple truth.

The current administration, whether it is re-elected or not, will finally lose its credibility even abroad. If investors sense a default, there will be a run on the dollar, followed by limitations imposed on the transfer of dollars out of the country. That announcement in turn will be the precursor of a truly momentous event: the Treasury will fail to sell the required number of bonds at auction, with the result that the Fed has to purchase them on the QT. But the truth will out, because it is more valuable than all the paper money the Fed could ever print. China and other foreign lenders will purchase no more notes or bonds, and the government's default will then be postponed only to the extent the Fed can keep cranking out ever more worthless money. Weimar-style inflation will ensue. The President may call out the troops, and complete collapse of our major cities may be avoided for the time being. But the situation will be extremely precarious. The country will teeter on the verge of a plunge into martial law and dictatorship, or of a grass-roots rebellion that finally turns out the incumbents en masse.

At that critical stage, which way the teeter-totter will swing will depend on the ability of the people to stay connected to the truth. Imagine a high-atmosphere thermonuclear blast which in a split second knocked out all our telecommunications and electronics, and rendered the generation of electricity impossible. No telephones, radio or television -- how would you begin to establish communications with others? No electricity, no operable vehicles -- how would you begin to provide the rudiments of survival for your family? Answering those questions, for your own unique situation, will begin to provide you with clues as to how the channels of truth will be maintained in the coming nationwide crisis.

For a crisis is certainly coming -- as long as we continue to debase the truth, along with our currency. Unfortunately, the two go hand in hand. When you refuse to face the long-term consequences of debasing the currency, you begin to tell lies about what is really happening. And when you find that lies come easily, you cease to be troubled by anything that depreciates the currency. Barring a political epiphany, which would be on the order of a miracle, the current administration and Congress will not stop doing the one, because they are constitutionally (in the mental sense, not the legal) unable to refrain from the other.

So brace yourselves. We are about to see whether, in Lincoln's words, "any nation . . . so dedicated . . . can long endure." For as Proverbs reminds us (19:12):
The one who tells the truth will endure forever, but the one who lies will last only for a moment.


  1. I'm trying to get the corner on the handbasket market. There should be a run on them soon.

    Br_er Rabbit

  2. AC, I like your interweaving of secular history and current events and the state of the church. In the same spirit, I would argue that what happened twenty years ago in Europe and Russia and what may be happening now in Iran – regime change – is where we are now in Anglicanism. The old currency has been so debased that only a new currency base, which requires a new economic and political order, will suffice.

    That is why I have supported ACNA, because I see no way that the corrupt regime can be changed. In terms of church property law, the South Carolina decision is probably a one-off (SC has always been a bit backward-looking). In terms of the Covenant, I think TEC will refuse to allow dioceses to adopt it, even if that were permitted by the Communion.

    On the Communion level, I think the deliberate action of the Lambeth bureaucracy over the past 12 years involves a similar debasing. What part of No in Lambeth Resolution 1.10 did TEC and ACoC not hear? Yet here we are, with Katherine Schori and Ian Douglas happily sitting on the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.” The moral equivalence of equating violation of permanent sexual norms and of temporary reactive territorial interventions is another prime example of debasing the truth. This is also why I support GAFCON/FCA, because ultimately the constitution of the Communion will have to be reformed, or there will be a regime change emerging from the Global South.

  3. KJV: Amos Chapter 8

    [11] Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
    [12] And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.