Virtual Voices

Morally inconsistent currency

Economy

I want to ask you a question of worldwide moral consequence. First, please grab your purse or wallet. Take out a one dollar bill and look at it while you read this column. On the front, look at the seal on the left that bears a capital letter. Now, read the fine print above it. Did you know that those words have the power to inflict great harm on people here in the United States and around the world? Do you know that you and I as United States citizens bear moral responsibility for those words?

"This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private," is the language I'm referring to. If you knew you had the power to remove those words, what would you do? What should you do?

Still holding that dollar bill? Good. Turn it over. Read the four words above the word "ONE" in the center. Occasionally some radical group calls for the removal of "In God We Trust" from our currency. We should do it or come clean as a nation because "legal tender" and "In God We Trust" are morally inconsistent.

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What does legal tender mean and why is it so morally reprehensible? Economist Dr. Hans Sennholz defined legal tender in his 1985 book Money and Freedom as follows: "According to most dictionaries, legal tender is any kind of money which by law must be accepted when offered in payment of a debt ('tendered') expressed in the country's monetary unit." In other words, if you receive a paycheck every two weeks, your employer owes you a debt of two weeks' pay. You must, by law, accept payment in dollars for this private debt owed by your employer. Moreover, if someone, or some entity, or a foreign country purchases U.S. government bonds as an investment, dollars must be accepted as payment for interest and principal. And finally, keep in mind that the entire world's monetary system is built on U.S. dollars.

So what?

As the debate over the debt ceiling reveals, the United States of America can't pay its bills. We don't have enough tax revenue or investors and other nations loaning us enough money to meet the shortfall. In other words, there's a big gap between what we owe and what we can pay with tax revenue plus borrowed money. To make up the difference, we create more dollars by printing them and by making electronic accounting entries to our national banking system. It's an ancient practice: Pay people less by devaluing the currency. And the people have no choice to accept it because, by law, it's "legal tender." Bottom line: Thanks to our Federal Reserve banking system we cheat and steal as a nation. The United States government is plundering its own citizens and the citizens of the world and we've been doing it for nearly a century.

Moreover, because the world's financial system is based on the U.S. dollar, we are contributing to worldwide financial problems that impoverish people - problems like inflation and currency debasement. We have a moral obligation to demand that the U.S. Congress remove the legal tender status of our currency, return to a gold standard, and truly trust that God's way of finance-living by the Golden Rule, paying our debts with an honest currency-is the only moral way to conduct the nation's business. For now, "In Legal Tender We Trust" is our true currency motto. "In God We Trust" is a sham.

Lee Wishing
Lee Wishing

Lee is the administrative director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

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