A Penny for Your Soul

Originally Published In:

Fairfield County Weekly (12/18/08) Link

The original change we can believe in: The first U.S. penny

Should President-elect Barack Obama bail out the banks? What about the car companies? Should he institute new regulatory bodies to oversee key industries and prevent future bankruptcies? Should he stimulate the economy by increasing spending or cutting taxes?

The American people are an odd blend of public and private. We founded our country as a union of otherwise sovereign states after violently overthrowing a central authority. We cherish independence, but also demand community involvement.

When it comes to the financial crisis, many take it as a given that the government, not the individuals, should decide what to do, but when it comes to who should marry who, many take it as equally given that it is up to the individuals, not the government.

The epitome of this duality fittingly appears on the first penny these United States ever produced. A few years shy of passing the Constitution, the Continental Congress approved a universal design for a copper cent. Counterfeit coppers were common and inhibited trade. On one side of the penny, designed by Benjamin Franklin, were the words "We Are One," thirteen linked circles representing the colonies and the words "United States." On the other side was the Latin term "Fugio," meaning "I fly," and the motto, "Mind Your Business."

We have been flipping that same coin ever since. Are we the radical anarchists that believe in every man for himself? Yes. Are we also the radical socialists that believe in sharing the wealth? Also yes. How can we reconcile those two aspects?

On a local radio show a few weeks ago, I casually mentioned that Obama was a socialist. What an uproar that caused. "How can you say that? Why do we need labels? Let's wait until he's in office before we criticize him!"

The good news is that socialism still sounds bad to us — we don't want to think of ourselves as socialists. The bad news is that we don't know what socialism means. We think it always means more centralized control than what we currently have, no matter what we currently have.

A socialist government is one that owns or manages parts of the economy. That's it. A government-run post office is socialist. A government-run train service is socialist. A government bailout of banks is socialist. And so on.

What about redistribution of wealth? That's the hallmark way government manages the economy — it punishes success in economic areas it wants to contract (such as Obama's pledge to impose windfall profits on oil companies) and encourages more activity in economic areas it wants to expand (such as "green" ones). It takes money (from those who still have any) and shuffles it around, some from the rich to the poor, some from the poor to the rich, and some from the poor to the poor or the rich to the rich. This shuffling is naked socialism, a centralized control of the fruits of economic labor. That is socialism and that is Obama in a nutshell. He is on the "We Are One" side of the Franklin penny. He will mind your business for you.

But, you might ask, isn't that better than the alternative? Surely we don't want anarchy where the less powerful are oppressed by the more?

There is a remarkable third way, one that defines America, reconciles both sides of the coin and sheds light on the coin itself and the proper role of government. The answer is libertarianism. It hasn't always been called that, but it's always meant individual freedom and responsibility. Libertarians do not believe in anarchy; there ought to be laws protecting property, life and liberty. Neither do libertarians believe in socialism; there ought not be laws regulating, managing or owning "your business."

Only a libertarian government could mint such a thing as the "Fugio" penny. Under anarchy, there would be no centralized currency, but a variety of metals. Under socialism, the currency would not be backed by copper, but rather by fiat (a technical term meaning "nothing"). It would just be backed by the community promise to pay it later.

One of the powers granted to Congress by the Constitution is to mint coins and regulate how much actual metal there is in each, so that there is a standard — essentially, a gold standard. If we had been faithful to the gold standard and banks were not regulated by the government to lend out your demand deposits for decades at a time, we would never have had the current crisis. If we were libertarians, we wouldn't let trillions of dollars be taken from us by force from the most socialist government ever to occupy this free land.

Comments from Fairfield County Weekly

Phil Maymin is 1000% correct. We are heading down filled with constant loss of liberty and unsound money.
Soon, we will rid ourselves of one socialist dictator (Bush), only to have him replaced by another (Obama). The people who voted for Obama will find that they cannot stomach HIS wars either, nor can they stand his handling of our economy.
Yet, McCain was an equally evil choice.

Perhaps now, at the edge of a gigantic cliff, people will realize that it is time for the two party system to end.

Posted by Andrew on 12.19.08 at 18.20
Great article...well put. I believe our country is facing her demise. Whether it be President Bush, President elect Obama, or Senator McCain it appears that all professional politicians are supporting a move towards global government. Liberal and conservative Americans should stop fighting with each other and look at the real danger...the erosion of American sovereignty. People need to open their eyes and understand that there is a movement to erase the middle class in the country. Illegal immigration is a well thought out part of the plan. Bring in a new wave of slaves to undercut our underclass and middle class and we can begin to lower wages for everyone. Bring in millions of new immigrants and encourage them not to assimilate and you can begin to water down America. We are losing our sense of Americanism, our jobs are being stolen, our wages are being decreased, and economy has been bankrupted. Keep your eye out for a push for a North American Union and a common money system. We're not far from the end.
Posted by Dustin W. Gold on 12.22.08 at 23.50

Phil is right, but this is

Phil is right, but this is all far from a recent development.  George W. is the worst socialist since Bill Clinton and I think H.W. Bush was only slightly better than either of them. The federal government spends over  3 Trillion dollars a year.   About 2.3 trillion of that is wealth redistribution.  If we cut the corporate tax rate to zero, capital gains taxes to zero, the income tax to zero, and government spending by sixty percent(just to clear out the clutter so we can get down to some real spending reductions) this economy would explode.  Also, we would let in all qualified immigrants without bribing destitute immigrants to come here illegally for out socialized medicine, schools, and the tempting horror of social security.  Everyone who says that the current situation is proof that the free market has failed is either a liar, a paid shill, or an ignorant ideologue. 

   A cousin told me recently, I do not really understand economics, but I love Barack Obama.  I just wanted to hug her and lend her about thirty books.  We have not experimented with the free market since Ronald Reagan and that was an extremely limited experiment.

P.S.  Phil, I know this comment is really, really good.  Feel free to use it.  :-)