God’s Money, and Private Coinage

I FULLY agree with Robert Kiyosaki’s assertion that “gold and silver is God’s money, because He made it.” This is a biblical fact clear in many places, but is especially interesting to note from the account of original paradise in Genesis chapter 2:

The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. The name of the first is Pishon;
it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there. (verses 8-12, NKJV)

Back then, the gold and precious stones were apparently laying on the surface of the ground and easily obtained. However, after the fall of man the curse came, and Adam was banished from such a highly provisioned state into one in which he had to work with great toil to obtain the things he needed and desired (Genesis 3).

Nevertheless, throughout 5,000 years of recorded human history around the world, gold and silver have both proven to be true and pure money. The labor man invested in their farms and industry could be readily converted to gold, silver, and other coin (such as copper or bronze for smaller transactions), which themselves were made through much labor and toil.

Intrinsic Worth

The metals had to be first found in the earth’s crust (which was an effort in and of itself). It then had to be mined, refined, and then fabricated into transactional shapes such as coins and bars. (BTW: Even gold and silver jewelry was (and still is) considered “money” among the eastern people in the Bible lands and beyond.  An earring could be taken off to buy goods or pay for services—see Judges 8:22-28—and the very same thing happens in various parts of the world today.)

So the high labor-content of gold, the slightly less labor-content of silver (about 1/12th to 1/15th as much, historically), and the various lesser-yet labor-content of the baser metal coins, gave them their true intrinsic value for purposes of exchange in 5,000 years of human economies.

So not only did God Himself say that “gold is good” in Genesis; the very nature of the metals (making them appropriate for molding into various shapes and sizes) and the labor invested in them, made them perfect for exchanging the product of people’s labors (e.g. grain, manufactured goods, services) for something that would be a reliable storehouse of those labors. Real money has intrinsic value, and thus, is a stable medium of exchange.

Thus, precious metals (and the baser metals) have always been a reliable storehouse of wealth and fruit of righteous labor, and have historically been “inflation proof” when used in a monetary system. Except during times of shortages due to famines or war, prices remained the same for hundreds and even thousands of years… or actually went down over time due to technical advances and increases in efficiencies.

Today, governments want us to be under their patronage, and have sold us “worthless paper” for our labors rather than real and free money. The “labor content” of paper notes is virtually zero in comparison, so there is no longer any intrinsic value to them. Governments convinces people to accept paper instead of gold and silver by first backing them with promises to exchange the paper for gold or silver on demand. This enabled people to carry much lighter paper, and still have the value of the precious metals that backed them, so they went along with the idea.

However, governments were then limited in how much they could print by the amount of precious metals they had in vaults to back the “cash.” This meant that they had to show fiscal responsibility and spend within their means (something governments tend to have a real problem doing). So they then detached from gold and silver standards, and began the inflationary monetary policies we see across the globe currently.

Today, people are so used to the effects of monetary inflation (i.e. rising prices) that they have come to think that is “normal” and to be expected—even though the USA has experience such inflation only since 1913. But because generations have passed since the true gold standard of 1913 was abandoned (and its subsequent pseudo-type was abandoned in 1971) people have long forgotten the many years of price stability. The idea that something a thousand years ago could cost the same amount today is such a foreign thought that they often cannot even fathom the concept.

But historically, all paper currencies’ purchase-power eventually return to their true intrinsic value—somewhere near zero. And now that the world’s “paper” monetary schemes and economies are obviously collapsing, people are finally taking the time to study and learn about the only true moneys with intrinsic worth—gold and silver.

Private Coinage

To learn a bit more about the concept of precious metals in the form of private coinage (i.e. verses government minted coinage, or printed paper) from an economists viewpoint, let me recommend you read the following marvelous article. It was posted today on the Ludwig von Misses Institute’s website, and is a short excerpt from Murray M. Rothbard’s marvelous book, What Has Government Done to Our Money? (which I myself own). For your convenience, I have posted it again here, and have provided additional related information of value below that.

[This article is excerpted from chapter 7 of What Has Government Done to Our Money? An MP3 audio version of this article, read by Dr. Floy Lilly, is available here.]

The idea of private coinage seems so strange today that it is worth examining carefully. We are used to thinking of coinage as a “necessity of sovereignty.” Yet, after all, we are not wedded to a “royal prerogative,” and it is the American concept that sovereignty rests, not in government, but in the people.

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How would private coinage work? In the same way, we have said, as any other business. Each minter would produce whatever size or shape of coin is most pleasing to his customers. The price would be set by the free competition of the market.

The standard objection is that it would be too much trouble to weigh or assay bits of gold at every transaction. But what is there to prevent private minters from stamping the coin and guaranteeing its weight and fineness? Private minters can guarantee a coin at least as well as a government mint. Abraded bits of metal would not be accepted as coin. People would use the coins of those minters with the best reputation for good quality of product. We have seen that this is precisely how the “dollar” became prominent – as a competitive silver coin.

Opponents of private coinage charge that fraud would run rampant. Yet, these same opponents would trust government to provide the coinage. But if government is to be trusted at all, then surely, with private coinage, government could at least be trusted to prevent or punish fraud. It is usually assumed that the prevention or punishment of fraud, theft, or other crimes is the real justification for government. But if government cannot apprehend the criminal when private coinage is relied upon, what hope is there for a reliable coinage when the integrity of the private marketplace operators is discarded in favor of a government monopoly of coinage? If government cannot be trusted to ferret out the occasional villain in the free market in coin, why can government be trusted when it finds itself in a position of total control over money and may debase coin, counterfeit coin, or otherwise with full legal sanction perform as the sole villain in the marketplace? It is surely folly to say that government must socialize all property in order to prevent anyone from stealing property. Yet the reasoning behind abolition of private coinage is the same.

Moreover, all modern business is built on guarantees of standards. The drug store sells an eight-ounce bottle of medicine; the meat packer sells a pound of beef. The buyer expects these guarantees to be accurate, and they are. And think of the thousands upon thousands of specialized, vital industrial products that must meet very narrow standards and specifications. The buyer of a 1/2 inch bolt must get a 1/2 inch bolt and not a mere 3/8 inch.

“It is surely folly to say that government must socialize all property in order to prevent anyone from stealing property. Yet the reasoning behind abolition of private coinage is the same.”

Yet, business has not broken down. Few people suggest that the government must nationalize the machine-tool industry as part of its job of defending standards against fraud. The modern market economy contains an infinite number of intricate exchanges, most depending on definite standards of quantity and quality. But fraud is at a minimum, and that minimum, at least in theory, may be prosecuted. So it would be if there were private coinage. We can be sure that a minter’s customers, and his competitors, would be keenly alert to any possible fraud in the weight or fineness of his coins. [1]

Champions of the government’s coinage monopoly have claimed that money is different from all other commodities, because “Gresham’s Law” proves that “bad money drives out good” from circulation. Hence, the free market cannot be trusted to serve the public in supplying good money.

But this formulation rests on a misinterpretation of Gresham’s famous law. The law really says that

money overvalued artificially by government will drive out of circulation artificially undervalued money.

Suppose, for example, there are one-ounce gold coins in circulation. After a few years of wear and tear, let us say that some coins weigh only .9 ounces. Obviously, on the free market, the worn coins would circulate at only 90 percent of the value of the full-bodied coins, and the nominal face value of the former would have to be repudiated. [2] If anything, it will be the “bad” coins that will be driven from the market.

But suppose the government decrees that everyone must treat the worn coins as equal to new, fresh coins, and must accept them equally in payment of debts. What has the government really done? It has imposed price control by coercion on the “exchange rate” between the two types of coin. By insisting on the par ratio when the worn coins should exchange at 10 percent discount, it artificially overvalues the worn coins and undervalues new coins. Consequently, everyone will circulate the worn coins, and hoard or export the new. “Bad money drives out good money,” then, not on the free market, but as the direct result of governmental intervention in the market.

Despite never-ending harassment by governments, making conditions highly precarious, private coins have flourished many times in history. True to the virtual law that all innovations come from free individuals and not the state, the first coins were minted by private individuals and goldsmiths. In fact, when the government first began to monopolize the coinage, the royal coins bore the guarantees of private bankers, whom the public trusted far more, apparently, than they did the government. Privately minted gold coins circulated in California as late as 1848. [3]

Notes:

[1] See Herbert Spencer, Social Statics (New York: D. Appleton 1890), p. 438.

[2] To meet the problem of wear-and-tear, private coiners might either set a time limit on their stamped guarantees of weight, or agree to recoin anew, either at the original or at the lower weight. We may note that in the free economy there will not be the compulsory standardization of coins that prevails when government monopolies direct the coinage.

[3] For historical examples of private coinage, see B.W. Barnard, “The use of Private Tokens for Money in the United States,” Quarterly Journal of Economics (1916-17): 617-26; Charles A. Conant, The Principles of Money and Banking (New York: Harper Bros., 1905), vol. I, 127-32; Lysander Spooner, A Letter to Grover Cleveland (Boston: B.R. Tucker, 1886), p. 79; and J. Laurence Laughlin, A New Exposition of Money, Credit and Prices (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1931), vol. I, pp. 47-51.

On coinage, also see Mises, Theory of Money and Credit, pp. 65-67; and Edwin Cannan, Money, 8th ed. (London: Staples Press, 1935), pp. 33ff.

As I Conclude This Post…

In addition to the above Rothbard book, I highly recommend Good Money, by George Selgin, for an outstanding and interesting history of private coinage during the Industrial Age in Great Britain:

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Become informed, and become economically empowered by putting yourself on the gold and silver standards. Obtain gold and silver anywhere you can get it, and believe God to prosper you and make up the difference during the economic tsunami that is ahead.

God bless you and you learn and obey His Word,

-Rich

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