I’m convinced everyone, including myself, struggles with something like cognitive dissonance when we try to decide if we are rich or poor. The way we feel about our “wealth” depends on so many variables: we may think we are prosperous one moment, and then, very sure we are poor at another. If we want to buy something we cannot afford, we feel poor; when, on the other hand, we are celebrating with family and friends, perhaps on Thanksgiving Day itself, we feel rich. Add the human tendency to compare what we have with what others appear to have, with the potential devastation of covetousness or pride, and we get even more confused!
Government authority factors into our evaluation of our “pursuit of happiness”. What is “money”? Some authority invents it, but why does it work? Do “we the people” (the sovereigns in our republic) have control of monetary policy? How much should be created per capita, i.e. our money supply? What does it cost to get money — interest rates? There is no intrinsic value in the money itself — the paper makes a poor fire starter and it is cheaper to drill holes in our coins than to use them to buy coin-sized washers we might need to build something. How do we protect ourselves from thieves who increase the money supply to pay for debts incurred based on pre-inflation values? These are lofty questions and confuse the question of deciding whether we are rich or poor.
Is our currently apparent “prosperity” real? Is it sustainable, or not? The market seems to be booming for recreational equipment, vacations, entertainment, campers, travel, houses, cars, food, energy… in spite of massive COVID-19 production shortages! “Business as usual” coexisting with production loss makes me uneasy. My theory is the is distribution of trillions of “covid dollars” (debt from the Fed’s printing presses) is robustly changing hands just as if we are continuing to prosper as a nation! If this was the intent, it seems to be working, at least for now. If the prosperity is sustainable, maybe we should do our part by spending more!? My guess is we are all trying to grasp the phenomena and wondering what the future will bring.
Money works ONLY because everyone, by consensus, trusts it. Buying and selling with “tokens” of promised value utterly depends on continued trust. The US Dollar works because it is backed by our US Federal physical assets and,more importantly, the historical credibility and reputation of our government — designed and working to protect and defend inherent, unalienable human rights! A dollar has the profound global value it has because of successful application of the original intent of our US Constitution — freedom. Our trust in US money is inseparable from our trust in the value of our government. Trust in our money system, or our nation, is appropriate only in the context of our greater trust in God — which is specifically stated on our money: “in God we Trust”. Politics, government, and God all matter when contemplating our prosperity — our “pursuit of happiness” is one of the inherent human rights of Declaration of Independence. The 1828 definition of the word “happiness” is about the same as ours: “That state of being in which our desires are gratified.” The founders, like us, presumed the pursuit of happiness included the ownership of property and money. Ultimate “happiness” however, is only artificially related to currency and has everything to do with what/who we are ultimately trusting. If you remember, this is precisely the message of the famous “Sermon on the Mount” in the Bible (summed up in Matt 6:33). The evening news confirms we have less and less reason to place too much trust in government, and more than ever this includes our American government, giving us every reason to think shrewdly about what we ultimately trust.
Long ago, “we the people” were extricated from the power to directly control monetary policy! Congress authorized the creation of the Federal Reserve system (the “Fed”) in 1913. Theoretically we could force reform and restructure our monetary policies by empowering lawmakers, but we would be hard-pressed to forge consensus on what ‘improvements’ to this entrenched institution would look like. We tolerate escalating deficit spending even though we don’t look too closely at how this results in more and more money being printed/minted, which is creating a bigger and bigger debt load.
We “ordinary folks” do not often admit to ourselves we do not have much more than nominal control over government spending! It seems more and more unlikely we will be able to stop the spending-debt spiral. It was a wise man who once said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.” – Thomas Jefferson, US President [Robert G. Moscatelli, The Quote Manual (Bloomington, IN: Author House, 2005), 193.]
There are valid, intuitive reasons our ancestors delegated governing decisions to elected representatives and the “experts” they appoint! Snapshots of populous opinion on specific issues in a “pure democracy” provide an utterly unreliable standard for making governing decisions. Popular votes must never determine, for example when and where we use the bombs we have stockpiled for our defense! Nor can the populous establish an official government religion. We don’t even trust our elected representatives to do this! Neither do we elect a President this way. Instead, we use an electoral college system. We must never use polling the “court of public opinion” to declare justice on hot-button issues fanned in the media spotlight. With high-tech media, it is becoming a growing challenge to even fairly elect and appoint local governing delegates. Beware of those who portray short-term popular opinions as truth. Some wrongly promote, “one person, one vote” on the internet to come up with governing decisions, which is a really bad idea. To be confused on this question is to be confused about what America, as a republic, is all about.
Lest you think Alaska is better than other States: State governments have almost no control of the “Federal Reserve System” enforcing monetary policy … even less than Congress. When I was contemplating these things in the legislature, I considered the benefits if we were to create Alaskan currency backed by savings of real Alaskan gold and other precious metals. Not surprisingly, I discovered States are prohibited from having an independent currency system defined as “legal tender”. The “Federal Reserve” has the monopoly. It was recently reported Alaskans have $11,095 (US Dollar) per capita bonded debt obligations, second only to Connecticut! (“State Bonded Obligations, 2020”, American Legislative Exchange Council). The national average is $3800! How does this factor into your family’s financial portfolio? You are likely not even aware of this travesty because of obfuscation of the definition of “debt”! Debt DOES include what we are projected to owe when it becomes legally payable (retirement and benefits for state employees for example)! For example, it is fiscally foolish to owe for legal promises to pay for healthcare, to be priced after future inflation. This very real, extravagant level of bonded debt obligation may be one of the most damning pieces of evidence proving the designed impotence of the Alaska Legislature, the only governing authority with the nominal power to eliminate our debt obligation.
This was also submitted as an article to The People’s Paper.