Saturday, April 2, 2011

Minting Mayhem

I would have believed that this article I just read came from The Onion. Instead, it's on the FBI's website. It's about a guy fined and put in prison for minting his own money (well, it was part of an organization) and trying to mix it in with the US money supply. The Liberty Dollar coins do kind of resemble US currency, but the bills are far from it.

The Supreme Court said that Liberty Dollars are not legal tender and that use of Liberty Dollars as circulating currency is a federal crime. Now, I certainly understand that it's not legal tender. But I don't think that it should be outlawed as currency. It was backed by the gold standard and I think the value was supposed to be pegged about 1:1 with the USD. If I want to trade you something for a Liberty Dollar or a pack of cigarettes or one of your used DVDs, that mutually agreed upon transaction makes us both better off. Of course it's way more common to trade USD for goods and services in this country, but people can barter favors or have plenty of other ways to pay for things than using greenbacks.

The Liberty Dollar coins maybe should have been altered a bit so as to be obviously different that the money put out by our government. I do not believe that making your own money is a federal crime, but I could get behind that sort of label for counterfeiting. The problem is that these notes were good. They were not fraudulent. They were backed by gold and you could cash them out for precious metal. There are tons of other examples of privately minted money. One of the earliest examples I learned about was babysitting vouchers. The vouchers allow you to redeem one hour of babysitting for a 1-hour note. It was a way for families in an area to trade babysitting services with other members of this group instead of paying teenage girls.

There's no reason that I can't print money that says Tallahassee Treasury and circulate it around town. As long as a value is agreed upon (I think I'd like to peg it to the US Dollar), then everyone can use it. Maybe it'd only be accepted in Tallahassee where people know that other Tally residents will take the TT notes for payment. I realize that these notes would not be legal tender and that's certainly ok. Anyway, I believe the FBI is out of hand in this case.
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