Learning the lessons of August 15

Today, September 11, is a day of much State-sponsored solemnity in memory of the terrorist attacks that took place here seven years ago. One will read and hear much pious civic claptrap, but undoubtedly there will be little soul-searching as to what might have motivated people to come halfway across the world to kill innocent Americans who had nothing to do with the government policies which inflamed the terrorists.

The only time there seems to be any “reflection” about that azure, late summer day is when Rudy Giuliani and his Republican friends try to score political points with it. Even at this year’s convention, Giuliani pumped up McCain by saying that he “understands the lessons of 9/11.” On the contrary, we have, if anything, repeated many of the same mistakes after 9/11 which goaded the terrorists into their evil deeds in the first place.

Americans generally seem to think that September 11, 2001 was a watershed moment in the history of our country, a new “start” from zero. This view is hopelessly myopic and merely an excuse to engage in flag-waving.

So what did lead up to September 11? One could cite any number of events, from the stationing of Marines in Lebanon, to the time the H.W. Bush administration turned its back on Saddam Hussein, to our stationing of military forces in Islamic holy lands. Surely all of these are factors which aggravated the Muslim world–and we need not condone the actions of terrorists in order to see that one should not take a swing at the hornets’ nest in the first place.

But what made all this possible? Why, profligate government spending, of course! The U.S. can’t run the world without having gobs of money to dump into the military-industrial complex. “Yeah, that’s right, no wonder we have all these high taxes,” you might say. Well, not exactly. When it comes down to it, income taxes are petty theft compared to the way the government really gets its funding, which is by having the Federal Reserve print money out of thin air.

So money does grow on trees? Well, only on government trees and only for the State’s benefit. For the rest of us, this amounts to robbery. Here’s how. Imagine that you have a Mickey Mantle baseball card, one of a kind; there is no other like it. It will, based on its rarity, be worth an incredible sum of money. Let’s say, however, that someday it’s discovered that there are actually 2 million of these Mickey Mantle baseball cards. The value of yours will plummet. It will become a glorified bookmark.

The same is true with the money supply: fewer dollars in circulation means that each dollar will be worth more. When the Federal Reserve prints more dollars to pay for some State-sponsored conquest, the value of each dollar goes down. The net result of this is that your spending power, and your real savings, are greatly compromised. Inflation is not a fact of life, as many believe; rather, it is a result of the depredations of the U.S. government.

This is in fact how the government pays for its foreign policy operations, the very ones which got us mired in the Middle East in the first place, and the very ones which p*ssed off the terrorists. Tax revenue wouldn’t even come close to taking care of this.

Now, for much of the history of government inflation of money, the citizen still had something of a safety net in that he could redeem his dollars at any time in exchange for gold. On August 15, 1971, however, Richard M. Nixon severed this relationship completely. You are now stuck with these worthless pieces of paper. The government can debase the currency as much as it likes, and you are stuck paying the bill while the government goes on its bombing runs.

It seems to me, then, that we need to spend less time listening to Rudy Giuliani and his mob rehearse the supposed “lessons of 9/11” and spend more time pondering the lessons of August 15.

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