February 18, 2010

A Guy Walks Into a Bar

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A man walks into a bar, say Dinos. After fighting his way up to the bar, Joe Smith orders a bottle of Bud Light and pulls out a five-spot to pay for it, to which the bartender responds: “Your money is no good here.” Since having a woman buy you a drink is about as rare as sunshine in Ithaca during February, Joe Smith assumes the bartended is simply a liberal democrat and accepts his free drink.

Let us look at another scenario.

A man walks into a bar in South Carolina, say O’Brien’s. After making his way up to the bar, John Doe orders a scotch on the rocks and hands over a Lincoln, to which the bartender responds: “Your money is no good here.” Since federal stimulus money has run dry, John Doe assumes the bartender can tell he just lost his job and thanks the bartender for what he assumes is a free drink. The bartender says the drink is not free but rather that John Doe’s must “cough up two gold coins,” because his United States dollars are no good there.

Now, the first situation is what I hope will ensue when I hit up Collegetown this weekend. But the second is what Rep. Mike Pitts (R-S.C.) hopes will ensue when the state votes on his proposed legislation to mandate that gold and silver coins replace federal currency as legal tender in his state.

Earlier this month, Pitts introduced legislation to ban what he calls “the unconstitutional substitution of Federal Reserve Notes for silver and gold coin” in South Carolina. Under the bill, South Carolina would not accept or use anything besides silver and gold coins as a form of payment, eliminating the use of paper money. Pitts believes this measure is necessary to protect South Carolina from an impending collapse of our country’s economic system, stating that if the “federal government keeps spending at the rate we’re spending, I don’t see any other outcome than the collapse of the economic system.” Luckily for us all, talk is cheap.

After discovering the efforts being taken by Pitts to exterminate the greenback, I could not help but question whether he could be spending his time, and ironically taxpayers’ money, on a more productive project. Surely he could borrow a page from Mark Sanford; I hear Argentina is beautiful this time of year. If the bill were to pass, which will never happen, it would likely be ruled unconstitutional nonetheless. The concept “violates a perfectly legal and Constitutional federal law, enacted pursuant to the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, that federal reserve notes are legal tender for all debts public and private,” according to one legal expert. Furthermore, since gold and silver regularly fluctuate in value, they could never easily serve as a stable currency.

Despite this minute problem of gold and silver coins continually fluctuating in value, Pitts maintains that South Carolina would still be better off with something that can be held in one’s hand and used to barter with, as opposed to our present currency. Under this philosophy, why choose coins instead of chickens, grapefruits or pencil erasers? Hoping desperately to gain support for his cause, Pitts has proclaimed that our current system is an intrusion by the federal government on states’ rights.

Underlying the outrageous bill are sentiments of rational economic commentary and complaint. The issues of inflation, excessive government spending and the increasing devaluation of the dollar are important concerns that will undoubtedly impact the growth and stability of the United States economy. If Pitts is seeking to encourage constructive discourse on these issues, I believe his actions are overwhelmingly counterproductive. And if he is seeking to appear as yet another imprudent politician who should be revoked from public office, he is succeeding to the fullest.

Although initially frightened by the occasional comment and online blog post supporting Pitts’ bill, I was reassured to find that the overwhelming majority of online readers share my sentiment on the issue. If only William Jennings Bryan was here today; maybe someone could hit Pitts along the head with a cross of gold.

Shaun Werbelow is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be contacted at swerbelow@cornellsun.com. Second Opinion appears alternate Fridays.

Original Author: Shaun Werbelow