Someday, I would love to sit down and have a long conversation over coffee with Delegate Bob Marshall. There are times when he and I see eye to eye on issues, and then there are times when I really just have to question what he’s thinking. I can understand and even respect his stance on the gays in the military issue, even if I disagree wholeheartedly with it. But I just don’t see any good reason to propose that Virginia  begin to mint its own currency – gold and silver coins – to foster “competition” with the Federal Reserve Bank.
There are a lot of adjectives that could categorize this proposal, and I will allow all of you to come up with a few. But, for charity’s sake, I will simply say that it’s unnecessary and a waste of time – both his and the General Assembly’s.
I’m not going to argue with Marshall regarding the law, because as far as my reading of his proposal, he’s not saying anything that’s inaccurate. Individuals can use any kind of currency they want to pay private debts as long as both sides agree. If you mow my yard and are willing to accept a six pack of beer in payment, that’s fine. And States may choose to require payment of their debts in any kind of coin or currency they want, as well. But that doesn’t mean its a good idea or one we should be pursuing.
In an environment where we are doing our best to cut and cut from the Commonwealth’s budget in order to ensure we don’t have to raise taxes to meet our obligations, I don’t know why anyone – especially a fiscal conservative – would propose any kind of plan like this that if implemented would require all kinds of new bureaucracy in Richmond. It’s not like we’ve got a Virginia Bureau of Engraving and Printing sitting around ready to strike gold and silver coins. All of that costs money, money we don’t have and money we can’t afford to waste duplicating things the federal government already does.
I’m well aware of the far right’s distrust of the Federal Reserve System. I think it’s paranoia writ large, to be frank, and the hyperinflation threat we may face won’t be ameliorated by Virginia issuing its own currency, even if it is based on precious metals. Why? Because no one is going to use it unless they are forced to. So unless Marshall also plans to force Virginians to pay their taxes in gold coins (which makes no sense – we want it to be easy to pay taxes, not harder) no one is going to use the currency. We can’t even get people to use dollar coins, and he thinks folks will use this? Besides, people aren’t paid in “Federal Reserve Note” paper currency anymore as it is. They’re paid electronically or via check, in dollars. Managing exchange rates from Dollars to whatever the Commonwealth would set up is a massive headache in and of itself. It would give banks another excuse to nickel and dime (pun intended) all of us, and it has the potential to turn the United States into Europe in the pre-Euro days. How is that a good thing?
If Marshall is concerned about the Federal Reserve System, that’s great – he can make reforming the Fed a central plank in his Senate campaign. But there’s no reason to fiddle with things at the state level. My mother used to tell me that the fact that you can do something doesn’t mean you should. The fact that Virginia has the authority to implement its own currency doesn’t mean we should. And, frankly, I don’t think it’s worth it to even waste the money studying the issue. Marshall’s proposal calls for a study that should cost “no more than $12,000.” That’s $12,000 that can be far better spent on something substantive. The fiscal conservative side of me really doesn’t appreciate wasting anyone’s tax dollars, even a sum as small (relatively) as $12,000.
With the number of real, legitimate issues facing the Commonwealth, from the current state of transportation to getting our economy going, I think it’s critical that our legislators keep their eyes on the ball and not try to find solutions for problems that don’t exist.