Why Libertarians Hate Fiat Money


Brad DeLong brilliantly pointed out that, “Underpinning the value of the dollar is… the fact that you can use them to pay your taxes to the US government…” Ah! Now I think I understand why the libertarians hate “fiat money”! It’s because libertarians are generally idiots. No, really.

As I’ve noted in the past, basing currency of gold doesn’t make any sense. Gold Has Little Intrinsic Value. In that article, I discussed how gold doesn’t stop inflation. And in another article, Gold Is Not a Good Investment—At Least for 500 Years, its value doesn’t keep up with the economy. So why base your currency on gold?

Why “Fiat Money” Really Is Valuable

The one thing that the good old American greenback is good for no matter what is that you can pay your taxes with it. The truth is, that’s a great thing. We all have to pay taxes and as long as the government is fairly large, people are going to need a lot of that supposedly useless paper to pay their taxes. So the baker down the street will at very least sell you some bread for the fiat currency because he is going to need some of it to pay his taxes.

And that my friends is why libertarians don’t like it. They think taxing is theft. Interestingly, they don’t think driving on public roads that were paid for by taxes is trespassing, but then libertarians have never been known for their deep thinking skills. So because taxes are not valid, libertarians think “fiat money” is of no value. The rest of us know that we have to pay our taxes, so regardless of everything else, cash really is worth something.

Live in the Real World

Now what is that “everything else”? That’s the fact that we all agree that cash is worth something. I can go to Walmart today and buy a candy bar for 69¢, just like I could yesterday or last month. We all agree that today, cash is worth about what cash was worth yesterday. But that’s largely due to the government. The government is roughly a third of our economy. This is just like when labor unions were big. It didn’t matter then that only about 30% of the workforce were in unions, the fact that the percentage was so high helped keep wages and working conditions of people not in unions high and good. So given that one-third of the economy accepts the greenback, means that 100% of the economy accepts the greenback.

So the libertarians continue to live in their mythic land where everyone is fairies and elves and there is no government. But in the real world, “fiat money” works really great. And inflation under it has been lower and more stable than it ever was under their beloved “gold standard.” Personally, I’d love to live in the mythic libertarian land and be an elf with a fairy wife. Unfortunately, I have to pay my bills. And they are all due in real “fiat money” greenbacks.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Why Libertarians Hate Fiat Money

  1. Libertarians strike me as free riders who don’t know that they’re free riders.

    There’s a charming faith in human goodness about libertarianism. And it’s justified by experiences we’ve all had. People are generally much nicer and more friendly at a drive-in, where you can bring food, beer, weed if you want, than at a multiplex where the theater’s revenue stream depends on selling you salty popcorn and sugary soda. People are respectful of each other’s right to privacy and silence at a library, even though libraries don’t have bouncers. (Well, not most of them. The urban ones do, and they tend to be nice guys who understand that homeless people need to be in out of the cold.)

    But those, and most situations where people police themselves effectively, are isolated slices of life where there’s nothing much to be gained from behaving like an ass. You could steal a book from the library, or be rude to everyone at the drive-in. You won’t make a fortune doing either.

    You can make a fortune dumping your cow shit into the river when competing farmers downstream actually put effort into responsibly disposing of theirs. And that’s where libertarianism breaks down into meaninglessness. "Well," they say, "the community wouldn’t buy from that bad farmer." Unless, of course, that bad farmer colluded with the other bad farmers and drove the good ones out of business. Which is what sociopathic companies do. Even fucking Adam Smith got this.

    Incidentally the same problem crops up in anarchism. I admire the writing of David Graeber, who helped organize the Occupy Wall Street movement, but his faith in community judgment strikes me as a bit naive. Lynchings, after all, were consensus decisions. Mic check!

    The belief libertarians and anarchists share that people behave better under the fewest possible power controls is, I believe, correct. And their analysis of what’s wrong with our current system is often quite accurate, and quite valuable. They just get a little too religious, for my blood, about their preferred one-size-fits-all solutions.

    As Chomsky (a self-described anarchist) always says, we have to try things, and see what works. Use a rational, scientific approach. Not a rigidly dogmatic one. That rarely ends well.

  2. @JMF – You are quite right. Libertarians are free riders without realizing it. The smartest ones do realize it and they do a lot of intellectual gymnastics to justify their ideology. I remember doing it myself.

    But the real problem with the downstream pollution is not that libertarians believe that people will act responsibly. It is that they think the court system will fix everything. "Oh, the downstream farmers will just sue the upstream polluters!" These are the same people who think the government can’t do anything right, but somehow think that the (unfunded) courts will be perfect. Just think about it for a second. If the upstream polluters are rich farmers and the downstream farmers are poor, there will be no justice. That’s for certain!

    Libertarians are "individualist anarchists." And it [i]is[/i] a religion. Chomsky calls himself a libertarian socialist. By the way we talk politics in this country, it means nothing. Here he is discussing what he means:


    Basically, he believes in equality and the lack of coercion. One of the biggest problems with libertarians is that they only think that the state can coerce. They don’t believe in freedom. They are just apologists for those who are in power at any given time. It’s shameful, of course. But more important, it’s just stupid.

  3. Are these childish thoughts, the best efforts of a sincere adult to think critically? Or a venomously sane attempt to keep readers on the farm and voting Democrat by creating a straw man they won’t spot because they lack the critical thinking skills once taught by gov’t schools right through the early 1900’s? Only you know. Or do you?

    Only the extreme libertarians embrace the anarchist view that all, or even most taxation is theft; the vast majority are centered around the simple, eternal principles etched out in the Declaration and the framework of gov’t erected on that foundation. Nature’s god created individuals with free will, inherent, inalienable rights not to be infringed upon by gov’t. This was self-evident to the founders, who were keenly aware that gov’t is neither reason nor eloquence, but brute force, which, like fire, is a dangerous servant and fearful master. All of history proved this true then, the subsequent centuries have only added bulk to the proof.

    The founders were the first on the planet to carefully study history, plan a gov’t with a Constitution strictly limiting the gov’t itself, and ask the people to approve it. The colonists were so leery of centralized power that they erred on the side of caution with the Articles of Confederation, leaving a pathetically weak federal gov’t. Most folk at the time thought the Constitution went too far in the other direction, but yielded because the Federalists had men of such honor and respect as Washington, and they met every fear of unchecked power with an eloquent explanation of how the beast would be bound by the chains of the Constitution. Ponder that the Federalist Papers, written for the average farmer of the day; gov’t school has so dumbed society down that most high school grads can’t grasp them – over 25% of college students need remedial courses!)

    JMF’s childish comments add demonic irony. He claims libertarians have a “charming faith in human goodness.” In fact, like the founders, most libertarians balance faith in humans with the rational understanding that humans are plagued by our lower, animal nature, and that liberty demands eternal vigilance to prevent the greed and ignorance inherent in man’s soul from infecting gov’t. It is people such as the author and JMF who have too much faith. Too much faith in the power of the mob, a.k.a. the majority, to empower a tiny cabal of politicians like Bush, Clinton, McCain, and Obama and their vast armies of bureaucrats in DC to micromanage the very real problems inherent in being human. And their delusional faith is anything but charming; it has metastasized like a cancer in our body politic and allowed silk suits on both sides of the political aisle to collude with cohorts at the Federal Reserve, Wall St, the corporations, and the unions to almost destroy our once and future great nation.

    Federalist 51 details the trap these people fell into: “(W)hat is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

    This is where we failed! We have not obliged gov’t to control itself, and the reason is precisely because too many Americans display the lack of critical thinking displayed so prominently on this webpage.

    We have many reasons to be optimistic, but only if we accurately see our societal cancers and take recourse. The problems are inherent in being human, but are exacerbated by the fact we allowed our schools to become infested with the warm fuzzies of secular humanism. Less than 40% of American citizens can read, write, and think at the low levels we set for high school graduation. And many of them “think” like this author and JFM! Follow the math:

    Over 25% of college students need remedial courses. (http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013013.pdf )

    Only 66% of high school graduates go to college. (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/hsgec.nr0.htm)

    Only 75% of high schoolers graduate. (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/high-school-graduation-rate-hits-40-year-peak-in-the-us/276604/)

  4. Quo bono? GOP silk suits ride the gravy train by mesmerizing their base with silver tongued rhetoric about the Constitution, but liberal politicians reap the larger harvest. Minorities are a huge core voting block for them, and drilling down into those stats above proves they suffer in far greater proportions in gov’t schools. They are kept relatively under educated on the farm and their votes are harvested en masse by their political masters, purchased by welfare and other subsidies while the sheeple are distracted by their anger at evil conservatives and corporations (who indeed blood on their hands). Fiat money and debt are key factors to enslave us. You need endless fiat money to fund both the endless Nanny State of liberals AND the perpetual War State of neocons. And you need the people to be divided and conquered, bickering amongst themselves instead of uniting under the Constitution, which allows a strong central gov’t, strong unions, and a strong free market to balance each other.

    Paul Krugman frankly admits “fiat money is backed by men with guns.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOSSnKmrSmo) Honest money doesn’t need guns to force people to accept it!

    Allow me to pre-empt the drivel that the founders were a rich, white, slave owning capitalists rigging the game. I’m painfully aware America never fully grounded the shining principles we set forth. We stole land from the Native Americans (many of whom were not perfect themselves), and raped them right through the Trail of tears and beyond. We stole land from Mexicans (who stole it from someone else). Women were second class citizens (but we were one of the first to allow universal suffrage, when they were still having their feet bound in China and Japan). We enslaved humans (as did most societies for the entire history of the planet up until that time). Horrifically, we abused black people for a full century AFTER slavery was made illegal. Affirmative action and race baiting liberals are vile, but understandable given how far the pendulum swung for so long in the other direction. It takes a long time to heal those bloody wounds. The Civil Rights Act was long overdue, but that does not justify our knee-jerk penchant for running to the fedgov for so many issues. The fedgov MUST be understood as a dangerous beast, a last, desperate resort! Conservatives MUST focus on the bloody hands of Team Bush/McCain! Liberals MUST allow the blood to stop hemorrhaging out so harmfully to mindlessly empower the fedgov, and allow it to make a full circuit through their brains. Who do they think the abolitionists were? They were modern day Martin Luther Christians calling their brothers and sisters away from the rocky shores of sin. Stop blaming God and Christianity for all the hypocrisy in the churches, and start, like me, calling on the Christians and their churches to look in the mirror, face their shortcomings, and get back to the simple principles Jesus used His life to teach us about!

    My solutions to the shoddy job gov’t schools are doing are radically moderate too. Socializing education funding is a noble vision we can and must embrace. Bad as they are, gov’t schools do a great to okay job with most children from stable families without special needs. Teachers and gov’t schools are NOT the problem, the top down, bureaucratic, mass assembly line approach is! It handcuffs good teachers. When I’m Sec of Education, we will dismantle federal mandates and encourage, not require, states to loosen up a bit to allow individual teachers to work with parents and principles to tweak their approach for any given student as needed. Gov’t schools would improve vastly overnight! And then the “no strings” vouchers states will be encouraged to allow for any family who wants to opt out will not collapse the gov’t schools, as liberals now fear; a small, vibrant array of unique educational philosophies will thrive alongside gov’t schools.

  5. Vouchers won’t magically resolve the poverty and home lives where the problems are rooted, but they WILL help us make major strides in the right direction! There will be abuses to address. Society has the moral right and duty to intervene any time any child is being harmed by poverty, abuse, or educational neglect, but it bears the burden of proof that any given school or parent is inflicting harm; all benefit of any doubt begins and remains with the free individual. And help for poverty MUST be as local as possible, certainly no more centralized than the state level; encourage rich states to help poor states, but let’s see if they improve poverty at home first!

    Our gov’t schools were doing a good job until the fedgov stepped in, gradually in the 60’s with carrots and sticks and then with inexorably growing money and control after the fedgov Dept of Ed was created in 1979. Every bit of money and control we have granted the silk suits in DC since has made them progressively worse (the pun, while demonically ironic, is unintended), especially for the poor. The teachers’ unions gained momentum and resolved the problem of poor pay and benefits, but went on to morph into a despicable, legal Mafia (apologies to the mob for the insult). That pendulum MUST be brought back into balance. Our children simply will not be able to pay the bill to coddle the droves of 55 and 60 year olds retiring to collect $100,000 a year for as long or longer than they worked 180 days a year to “earn” the outrageous promises their unions extorted from the public wallet. And the cops, firemen, and prison guards enjoying even more luxurious benefits are even worse.

    The good news is that the problem is we, the people. Look at the partial list of the culprits. Who doesn’t know a teacher, cop, fireman, prison guard, or a voter who supported one half or the other of the political duopoly that has for far too long festered in DC? Every one of us shares holiday meals with these and other facets of the problem. The root cause is inherent in human nature; we must understand this and strike at that root instead of hacking away at the branches of evil. Power corrupts and attracts the lowest element in man. The founders knew this. Though each can be used effectively for the greater good, we must be as leery of religion, dogma, and ritual as we are of gov’t power, corporations, and unions. We must return to fundamental Americanism and the Boy Scout morality that was the backbone of our culture from 1600 right through the 1950’s, however imperfectly applied in reality. Obama was elected because America desperately needed hope and change, and the GOP, with the exception of a handful of stalwarts such as Ron Paul, offered nothing but empty rhetoric and a continuation of the same old proven federal poisons. (Ron Paul was hardly above any reproach, but at least he said he didn’t want to be President to run our lives – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cw0wKOpA1UQ – he merely pointed in the only correct general direction, rather than desired to impose his manifesto.) In general socialists and libertarians are the most trustworthy politicians. I am working on common sense, practical compromises that I hope will see them unite on the federal level to clean the cesspool in DC, agreeing to return most power to the states, where they can face off at the family table over how much collectivism is best to address our very real problems. The hope and change we need must start in your heart and mine and radiate outward through our families and local communities, to be then reflected back by our political intuitions. At the very least we must raise the bar higher than the current 51% before allowing the majority to step in and impose its will with force on the other 49%.

    Lord, we thank you for this daily rant!

    Brian Kearsey

  6. @Brian Kearsey – This article is one small piece of my long critiques of libertarianism. You might check them out as well. But your rant is very typical of libertarian magic thinking. Help for poverty "MUST" take place at the local level? Why is that? Because you’ve said it. The evidence doesn’t suggest that at all. As I’ve argued elsewhere, libertarians get into trouble when they wade into practical matters. Your emphasis on local control is just faith. (I assume you are the CJ Brian Kersey.)

    I’m sorry I hurt your feelings by calling libertarians idiots. But I do mean a special kind of idiot. I used to be a fellow traveler. Libertarians tend to be smart–the kind of smart that gets lost in theory and can’t deal with the practical. The fact is that our modern mixed economies provide much greater freedom and happiness than earlier more libertarian economies.

    I don’t believe in mob rule. There must be rights that cannot be infringed upon. But what you are suggesting is the elimination of democracy. And this is entirely typical of libertarians who know that their policies are [i]not[/i] popular. So instead of the right to one’s property, now you want the right to raise taxes to require a constitutional amendment?! Save that one for the next LP meeting.

    In the end your argument is little more than a sermon. But that’s because libertarianism is a faith-based philosophy. Yes, if there were no government people would give as much as they want. But far from opening hearts, that amount would be very small. And we would have more Oliver Twists, but without the happy ending.

  7. I appreciate your response. I’m not CJ Kersey, the photographer. I’m Brian Kearsey, future Secretary of Education of this nation if we wake up in time to save ourselves from people like you and the political animals you insist on empowering to control my life.

    I apologize for some of the punches I threw in my last post, but they were well deserved. And so are the ones I am about to deliver. That said, I appreciate you taking the time to dialogue and assure you I will take any sincere answer you provide to heart and try to build bridges towards a less acrimonious relationship.

    First you ask why I say poverty MUST take place at the local level (I specifically wrote no higher than the state level unless a significant majority of Americans agree there’s need to risk federal involvement, hardly a distinction the Libertarian Party endorsees). Then you answer your own question erroneously, pretending that it is only because I say so. In fact a cursory review of my post reveals that I clearly and in great detail explain the reason why we MUST keep gov’t as local as possible. I “wade” into practical matters for good reason; having watched how many statists dive into the shallow water and knock whatever sense they had out of their brains, I am humble enough to accept the fact that there are no easy answers. The onus, sir, is on YOU to justify your cavalier use of the federal gun to impose on my life and take money from my wallet. If you can make an intelligent justification of that use of force, you would be the first of hundreds of liberals/statists I’ve pleaded with over the decades to do so. The best answer I’ve ever received from all those sincere requests is from someone trying to defend the fedgov’s intervention in education. The person – a high school English teacher I love dearly who taught my daughter – flatly noted that the education system in states like Louisiana is horrible and someone has to do something because those people down there are not smart enough to educate their own children. That’s almost verbatim. If such a “reason” suffices for you, that says plenty about your level of intellect.

    Please, try to be the first person ever to give me a reasonable answer to my reasonable query! I’ll venture out on a very sturdy limb and tell you I doubt you will be able to, but should you succeed I’ll enjoy my fall humbly and gladly join you on the side of collectivism! Assuming you can’t justify your use of the federal guns to control me, would you mind telling me what federal politicians you feel are worthy of the power you endorse giving them over my life? I would sincerely like to know. Bush? Bill or Hillary Clinton? Obama? LBJ? Pelosi? Boxer or Feinstein? Schumer? They all strike me as far too mortal and imperfect to run healthcare, education, or welfare from DC.

    Until such time as you can provide answers, take comfort, at least you won’t starve – you’ve served up plenty of crow to feed yourself and the droves of liberals like you. And if you tire of crow, you can cook up all that egg dripping off your arrogant face, because far from dealing in theory, I have 35 years of practical, hands on teaching in the classroom saving droves of families from the misery you and yours inflicted on them with your monopoly control over the first round of education dollars, earning $10 an hour as a master teacher thanks to you and yours but unable to turn away from the LOCAL charity I was personally doling out to help heal the wounds YOUR ideas inflicted. For decades I educated children at half the cost and got far more academics done in far less time, allowing far more time for hands-on science, art, music, languages, logic, field trips, and play. My average student was ready for at least one NY State Regents high school course by 7th grade. And to preempt the argument that private schools can choose not to take certain kids, be aware that I always had a far greater percentage of special needs children than regular gov’t school classes. We turned away very few kids,; the ones we did were the ones medicated and in sever special ed classes in gov’t schools anyway, and we saved more of them than we kicked out.

  8. I’m glad you agree that our modern economy has unleashed the greatest freedom and happiness on the plant in a wide, diverse nation; imagine what it could do if we prevented gov’t from debasing our money and running up $20 trillion in current debt and perhaps $70 trillion in unfunded future promises! But what “earlier more libertarian economies” are you referring to? Certainly not any economy I endorsed in my missive; I specified clearly that I am a proponent of the balanced gov’t the founders set up – the one with a strong but limited central government and states with more than enough power to be mini-socialist states. I’m sorry you found the thoughts too complex to follow, but, like a math equation, they are there in black and white, and they add up to the conclusions I endorse. If I’m wrong, point out an error in my logic!

    Elimination of democracy? Sir, we don’t have a democracy, we have a republic, or democratic republic if you prefer. You can be forgiven for your ignorance, since you must be a product of either a gov’t or liberal school. You can edify yourself by researching what the founder almost universally understood about democracy. It is nothing if not mob rule, two wolves and a sheep debating what’s for dinner. The founders recognized the value of democracy but tempered it with a written constitution specifically limiting the power of the majority specifically to protect the rights of the minority from their whims. It’s the same two wolves and a sheep, except veal is off the menu, and the sheep are armed in case that fact is forgotten.

    Another point on which you need to be edified: there is a difference between libertarians, who are multitude, and Libertarians, who are members of a political party. Of course, if you had read my missive carefully, you would know that I am embrace far more gov’t than the Libertarian Party endorses. One glaring example is my concession that, constitutionally, states can tinker with socialism. Another is the fact that I noted I embrace socialized funding of our schools and would keep the basic gov’t system we have but make small tweaks. Did you miss these statements, or are you completely unfamiliar with the how they sharply contrast the platform of the Libertarian Party you disparage so readily.

    For people like you who can’t draw the obvious conclusion from reading my rant, my brand of libertarianism falls in the independent center of the quad of four general directions politics tends to pull, i.e. authoritarian, left liberal, right conservative, and anarchist. (The Libertarian Party political quiz offers a much better map than the left/right flat line the politicians want us to keep using, but not as good as my map.) That said, I’d take the Libertarian Party in a heartbeat over megalomaniacs like you who assume they have the moral and intellectual right to use the fedgov to run my life, especially since so far you’ve given nary a hint of ANY moral or intellectual fortitude – i.e. being able to justify the source of your presumed rights to control my life.

    Pretty funny for you again to pretend at the end of your post that my politics are “faith based” when you embrace the imaginary god in DC. Even Einstein understood the danger of too much gov’t power, noting that such power attracts men of low morality.

    Looking forward to your response – if you try to answer my sincere questions. And I appreciate your understanding that it’s hard to keep a civil tongue when someone is endorsing sending federal goons into my life, my wallet, and the education of my daughter.

  9. @Brian Kearsey – I appreciated your apology, though it wasn’t necessary. Then you went on to be far less civil than you were the first time. Whatever. I did, however, have your identity correct. You wrote an article on [url=http://citizensjournal.us/homeschooling-the-spirit-of-76-2/]homeschooling[/url].

    You start from the wrong premise: I must justify why things should not be like your libertarian utopia. The onus is on you as to why we should dismantle a system that works pretty well.

    As with all libertarians, you say that the state is better than the fed. But I’ve never seen any reason to accept this. (You constantly mistake statement for argument.) What’s more, I think it is a typical conservative bait and switch. (And yes: libertarianism is part of the conservative movement.) You place the state over the federal government, but once that happened, you would be pushing the county over state. This is not a slippery slope argument, it is baked into libertarian philosophy. Personally, I didn’t understand this attitude when I was a libertarian. Local governments tend to be the most inclined to deny minority rights. (And yes: I get it. You’re a libertarian, so a proper use of the federal government would be to stop that. Yes, I know all the arguments, and they are a rat hole down which I am not going to follow. Eventually it would lead to you saying you have to go and think about it, and you never would. Libertarians love to leave me hanging.)

    So that’s the answer to your query. It ain’t on me. [i]You[/i] are the revolutionary who wants to totally upset the status quo, not me. So you explain to [i]me[/i] why we should do this with something more than calling me a megalomaniac and trotting out a long list of Democratic politicians to dismiss as if that settles the question. Will your theoretical utopia be one in reality?

    I’m not even going to comment on the second half of your rant. I’m not interested in talking to anyone who spouts right wing talking points. The truth is that in many hundreds of words you’ve written, you have [i]never[/i] discussed the central issue of this article. You say our currency is debased? How? By 2% inflation? Or have you read online that the real inflation rate is super high because… Milk!

    If you want to comment around here, move on to an article that you want to comment on and then comment. This generalized defense of libertarianism and attack on liberalism is nonsense and just allows you to do what I fear you want to do in the end: yell at a liberal. As it is, you don’t seem to have a clue as to my politics other than what I wrote here. I am hardly a typical Democrat. I am one because I think it is wrong not to pick a side. Being a member of the Libertarian or Peace and Freedom parties is just a cop out. We don’t have a parliament.

    And finally, see if you can’t get across a point in a single comment. 80% of your comment is just spitting bile at me. I’m sorry you ever got the idea that I called you an idiot, because I didn’t. I was calling smart libertarians that. You sound like nothing more than a conservative who has listened to too much talk radio.

    Here’s how it’s going to go. If you can manage to write a comment that doesn’t get split, I’ll read it. Otherwise, no. If you have something worth commenting on, I will comment. Otherwise, no. But I don’t expect much from you. You really lost it on your last comment.

    But please don’t think you’ve blinded me with your arguments. They are bad and oh so very tired. Do a search on "libertarian" and you will see that I address a number of these issues.

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