MEET BILL STILL, FIAT-MONEY ADVOCATE
An analysis of the documentaries Money Masters and Capital Crimes
© 2006 by G. Edward Griffin
The purpose of this analysis is to evaluate two video documentaries on monetary issues that were written and produced by Bill Still. One is The Money Masters and the other is Capital Crimes. They are excellent productions with a great deal of history and professionally created images. They tell the story of our debauched monetary system based on fractional-reserve banking. There is just one problem. They offer a false solution – which is to say they offer no solution at all. The alleged solution is that we abandon our present fiat money system and adopt another one similar to it. Yes, they actually advocate FIAT money! The proposal is that we should take the power to create money-out-of-nothing away from big, bad bankers and turn it over to nice, trustworthy politicians. In my view, it is very naïve to think that politicians are more trustworthy than bankers. The problem with money created out of nothing is not who does it but that it is done at all.
These documentaries remind me of William Greider's book, Secrets of the Temple, which was offered to the public as a scathing exposé of the Federal Reserve System. Greider’s history was excellent, but his conclusion was fatally flawed. After having proved that the Fed was conceived as a weapon of the banking elite against the common man and having shown that this is exactly the function it has always served, his conclusion was, not to abolish the Fed or even to make serious changes to it. His “call to action” was simply to stop worrying about it. The Fed has made mistakes, he said, but we have learned many lessons along the way. All we need now are wiser men to run it! That is the kind of solution that made his book acceptable to the giant publishing house, Simon and Schuster. It is no solution at all. The elite do not care what we know about a problem they have created if we do nothing to solve it. They are good at putting forth their own opposition – writers like Greider – who will sound the alarm and rally the troops but lead them – nowhere.
More recently, Simon and Schuster published another book in this same genre, Day of Deceit; The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor, by Robert Stinnett. It is a blockbuster of facts and previously hidden documents proving conclusively that FDR, Secretary-of-War Henry Stimson, General George Marshall, and many others in the Roosevelt Administration secretly plotted to cause Japan to successfully Attack Pearl Harbor. They did this to create an excuse for bringing the United States into World War II, which they desired for political reasons. So, what was Stinnett's conclusion? Was it to condemn these men for their treachery? Not at all. It was that this act was justified because it helped put a stop to Hitler in Europe. In other words, to halt totalitarianism in Europe, it was necessary to adopt totalitarianism in America, and to do so was an act of statesmanship! Once again, Simon and Schuster provided the American people with a false opinion leader. What's the point of getting all frothed up over a president lying to the voters and deliberately causing thousands of Americans to be killed if we are then to decide that he was a hero for dong so?
That is exactly what Bill Still has done in his documentaries. The solution to fiat money is not MORE fiat money. It is REAL money based on tangible assets, and none has yet been discovered that serves as well as gold or silver. The assertion in the videos that wooden sticks were successfully used in England as money is grossly misleading. Tally sticks were occasionally used like government-issued script that could be applied to the payment of taxes, but at no time in history were they ever used as a medium of exchange for substantial economic transactions. To propose that we now can live with fiat money based on that myth is a non-solution of the highest order.
Still points with admiration to some of the darkest days of the American Republic. He praises Lincoln for issuing debt-based money, called Greenbacks, during the Civil War even though this was a blatant violation of the Constitution. His argument is not that this was a desperate expediency required by the urgency of war, but that it was an act of brilliant monetary statesmanship. In a similar vein, he approvingly surveys the early colonial period in which colonial governments resorted to printing-press money without silver or gold backing. It led to disastrous inflation and was devastating to the common man; but he says this was caused, not by flooding the colonies with fiat money, but by England forcing the colonies to STOP the practice! He relies on the words of Benjamin Franklin to support his case, and, indeed, Franklin speaks forcefully. Still does not explain that, although Franklin was an advocate of fiat money in the early years, after the experience of rampant inflation had taught its painful lesson, such a view was in the extreme minority. Still makes it appear that Franklin was expressing the consensus of the Founding Fathers when, in fact, it was just the opposite.
Still claims that it would be a mistake to return to a gold-backed monetary system because most of the world’s gold now is held by the bankers. This is a deceptively appealing argument. First, it is not true. Central banks do hold more gold than any other single entity; but the total inventory of gold in the hands of private citizens, as bullion or coins or jewelry or known deposits in working mines, is much larger. If money were to be restored to a precious-metal base, this largely invisible reserve would be more than adequate to supply the demand. We must remember that the limited supply of gold as a monetary base is an advantage, not a disadvantage. If it were not scarce, it would not have utility as money. The smaller the supply, the more valuable it is. As pointed out in The Creature from Jekyll Island, any amount of gold or silver will work just as well as any other amount. The only difference is how valuable each unit of measure will be. The argument that “we don’t have enough gold in the world” is without foundation, and those who say this do not understand the fundamental mechanics of money.
Bill Still does not make this argument but he comes close when he says that most of the world’s gold is held by the bankers. Even if this were true (which it is not) we need to ask a question: If gold is so useless as a backing for money, why are the bankers trying to acquire it as fast as they can? And why are central bankers so strongly opposed to gold or silver-backed currencies? The answer is obvious. It is because precious metals still are, and will continue to be, a universally recognized storehouse of value, and that value cannot be manipulated by bankers OR free-spending politicians. But fiat money CAN be – and always will be.
This brings us to the crux of the matter. Still claims that, because the bankers have operated a gigantic monetary scam for hundreds of years, it is time to break their grip over our lives and establish a fair and honest monetary system We could not agree more on that point. But then, in the tradition of Greider and Stinnett, he attempts to lead us to a non-solution. He claims that we should take this power from the bankers and give it to the politicians, because they are chosen by the people and, therefore, can be trusted.
In my view, this is the most naïve concept since Adolph Hitler won the elections in Austria as “the man you can trust.” We must not forget that politicians gave this monopoly to the bankers in the first place. Politicians continue to cooperate with the system in all of its corruption. Politicians derive huge benefits from this system and repeatedly place their careers above the public good. Politicians vote the bills that spend more than comes in from taxes and thereby create that hidden tax called inflation. Politicians write the laws that take away our liberty in the name of fighting terrorism or crime or drugs. It is the height of folly to design a plan of monetary reform based on the assumed wisdom and incorruptibility of politicians.
If this morning we were to give politicians the right to create money out of nothing, by noon they would be swarmed by lobbyists from the banking industry, and by nightfall, most of them would have sold their souls. Nothing would change except appearances. The only solution that the power brokers fear is a system that does not allow bankers OR politicians to manipulate the money supply – and the only system that prevents that is one based on something of tangible value, something that, itself, cannot be created out of nothing. The only way to remove the temptation from both bankers AND politicians is to restrain them with a money system that is backed 100% by precious metal. Period! And all the half-truths about Talley Sticks and Greenbacks and Ben Franklin quotes cannot change that.
Incidentally, in 2005, Liberty International Entertainment released a made-for-TV documentary that echoed this same call for a new American fiat money to be issued by the government. That’s not surprising inasmuch as Bill Still was one of the writers and also appeared as an on-camera expert. The program included a segment devoted to Hewey Long in which he passionately advocates the classic Marxist nostrum of redistribution of wealth as a solution to the ills of society – and no one challenged it. Lincoln’s issuance of fiat money, called Greenbacks in violation of the Constitution, once again was presented as an act of statesmanship. There were numerous other flaws that seriously marred this otherwise excellent production, including the acceptance of the myth that JFK was assassinated because he opposed the international bankers. (For an analysis of this myth, go to www.freedom-force.org/freedomcontent.cfm?fuseaction=jfkmyth&refpage=issues.) If someone wanted to derail a movement for true monetary reform, they could not do better than to promote myths like this coupled with the ultimate non-solution called fiat money.
It is not my intent to attack Bill Still as a person. I have met him on several occasions and, although we are at opposite poles regarding our view of fiat money, I consider him to be well informed and sincere. Nor do I have any desire to become embroiled in endless debate on this topic. The publications and recordings listed below present just about everything I have to say on the topic. If I haven’t made my case by now, it is unlikely that further verbiage would help. My purpose in preparing this analysis is simply to accommodate those who have contacted me and wanted to know my opinion of these documentaries. My short answer is this: Fiat money is the problem, not the solution.