We have plenty of problems in our own country this coming July 4th. Here's something to remember and celebrate.
The Fourth of July is the real Thanksgiving Day. It's a day of joyous gratitude. And to whom are we grateful?
To those blessed Founding Fathers, who not only declared our independence, but who followed it up years later with the Constitution that made us a country.
We must be particularly grateful that they were not the Founding Experts. If they had been, they might have given us not our nation, but the euro.
In fact, some of them sort of did, a dozen years earlier, when independence was first declared. The colonies were going to war with England, and nothing costs more than a war. No colony was going to tax its own citizens for the common effort, a loose confederation for the purpose of throwing the English out.
To pay for muskets and food and uniforms, the patriots established a common currency. It was called the continental. It was supposed to be worth the same in all the colonies, and very soon it was -- nothing.
The lowest commercial insult one could fling was "worthless as a continental." Washington's troops starved at Valley Forge because no prudent farmer would take a continental.
When the good guys won the war anyway, they set about to form a real nation. A constitution was written. The colonies became states. And the continental became something called the dollar.
The dollar remains the safest currency in the world because it is authorized and backed by a representative government, a federal union. There are two levels where the elected representatives may raise dollars by taxation -- state and federal.
The Europeans today are having the same problem as America did before it became a country: They created a currency before they got around to sovereignty. The euro may be on its way to the same fate as the continental, and for the same reason -- it's not backed by a national, or federal, power of taxation.
The European Union is not a country. It is not even a federation. The people in charge of the E.U. are its Founding Experts. They are highly educated and not really elected. They are very smart and have all sorts of ideas on how to solve Europe's financial crisis, but it's hard to put any plan into action, because the citizens of Europe never voted for these experts.
In fact, there are no citizens of Europe -- there are French, Germans, Italians and so on, but who are those Brussels sprouts?
Money is just a unit of trust. Trust in the government that can raise it by taxing its citizens. Dictators can tax, too, but the really credible money comes with if not the joy, then at least the consent, of the governed.
We have plenty of problems in our own country this coming July Fourth. But thank you, thank you, thank you, the rational scriveners of Philadelphia, for putting the dollar in our Constitution, and for creating a nation there first.
This holiday celebrates not only our freedom but also the great document that made that freedom work.
David Lebedoff is a Minneapolis attorney and author.
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