At NewsMax: “$100 Bills, Free Markets, and Freedom”

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As if $100 bills weren’t already hard enough the keep in your wallet or purse, an effort is afoot to retire America’s largest denomination.

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers suggested the idea last week and the New York Times editorial board approvingly chimed in. Discontinuing the $100 bill will thwart criminals, who prefer to traffic in large notes, and bring tax cheats, who try to avoid the IRS by doing under the table transactions in cash, to justice.

What’s not to like? Well, unless providing the government with yet another opportunity to control your life sounds like a swell idea, a lot, actually.

First of all the vast majority of $100 bills are used for legitimate reasons. Over ten billion 100-dollar bills are currently in circulation. As it turns out, two thirds are held by foreign central banks as reserves, which given all their loose monetary policies these days, may appear to some to indeed be criminal activity.

But the 100-dollar bill is also popular at home, accounting for almost 30 percent of the bills in circulation. Only the one-dollar bill is more widely used.  Certain ethnic groups, the Chinese for example, especially among older generations accustomed to unstable banking and financial systems, do not always trust banks and prefer portable cash.  To claim otherwise is, frankly, an astonishingly upper class white worldview.

However it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to see something more troubling at play here.  Simply put, eliminating the $100 bill will give the government greater control over your money and more opportunities to regulate your life.

For example, struggling to revive its economy, Sweden has already implemented negative interest rates to force spending and lending. Eliminating currency on top of this could leave citizens and companies with the choice of leaving money in banks where it will be effectively taxed, or spending it, as the government wishes.

To prevent citizens from withdrawing THEIR money and stashing it away, the Swedish government is contemplating eliminating cash altogether.  With all of one’s money in electronic form within a heavily regulated financial system, governments could also seize its citizens’ savings with little more than a keystroke.  This scenario is far from theoretical: Cyprus looted 40% of all deposits above 100,000 euros to fund their bailout in 2013.  And Greece froze all private bank accounts in 2015.

This idea of the government controlling its citizens’ access to their money is not without precedent in America. In 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102. The act forced Americans to exchange their privately held gold (both coins and bullion) for cash for $20.67 ($377 in 2016) an ounce, in an effort to spur inflation and revive the U.S. economy. Americans who did not follow the president’s order were threatened with 10 years in jail and a fine the equivalent to $186,802 in 2015 dollars.

It’s admittedly a jump from jettisoning the $100 bill to jailing Americans who stash them away. But confiscating gold and discontinuing the C-note are both ways of granting Washington greater command over the economy and your life.

The New York Times and others justify this step as a way to curb illegal behavior– as if saving money because of concerns about the government’s handling of the economy is some sort of nefarious act.

That type of thinking is not uncommon in our current economic atmosphere. With talk of another recession and the planners running out of tools to stop it, governments fret that citizens will buy gold or Bitcoin, or, in this case, stash large amounts of cash. The move to discontinue the $100 bill is an attempt to prevent this from happening and eliminate a way for Americans to protest government policy with their pocket books. For this reason it should be opposed.

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