Discussing Alternate Currencies in Washington / Copper as a Barter Currency

Recently Rob Gray of the American Open Currency Standard testified in front of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy on the subject of competing/alternate currencies.   Mr. Gray has been running the AOCS for five years, which issues barter credits to be used in trade between willing participants.   You can read more about the program and his time in Washington here.    He gave a scathing speech and the gist of it to the government was “just stay out of our way”.   He brings up the point that currencies come and go, but there’s always a human desire to trade and we as humans will always find ways to facilitate it whether or not there’s a government-issued currency.  I liked Gray’s approach of political indifference on the matter – he isn’t asking for any laws to be made or repealed, he’s just asking for them to basically leave the issue of alternate currencies alone and let the people decide.    On his webpage he posted the following statement:

Let’s stop talking about auditing the Fed.

Forget about ending the Fed.

Let’s start ignoring the Fed,

and eliminating the impact they have on our lives.

Honestly, I think that’s a pretty good and practical approach to a lot of things in this country and I try to address that on this blog and in my daily life.   Sometimes instead of trying to change the system, it’s best to try to find ways to limit the impact of the system on you.    I think it’s great that the politicians in Washington had to sit through that speech – all except Congressman Al Green (D – TX), who apparently had enough and walked out when Gray called the Federal Reserve and all the politicians present that enable it thieves.

Fans of “sound money”, precious metals, barter and/or Ron Paul, or even folks who just enjoy watching politicians have someone set up camp in their asses every now and then will enjoy his speech:

I have a couple of the Ron Paul AOCS 1oz copper bullion rounds and I would like to pick up some more of the different ones they offer.   I have to say that they are pretty cool coins and they feel like something that actually has intrinsic value.   Each 1oz copper round is given a value of 2, which corresponds to roughly $2 worth of barter – if the participants want to give it that value, of course.

I’m glad that AOCS decided to go with copper and other metal rounds instead of just issuing electronic credits, plastic, coupons or something else as a medium of exchange.  Copper has played a role as a medium of trade (aka “money”) for thousands of years and there’s something timeless about using metal money in today’s world of Visa cards and paper money.   Even in this country we’ve historically used copper for pennies, although these days we use an alloy that is almost entirely zinc.

Going back to a few hundred or even a couple thousand years ago to agrarian economies, a commoner would have recognized copper as a metal with a great degree of utility and a little bit of beauty if put in the hands of the right craftsman.   Copper utensils, cookware, chains and handcrafts would have been prized and any bit of copper could always be used for one of these items.   Today copper is just as useful and prized in our society for wiring and piping as well as other things – look at all the copper theft going on if you need proof.   One big selling point of copper is that it’s easily recyclable – all you have to do is melt it and it’s about 100% reusable.   It also never goes bad, it’s durable and changes of or within government have no impact on it, making it a good choice as money.

Just based on my gut feeling when I look at one of these rounds, I would imagine that if I went back to one of those previously-mentioned agrarian economies, one of these rounds would purchase a small unit of some agricultural product – I’m thinking something along the lines of a squash, a couple of tomatoes, a couple of potatoes, a bunch of greens, a couple carrots, two eggs or something else comparable.   Perhaps a couple of coins could get a blade sharpened, a mug of beer or a loaf of bread.    In other words, copper as money fills in the gap for the small day-to-day transactions that might be too small to handle with silver and definitely for gold and allows for a little more denominational flexibility.

I also think that today if I ran into a merchant at the farmer’s market that accepted AOCS copper, I would be able to pick up just about the same amount with one ounce of copper as someone would’ve been able to centuries ago – even theoretically using the same atoms of copper used back then.     There definitely is something cool about the timelessness of metals as a medium of exchange between two parties…



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  • Rottenclam

    I think Rob’s approach is to “ignoring the fed” is actually quite good…but the rubbernecker in me wants to see that institution take a serious dive.

    Listening to Rob in his recent interview on the The Survival Podcast had me really contemplating a lot of his opinions (about the legal tender law, about Utah allowing Gold and Silver to be legal currency, etc). He does seem to go in a bit of the opposite direction of the gold-bug / survivalist / sound-money crowd.

    But honestly, his bottom-line is well taken: its all about competing currencies. *That* is what we should be striving for. Our markets should have a number of currencies (especially at the local level) that can be used. Gold, silver, and copper would be a great start. But I also think “credits” in the form of established services (mechanics, barbers, landscapers, etc) from established companies could be good for money also, as well as “credits” for goods at established stores (local hardware stores, local grocery stores, local gas stations, etc).

    Easier said than done, when it comes to organizing this stuff…but thats the point, right? I mean the market would find a way.

  • Ryan

    I think the “audit the fed” thing has gained a ton of traction over the past few years. Seriously, how many people even knew what they did? I remember learning about the Fed in high school and about all they told us is that they basically made money into existence and they were the nice guys that would insure our bank accounts up to $200,000 if something ever went wrong. I don’t think it was part of some cover up or anything to teach about the Fed like that, I just think that people really didn’t know much about it.

    I don’t know where the “audit the fed” thing will go. I guess it makes sense to get around it when possible AND speak out against it when possible. One is easier than the other.

    I listened to an interview with this guy the other day: http://realcurrencies.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/the-goal-of-monetary-reform/. Very anti-Austrian economics, anti-libertarian and anti-gold but he has a currency based on mutual debt. You might find it interesting.

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