This site is generally not libertarian, although we tend to be very friendly to Ron Paul, and we don’t necessarily follow Libertarian Party politics closely, but I decided to post this announcement by Bill Still because it highlights an important historical divide on the issue of money that many people may not be familiar with, but that seems to be arising again lately. Still’s candidacy is likely to bring it even more to the forefront.
Bill Still is a prominent “Greenbacker.” Some people in that camp consider the term derogatory. Some embrace it. It is not my intention to be derogatory. We just need to call them something and Greenbacker works and has a historical context. If they would like to suggest another term, I’ll be glad to use it.
Still and other Greenbackers, like Austrian “Gold Bugs,” oppose the Federal Reserve and fractional reserve banking. Like Austrians they will often speak of money “created out of thin air.” Thus some do not recognize the distinction between the two. Their solutions are, however, very different. Greenbackers do not like the gold standard. They see the gold standard and the current system of fractional reserve/Federal Reserve “debt money” as both benefiting the powerful elite, especially bankers, at the expense of the people. What they would like is true “fiat money” issued by the Treasury, instead of “debt money” created by the Fed and banks through fractional reserve lending (often also called fiat money by Austrians). Some will recognize the historic connection to the populist movement of the late 19th century and the Greenback Party of that era.
Still is a prominent and notable Greenbacker because he is responsible for two widely viewed documentaries on the history of money and banking, The Money Masters (1996) and The Secret of Oz (2010). He has also written a book, No More National Debt, on the subject.
What remains to be seen is how well this will play in the Libertarian Party. It is likely to have some market, but that market is likely limited. First, Greenbackers suggest that printing money is a proper function of government so this will turn off the anarchists who don’t concede there is any proper function of government right off the bat. Also, some Greenbackers speak of spending this fiat money into the economy when expansion of the monetary supply is necessary in the form of public works and infrastructure projects. This will offend a broad swath of libertarians. Some Greenbackers even oppose private banking altogether. This too is hardly a libertarian policy.
On the other hand, Still might appeal to certain leftist libertarians. And Greenbackism is subversive enough (it really amounts to a big huge screw you to the bankers) that it may appeal to the contrarian element of some libertarians. May hunch is that if Still is to win he will have to bring large numbers of his people to the convention which is not inconceivable but no easy task either.
There has already been a vigorous discussion about Still’s candidacy at Independent Political Report, but unfortunately it primarily turned into a discussion of the merits of fractional reserve banking from an Austrian perspective, instead of a discussion of the merits of Greenbackism. I would like our readers thoughts on the money issue. Please post them below.
Addendum: I actually think Still and Greenbackism could have some appeal among the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Historically Greenbackers were associated with the left (to the degree left and right apply to pre-WWII politics which is arguably not much) and the populist impulse. But they became increasingly associated with the right since WWII give or take. Still could emphasize the “private” nature of the Fed, how the current system enriches bankers, the need to nationalize the money creating process, the need to “spend” said money into the economy, etc. and resonate quite well with some of the OWS crowd. Establishment leftists will of course be horrified by Still because of the fundamental nature of his critique, but many of the OWS protestors who at this point have nothing to lose, might welcome a fundamental and wholesale critique.