Hamilton's Counterfeit CapitalismSubmitted by Republicae on Tue, 12/16/2008 - 22:22
This great article can be found on Mises...here is an excerpt:
The Hamiltonian Revolution of 1913
In 1913, government acquired effective control of the country's wealth and strengthened its rule over the states by passing three laws: the income tax, the direct election of senators, and the federal reserve act. The first two arrived as the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments; the "currency bill" was slipped in just before Christmas. All three, per Hamilton's rhetoric, were promoted under cover of "the public interest." All three were cons — abuses of confidence by public officials. All three "delivered a death blow to the old Jeffersonian tradition in American politics," and brought about "the final, decisive victory for the Hamiltonians."
Were these laws really so bad? Judge for yourself.
Prior to the Seventeenth Amendment, US senators were "ambassadors of the states"; they were appointed by state legislatures. They would speak for their state governments, which would presumably have control over how they voted. Having senators appointed was intended as a check on the powers of the federal government. It limited "senators' ability to sell their votes to special-interest groups nationwide," DiLorenzo explains. Thanks to the Seventeenth Amendment, political corruption has "expanded by orders of magnitude," he says. "U.S. senators now travel all around the country seeking special-interest campaign contributions."
An income tax was not popular in Hamilton's day, but he recognized the need for high taxes to fund the "energetic" government he wanted. The first federal income tax was imposed in 1862, and though it was abolished a decade later, "the experience had whetted the appetites of special-interest groups," DiLorenzo writes. By 1913, American farmers had made a deal wherein they would support an income tax in exchange for lower tariff rates. The income tax became law in 1916, and by 1930 tariff rates had soared to their highest level ever — 59.1 percent, on average. So much for the farmers' deal making.
After the adoption of withholding in 1943, the income tax became entrenched, as Charlotte Twight has written, "both through its administrative apparatus and through its acceptance in the minds of most taxpayers." With its confiscation of enormous amounts of wealth and the army of bureaucrats and agents needed for collection, the income tax renders states as well as citizens hat-in-hand beggars when trying to influence the federal government. In their relationship to Washington, states have become Hamilton's "artificial beings."
Loathing and fearful of competition, big businesses in the late 19th century tried to form voluntary cartels, but such arrangements are notoriously unstable, DiLorenzo points out, so they turned to government to make them work. What the big bankers wanted was a monopoly of the issue of bank notes so they could have a more "elastic currency." Previously, if an individual bank issued too many notes, depositors would get nervous and demand redemption in gold. Because all banks issued more notes or deposits than they had gold in reserve, they were all one bank run away from being exposed.
The currency act that created the Fed in 1913 was a crucial step in eliminating this problem — for the bankers. Two decades later, the government took gold out of the picture, so that covering a member shortfall was no longer a problem. Through the magic of the printing press, the Fed could also provide instant revenue to the government to pay for military adventures.
The Fed and the income tax provided the "funding mechanisms" for getting the United States into the European slaughterhouse called World War I. "Like all wars, World War I permanently ratcheted up the powers of government and fueled the urge among politicians to 'plan' American society in peacetime just as they had planned in war," DiLorenzo explains.
The Fed has the power to do the one thing it shouldn't do: regulate the money supply. By doing so it distorts price relations and guarantees a correction, which, since 1929, the government regards as a clarion call to "do something." Ignoring economic wisdom, it does everything it can to prevent the necessary correction, thereby making the recovery longer and more painful. When the economy pulls out of the depression, government takes the credit, and the Fed begins inflating again, inaugurating another boom-bust-correction/intervention-crisis sequence that will bear heavily on almost everything we hold dear. Between 1789 and 1913, prices remained roughly stable, DiLorenzo notes, and government was little more than a footnote in people's lives. Since 1913, prices have increased twentyfold, while today government intrusion has no limits.
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