What most Americans and what Dr. Gary North mean by Honest Money probably isn't the same thing. The general population usually thinks in terms of doing a good job at work, depositing the check, tithing (if they go to church), and living within their means (if you don't count car and house payments). Dr. North's definition goes a lot deeper, to the very nature and origins of money itself.
North posits that money is not an invention of the State, but of individuals exchanging goods freely; gold and silver became the accepted exchange rate to make transactions easier but still between valued goods. Because the State only later took (in his view, illegal) control of money, and subsequently began to debase its purity and therefore its value, the State can have no legitimate claim to monetary restriction.
He also equates the moral downfall of nations with the impurity of their accepted currency. In the United States, for instance, the elimination of any kind of precious metals from the coinage is due to the gradual watering-down of our values (and he seems to imply, vice versa). A turn from moral poverty will cause money to be re-valued; a re-valuation of money will result in a higher moral standard.
There are few American financial institutions North doesn't snipe at, if not by name then certainly by implication. The American banking system is completely unbiblical, the Federal Mint is basically a union of counterfeiters, and taxation above a reasonable rate is thievery. Pretty radical ideas, but fairly par for the course as far as North goes, and not far out of step with his obviously Austrian School economic influences.
That doesn't mean he toes their line either. Mises is quoted favorably more than once, but Dr. North's standard is not a libertarian Continental thinker—it's the Bible, particularly the Law as given to the Israelites by Moses. North is a Reconstructionist of unashamed proportions, and what he wants to see is an economic system that reflects the principles God laid out for His people.
In the end he admits that the only real path to this goal is through spiritual reformation and revival of the American people. Many of his ideas are compelling, and in a perfect world they'd be implemented in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, our world is still fallen, and most Americans have turned wholly away from the God of Israel, Isaac and Joseph.
The book ends with a call to such revival, as well as a forecast of the coming economic apocalypse and possible ways to avert it. Honest Money was originally published in 1986, and the accuracy of his predictions are unsettling, to say the least. That he could so clearly foresee the road America's economic policies were leading her down is probably reason enough to heed what North has to say.
For Christians, however, his consistent use of Scripture and biblical reason trump any weight we might lend his prophecies. Certainly, not everyone will agree with his conclusions or even his historical account of the evolution of money, nor need they. But this is a book that should be read by anyone wanting to align their economic beliefs with God's Word, if for no other reason than North will make you think about issues you never knew existed.
Table of Contents:
Part I: Blueprints
1. The Value of Money
2. The Origins of Money
3. Maintaining Honest Money
4. Debasing the Currency
5. The Contagion of Inflation
6. When the State Monopolizes Money
7. Biblical Banking
8. Fractional Reserve Banking
9. Protecting Licensed Counterfeiters
10. A Biblical Monetary System
Part II: Reconstruction
11. A Program of Monetary Reform
12. The Politics of Money
13. The Reform of Debt
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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