It’s worth pointing out what you can and cannot do with the law, the constitution and its amendments being the most fundamental law of the political entity known as the United States of America.
We are imperfect and so is any law we make. The law cannot, as a general rule, redistribute wealth, or ensure that wealth is distributed evenly. Nevertheless, the law should result in the fair distribution of wealth if the law is wise and just. This fairness should be thought of as a by-product of good law, not its conscious purpose, the reason being that explicit opinions on how wealth is to be distributed will vary widely and cannot be embodied in a law without favoritism. Picking and choosing between competing ideas about wealth distribution is as impossible for the law, practically speaking, as it is undesirable in any event.
As matters stand the law has failed this test completely and this is the problem that must be addressed. The proposed amendment is an effort to recognize this failure and correct it as best that can be done. It is not the source of the failure, and it is a very imperfect solution to an otherwise totally insoluble problem.
The “jubilee” is a one time departure from the principle I just described: it is an explicit wealth transfer from one group – creditors – to another group – debtors – unlike anything that has taken place in modern times. It will unfairly benefit some and unfairly penalize others, though again as a practical matter and under the circumstances the injustice will be collectively minimal, since not only debt but unpayable debt is nearly universal. Nevertheless, it will cancel this debt once and only once.
Let there be no mistake: it is shameful that a jubilee has become necessary. It is an admission that collectively we have screwed things up, and that only this dramatic adjustment will reorder things in a way that a semblance of rational life can resume. Many of us like to blame the “banksters” for the problems we are experiencing. This is vain, in both senses: it is a pointless and unjust judgment upon others; and it is a haughty and unwarranted absolution of ourselves. We are all collectively guilty. Some more than others, perhaps, but at this point that is immaterial.
The other big idea behind the amendment is the restoration of an explicit legal gold standard for the dollar applicable to everyone equally, something that has not been in place since at least 1933. A gold standard has many fervent proponents and many fervent opponents. It’s what politicians call a “divisive” idea.
I favor a gold standard primarily because it constitutes the government’s assent to natural law, its assent that it must conform to natural law and will not attempt to legitimize its own defiance of it. Its agreement that it is not the sole arbiter of its own conduct. Its recognition that its “sovereignty”, while perhaps nearly or even practically boundless, is not absolutely boundless. Its renunciation of the worship of power. Conversely – and this is my view – a government’s refusal to define its monetary unit of account amounts to an explicit statement to the contrary of all of those principles: that the government does not assent to natural law; that it will defy natural law at will; that it is the sole arbiter of its own conduct; that its “sovereignty” is in fact boundless; that it worships power.
In other words, a government that refuses to be bound by any definition of its monetary unit of account is necessarily and explicitly a tyrant.
And that, really, is the only thing a gold standard does in concrete terms: restraining the government. It does not restrain individuals, who will continue to practice virtue and vice. It does not by itself assure a fair distribution of wealth, although it makes that more likely since the referee in the wealth game – the government – may have the desire to weigh in on one side or the other but will not have the ability to do so, at least not while it maintains a pretense of neutrality.
The gold standard is not a panacea for every economic ill; but at least in my view economic ills multiply and eventually overwhelm without it.
The 28th Amendment I have proposed, even if a lot of people agreed with it – a dubious proposition in itself – is extremely unlikely to ever occur. I consider that tragic, because in my view it is the only solution to the problems we face that does not involve social degeneration, violence, civil unrest, revolution and destruction on a massive scale. These were the characteristics of the 20th century.
My hope is that the 21st century will be different, and I have offered this amendment, gratis, as the best contribution to that result that I am capable of. It is an outgrowth of the discipline of economics certainly, but at base it is the product of a lawyer’s mind. This seems fitting: among the most deplorable and unjust hatreds commonly lurking in the collective and individual mind is the one directed at one’s own lawyer.
It seems we will never outgrow ritual sacrifice and scapegoating. Maybe we’re not meant to.