Wednesday, December 10, 2008


(Week 18 - Wednesday, Dec. 10)

In yesterday's column I talked about the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy which states, "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations," and suggested that, by our society's failure to examine the monetary underpinnings of the current financial crisis, we are by default effectively making a decision that is untenable within the seventh-generation principle. If we were to step back for a broader historical look at the situation, the case could be made that we as a nation turned our collective backs on our own monetary heritage, and in effect already made the decision, some seven generations ago.

In earlier columns (#10 - 12) I described briefly how the American Revolution arose mainly out of the determination of the Colonies to exercise their own sovereignty and set their own course, starting in 1690 when the Colonial Assembly of Massachusetts became the first government in the Western world to issue its own paper money with the intention of providing a pool of circulating currency to serve the productive enterprise of the People. The other British North American Colonies adopted the practice, which, in turn, precipitated a protracted struggle between them and the Crown over who had the right to issue the Colonies' money. This led to the Declaration of Independence, the first two itemized grievances of which are references to the stonewalling of Colonial monetary initiatives for which ratification by the Crown and Parliament was required.

The Colonies ultimately prevailed in the military phase of the struggle, but not in the monetary. This is what prompted Alexander del Mar, the great monetary historian of the 19th century, to write:

"Never was a great historical event (the American Revolution) followed by a more feeble sequel. A nation arises to claim for itself liberty and sovereignty. It gains both of these ends by an immense sacrifice of blood and treasure. Then, when the victory is gained and secured, it hands the national credit (the authority to create money) over to private individuals, to do as they please with it."

The result was that, led by Alexander Hamilton, the first Bank of the United States (effectively a private central bank, much like the Federal Reserve) was established through a corporate charter issued by the first Congress in 1791. The history of our nation since then has been a litany of the protracted struggle between the proponents of the two principles (public vs. private) for creating, issuing and controlling the nation's money. Judging by the form of our monetary system, the private-bank-money contingent has clearly prevailed, at least for now.

Sincere arguments have been put forward over the decades by both sides, but whatever their relative merits I think it fair to say that our evolution as a nation over the "seven generations" since the Revolution (assuming a generation is about 30 years) has provided a historical baseline from which the result of having turned away from our commitment to public money in favor of a gradual acquiescence to private bank money can be judged. Today's headlines would seem to indicate that the outcome has been much less than satisfactory.

To be sure, this column is for the most part a recap of thoughts that have been enumerated in previous installments, but I think it important at this critical historical juncture, especially given the current financial crisis and the changing of American political administrations, to slow down, take stock of where we are, and try to gain a fresh perspective on what is happening. The seventh-generation rule is a quintessentially American artifact of cultural/spiritual life. It is perhaps not entirely surprising to discover that it has a reflection in our own experience.

In my view, American capitalism has played out its seven-generation providence and is now making a turn towards another form; one that has immense implications for this nation and the world. With yesterday and today's installments as a basis for understanding, I will endeavor to describe what precisely I mean by that in the next column.

Richard Kotlarz
1904 1st Ave. S, #12
Minneapolis, MN 55403


The complete set of columns from this series is posted at the following websites.