The Evolution of Fiat Money, Endless War, and the End of Citizenship

Aug 15, 2020 | Economic Collapse

One topic missing from historians’ analysis of the West’s transition from a physical gold and silver based money system to a fiat money system is the defining events that facilitated and enabled this transition.  One can find no detailed and critical political / historical assessment of this transition, and it would be not for lack of effort. 

The transition is always presented as if it is prima facie the refined and evolved state of things that warrants no investigation other than superficial praise followed with dogmatic platitudes.  But has this transition away from the “barbarous relic” money system actually made mankind more refined and evolved, or has it instead plunged mankind into an even more heightened and efficient state of barbarism?

One encounters additional blank pages when searching for any attempt at correlating the evolution and spread of fiat money to the prevalence and severity of war.  A collective learned silence descends when attempting to identify why it is, as money evolves, that war become more ideological, destructive, widespread, and prolonged.  We are all familiar with the endless adulations describing the global spread of “democracy”, but why is it so many are unwilling converts and it became imperative to spread “democracy” via war and regime change?  And closer to home, as our own nation “evolves” from a Constitutional Republic into pure “democracy”, how is it we as “citizens” feel more and more disenfranchised rather than empowered despite even greater doses of “democracy” at home?

This essay attempts to identify the defining events that facilitated and enabled the West’s transition to a fiat based money system, examines cause and effect between the evolution of money and the prevalence and severity of war, and binds together money evolution with the history of warfare by demonstrating cause and effect between money’s evolution, the rise and necessity of endless war, and the inevitable transition from “citizens” to subjects.

Physical Money, the Limits of War, and the Ancient World

For centuries following the Dorian Invasion, the Greek peninsula in the context of contemporaneous civilizations was of minor influence.  Limited wars between city states, the rise and fall of tyrants within these city states, a Lawgiver here and there, and a steady outflow of residents to the Mediterranean and Black Sea colonies were the main stories for 600 years until a rich silver deposit was discovered in southern Attica.  The wealth derived from these mines was initially distributed to the citizens and used for the great public building projects we see still standing today.  The flow of silver was also used to not only hold the Persians at bay and confine them to Ionia – and thus preserve Western Civilization as we know it today – but to also purchase slaves to work the silver mines, purchase imported goods, produce manufactured wares for export, commission triremes to transport manufactured wares, and hire highly paid rowers to man the triremes.  Trade and prosperity flourished and the Greek world rose quickly in the context of comparative global civilizations, all due to the abundant supply and liberal distribution of silver.

Then in 483 BC, soon after the discovery of a particularly rich silver deposit, the Athenian archon Themistocles convinced his fellow citizens to commission 200 triremes to fight the Persians and in 479 BC the Greek confederacy defeated Persia once and for all at the Battle of Plataea.  Rid of the Persian menace, fresh off defeating the world’s most formidable military force, and armed with 200 triremes with nothing to do, that silver now went more and more into Athenian empire building throughout the Aegean.  The cycle of conquest funded with silver was set – newly mined silver went into funding expeditions of conquest, tribute was extracted from the vanquished and flowed into Athens, and the combined silver from mined and tribute went to defending the city against jealous rivals and towards mounting even larger expeditions of conquest to extort even more tribute.  That is, until the reliable source of silver from the mines began to run out.

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