Benjamin Franklin’s Independence Day Warning

Mark Skousen

Named one of the "Top 20 Living Economists," Dr. Skousen is a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books.

Today’s Skousen CAFÉ is an Independence Day version of a previous write-up from January 2013 that warned about the threat of inflation at the time of Ben Franklin’s 307th birthday.

What would this founding father extraordinaire, the first scientific American and financial guru say about America on the eve of Independence Day 2014?

As a sixth-generation grandson of the famous man, I imagined contacting the grandfather of our nation and asking him directly.

Here are my questions and his responses:

SKOUSEN: Hello, Dr. Franklin! We are delighted to have you as our guest to answer some questions.

FRANKLIN: I’m honored. Let’s get started. Time is money! What is your first question?

SKOUSEN: Thanks, Dr. Franklin. Our first question is, how do you feel about being on the $100 bill?

DR. FRANKLIN: Oh! It does indeed please my vanity to be 100 times more valuable than the father of our nation, my good friend Gen. George Washington!

SKOUSEN: Are you concerned about inflation and the declining value of the $100 bill?

DR. FRANKLIN: In life nothing is certain but death and taxes, but now I see I must add inflation to the list. With inflation, it seems I become more popular every day, and now my face is as well-known as the moon. My only fear is that your government will soon abandon banknotes entirely in favor of a cashless society, leaving the greatest nation in the world with no daily reminder of its most famous philosopher!

SKOUSEN: Many experts blame our central bank, the Federal Reserve, for the constant depreciation of our currency. Should the Fed go back on a gold standard to return discipline to our government and to stop the inflation?

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DR. FRANKLIN: I favor a hard currency with considerable flexibility according to commerce. Because of our lack of sufficient quantity of hard money in our country, I published a pamphlet in Philadelphia favoring paper money in moderate quantities, and found it to be highly beneficial to commerce. But during the Revolutionary War, the public demanded more than was necessary because they were not willing to pay their taxes. The Continental dollar depreciated rapidly and hurt our credit both here and abroad, and I often was unable to sleep at night because of the financial distress.

SKOUSEN: What do you think of the nation’s huge deficits, the tax increases, big government, continuing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine, the Great Recession, the Patriot Act, CEO scandals, gun violence and a collapsing dollar?

DR. FRANKLIN: Stop! Stop! I see nothing has changed since I left this sad world over 200 years ago. Upon my return from France at that time, I saw in the public papers frequent complaints of hard times, etc. There can be no country in which there are not some sort of troubles. And it is always in the power of a small number to make a great clamor. So my advice to you is to take a cool view of the general state of affairs, and perhaps the prospects will appear less gloomy than you have imagined.

SKOUSEN: So you are still an optimist about the future of the United States?

DR. FRANKLIN: Long ago I said that with God’s blessing, America is destined to become a great and happy country. I still believe this. When I see the extravagant rejoicing every 4th of July, the day on which we signed the Declaration of Independence, thereby hazarding our lives and fortunes, I am convinced of the universal satisfaction of the people with the revolution and its grand principles. No nation has ever enjoyed a greater share of human felicity.

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SKOUSEN: Aren’t you worried about another crash or depression around the corner, with all these debts piling up?

DR. FRANKLIN: There are always croakers, as we called them, who are predicting ruin. When I lived in Philadelphia, one such elderly man who had a wise and grave manner came frequently by my door at the printing house to give me a detail of misfortunes and bankruptcies, and to predict that all was going to destruction, and that I should sell all my real estate and business, etc. etc. Fortunately, I ignored him, and I ultimately saw him pay five times as much for one piece of land as he might have bought when he first began his croaking.

SKOUSEN: But what if you are wrong, and we are hit with a great depression, or war? We live in uncertain times. How can we protect ourselves?

DR. FRANKLIN: Poor Richard always says, “An empty bag cannot stand.” I always made it a policy to live simply and frugally, so that by my economy I was able to build up substantial savings and investments. This policy proved favorable to me during the American Revolution. In 1774, a great source of my income was cut off when I was dismissed by the Crown as postmaster general and colonial agent, and I lost £1,800 a year in income. But my family and I survived because I had bank accounts in three countries, some bonds and stocks and income properties.

You Blew It! Chipotle Mexican Grill Endorses Welfare State

“Hope that in the future, all is well, everyone eats free, no one must work, all just sit around feeling love for one another.” — George Saunders

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Believe it or not, the above statement is printed on the bag issued by the Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants.

Saunders, a fiction writer who teaches at Syracuse University, has been converted to Buddhism and has adopted an anti-consumer, anti-corporate-culture and anti-capitalist philosophy.

It’s a sad commentary when a major consumer corporation buys into his hippie-style philosophy and encourages people to live off of others and to adopt the welfare, no-workfare mentality.

Food, like any valuable good or service, is not free — it’s a scarce product that requires a great deal of work and effort.

Perhaps the Protestant Ethic of hard work, thrift and integrity are virtues of a past era in America.

Perhaps this quote from Professor Saunders’ best sums up his tragic philosophy that will no doubt, if followed, lead us into a road to serfdom, “Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused.”

In case you missed it, I encourage you to read my e-letter column from last week about how waiting has become such a large part of American culture. I also invite you to comment in the space provided below.

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Dr. Mark Skousen

Named one of the "Top 20 Living Economists," Dr. Skousen is a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books.

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