I met Wayne Walton at the Music City Liberty Fest a few years ago. He is a great guy who has committed himself to educating people about the evils in our current monetary and banking systems, and promoting practical ideas for immediate improvements. Wayne is also an outspoken Christian and so we have that in common, as well.
However, as you will see (e.g. listen to this video), Wayne differs from the standard Austrian/libertarian views on money and banking. He views the problem with the Fed as not merely that it rests on government coercion, but that the very idea of having private institutions issuing money upon which they charge interest is dubious. As the video shows, there are numerous places in Scripture to reinforce Wayne’s interpretation of the proper Judeo-Christian view on this subject.
For a while I have been slightly uncomfortable with some of the rhetoric/arguments used by the “alternative/local currency” movement, but since I agree with these people on so much, I didn’t feel like starting a fight. Yet since this is such a crucial topic, and moreover since I’m debating Bill Still this coming Friday, I thought now was a good time to start a dialog.
Before jumping into my concerns, let me share the following interesting trivia: My dissertation at NYU was in capital and interest theory, and arguably could be described as explaining why interest would exist in a free society. (That’s not how I would have described it, but it’s a fair description nonetheless.) When it was nearing completion, and I was emailing myself a copy so I could print it out at the NYU computer lab, the file size was 666KB. Then, after defending my dissertation and filling out NYU’s exit interview forms (or whatever they called them), I had to fill in bubbles to answer their various questions. The internal code to identify the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Economics Department was–you guessed it–666. Do with that trivia what you will.
Anyway, here are my concerns:
==> Are Wayne and his fans making the age-old distinction between usury and interest, or are those terms interchangeable?
==> Is Wayne saying that in a free society, he predicts that there would be no debt? Or is he saying yes it might happen, but that it would be immoral? Or is he saying that as long as people were free they would be economically on much stronger footing, and so the type of debt that they might voluntarily embrace would be acceptable to him?
==> Here’s a really simple example to get our thinking straight: Suppose Bill owns a new car, and John wants a new car but hasn’t saved up for it. So Bill says to John, “I will give you this car so you can begin driving it immediately, but in 10 years time I want you to pay me back two brand new cars.” Is there anything problematic with such a deal?
==> When Wayne calls for people to issue their own currencies, does he mean at the individual level? That I would issue Bob Notes, and my son would issue notes in his name, and so on? If so, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of using money in the first place? How is that different from barter with credit?