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Who is Franklin Sanders, a.k.a. "The Moneychanger"?
The following was originally published in Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, February 1997.
Almost 30 years ago, just a few weeks before I got married, on a drugstore bookstand I found a strange book: Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal. It was a collection of essays about a philosophy of freedom. Two dealt with the American monetary system. The author explained that nothing—no gold or silver—backed our currency. He argued that sooner or later, this fiat money system would lead to disaster, and that only a money backed by real value—gold—could last.
That author was Alan Greenspan. Since then our careers—Alan's and mine—have taken very different paths.
In 1967, Alan Greenspan was already a fairly well known economic consultant. In the 1970s, President Ford appointed him to his Council of Economic Advisors. In 1987, Alan Greenspan was appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.
Funny, he doesn't talk much about gold anymore.
In 1967, I was a college senior. Susan and I were married on December 16th, and when I graduated in 1968 the draft board gave me 30 days' to frolic before conscription. I arrived at Fort Polk, Louisiana one hot October night, caught the Army bus out to the post and sat down behind the driver, facing across the bus. I opened my copy of Aristotle's Works and began reading.
I noticed I was the only man on board with hair. The fellow sitting across from me asked, "Whatcha reading?" Wordlessly, I flipped up the book so he could read the title on the spine. "Boy," he said without any reflection. "Have you come to the wrong place."
In 1969 I retired from the Army to attend graduate school in German at Tulane University. The next year I received a full scholarship to the Free University in West Berlin, where I saw first hand what unchallenged state power could do. The West was pulsing with life and light, the East dead and empty. In the Museum of the Wall at Checkpoint Charlie I read the last radio message from the Free Hungarians in 1956: "Tell Europe we are dying for them."
After Susan and I came home late in 1973 I worked in several businesses, learning first hand what it means to "make your way in the world." I kept studying economics and monetary systems, on my own and in graduate classes.
In 1980 I opened my own business in West Memphis, Arkansas, across the Mississippi from Memphis, selling physical gold and silver. First thing I did was write to the Arkansas Attorney General to explain that I thought exchanges of gold and silver money for paper money weren't subject to the sales tax, since they were exchanges of money for money. What was his official position?
He never bothered to answer my certified letter. Or the second. Or the third.
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