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Posts Tagged ‘quotations’

Bust of Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a ...

The following quotation on fiat money is attributed to Aristotle, one of the fathers of Western thought, who lived from 384 to 322 BC.

In effect, there is nothing inherently wrong with fiat money, provided we get perfect authority and god-like intelligence for kings.

However, when I did a Google search for that quotation, it only produced 56 results, none of which cite the book that he allegedly was reported as saying that.

Searching the MIT Internet Classics Archive for any references to the above quotation, and similar variations thereof, turned up no such reference.

When hearing any quotation, such as the one about private banks that is widely attributed to Thomas Jefferson, you should consider whether it is actually authentic.

There are many quotations widely attributed to prominent historical figures that are used to bolster the credibility of various claims, such as the alleged inferiority of fiat currencies. However, if the quotations are inauthentic, then the credibility of the claims based on them has to rest on other criteria.

See my article on the English tally sticks for an example of a successful fiat currency that lasted hundreds of years.

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Among the most famous of quotations attributed to Thomas Jefferson, is this one:

If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around  them will deprive the people of all their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.

But did Thomas Jefferson really say that? That’s what I had thought, especially after hearing it repeated by so many people on so many different programs and web sites. Then, one day, I decided to verify it for myself, and was surprised by what I found.

Bartleby, famous for its books of quotations, states:

Although Jefferson was opposed to paper money, this quotation is obviously spurious. Inflation was listed in Webster’s dictionary of 1864, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, but the OED gives 1920 as the earliest use of deflation.

Another authoritative dictionary, Merriam-Webster, reports the first use of the word deflation, in any context, dating back to 1890 — 64 years after the death of Thomas Jefferson.

As Bartleby hints at, one shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Even if Jefferson didn’t say that, in whole or in part, it’s consistent with his beliefs and actions.

The full significance of this quotation will be addressed in several subsequent articles.

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