Washington state Reps. Matt Shea (R), Cary Condotta (R), Jason Overstreet (R) and Jim McCune (R) apparently believe that the U.S. dollar itself is unconstitutional because it is not gold or silver. Worse, if a bill they introduced late last week should become law, this strange vision of the Constitution would be written directly into their state’s law. According to their bill,
Only gold and silver may be recognized as government legal tender under Article I, section 10 of the United States Constitution, which gives the states the power to enact gold and silver based legal tender laws, “no state shall . . .; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.” . . . The general government has failed to abide by Article I, section 8 of the United States Constitution: “To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof and of foreign Coin, . . .” and provide market value for gold and silver coins for circulation as currency among the states.
All of this, of course, is constitutional gobbledygook. While it is true that the Constitution does forbid states from making something other than gold or silver into legal tender, the American dollar is a creation of the federal government — which is an entirely different thing than the states! Likewise, there is nothing in the Constitution that requires the federal government to “coin” gold or silver money. The Constitution gives Congress the power to mint such coins if it wants to. It also, however, permits the United States to “regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.” Creating a national currency that can be used for all commercial transactions throughout the United States easily fits within this power. The Supreme Court also upheld America’s power to use a paper currency as recently as the 1800s, although it relied upon somewhat more complex reasoning.
Nevertheless, strange bills intended to undermine the U.S. dollar have popped up across the nation — many of which attempt to make bizarre changes to how a state or its citizens do business. A Georgia bill, for example, forbids anyone from doing business with the state unless the transaction is conducted with gold or silver coins. Similarly, a Utah bill would allow citizens to mint their own gold and silver coins.