Memorial Day is one of the most solemn observances in America. It is more than just a holiday; it is a national day of remembrance that should call to mind the very freedoms for which so many of our ancestors and loved ones gave their lives. It is also an ideal time to think about current threats to our liberty, and why even something as innocuous as the currency we use can be the target of those who would restrict our freedoms.
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Today is Memorial Day. For many, it is a day for gathering together with family and friends, grilling outdoors, and generally enjoying the end to one of the year’s three-day weekends from work and school. As is true with all holidays, however, the true meaning of this day extends far beyond the way in which we celebrate it. Memorial day is not about steaks, hamburgers, hotdogs, or your wife’s oh-so delicious potato salad. This is a holiday for somber remembrance of all those who have given their lives in the defense of liberty, with a nod also toward all those who even now serve as this nation’s frontline against danger from abroad and tyranny from within. It is also a day when all of us would do well to ponder the meaning of liberty, and ask ourselves just how free we truly are. We owe it to our honored dead to consider just how much of our own freedom we’ve allowed to slip away, and what we can do to advance the cause of liberty in our own small way.
This is an important exercise for Americans as a matter of course, but all the more important on a day like this. More than a million American military personnel have given their lives in the cause of freedom since our nation declared its independence in 1776. Some died to create the nation, while others were killed fighting to preserve it from dissolution. Hundreds of thousands more have passed into history on faraway shores in battles against would-be world conquerors, lesser tyrants, and terrorists. All died for an ideal that says that free men and women should by right have power and control over their own destinies, without unnecessary restrictions on life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness.
That ideal has been under assault since it was first proposed by our ancestors. It is an ideal that the kings of the world have tried to eradicate. It is an ideal that has been denied by those who would make chattel of other human beings. It is an ideal that is given only lip service by those who crave power and control over everything they see. And it is an ideal that dogmatic sowers of terror resist with every fiber of their being.
More importantly, however, it is an ideal that many of us have forgotten as well. Take the issue of money, for example. How many Americans are even aware of the fact that they have all but lost their ability to exercise any level of control over the currency they use on a daily basis – the currency they rely on to conduct most of their business and maintain their lifestyles? Even the monetary freedom they still maintain – the ability to spend physical dollars and other currencies as they see fit – is undercut by existing laws and regulations, and in jeopardy from those who desire to do away with cash altogether.
Controlling Your Money
It is almost impossible for most Americans alive today to imagine a time in which centralized entities did not control their money in some way. Today, all of the most important monetary decisions are centrally controlled, and average citizens have little impact on how those decisions are made. Centralized authorities determine how much money is created and placed into circulation. They determine the value of that currency, which directly impacts just how much you can accomplish with each dollar you possess.
Of course, new technologies have also expanded that control in other ways. In recent decades, government has expanded its monitoring of financial activities by increasing its efforts to monitor not only the source of your money, but where you spend it as well. While they generally argue that such monitoring is necessary to prevent criminal activities like money laundering and terrorist financing, most observers understand that there is more to it than just those noble goals. Ultimately, all of this focus on monitoring monetary transactions is about control.
Of course, some would argue that free people can evade that control by using cash. But even that option is threatened with disruption by those who advocate removing larger denominations from circulation – again, with the stated noble goal of reducing criminal use of currency. More ominously, there are some who advocate a centrally-controlled electronic monetary system. The war on cash has begun, as ever-expanding governments around the world continue to seek a monetary system that affords them maximum control over economic activity and the ability to ensure that no potential source of revenue escapes their tax-hungry notice.
Widespread Use of Digital Currency is Inevitable
As a result, we see countries like China and Russia making noise about creating their own digital currencies. We see other countries and even some US states implementing or considering bans on cash transactions over a certain amount. At the same time, we see large financial entities experimenting with centrally-controlled cryptocurrencies, as well as the technology on which they rely. Meanwhile, governments around the world are increasingly active in efforts to closely regulate decentralized digital currencies that could pose a threat to their desire for greater control.
The thing is, digital currencies are going to be universally used at some point. It is just inevitable. Financial experts, knowledgeable government officials, and industry insiders alike all agree that cryptocurrencies offer too many advantages to be ignored. From lower transaction fees to faster settlement times, digital currencies are so efficient that the technology will be used everywhere in the very near future. The only question is which type of digital currency will prevail – decentralized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, DNotes, and others, or some government-controlled and monitored monstrosity that further erodes important American liberties like privacy and the right to pursue happiness free from government intrusion?
What Price Freedom?
Our honored fallen all gave, in Lincoln’s words, the “last full measure of devotion.” Their lives were willingly placed in harm’s way so that their loved ones could continue to enjoy freedom in all its splendors. Millions of men and women today continue to stand in the breach between us and those things that would separate us from those rights and liberties our nation’s Founders considered unalienable: the right to life. The right to liberty. The right to the pursuit of happiness.
Digital currency has no inherent power to preserve any of those unalienable rights, of course. Nor does it possess power to destroy them. It is, after all, a tool that is only as noble or as good as the people wielding it. In the hands of a centralized government – or a collection of such governments, it would be a sword that could cut through each individual’s privacy and destroy liberty. In the hands of the people – utilized voluntarily by all who seek to share in its benefits, it would be a shield that wards off even greater government intrusion into and control over our lives.
I don’t know about you, but I like to think that our honored dead died for something more than ever-expanding governmental power. On this Memorial Day, the best way for us to honor their sacrifice is to commit ourselves to working toward a future filled with expanded liberty for all. They gave the last full measure of devotion to provide the nation with a new birth of freedom. The least we can do is fight to secure what they bought at such a precious price.