"Paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value -- zero."
by:
Voltaire
[François Marie Arouet] (1694-1778) French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher
Date:
1729
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Reader comments about this quote:
True but when a dollar is consumed by fire a new one is issued to take its place. The quote is false because the dollar never left its intrinsic value. It is always just a piece of paper. The value of it comes not from its intrinsic value but from its' imputed value, from its' "legal tender(ness)" its acceptability and its' ability to effect the transfer of goods and services among people. (Some really rotten quotes today, editor.)
 -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Wow Waffler, you said well, why the thumbs down? Such legal tender, without intrinsic value, found temporarily acceptable under threat, duress, loss of use for real fortune, and the real opportunity for new criminal activities will eventually succumb to lawful tender, that which has intrinsic value, in and of itself (and to the user thereof) Great will be the fall when the change finally occurs.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    The value of paper my dear Mike is in its transactional capabilities among people of goodwill.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Waffler is a damned fool. Every fiat currency (paper money) inflates which is why a single Italian Lira which once was worth something is worth .047 cents today. The history of the US dollar is similar. Look, paper money's value is affected by the rate at which the money supply is expanded or contracted. Its value is also speculative as Waffler has mentioned because paper money is not backed by anything except perception and confidence. If the currency were backed by gold or silver which have intrinsic value, then the purchasing power (i.e. value) is not dependent upon 'confidence' but upon actual market value. Waffler's comment isn't worth a Continental.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Archer, please, everyone knows that Waffler is smarter than Voltaire. Editor, please have simpler quotes so Komrad Waff can understand them, maybe something that a 2nd grader would understand.
     -- jim k, austin     
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    jim, you are a little too condescending, why would you put down a 2nd grader ;-)
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    For some answers: www.moneyaswealth.blogspot.com
     -- MoneyAsWealth, Minneapolis, MN     
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    Gold has one of the least intrinsic values among metals. I will take iron and steel for its intrinsic value anytime. My silly girlfriend just like the jerks here would probably prefer the soft silly gold. So this only proves that the intrinsic value of a medium of exchange has nothing to do with its ability to be a medium of exchange. It is the goodwill of the transactors. If you ever seen Roman, Greek or other ancient coins, they are not much to look at but served there purpose well, so does paper.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    I give this five but I do like Waffler's sticktoitiveness - well done!
     -- RBESRQ     
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    A stubborn obstinancy and ignorance is hardly "well done." Gold has thousands of uses. Because it is soft, it can be rolled out thinner than paper, an ounce of gold wire can be lengthened to a mile, it is used in numerous electronic devices. Sure iron, steel, copper, nickel, platinum, etc. are all commodities with intrinsuc value -- the only reason gold and silver became the standard for currency is because of the ease of transportability. Gold never rusts or decays. It has value!!! Give me a currency backed by steel, I don't care, but stop counterfeiting and debasing American currency. You cannot win this argument, Waffler, no matter what attempted misdirection you may employ. The US governent is bankrupt and merely printing up more money with interest due in order to consolidate more power to the State -- and away from you! Use your brain -- most children can grasp this in a matter of minutes. Those that have been profiting from this system and who have invested a lifetime in it will NEVER admit that their gains are at the expense of others and their liberty.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Consistency and stubborness is easy if you tell the truth!
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    To be consistently and stubbornly ignorant of the truth is also easy. "The quote is false because the dollar never left its intrinsic value." LOL! First off, a 'dollar' is a unit of measuring weight. A dollar of silver is one ounce of silver. A dollar of gold is one ounce of gold. What is a dollar today? A dollar of what? An ounce of paper? Debasement of the currency starts with the debasement of the truth. A dollar DID have the instrinsic value of one dollar (i.e. ounce) of silver. The spot price of silver today is $14 USD (i.e. Federal Reserve Notes -- Federal Reserve Notes are not dollars!) Why do you think they call them dollar bills? Because every one dollar Federal Reserve Note represents a 'dollar' OWED. (A dollar of what, though?? Originally, when the Federal Reserve Note was introduced representing only paper, the INTEREST due had to be paid in gold certificates. Once the Fed had all the gold certificates, the Fed allowed the interest to be paid in Federal Reserve Notes -- gee, how nice.) Waffler's proud ignorance does not change the truth one iota.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    This quote and discussion has nothing to do with the US Government. It is about paper money. Nations everywhere use paper money. It is not an invention of the U S, its government or its' people and has nothing to do with whether or not the US Government has a will go bankrupt!
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    No one has brought up the US government, Waffler, except you. More misdirection, I suppose. The quote and the discussion is about paper money and its eventual transition to worthlessness. History proves it true no matter how long this 'confidence game' has been going on or how many nations have been brought to their knees from paper money. America broke free from monarchy (and particulary the Bank of England that was deluding the colonies with more paper) even though the divine right of kings had been held up for centuries. You take Freedom for granted, my friend, and too easily bow at the altar of the banks. You make no argument other than, 'hey, everyone else is jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, why not us?' Your discernment of the 'truth' is merely popular conditioning with the hope of getting something for nothing. Very irresponsible, and a crime against every hard-working person who struggles to make ends meet in a game that is fixed against them.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Above Archer said, "the US Government is bankrupt and merely printing money" etc then in his next post he said "no one brought up the US Government". What ya smoking and drinking today Archer?
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    I guess I missed that one. Only one clause in my 4 posts mentions the US government. The rest speaks about paper currency itself. The reason the fiat currency we have now exists is because of the US bankruptcy. Deal with it.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Why do the rest of the nations of the world also have fiat currency of their own? Is it because they are bankrupt also? You throw the word around awful easy when it is really just you who is bankrupt of intelligence and knowledge.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Actually, all the governments which have traded their original gold/silver backed currencies for legal tender issued by the same central bankers that own the Federal Reserve have indeed bankrupted themselves, too. This is the globalist takeover of all nations through the use of paper money issued by a private banking cartel. One of the conditions for joining the United Nations is that the country must be bankrupt and under the regulation of the International Monetary Fund/World Bank ('neutral' countries have been as a rule countries that had hard currencies). Once a nation has given up control over the issuance of their currency, they have become wards of whomever now manages it. The Bretton Woods agreement put this in place. How else can a Communist country that prints up its money trade with nations that use hard currency? Only a fool would put on equal footing their own lawful money backed in gold with foreign paper currency backed by nothing. So we have agreed to use paper money, too, in order to trade with other nations using paper money -- the price was simply to give away all our lawful money to the Federal Reserve through a trick. The issue Waffler seems to ignore is that the US was not like any other country -- it was a free republic with a hard currency and a representative government that respected and defended the rights and independence of Americans. America has been under attack from within for over 100 years, with the banks undermining everything, counting all of us as chattel, and following the very strategy that has conquered European monarchies -- the take over by their central bankers. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, Waffler, ignorance is bliss.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Paper does serve its purpose of being a common agreed medium for the exchange of goods and services. And so was tally sticks as money in the 1100s -1800s England. Paper money has its beginnings as gold receipts. People would deposit their gold with goldsmiths who would issue them a gold receipt. These paper receipts were more convenient to carry around for trade as oppose to carrying around gold/silver coins. But as time passes, these goldsmiths started making gold receipts for gold that didn't even exist. Naming it "fractional reserve banking" And as paper moves away from its purpose, at the end of the day, its value is not from gold (true tangible assets) but its value lies in confidence of the people in the government that backs these paper money. And to Voltaire, to have a paper currency backed just by confidence is not true assets. Bringing the issue back to USA today, with Ben Bernanke printing money out of thin air to buy T-bills, it is really hard to have confidence in the US dollar. Looks like the FedBank is debasing the dollar fast.
     -- Anonymous, Singapore     
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    Anyone who wants to trust paper assets' value, good luck to you. All I know is that the bankers can print more paper if they like, whereas they can't create more gold. And they are printing more paper - a LOT more. So, again, ignore history and put your faith in the paper if you wish. I for one believe Voltaire has been/will be proved right.
     -- loveyourUNmasters, orbeeuthanised     
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    Historically speaking every country that engaged in the practice of printing unbacked paper money (not redeemable in a set amount of one commodity or another) has undergone a monetary collapse. Austria-Hungary, Russia, Argentina et al. See hyperinflation.
     -- Graw Haar, Mitgardt     
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    Using any medium of exchange other than agricultural/industrial commodities or labor barter is an abstraction of value. In that sense, silver, gold, platinum, palladium, uranium, et. al. (except mineral carbon which can be burned for fuel or heat), diamonds, rubies, emeralds; wampum, beads, shells, feathers, and lastly, Central Bank Notes from any issuing country distort the notion of value to the human being. Value would have originally been assigned on the basis of improving the conditions of life. Since that is no longer much of an issue except for the most disenfranchised in the world, commerce takes place with authorized media- before 1932, in european man's world: gold. Now it's slips of cloth- and plastic-paper...makes no difference really except that if there is collapse- the knee jerk reaction of europeans may be to place more value on chunks of metal...for a while...because without improvement in conditions...ultimately you can't eat metal...
     -- youngmanafraidofthunder, awatuna at pine ridge     
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    Any one who thinks the dollar has intrinsic value, has proven with their words, they have no conception and understanding of real money. Script is no more than a check, an IOU promising to pay something of value. It use to be gold or silver was exchanged for the script, until the people allowed the govt to hoodwink them into beliving the lie, the script was the money and not the gold or silver. The faith of the American sheeple to believe the lie when the truth is all around them, in history, in economics, in literature...all they have to do is read and understand, is amazing. And Mr. Smith has shown he bought it hook, line & sinker. When the bottom falls out and people want real money, not the fake paper, then will he and all the rest finally comprehend the truth.
     -- Texas Spitfire, Houston     
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    Let's consult an expert. "In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation." - 1966. "What is fascinating is the extent to which gold still holds reign over the financial system as the ultimate source of payment," - 2009. Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Chairman (1987-2006)
     -- Dan I., Marlton, NJ     
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    Read Ludwig Von Mises of the Austrian School of economics. Read "Money Creators" by Gertrude Coogan 1935 with an Introduction by Senator Robert L. Owens who cosponsored the Fed. Res. Act of 1913. read 'The Creature from Jekell Island" by Griffin. Then come back and toss the subject. -- David C. Chovanak, D.C.L. , President of the Common Law Association, Co-author of "Pied Pipers of Babylon" by Verl K. Speer, DCL 1985 Constitutional Attorney Larry Beacraft termed it, "What I call a TEXT on law."
     -- David Chovanak, Turlock     
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    Anyone know what the source material is for this quote?
     -- Dan I., Marlton, NJ     
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    Value only comes from human acceptance of something to primitive tribesmen, gold has/had no value. It's the same as language, anyone who doesn't understand English will give these posts no value. The era of the Gold Standard was marked by constant depression, boom and bust cycles, low growth and poor development. A fixed price for gold (fixed by government at that) is really just a form pf price control.
     -- james23912, cornwall vt     
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    Mr Waffler, Voltiare was a philosopher - can you not see the irony implied by his sentence:))))))) Seriously, this is one of the smartest quotes out of one of the smartest men, who's ever walked the earth, so please - don't make a fool of yourself trying to somehow rationalize it:)))
     -- Anonymous, Singapore     
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    Stocks are a form of paper money basically backed by the issuers ability to earn dollars. Stocks can indirectly be converted to gold as can the dollar. As with dollars, the amount of gold they can indirectly purchase is also ever-diminishing. I read somewhere that all stocks are eventually worth zero. I guess the jury is still out on that one, but I guess historically it has some basis. From the time of first issuance the dollar has already gone to near zero relative to the other assets it can purchase. What percentage of assets can it now buy relative to when it was first issued (1%)? Conversely, what percentage of assets can gold now purchase relative to that time (100% plus)? Perhaps one reason some other currencies have fallen in value faster than the dollar is because of participating or being on the losing side in wars. Some of those currencies did reach zero and no longer exist (eg. confederate and continental dollars). Like stocks, the value of a currency represents (at least partially) the ability of its issuer to create wealth and/or the ability to wage war. When accumulated deficits become excessive the underlying value of a bonds/currency must diminish (like stocks). The ability of a nation to wage war increases its ability to ultimately succeed (survive). The value of its currency is somewhat linked to that. If like stocks all empires ultimately fall, then I guess all currencies eventually reach zero. Regardless of that, it appears that they all get that close to zero that it does not matter. The US formula for economic growth is partly based on inflation, therefore debasement of the dollar is inevitable.
     -- brianoh, Miami     
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    "Mr Waffler, Voltiare was a philosopher - can you not see the irony implied by his sentance"(?) It is truly a smart quote: "Paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value -- zero." 1) "Paper money": it leaves in the air that there is another kind of "money" not losing its intrinsic value. 2) "Returns": talks about an origin of it 3) "Intrinsic value" refers to what is its base of value. 1) Gold is that other money not losing its own value. When the world was bankrupt the price of gold was $20.67 per ounce (1934). It reflected the price of extracting and refining it at workers wages and costs in a very "basic" economy with no inflation and almost no-existent speculative financial instruments. Paper money is just debt and is generated and disappears when debts are assumed or paid. If in 1934, company A asked a credit of $2 million to ABC Bank for producing calculators, the latter would go to the Central Bank of its country (Federal Reserve) ask the two millions at 1% against the lending contract and related obligations and lend the money to company A for 2%, thus "money" came into circulation, was created. With the product of the sales, company A pays the bank and in turn it pays the Central Bank recovering the lending obligations of company A, giving it them back... thus "money" disappears of circulation. Up to now this is the way money is created... with the perverse intervention of the state who directly asks the Central Bank for 200,000 billion against a promise of payment (bonds) without the least intention and obligation of paying back (the state is "sovereign"). Nothing backs the recurrent promises of payment so the national currency is debased and it loses its value eventually reaching zero. This is clearly reflected in how many dollars are needed to buy the very same ounce of gold as of today March the 4th, 2012 : $1,712 = 83 times more. The price of gold has not gone up per se, au contraire, the currency used to buy it has gone to the pit. So one dollar is one dollar and it will ever be but one dollar of 2012 is equivalent to 1 cent of one 1934 dollar (20.67 / 1,712)... almost zero. 2) The origin of money is DEBT and can only be originated that way. National cracks and bankruptcies have all that same, peculiar mystery: "where is the money?" or "there's no money!" In their evolution money disappears because nobody takes new loans and so no "new money" is created; besides that the one who can pay his obligations does so for not losing his assets, thus money returns to the banks and finally to the central bank deepening the scarcity of money; finally millions of obligations disappear for ever when individuals, companies and banks enter in bankruptcy. As the "origin" of fiat paper money was a government promise worth nothing, its real value finally comes back to its origin: zero. 3) Much related to point 2: its real value is not dependent on gold but to nothing. By December 2010, the total amount of gold held by governments around the globe was 30,807.6 tons and the public debt of the top 20 debtors (the US, Japan, Germany, Italy and India at the very top) was 36,822 $billion. The correlation would be 30,807.6 x 1000 (kgs) x 1,000 (grs) / 28.3495231 (ounces) = 1,086,706,111 ounces of gold against 36,822 x 1000 x 1000000 = 36,822,000,000,000 one dollar paper money (the math is yours). Gold in their reserves is the unique serious asset that governments around the globe can offer as a substitute payment of their debts
     -- mundooffshore, Saint Vincent     
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    +mundooffshore, excellent exposition; I believe even the unusually obtuse likely to benefit should they truly seek new insight. My only addition would be caveat emptor, golds historic popularity as a general medium of exchange does not imply its sole worthiness as such. It seems to me that many of the factors lending preference to gold could be seen as less material in this modern era: specifically, rarity and by extension ease of transportation and storage (also resilience). Regardless, similar commodities, though not quite as appealing as gold, must gain attractiveness on a relative basis, when the exchange value of gold increasingly soars ever higher.
     -- Midas, Houston     
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    I perceive Voltaire to mean that eventually all governments fail and when they do the paper money they had issued becomes worthless. No one uses money from the confederacy for example.
     -- Clark, Titusville     
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    Using paper currency that has no backing whatsoever and trying to get ahead and save for your retirement...is exactly like playing a game of Monopoly when the Banker has an endless supply of paper money. Eventually the Banker owns everything...and you lose.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Waffler, whether you call it intrinsic value or imputed value with the ability to affect trade, the point of the statement is that it will lose that ability at some point.
     -- Frank, Miami     
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    Waffler, the point is all paper money eventually fails. Saying it like that just isn't as catchy as the way Voltaire stated it.
     -- Joe, Tulsa     
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    I think E Archer of NYC has said it all.
     -- C Kind, British Columbia     
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    Promises, promises, promises!
     -- Doss, Moon     
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    "Dollar" is a measurement, like "quart" or "pound." A "dollar" is not a physical thing. You can have dollars of silver or dollars of gold, but not dollars of paper currency. To put it another way, a "ten-dollar bill" would have to be ten times the size of a "one-dollar bill" if the "one-dollar bill" had any intrinsic value.
     -- Greg Raven, Apple Valley, CA     
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    You should probably wear a helmet all day every day .... with stickers on it ..... im pretty sure your people accepted painted rocks for pelts before we gave you a reservation 
     -- COY, WARFIELD     
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    A good case study would be Germany between WW1 and WW2.

    It's called inflation.
     -- Lawrence Pusateri, Louisville     
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