Administering Money: Coinage, Debt Crises, and the Future of Fiscal Policy
74 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2020
Date Written: February 11, 2020
The power to coin money is a fundamental constitutional power and central element of fiscal policymaking, along with spending, taxing, and borrowing. However, it remains neglected in constitutional and administrative law, despite the fact that money creation has been central to the United States’ fiscal capacities and constraints since at least 1973, when it abandoned convertibility of the dollar into gold. This neglect is particularly prevalent in the context of debt ceiling crises, which emerge when Congress fails to grant the executive sufficient borrowing authority to finance spending in excess of taxes. In such instances, prominent legal and economic scholars have argued that the President should choose the “least unconstitutional option” of breaching the debt ceiling, rather than impeding on Congress’s even more fundamental powers to tax and spend. However, this view fails to consider a fourth, arguably more constitutional option: minting a high value coin under an obscure provision of the Coinage Act, and using the proceeds to circumvent the debt ceiling entirely. Reintroducing coinage into our fiscal discourse raises novel and interesting questions about the broader nature of, and relationship between “money” and “debt.” It also underscores how legal debates over fiscal policy implicate broader social myths about money. As we enter the era of digital currency, creative legal solutions like high value coinage have the potential to serve as imaginative catalysts that enable us to collectively develop new monetary myths that better fit our modern context and needs.
Keywords: administrative law, constitutional law, law of money, macroeconomics, monetary theory, federal budget policy, public finance
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