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Dr. Edwin Vieira’s Amazing Crystal Ball, 2006

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 24, 2009 9:52 PM |

I will admit that I am not a student of the Great Depression, but I have started reviewing that period. Obviously I, like every American, hope our economy stabilizes and we regain our footing and return to prosperity. While the pragmatic optimist in me believes that can happen, the trader and risk manager in me tells me to review the Depression, understand the dynamics, assess the risks of our current period, and prepare accordingly.

I hope and believe people who have been reading my work for a while appreciate that I am not an alarmist.  Whether working on Wall Street as a trader and salesman or now writing for Sense on Cents, a measured, analytical approach has always generated the best results. In that vein, I discount speculators and salesmen who attempt to make a buck from heightened levels of anxiety. That said, the elevated levels of risk in our economy, markets, and global finance require an equally elevated sense of risk analysis and historical analysis.

Given some of the economic saber rattling emanating from China and the lessened fiscal support emanating from Europe, the threats of global protectionism are clearly growing. That scenario also occurred during the Depression.  

I plan to continue reviewing The Great Depression in the days and weeks ahead. As with any analysis, I am always leery of the source of information. To that end, I read material today from Dr. Edwin Vieira. Here is his bio:

Edwin Vieira, Jr., holds four degrees from Harvard: A.B. (Harvard College), A.M. and Ph.D. (Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences), and J.D. (Harvard Law School).

For more than thirty years he has practiced law, with emphasis on constitutional issues. In the Supreme Court of the United States he successfully argued or briefed the cases leading to the landmark decisions Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, and Communications Workers of America v. Beck, which established constitutional and statutory limitations on the uses to which labor unions, in both the private and the public sectors, may apply fees extracted from nonunion workers as a condition of their employment.

I will not blindly accept his bio, but he strikes me as a very credible source. In reading separate research today, I became aware that our government under FDR seized gold and silver holdings of the American populace during The Great Depression. I will admit that I was totally unaware of that phenomena. It has caused me to ponder if a similar situation could possibly occur in our current scenario.  

I’ll admit that I am startled by the depth and prescient nature of Vieira’s message and the timing of it. Vieira’s piece, A New Gold Seizure: Possibility or Paranoia was written on March 2, 2006. Here is an excerpt:

In short, a new gold and silver seizure would be conducted on the scale and with the ferocity of a veritable war of financial terror directed against every common American. For, indeed, the life or death of the bankers and their political puppets would be at stake as they never really were in the 1930s. After all, under the economic conditions of the 1930s the Federal Reserve System could probably have survived a relatively short-term “suspension of specie payments” without a gold seizure, if Roosevelt had not imposed the crackpot economic nostrums of his New Deal upon the country, prolonging the Depression until World War II. In a future crisis, however, unless the bankers and their political cronies could quickly “stabilize” the System by creating a new currency with some genuine economic and especially political credibility, the whole rotten pyramid of banking-cum-political power might collapse overnight from its elephantiasis of public and private debt, with disastrous consequences for the Establishment.

In keeping with its true nature, any future seizure of gold and silver would undoubtedly be labelled a “war measure” (albeit, of course, without identifying the American people as the politicians’ and bankers’ real enemies). To ape the precedent of the 1930s, and to lend the seizure a contemporary legal veneer, such a characterization would be necessary. In 1933, Roosevelt began the sequence of events that culminated in the original gold seizure by “freezing” all gold in the banks, under color of the Trading with the Enemy Act–a “war measure” from World War I quite inapplicable in peacetime, but which Congress immediately amended to whitewash Roosevelt’s usurpation of power. Today, the applicable statute provides that

[d]uring the time of war, the President may * * * investigate, regulate, or prohibit, any transactions in foreign exchange, transfers of credit or payments between, by, through, or to any banking institution, and the importing, exporting, hoarding, melting, or earmarking of gold or silver coin or bullion, currency or securities * * *.

Title 12, United States Code, section 95a(1)(A). That the President may exercise these powers only “[d]uring the time of war” also applied under the Trading with the Enemy Act; but that meant nothing to Roosevelt, who successfully pretended to employ that Act in time of peace. And it would probably not deter any future President, either, from twisting the present statute to his malign purposes whenever the Establishment demanded it.

Moreover, the limitation would not be hard to finesse, rhetorically at least, inasmuch as all too many Americans have become used to being told–and apparently to believing–that their country is at “war,” even without a declaration of “War” that the Constitution requires under Article I, Section 8, Clause 11. So, what the Establishment obviously intends to be a never-ending “war on terror” would surely be held to qualify as “[d]uring the time of war,” especially if a monetary and banking crisis arose coincidentally with a widespread use of gold and silver by Muslims as their media of exchange.

Yet, if a seizure of gold and silver could–and in a dire financial crisis probably would–be undertaken to save the Establishment’s bacon, with what likelihood would it succeed, even to the limited degree that Roosevelt’s gold seizure succeeded in the 1930s?


Unfortunately, the likelihood is not insignificant. The occasion for a seizure would be a monetary and banking crisis so severe that it threatened the continued existence of the Federal Reserve System, the solvency of the Treasury, and even the functioning of the entire domestic economy. In such a situation, a nationwide financial panic would ensue, probably worse than anything experienced during the 1930s. Unlike the 1930s, though, when millions of Americans possessed gold or silver coins and were familiar with the sound money that regularly passed from hand to hand as wages and salaries, and in the consumer economy, today relatively few Americans hold monetary gold or silver in any form, or understand anything at all about money and banking. So without personal experience, knowing nothing relevant to the problem facing them, and unable to evaluate the situation critically, in a severe crisis many Americans would likely believe anything they were told by public officials and the big media–especially if these sources of propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation emphasized that their prescriptions were the only way to restore the economic stability masses of people desperately desired.

Doubtlessly, too, politicians, the big media, and other of the Establishment’s mouthpieces would employ their tried and true “divide-and-conquer” strategy, to turn Americans against one another. In the run-up to a seizure of gold and silver, public officials and the media, following in the cloven hoofprints Roosevelt laid down during the 1930s, would broadcast hysterical attacks against “hoarders”–that is, individuals who wanted to retain their own gold and silver as private property. Inasmuch as in a financial crisis those Americans who had shown the foresight to acquire silver and gold would be better off than those who had not, such political defamation would play on envy, greed, and other vicious emotions to divert the attention of the unfortunate many from the people who had actually caused their misfortune to their innocent, but less unfortunate neighbors. Americans who possessed gold and silver would quickly be demonized as “unpatriotic” if they dared to keep their property for themselves, when public officials and bankers needed it to “stabilize” the monetary and banking systems, restore credit, create jobs, et cetera. Suffering the fate typical of unpopular messengers who bring bad news, those holders of gold and silver who had openly criticized the Federal Reserve System, had spoken up for the restoration of constitutional money, or had predicted a monetary and banking crisis as the inevitable consequence of the politicians’ and bankers’ fallacious policies would be branded dangerous “extremists.”


I will be looking into this topic further. In the meantime, please share your thoughts and comments.


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