Dante’s Inferno Suggests Why Washington Lies in the Eighth Circle of Hell — And How It Can Escape

Illustration by Sandro Botticelli: Dante and Virgil visit the eighth circle of Hell
Illustration by Sandro Botticelli: Dante and Virgil visit the eighth circle of Hell

Revealed, in my Forbes.com column last weekend:

Washington appears stuck in the Eighth Circle to which Dante assigns Falsifiers. Dante consigned alchemists and counterfeiters to the bottom of this next-to-lowest circle of Hell. As one commentator on classical literature notes Dante there encounters:

… an alchemist who extracted large sums of money from Alberto da Siena. Griffolino extracted money by promising Alberto that he would teach him to fly like Daedalus. When Alberto discovered he had been tricked, he had his “uncle,” the Bishop of Siena, burn Griffolino as a sorcerer. Griffolino is not punished for sorcery, but for falsification of silver and gold through alchemy.

[…]

As for alchemists, a long time ago — on August 15, 1971, to be exact — President Nixon succumbed to the blandishments of his Treasury Secretary John Connally to “close the gold window.” The promise was to make the economy fly. The dollar was converted from currency to money.  The promise proved false.

[…]

August 15, 1971 was the day the American Dream — of equitable prosperity — began to die. The Federal Reserve Note Standard was, in fact, an attempt at a sort of modernist alchemy.  It set the stage for the subsequent flat-lining of median family income. Now to turn that around.

[…]

The Fed’s halo noticeably is dimming. Word’s getting around. Before recess House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was handed a gift by Reps. Hensarling, Huizenga, Garrett, and Brady with the full committee passage of the Centennial Monetary Commission, H.R. 2912, and Fed Oversight Reform and Modernization Act, H.R. 3189.

There is abundant evidence that good, rather than easy, money holds the promise to end the Little Dark Age of stagnation. Good money can provide sizzling job creation. Good money was instrumental in creating jobs under Reagan and Clinton.

By bringing these bills to the floor of the House McCarthy, and, as a capstone to his really fine legacy Boehner, could lay the foundation for a game changing shift of policy back toward equitable prosperity and greater political harmony. Congress has the power, and, now, the legislative vehicles, to begin resurrecting the American Dream.

Recourse to classics such as The Divine Comedy cast light upon the political tragedy in which our officials are enmeshed, deriving, courtesy of bad money, to the economic Little Dark Age in which we find ourselves in Year 15.

Ralph Benko, internationally published weekly columnist, co-author of The 21st Century Gold Standard, lead co-editor of the Gerald Malsbary translation from Latin to English of Copernicus’s Essay on Money, is American Principles in Action’s Senior Advisor, Economics.