Utah goes for the gold

 

If you live in Utah, you can now pay your local bills or taxes with gold or silver coins, thanks to a law passed by the state legislature this year.

In 1873, the United States "demonetized" silver, although the metal was used in coins until 1964. As part of the New Deal, the federal government took gold out of circulation in 1934, and in 1971, the gold backing  of the U.S. dollar was removed. The price of gold was no longer fixed at $35 an ounce, and in 1975 Americans were again permitted to buy, sell and own gold.

The new Utah law directs the state treasurer to set the exchange rate (so many dollars for a given weight of gold or silver) and establishes guarded depositories for the metals.

Some accounts say Utah is the first state to do this; others say Colorado has had a similar statute in effect for years. As a 60-year Colorado resident, I haven't heard of it, and I'll point out that no one has offered to pay me in gold or silver since I baby-sat for my three-year-old cousin in the summer of 1963 and got paid with 10 silver dollars every week (if only I had kept them -- those old Morgans are now worth upwards of $50 apiece).

 

Is Utah's law constitutional? One provision of the federal constitution  says "No State shall ... make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts," which certainly implies that a state can make gold and silver coins a legal tender.

But the federal constitution is also clear about who does the coining. "No state shall ... coin Money" and Congress has the exclusive power "to coin Money" and "regulate the value thereof." 

Reaction seems to be positive from some conservative organs.

Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for the content.

Ed Quillen is a freelance writer in Salida, Colo.

 Image courtesy Flickr user Temari09
 

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