By SETH LIPSKY, Special to the Sun | September 29, 2011
The first time I met Friedrich Hayek was in 1980 at California, where he was staying at the home of another economist. Then a young editor for the Wall Street Journal, I’d asked to call on the Nobel laureate for a book review I was writing. His host invited me for dinner. Before the meal, Hayek and I retreated, alone, to the far end of the host’s living room, for a chat.
Wikimedia Commons/Mises Institute
We were but a few minutes into our conversation when, suddenly, Hayek clapped a hand over his nose and mouth and started coughing convulsively, before slumping onto the couch. I raced back to the host to exclaim that Professor Hayek seemed to be in trouble, only to be told that it was okay, he was just taking his snuff. A jolt of the divine herb, it seems, and the sage was back on his feet.
Hayek died 12 years later at the age of 93. I never came to know him well. But this week I found myself imagining that were his long-ago collapse-into-a-coughing fit to occur in front of me today, I’d whip out a copy of a new bill in Congress, H.R. 1098, called the Free Competition in Currency Act of 2011, and wave that under the great economist’s nose. It’s hard to think of anything, even a pinch of the strongest snuff, being a greater pick-me-up for his spirits.
For Hayek was an advocate of, among other things, private money — competing currencies — and HR 1098 would end a ban on them that has obtained here in America since the Civil War. The new bill in Congress, introduced in March by Rep. Ron Paul, would repeal the legal tender laws, prohibit taxation of certain coins and bullion, and clean up other sections of our coinage laws.