What Does Ron Paul Have Against Baseball Coins?

A man of principle, the libertarian presidential candidate opposes commemorative coins for the Hall of Fame. Why?

Ron Paul Astros jersey 76 - banner.jpg

Ron Paul circa 1976, playing baseball in a Houston Astros replica uniform

As innocuous bills go, the National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act sounds about as controversial as naming a post office after a war hero. Who could oppose the minting of a few commemorative baseball coins?

As it turns out, three Republicans, including Ron Paul.

When that bill made it to the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, it was opposed by Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), and Paul, the libertarian presidential candidate and renowned currency hawk. The bill passed 416-3.

Paul's office did not respond to a request for comment about his vote, but when it comes to money, Paul has made his views well known.

The congressman has long opposed what he has deemed manipulative intervention by the Federal Reserve, which controls national monetary policy. In his book End the Fed, Paul blamed the Federal Reserve's alleged inflationary shell game for an artificial boom-and-bust economy that will lead America down a path to inevitable ruin. In Paul's book, the Fed sounds a bit like Matt Taibbi's description of Goldman Sachs.

Paul's big problem with American money is this: It's fiat currency, unmoored to any metallic reserve, leaving it prone to collapse in his view. Paul supports a return to the gold standard.

In the National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act, a different kind of financial monetary intervention is afoot: financing the Hall of Fame by selling the coins with surcharges attached. The bill amounts to a Cooperstown funding drive; that's why Rep. Amash voted against it.

The bill would direct Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to mint half-dollar, $1, and $5 coins -- and to sell them with $5, $10, and $35 surcharges, all of which would be paid exclusively to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"It's far beyond the proper scope of the federal government to act as a sales agent for a private group," Amash wrote on his Facebook page. "I voted no."

The bill also lays out some picky design instructions. Imagine a blue screen with credit-card logos and the number for the Capitol switchboard:

d) Sense of Congress- It is the sense of Congress that, to the extent possible without significantly adding to the purchase price of the coins, the $1 coins and $5 coins minted under this Act should be produced in a fashion similar to the 2009 International Year of Astronomy coins issued by Monnaie de Paris, the French Mint, so that the reverse of the coin is convex to more closely resemble a baseball and the obverse concave, providing a more dramatic display of the obverse design chosen pursuant to section 4(c).

Ron Paul is nothing if not principled. If he doesn't like fiat money, why vote to mint more of it, even if it will possibly feature a sweet convex/concave design for more "dramatic display"?

This year, Paul introduced a radical bill: the Free Competition in Currency Act, which would repeal legal-tender laws. If Paul's bill became law, no one would have to accept U.S.-minted currency, and independent mints could start producing their own coins and bills free of government taxation. The bill would allow "free market forces" to control the supply and cost of money, as Paul's website explains it.

"If you solve the money monopoly problem by ending the Fed, you solve many other problems, too," Paul wrote in End the Fed. "Essentially you take away from the government the capacity to use financial trickery to expand without limit."

If Paul had it his way, the Hall of Fame could issue its own coins, countering inflation by forcing down the price of money through competition, and someday funding a giant gold Colossus in the likeness of Albert Pujols -- all without the interventionist hand of the federal government.

Image provided by Keystone Oaks (Pa.) School District