Thursday, April 22, 2021

PROLOG to The Flight of the Barbarous Relic

We're told by experts that the Fed is our number one inflation fighter, our protector against economic meltdown. Certainly, any person who cares about our country would accord it only the highest respect. But Preston Mathews wants to destroy the Fed. And he's apparently surrendered everything -- including the woman he loves -- to do so. Who is this renegade who wishes to bring back the dark days of despair, as his critics charge? He's the Fed's top gun, the lord of interest rates . . . the chairman of the Federal Reserve. 


The man approaching him in the August twilight was tall and thick through the chest, though nothing in his movements suggested a threat.  He strolled with a hand slipped casually in his pants pocket, even stopping once to pick up a piece of litter and toss it in a nearby barrel.  He could almost pass for one of D.C.’s tourists taking a late walk through a public park. 

Yet, on seeing him Ricky Sawyer’s stomach churned.  This was no casual meeting taking place.  He had known this moment would come and had dreaded it, and Sawyer was not prone to unnecessary fears.  As he waited under one of the many security lights in the area, the man stopped abruptly in the shadows, kneeled down and retied a running shoe that was properly laced.  Sawyer took the hint and moved all 282 pounds of himself over to join him.

“What’s with the cloak and dagger?” Sawyer asked.

The man stood up.  “I need the favor returned.”

Sawyer chuckled nervously.  “What do you want me to do?  Hack the president’s PC?”

“Nothing that easy, my friend.  I need you to set up a website.  Over time, you’ll be supplied with content.  But I need the site established now, to make sure the name is available.”

“You could go to anyone for a website.”

“Not this one.”

Sawyer hesitated.  ”What’s going on?”

“How much do you remember from Professor Stefanelli’s class?”

“Everything.  Paper versus rock.  Paper won.  We lost.”

“Right.  I want to put an end to paper.  Permanently.”

Sawyer chuckled. “Sounds like you’re going to blow up your office.”

“More along the lines of a crash course in hoax awareness.  That’s why I need your help.”

“Where’s the danger come in?”

“The content.  The power holders won’t like it.”

“There are a lot of things they don’t like.  Why—“

“—I guarantee this will upset them beyond anything you can imagine.  You’ll have to keep a low profile.  Make that no profile.  You’ll have to disappear.”

“Tall order for a whale, chief.”

“Any taller than breaking into the Eccles Building network?”

“No, guess not.”

“I think you’ll be okay.  But listen, this won’t work unless you understand what’s at stake.  Do you?”

Sawyer thought for a moment. “Yeah.  Civilization.  Under paper, little guys like me lose their wealth, liberty, and sometimes their lives, while government grows more bloated, corrupt, and oppressive.”

“And the cause?”

“Paper.  Inflation.”

“What’s inflation done for us historically?”

“According to Professor Stefanelli, without inflation we have no World War I, no Great Depression, no World War II, no Cold War, no Viet Nam, no taxpayer-funded bailouts, no bubbles, no war on terrorism, no Iraq.  Without inflation Cindy Sheehan is just another mom with a son.  Without inflation, instead of endless acres of white crosses marking the battlefield dead, men are left free to live.  Imagine that.  And when those men are geniuses like me or Google founders Page and Brin, the whole world profits.  Without inflation to build up militaries, we might’ve had nuclear power without nuclear bombs.  She also said something to the effect that if inflation were a disease, it would be considered the number one killer of human life.  There was more.  Give me time and I’ll remember it.”

“Do you agree with any of that?”

“Too simplistic.  But then, where would the computer age be without electricity?  Pull the plug and the computers go away.  So it was hard to argue with her.”

“But you did.”

“Of course.  But the truth is, without massive amounts of money the First World War doesn’t go far – four months, according to a writer who was around at the time.  And nothing beats the printing press for producing large amounts of money in a hurry – paper money.  And if World War I is aborted, the rest of the century looks a little brighter.  I would say she’s not far from the truth, at least.”

“Not bad for a hacker.  You talked about inflation but didn’t define it.  Can you?”


“More precisely . . .”

“I didn’t expect a quiz.  The going definition is a rise in the general price level.”

“Do you accept that definition?”

“No, because you can have inflation without price increases.  Productivity improvements work against rising prices.”

“Any other reason not to accept the definition of inflation as rising prices?”

“Yeah, it obscures the cause.”

“Which is?”

“More paper.  More money.  An increase in the money supply.”

“How is the money supply increased?”

“Through treachery.  First the snap,” Sawyer said, snapping his fingers, “in which the Fed creates money from nothing.  Then the crank,” he continued, rotating his right arm in a cranking motion, “as the banks multiply that amount through credit expansion.  Then the pop” – He slapped his hands – “when the bubble bursts and everyone gets fired.  Sawyer’s theory of the business cycle in three words: snap, crankle, and pop.”

“But isn’t that how prosperity is funded?  By increasing the money supply?”

“No.  That’s how the inflationary boom is started or prolonged.”

“Is that a good thing?”

“It is if you’re one of the insiders.  Without it, the military/industrial/ congressional/welfare racket takes a big hit.  Governments would have to rely mostly on taxes to pay their bills.”

“What would that do for war if governments had to pay for it with taxes?”

“Make it an endangered species.”

“So if you’re a government bent on war—“

“Inflation is a sacred cow.”

“And who causes inflation?”



“I’m looking at him.”

“I think you understand what we’re fighting.”

“I do.”

They shook hands.

“I’ll be in touch,” the man said.

Later that night Sawyer received an email containing a web address only.  After confirming the site didn’t exist he set about to create it, as agreed.

In the weeks that followed, Sawyer would find it difficult to believe their conversation was at all serious.  Nothing had been added to the website, and other than the terse email there had been no contact between them.  The topic they had discussed seemed weird at the time and even more so as time passed.  Perhaps their meeting was a brutal prank, a form of payback for the hack he had pulled.  It seemed like it was.  He began to feel like a fool for trusting him.

But Sawyer was wrong.  The day finally arrived when all doubts were forever removed.


George Ford Smith is a former mainframe and PC programmer and technology instructor, the author of eight books including a novel about a renegade Fed chairman (Flight of the Barbarous Relic), a filmmaker (Do Not Consent), and an advocate of stateless market government.  He eagerly welcomes speaking engagements and can be reached at

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