Associated Press
In this May 13, 2008 file photo, gold standard bars are piled up at the gold smelter company Argor-Heraeus in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

On March 25th of this year, Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law the Utah Legal Tender Act, making gold and silver coin legal tender in Utah. Nearly six months to the day after that ground breaking event, more than 150 people gathered in Salt Lake City to deliberate over the future of monetary reform.

The conference theme, "choice in currency," ties directly to the new Utah law which offers an alternative to paper U.S. dollars. Exercising their new monetary rights by exchanging precious metal coin, either physically or electronically, at fair market value for goods and services, Utahns can send a strong signal to Washington concerning its inflationary policies.

Still early to predict the final endgame, the 25 summit speakers explored credible reform plans ranging from restoration of a de facto gold standard to privately issued money. Such concepts were presented not in an esoteric way, but as practical solutions to what citizens are seeking: sound money reliably holding stable value over time. In discussing workable solutions, the presenters necessarily cast light on the dysfunction and inequity of the status quo.

While Inflation generally creeps upwards, energy and food prices have skyrocketed while the economy stagnates under easy money policies. Sound money reform calls not only for a return to fundamental principles and for relief from the economic misery of the last four years, but it also calls for a revival of the American social contract.

Addressing a large dinner time audience at the summit, American Principles Project Chairman Sean Fieler described how this idea — that anyone, including the average guy, can get ahead through hard work and ingenuity — has been seriously eroded by the inequality that paper money has created. Since the U.S. broke the dollar's link to gold in 1971, median household income has barely risen, and then only as a result of the general move towards two-income households.

The government has tried to paper over this trend by understating inflation, but as Fieler explained, "In essence, by trading price stability for its mere appearance, we have given the middle class the appearance of progress without its substance." This state of affairs prevails because years ago central bankers and bureaucrats decided they were better equipped to determine the value of our money than the free market under the time-tested gold standard.

This and other penetrating critiques explain the growing intuition of many Americans that the paper money monopoly is bad for the country as a whole. While conferences on fiscal policy or public finance tend to be routine, this first-of-its-kind summit on choice in currency was remarkable for its sense of urgency and influx of speakers and guests from across the United States as well as from Europe and Asia.

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At the night's end, those in attendance walked en masse to Fort Douglas' nearby Post Chapel to sign the Utah Monetary Declaration and sound the church bell, hopefully ringing in a new era of monetary liberty. The declaration (posted at affirms the essential right of all people to use the money of their choice, including especially gold and silver coin. The mounting interest in necessary reform displayed at the Utah Monetary Summit signals that what started in Utah six months ago is fast becoming a mainstream ecumenical concern embraced by free society worldwide.

Larry Hilton is founder of Utah-based Citizens for Sound Money, and Rich Danker is the economic policy director at American Principles Project, a Washington policy organization.