The crisis that occupied the feds’ attention while Maine reestablished the doctrine of Nullification was one that usually comes in the last days of ancien regimes. The currency was collapsing.
In October of 2018, a Big Mac cost $5.95. By October of 2023, it cost $99. For $150, you also got a small order of fries and a Coke.
The warning signs had been flashing for many years, but everyone in Washington ignored them. As late as the year 2000, the federal government had showed it could balance the budget. But for politicians, doing so had no payoff. The Republicans wanted tax cuts and the Democrats wanted more spending. So they cut a deal where each party would get what it wanted, and we would just borrow the money to pay for it all.
Through the 2000s and 2010s, the deficits soared, as did the national debt and the international trade deficit. Washington ignored all three. Then, in response to the financial panic of 2008, the Federal Reserve bank began printing money. Actually, it no longer had to print it. It could just enter a few keystrokes on a computer and presto!, trillions of dollars came into being. No one considered that something created so easily couldn’t be worth much.
Wall Street got even richer from all the phony money, but the real economy, where real people had to try to get jobs, remained in the tank. That kept down inflation, for a while.
The first people to realize that dollars had become green confetti were foreigners. Starting in the mid-teens, the dollar began to lose its position as the world’s reserve currency. Gold came back into its own as the only real money, at least internationally. The dollar’s role as reserve currency had given the American economy a huge subsidy. When it lost that subsidy, it tanked.
The Federal Reserve responded by creating dollars even faster, by the tens of trillions. All they knew how to do, when a bubble burst, was generate more liquidity to create yet another bubble.
But this time, the bubble was the dollar itself. When that bubble burst, beginning here at home in 2019, creating more dollars made the problem worse. But since that is all the Fed knew how to do, that is what it did.
By 2023, the Fed was creating dollars by the quadrillions. By March of 2024, that Big Mac cost $500,000. By July, it cost $50 million. Financial Weimar had followed cultural Weimar. The middle class was wiped out.
In Washington, Republicans and Democrats pointed fingers at each other, each hoping to ride the wave of middle class fury into long-term power. The public remembered that both parties had voted for the policies that brought the dollar down to where it took ten million to buy a single Mexican peso. That meant the political system offered no hope of a solution.
Revolutions and civil wars are the suicide of states. Men and women commit suicide when they are convinced their problems are overwhelming and there is no other way out. Nations rise in revolution or divide in civil war in response to the same conviction: continuation of the status quo is intolerable, and nothing but the death of the state offers any hope of escape from it.
The Federal government’s destruction of the dollar, and with it every American’s way of life, solidified the public against it. Not only solidified – radicalized. Afterwards, most Americans felt continued rule by such a government was unbearable. They did not yet know how to escape from under it. But they were ready to embrace any possibility. Including suicide.
The government’s response to the economic catastrophe it had created only deepened the public’s alienation. First, Congress indexed its own salaries and those of government employees. That meant their salaries went up week-by-week to keep up with the inflation. The rest of us were left to live as best we could on incomes that fell steadily, in terms of what they would buy.
We weren’t the first country to experience hyperinflation, and while everybody’s savings were gone for good, it was possible to stabilize the currency by the usual tough measures: stop printing more money, drastically cut government spending, run a budget surplus, and so on. The Feds refused to do any of it. It would have meant cutting off the parasites, the welfare queens, Wall Street bankers, government contractors, and all the rest. Those folks were the politicians’ base. The Fed kept on inventing money.
People tried to cope in the usual ways, by buying gold, hoarding foreign currencies, bartering, etc.
The government’s next response was to make ownership of gold illegal. If you already owned some, you had to sell it to the government at a fixed price – for paper dollars that in one day were worth half as much as when you got them, a day later a fourth as much, and so on. By this time, people were using $100 bills for toilet paper. It was cheaper than buying the real thing. Maybe that’s what economists mean by a “soft currency.”
Then, the feds ordered everyone to turn in all their foreign money as well. Banks were commanded to convert all foreign currency into dollars and send the renminbi and yen and pesos to Washington. By a secret government order, on December 7, 2024, the banks opened all safety deposit boxes and confiscated any precious metals and foreign money found in them. The rightful owners were not compensated, but fined.
Finally, Washington tried to outlaw barter as well. That was hopeless, but they tried. President Cisneros proposed and Congress (with a Republican majority, but in times of crisis the Establishment knows how to stick together) passed a law requiring all citizens to show receipts for any new goods in their possession. Failure to do so resulted in immediate confiscation, plus fines. Enforcement was given over to the IRS, on the reasonable grounds that it had always presumed guilt unless innocence could be proven by documentation. Armed teams of IRS agents would burst into a home, demanding receipts for anything they thought looked new. They still went through the motions of getting a warrant, but “probable cause” included the fact that the family was not starving. If they had food, they were presumed to have bought it. If they had no receipts for it, the food was confiscated too. And they were fined for having it.
Down east, we suffered along with the rest as our money turned into litter. But the Christian Marines’ notion that most crises were also opportunities had caught on. Just before Christmas, 2024, I got a letter from Bill Kraft asking if I would join him and a few others in a meeting with Governor Adams on December 27.
I went, though going wasn’t easy. Like most people in Maine, I had food and wood for heat, but gasoline was $1.5 billion a gallon by December, so my truck was up on blocks in the barn. I hiked down to Pittsfield, where I got a train for Augusta. We’d gotten passenger trains running again and, like most retro things, found we liked them. The one I rode was pulled by a steam engine converted to burn wood, of which we had plenty, so the fares were affordable.
There were about twenty people at the meeting, most of whom I more or less knew. They were the folks, up from the grass roots, who had put the Maine First Party together. I wasn’t sure what I would have to add to a political gathering, but I knew I’d learn a few things.
The governor began by saying something a lot of Mainiacs had been thinking. “Gentlemen, we’ve let this whole thing go too far already. Maine has shown it can act independently of Washington. The inflation problem has stymied us, because the currency is controlled from Washington. But we have to be able to think our way around that – and then do something. We cannot get peoples’ savings back, but there must be a way we can give them a currency that doesn’t lose value faster than it can be printed. I called you here to get your ideas on how we might do that.”
“Why don’t we just print our own money?” asked a fellow from Skowhegan.
“We’ve thought of that,” the governor replied. “We’re willing to do it; I don’t care whether Washington likes it or not. The problem is, what do we back it with? The ‘full faith and credit’ of a government, even our government, doesn’t mean anything any more. Our economists tell me any paper currency we issue will quickly lose value, the same as the dollar has.”
Bill Kraft spoke up. “As usual, history shows us the way to handle this. In the 1980s and 1990s, a number of other countries, faced the same problem. They solved it, and we can solve it by doing what they did.”
“What did they do?” Governor Adams asked.
“They established a new currency,” Kraft replied. “But to maintain its value, they only issued as much of it as they could back with foreign currency or gold. To guarantee that, they gave all authority to issue the new money to an independent Currency Board. The government could not give an order to run the presses. Once people understood that, they came to trust the new money. And it held its value.”
“Where do we get the gold or foreign currency to back our new money?” the Governor responded.
“We seize and sell or lease abroad all the federal assets in Maine that might be worth something,” said a fellow I didn’t know. He turned out to be Steve Ducen, an economist who had worked in Washington as long as he could take it, then fled up here. He had a prosperous apple farm near Lewiston now. “Start with the national parks; Japanese hotels will lease them in a heartbeat and put in golf courses. They’ll bring in Japanese tourists by the planeload, and we’ll feed ’em all the raw lobster they can eat.”
“Asia is booming, and we can cash in on that,” he continued. “American antiques are all the rage among wealthy Chinese. Maine has plenty, and we can make more. I’m already selling more than half my apples in Japan, Korea, and Singapore. With some clever marketing, we could sell potatoes, maple syrup, you name it. People who eat dogs and sea cucumbers will eat anything.”
“We don’t need to look just to Maine folks for foreign currency,” added John Rushton, President of the First Bank of Portland. “We can allow any American citizen to set up a gold or foreign currency account in a Maine bank. They bring their dollars up here, sell them for whatever they’ll bring in foreign currency, and set up an account. And, if they export, instead of having the feds turn the payments they get from abroad into worthless dollars, they can have them paid right into one of our banks. They can withdraw either the foreign money, or ours, as they choose.”
This sounded good to me, but I saw one question no one had addressed. So I asked it. “How do you keep the feds from getting into these accounts electronically and sucking the foreign money out?”
Bill Kraft had the answer – a perfect Retroculture answer. “There won’t be any electronic records,” he said. “Remember, we had banks long before we had computers. We just go back to doing it manually, with passbooks and account ledgers and the like. We run these accounts just the way they would have been handled in 1950 – or 1850, for that matter. In effect, we just pull the plug.”
I had to admit that was the ultimate electronic security system.
We did it. Maine began issuing Pine Tree Dollars in March, 2025. We soon got the kind of prices people remembered from before the U.S. dollar began its long slide. A loaf of bread again cost 15 cents. A pound of hamburger cost 20 cents. Gas stayed expensive at over $50 per gallon; we had no Maine oil. But horse feed was cheap because we grew our own.
Within six months, Pine Tree Dollars were in demand throughout the United States. Foreign currency flooded into Maine from the rest of the country, most of which was exchanged for Pine Tree Dollars. Within Maine, prices were stable, for the first time anyone could remember.
Washington was unhappy, of course, but it was now too weakened morally to dare any serious countermoves. Beyond denouncing us all once again as “racists, sexists, and classists,” the only action the Feds took was to order the U.S. Customs Service on Maine’s borders with Quebec and New Brunswick (both now independent) to seize all Pine Tree Dollars as well as gold and foreign currency held by people trying to cross.
Bill Kraft asked me if the Christian Marines could help out on this one. I said I thought we could. I had preached all along that we had to wait for the Federal Government to fall of its own weight. Now, it was down for the count. It would thrash around on the mat for a while, but I knew it would never get on its feet again. So we could be bolder.
On July 2, 2025, a mixed force of Maine Guard and Christian Marines arrived at the border crossings and rounded up the Customs officers. We gave them a choice. They could join the new Maine Customs Service and follow Maine laws, or stay with the feds and get shipped south. Most lived in Maine and were happy to join us. They despised Washington as much as any of us.
Just thirteen Customs agents said they wanted to remain with the feds. We took them down to Augusta, where on July 4, in festive fashion, they were paraded in their U.S. Customs Service Uniforms. We then bent them over, cut the seat out of their trousers, painted their backsides red and bundled them all into a boxcar with waybills for Washington, D.C. As their train pulled out of the station, the Governor led the crowd in a rousing toast to Maine, a sound dollar, and liberty.