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Unread 04-16-2012, 03:55 PM   #1
FlyingAxe
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Scope of Dina D'Malchusa Dina in the USA

Discussing what constitutes a "malchus" that can confiscate property in a form of taxes, Rambam writes: it must issue currency which most of the population considers legal tender.

My question is: in today's United States, the individual states are prohibited by the US Constitution to mint money. Does this mean that dina d'malchusa dina does not apply to the states?

Tricky thing about the 50 States is that they are separate political entities from the Federal Government. The States are not merely provinces (like individual State counties whose existence is merely an administrative phenomenon), because politically, United States is a federation, not a nation. It is a collection of sovereign countries which came together to create a Federal Government but retained their sovereignty (see, e.g., 10th Amendment of US Constitution). Because the existence of the Federal Government is derived from the existence of the States and not vice versa, one could not argue that one has to obey state laws because one has to obey the Federal laws (that is why there is no Federal law that says "people will obey local state laws"; the Federal Government would have no jurisdiction to pass such a law).

On the other hand, in Russia or France, where local provinces also do not have authority to mint money, local governments are an extension of the national government and derive their power to govern from its power.
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Unread 04-16-2012, 10:54 PM   #2
noahidelaws
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But doesn't the Federal Gov't mint the money on behalf of the States, with their full consent?
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Unread 04-16-2012, 11:10 PM   #3
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"Milhouse" (a known internet personality ) sent me the following comment when he saw the thread:
Quote:
No, the fedgov does not mint money on the states' behalf; it does that
in its own right.

But the basis of the question doesn't really stand. Matbeiah yotz'ah is
a measure of public acceptance and recognition. If people accept a man's
coins in trade, then they clearly recognise him as a king whose coins are
worth something and are likely to remain worth something, and not as a
bandit who will be gone tomorrow and whose coins will then be worth no
more than their weight in metal. There is no question that people in
the various states accept their state governments as legitimate.

Of course this doesn't answer all the *other* questions about where a
malchus gets authority, and how it can make dinim. Not to mention the
fundamental point that the word "dino" is neither a mitzvas asei nor a
lo sa'aseh, i.e. DdMD creates neither an obligation to obey the law nor a
prohibition on disobeying it.
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Unread 04-17-2012, 12:21 AM   #4
FlyingAxe
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So what makes a government "malchus" is not coinage of money, but the people's acceptance of the government as legitimate? Where is the mokor for that?

How do we know that people accept local governments as legitimate? Maybe they are just afraid of them, and that's why they don't violate the laws? Also, how many people need to accept the government as legitimate? 50%? What if less than that vote in local elections?

Quote:
If people accept a man's
coins in trade, then they clearly recognise him as a king whose coins are
worth something and are likely to remain worth something
In 19th century England, there was private coinage. Private mints produced copper "tokens" which were used in local retail trade (the tokens were fiduciary media with elaborate engravings to protect against counterfeiting). They filled the niche left over by incompetent British government that was not able to distribute low-value coins.

I.e., it's a fallacy to assume that you need a king to mint coins.
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