Deriving US Mad……..Part One


It’s easy to understand derivatives by performing the following exercise.

Take a nice crisp dollar bill. Lay it on a copier machine and make a copy (just one side will do- let’s NOT be criminal). Now compare the print out with the original. How’s it look? Aside from the obvious color and texture differences, it’s a pretty faithful counterfeit, right? Now make a copy of the copy and compare that one to the original. Little fuzzy, huh? You can repeat this several times over comparing the copy of the copy of the copy to the original and see that eventually after repeated duplications the end copy is only a meagre resemblance to the original dollar.

So this is how derivation works: whether it’s the weakening of the US dollar or diluting where the buck stops in any given bureaucracy (try calling back the last techie  you were talking to in Haridwar (India) before you got cut off) or how about getting a prompt appliance warranty repair from a big box store like Sears? Or, for an extended foray into red tape bog, decide to adopt a child, internationally, from a developing country, that used to be communist but has yet to send any bureaucrats packing.

Interestingly,  the same type of degeneration via duplication is a major cause of aging. The original cells get corrupted with each Xerox. Our DNA stretches only so far. Our bodies cannot derive our cells forever, much to the delectation of plastic surgeons, botox cosmologists, and funeral parlor proprietors.

Information is also compromised. The circle game of beginning a story and retelling from person to person affirms that what goes in never comes around and out the same way. In fact, the differences are often striking if not hilarious, hence the popularity of such games.

What is rumor but a derivation of a nugget of truth? What is propaganda but a manipulative promulgation of rumor mongering?

“And, after all, what is a lie? ‘Tis butThe truth in masquerade.” Lord Byron, Don Juan

We as humans are ourselves derivations, for good or ill, of our past genealogical heritage just as our kids are derivations of us. We are not God, so the Bible says (though some persons in power act like it), rather we’re made “in the image” of God, meaning we’re not clones of the Creator, and the vast majority of us aren’t even signed and numbered limited editions. The Star Trek replicator has yet to appear.

Not to disparage derivation altogether. Better to inoculate with a derived antibiotic than be prescribed, “Eat two pieces of this moldy bread and call me in the morning.” There’s hardly anything we touch that isn’t derived from a petroleum or natural gas source, and considering that which electrifies our world via coal, sun, water, or wind-it’s all ultimately connected to sun radiation (derived from fusion and a cosmic do-si-do between matter and anti-matter.(See

There are derivations that concentrate (such as the aforementioned antibiotic originating from bread mold) and derivations that dilute. In terms of fiat currency, or paper money that’s printed,  the world has yet to see a long term success.  No longer tied to gold, since 1971, the US dollar is now an abstract icon derived from our government’s  “good faith and credit”. I’ve got in my wallet a wad of Federal Reserve Notes (really IOU’s) all signed by Timothy Geithner. What could go wrong?

The only difference between me copying dollar bills for circulation versus the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing doing the same is that they get to dilute the value legally. Tacitly a significant difference, but the end result is the same.

Next: Part 2 The Fakery of Fiat Currency

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