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The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 13, March 28, 2010, Article 20

MORE ON THE STOLEN VALOR ACT OF 2005

François Velde submitted these thoughts on last week's quoted editorial from USA Today on the Stolen Valor act, which criminalizes the display of unearned military award medals. -Editor

The editorial on Stolen Valor states:

If Congress can criminalize such claims, it could make half of the pick-up lines used in bars across the country crimes. It could theoretically criminalize other false claims from architects to accountants to anthropologists.

The clearest sign that this statement is a bit extravagant is the fact that Congress criminalized such claims a long time ago, 87 years to be precise. The Act of February 24, 1923 (42 Stat 1286) punished the unauthorized wearing, manufacture or sale of War Department medals by fine and imprisonment. Any ensuing harm to architects, accountants, or anthropologists would surely have been noticed by now.

First Amendment rights are important, but they have limits; they have never protected counterfeiting, trademark infringements, or impersonation of military personnel. Of course, wearing a false medal may not seem like an actual fraud, but circulating false currency might not seem like a fraud either. In both cases, however, the victims are the holders of the real things which lose a little of their value with every false one out there.

In 1923, Congress felt that it had to protect the value of the medals it issued and that existing laws were insufficient. (Curiously, decorations of allied countries had been protected since 1918). Most countries have long criminalized counterfeiting the honors they bestow, because they are just as vulnerable as fiat money. One could debate whether Congress should be issuing such baubles at all; but if it is, it stands to reason that it would protect their value.

As with fiat money, of course, a government can debase its own honors by issuing too many; certain European countries have been rather profligate in this respect as in others.

To read the complete article, see: STOLEN VALOR: AN EDITORIAL (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v13n12a24.html)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address: whomren@gmail.com

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