A reader has recently turned me on to William Still’s 2009 film, The Secret of Oz, about the socialist writer L. Frank Baum, who happens to be my earliest political influence. In addition to his outrageously popular The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Baum wrote thirteen sequels in which Dorothy returns to Oz for further adventures. Many of his later books provide detailed depictions of Oz (always governed by women) as socialist utopias. I still vividly recall one of the more remote regions of Oz being governed by a young woman who is required by law to dress in plain clothing and live in a crude one room hut.
According to numerous scholars, parts of Baum’s 1900 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are loaded with symbols related to monetary reform, which was at the core of the Populist movement and the 1896 and 1900 presidential bids of Populist Democrat William Jennings Bryan. The yellow brick road represents the gold standard, the Scarecrow farmers, the Tin Man industrial workers, the Wicked Witch of the West Cleveland banker J.D. Rockefeller, the Wicked Witch of the East (NY banker J.P.Morgan), the Cowardly Lion William Jennings Bryant (who abandoned the call for monetary reform), the Emerald City of Oz (greenback money) and Dorothy’s silver slippers (changed to ruby slippers in the movie) Bryant’s call to introduce silver coins (in addition to gold-backed currency) to ease the money shortage during the 1890s depression.
This is clearly Still’s take on the controversy, though the primary purpose of the film is to explain the creation and control of debt-based money by private bankers.
Still traces the politics of monetary reform back to 30 AD, when a Nazarene carpenter engaged in violent direct action in a Jerusalem synagogue to evict the private bankers who sold the silver coins collected as temple tax. He also explores the use of state-controlled money in the American colonies and the early United States. He focuses particular attention on periods in which private banks deliberately shrank the money supply to trigger depressions (to increase profits or achieve specific political objectives), as well as efforts by Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson to end private corporate control of money. Both Jackson and Lincoln oversaw periods in which the federal government issued debt-free money. The former was the only president to ever pay off the national debt.
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