Sunday, August 20, 2017

A sign of the times?

Over the past decade, collectors of ancient coins have been faced with constant pressure from left wing radicals of academia—particularly the archaeological community leadership and their sycophants.  Among the ardent supporters of anti-collector groups are a small but well entrenched cadre of bureaucrats in Washington.  The level of governmental infiltration by these cultural property nationalists—bent on eliminating or controlling international trade in cultural property—is in itself cause for some concern.  History is replete with examples of ideology supplanting law and individual rights in a quest for social management.  It has been the cause of more than one major war between nations, not to mention a global plethora of internal strife over the desire to dictate.

In recent years there has been a barrage of baseless claims in the liberal press stating boldly that the terrorist movements of the Middle East are being funded by huge revenues from the sale (mainly within the U.S.) of ancient artifacts looted in conflict areas either from theft or support of illegal excavation and exportation.  Even avowed supporters of academic archaeology have debunked these wild claims, but they continue to proliferate in the media without justification or any basis in fact.  It's the "Big Lie" in what some see as its finest hour.  One element of that campaign was an Executive Branch program created during the Obama Administration ostensibly to interdict illegal trade and monetary transfers that aided terrorists.  The project was called Operation Choke Point and one of its goals was to throttle trade that the administration considered suspect.  In reality, the project became a tool for ideologues to exert pressure on legitimate business that they disagreed with philosophically.  Ancient coin dealers were among that group targeted.  Under pressure from governmental agencies, several banks cancelled longstanding business accounts with dealers in ancient coins—not due to any transgression nor illegal activity, but simply because they dealt in ancient coins.  Of course, those disenfranchised businesses lodged complaints with their elected representatives and Congress held numerous related hearings that outlined problems to no avail.  The Executive Branch was apparently within its rights and sphere of influence in imposing this form of repressive overreach.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on which way one looks at the situation, the ancient coin community was not alone.   Operation Choke Point affected many other legitimate enterprises in negative ways that the Obama Administration accepted and explained as "collateral consequences".  One was expected to believe that the philosophical overtones were merely coincidental.  This nonchalant writeoff of legitimate American business drew much attention and as early as January 2014 Forbes contributor Tom Basile wrote, "There is a dangerous arrogance of power among the President and senior-level Democrats that should concern every American."

Happily, we can now speak of Operation Chokepoint in the past tense.  As of August 16, 2017 the Trump Administration has terminated that program and described it as a "misguided initiative".  Hopefully, this is a sign of the times and the present administration will also recognize the negative consequences of bureaucratic overreach at the State Department and U.S. Customs.  They might start with implementation of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act and guide the bureaucracy back to a position consistent with the law and not driven, as it has been, by misguided ideology.

No comments: