Category Archives: Book Reviews

Finance Smurf – A Post-2008 look at a Classic Graphic Novel

8/22/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

In November of 1992 Pierre Culliford, a renowned author and illustrator published a graphic novel of tremendous gravity and startling economic insight.  The novel would be his last, as on December 24, 1992, Culliford suffered a heart attack at his home in Brussels and passed away the same day.

Culliford is known by his nickname, Peyo, and he was the creator of the Schtroumpfs, who are better known by their English name, the Smurfs.

Peyo’s final novel, Finance Smurf, at long last has an English translation which became available on July 1, 2014.

Seen through the lens of post 2008 skepticism with regards to the financial system that continues to hold the world in shackles, the novel seems especially timely, and the marketing copy on the back cover, which reads:

“99% of the Smurfs have left the Smurfs Village!  No one but the Finance Smurf wants to occupy the Smurfs Village!”

appears to be nothing more than an attempt to carry on the rallying cry of the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011.  However, as one opens the cover and peers into the world of Peyo’s Smurfs, it is clear that the author intended to call into question everything the reader thought they understood about money, and in large part, he succeeded.

Occupy Wall Street Poster
“Wall-Street-1” by Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Occupy Wall Street via Wikipedia –

While the Smurfs are, well, the Smurfs, and as such will invariably be forever adorable and highly entertaining in the eyes of most of humanity, here at The Mint we will look past the novel’s obvious merits of providing page after page of blue colored cuteness and highlight our observations of the merits of the economic arguments and questions that it raises as well as the metaphors employed via the roles played by long-standing characters in the following review.  Enjoy!

Finance Smurf

The novel Finance Smurf is set in Smurfs Village.  It begins with the incapacitation of Papa Smurf, the Smurf who keeps Smurf Village safe and orderly, who is laid up by a laboratory accident.  In this sense, Papa Smurf may be seen as a metaphor for a benevolent dictator or embodiment of a divine being for the Smurfs.  This is important, as it is the absence of the ongoing intervention of Papa Smurf in daily life that gives room for the mischief in the novel to occur (Smurf fans will quickly recognize this plot device employed by Peyo).

It then falls to Finance Smurf to seek an antidote, which takes him to the world of humans.  It is there that he learns the concept of money and becomes fascinated by it.  It is interesting that he does not appear to immediately recognize the creation of money as a means to enrich himself.

Indeed a hallmark of the Smurfs is the communist (or socialist) structure of their life in the Village.  Here at The Mint, we do not find this odd, as we have explored in-depth here at The Mint the fact that socialism is the norm in self-supporting economic systems the size of Smurfs’ Village who have a Papa Smurf, so to speak, as a universally respected authority figure.  What drives people to Capitalism is the need to tacitly make economic decisions in the absence of a universally respected authority figure, hence Peyo’s need to sideline Papa Smurf at the outset for the narrative to play out.

Finance Smurf returns to Smurfs’ Village with the antidote, as well as a burning desire to introduce money and the human system of trade to the Smurfs.  First, he reasons that he needs gold coins with Papa Smurfs likeness on them to use as monetary units.  He goes to Painter Smurf for the artistic rendering, Sculptor Smurf for the mold for the coins, Miner Smurf for the gold (Miner Smurf, ironically, has a pile of gold sitting there which he has no use for, as he is diligently extracting flint with his pick axe). Handy Smurf then melts the gold and makes the coins using the mold.

Here we interject another observation.  The day-to-day activities of the Smurfs are dependent upon their profession (or lack thereof).  In the absence of money the Smurfs simply do what they do.  There are rarely specific value judgments made with regards to what the Smurfs do, though all of their actions appear to be motivated by the needs of their fellow Smurfs and throwing the occasional party.  This system, while idyllic, assumes that everyone wants to maintain the status quo.  The maintenance of the status quo is at once the pillar of strength and the Achilles heel of Socialism.

It is clear that for Painter Smurf, Sculptor Smurf, and Handy Smurf, the requests of Finance Smurf are outside of the status quo.  However, being good Smurfs, they go along with it and hope for the best.

With the coins made, Finance Smurf calls a meeting of all Smurfs, introduces the concept of money, and hands out an equal share of the coins to each Smurf.  The Smurfs initially do not know how to operate in the new system, so Finance Smurf helps them by doing some back of the napkin costing analysis of their activities.  It is worth noting here that this activity is also the hallmark of Socialist systems, the central planning of prices.

As the Smurfs begin to trade, the predictable begins to happen.  The productive elements of society, Farmer Smurf, Handy Smurf, Baker Smurf, and so on, soon have more coins than they know what to do with.  They take them to Finance Smurf, who is now acting as the bank, to be invested.  On the other side, artists such as Harmony Smurf and Poet Smurf find themselves short of money and then mortgage their houses to Finance Smurf.  Lazy Smurf is hardest hit.

If it was not obvious to readers to this point, Finance Smurf begins to embody Central Banks and Wall Street.  At one point, Baker Smurf calls out Finance Smurf for lending at 10% but only giving him a 6% return.  In a nod to the foreclosure crisis, Finance Smurf becomes owner of all of the real estate in Smurfs’ Village.  There is a reference to privatization of public works, as when the bridge goes out, the Smurfs look to Finance Smurf to pay for the replacement, which he does in exchange for the right to collect a toll.  Even corruption is broached as there is some price-fixing for lumber on the bridge project orchestrated by Finance Smurf.

In short, Finance Smurf comes to embody everything that everybody hates about today’s financial system.  The rest of the Smurfs, fed up with the swift disaster that the Money system introduced by Finance Smurf has brought upon them, leave to build another village.  In this action, they take the only logical step in the face of monetary tyranny.  It is a wonder that more of us do not venture out and do the same today.

In terms of economic lessons to be taken from Finance Smurfs, there is little more to be gleaned.

The remaining Social/Political lessons are taught via the intervention of Gargamel, the Smurfs’ arch nemesis.  Gargamel counterfeits coins, echoing a form of economic sabotage employed by nations at war, and lures the Smurfs to them, relying on their newfound greed to be their downfall.  Fortunately, Papa Smurf returns and wisely guides the Smurfs away from the trap.

In another odd twist, Papa Smurf, once he becomes aware of the new Money system that has been introduced during his time of incapacitation, does not act to stop it, instead, he bumbles along with it as many a powerful emeritus would do, until the Smurfs ultimately leave to build another village, safely away from the scourge of money.


As an adult reading Finance Smurf in the post 2008 socio-economic landscape, one gets an eerie sense that Peyo was on to something back in 1992, and cleverly communicated it to the world.  While the ongoing economic analogies presented in the novel are quite clear, Peyo proves stunningly accurate in his depiction of Finance Smurf inventing money and introducing it to the populace, along with a monopoly on usury, for in this way Central Banks unwittingly enslave the world by promulgating the debt based money supply.

The Peyo’s final triumph is his clairvoyant depiction of the Smurfs’ unanimous decision to simply leave the village that was their happy home before it became the illegitimate property of Finance Smurf, and build another village just a stone’s throw away, yet with one marked difference; the absence of money and its creator.

True to form, the Smurfs reconcile with Finance Smurf who repents of his ways.  For Smurfdom, and indeed our world, was never meant to live under the tyranny of perpetual debts.  The Smurfs in Smurfs’ Village, who had a small-scale debt problem which quickly got out of hand, simply left and went elsewhere.  Jewish law called for a Jubilee, recognizing both the necessity of money and finance for large-scale commerce and the necessity of liberation from the snares that they created amongst what would otherwise be a brotherhood of man.  What, then, is the solution for an entire world living under the scourge of a 100-year-old debt based monetary system?

Following the Smurfs may not be a bad idea after all.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Key Indicators for August 22, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.20
Oil Price per Barrel (WTI):  $93.50

Corn Price per Bushel:  $3.65
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.40%
Bitcoin price in US:  $518.00
FED Target Rate:  0.09%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,280

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  6.2%
Inflation Rate (CPI):   0.1%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  17,001
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,694,800,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,393,400,000,000

What is Money? A quest to answer the question of the ages

Be the first to download our latest e-book, free until February 7, 2013:

What is Money?  A quest to answer the question of the ages

It is the first in our ‘Why what we use as Money Matters” series and is available now at, coupon code: PG74U

What is Money?  By David Mint

THE LORD IS SALVATION: Proto-Isaiah (Isaiah 1-39)

As we began to study Isaiah’s life, it became clear why he is distinguished as the greatest of all the prophets. Over 600 years before Christ walked the earth; Isaiah was entrusted with the vision of Christ’s coming to rescue humanity. He saw the Messiah, and it changed him forever.

At long last, you can find our latest Ebook on the prophet Isaiah at Smashwords:

THE LORD IS SALVATION: Proto-Isaiah (Isaiah 1-39)


“The Language of God,” a thought provoking ride through genetics and faith

We have recently completed reading a book entitled “The Language of God” by Francis S. Collins.  Dr. Collins is extremely gifted geneticist who was the head of the project which lead to the mapping of the human genome.  This makes him a rock star in the scientific community.  He is also a Christian, which makes him a rock star in the Evangelical Church.  In this book, his aim is to use both his personal faith journey and his revolutionary work as a geneticist to reconcile what would appear to be a long, deep chasm between the two most popular theories regarding the origin of the world:  Evolution and Creation.

Collins takes great pains to appease both camps, and ultimately ends up defending a position which theoretically appeases both:  Theistic Evolution, TE, or what he calls “Biologos.”

The concept of Biologos, as we understand it, is that the earth is indeed billions of years old, yet the process of evolution, which God chose as His creative process, has been intricately designed and nurtured by Him.  As such, it rejects both the literal seven day creation narrative in Genesis and takes it as allegory, which, given the text, may be a defensible position, as well as natural selection as the guiding light of evolution, which, again, given the mathematical improbabilities of random changes evolving into the world in which we live today, may also be defensible.

However, Dr. Collins is such a brilliant mind that, as he studies the question from nearly every angle and offers a rebuttal to the Evolution, Creation, and Intelligent Design theories, His presentation of Biologos, while an attempting to create harmony, leaves itself open to the very critiques with which He so skillfully dismisses the other theories.

Namely, Biologos appears as simply another “God of the gaps” argument which Collins so eloquently dismisses Intelligent Design on its obvious shortcoming:   If you are basing your faith in God on the fact that there are phenomena that cannot be explained, limiting God to acting in only those spheres that mankind does not yet understand, you run the danger of having your faith shaken if and when science provides an irrefutable, natural explanation for an occurence once thought possible only through divine intervention.

Dr. Collins’ rebuttal of the literal seven day creation also rang empty.  In the single page with which He addresses the theory, He fails to raise any other argument apart from the fact that there is undeniable proof that the earth has been in existence for billions of years.  He then implies, from His revolutionary work on the genome, that all living things share a remarkable similarity at the base level, which he logically extrapolates as proof that all that we see is the result of an evolution from a base form.

While Biologos may help those who cannot imagine that the very concept of time itself may be flawed to sleep at night, both His elaborate defense of the mechanism of evolution and haste in dismissing the creation narrative in Genesis leaves the 47% of us who do believe in the literal young earth creation story feeling somewhat slighted, as the crux of the question lies in two different perceptions of time which Dr. Collins discounts without addressing objections as he so skillfully does when rebutting pure evolution and Intelligent Design.

To sum up a lengthy explanation of our position, that not only the perception of time, but time itself is subjective, we ask the following question:  Is time currently flying by for you, or does it seem to be dragging on forever?

No matter how one responds, the question itself implies that the perception of time is relative when taken against creative processes.  If time is flying by, this implies that your perception of your ability to create is outstripping your perception of the time available to dedicate to creative tasks.  If it is dragging on forever, it could be said that you are creating things at a pace more rapid than you had allowed based on your perception of time.

So it is with the observance of natural phenomenon.  Evolutionary theories imply that creative processes involved in genetic mutations take place over a constant flow of time.  Anyone who has realized a creative activity will quickly recognize that the flow of work or ideas which leads to observable outputs is hardly constant, rather, there is a burst of activity, followed by a consolidation and revision, and finally an output.

Our conclusion, albiet informed by nothing more than our logic, is that evolutions that appear to have taken billions of years to be realized at a constant rate of change, are the product of a burst of creative activity which has then slowed, and consolidated since its inception.  The rates of change, observed in genetic mutuations and carbon dating, which we take for a fact now, cannot be extrapolated backwards nor forwards as constant rates of change simply because current rates of change have been observed and calculated in the past 100 years.

We must say, however, we are not a scientist, rather, a philosopher in this sense.  Our position may or may not be defensible.  Only the broken yardstick of time will tell.

Puns aside, we find ourselves in agreement with Dr. Collins’ premise that basing one’s faith in literal interpretations of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, leaves one open to any attacks on those interpretations which necessarily present a crisis of faith for those who lean on them.  In place of literal interpretations, he offers both the existence of the nearly universal moral code amongst the human race, as well as the well documented eye witness accounts in the Bible, namely the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as irrefutable evidence that God exists and has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus.

He then adds what we consider the most reliable proof of God’s existence and care for mankind, that we can have a personal relationship with our Creator.

We also enjoyed Collins’ presentation of C.S. Lewis’ brilliant argument for Christ’s diety as presented in “Mere Christianity:”

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

While the book does not go as far to settle the debate regarding the origins of the world as one might believe, the true gem of this book lies in the appendix, where Collins explores the ethical implications of his work on the human genome in a style which is truly awe inspiring.

Perhaps the most striking example is His observation that those who oppose stem cell research on ethical grounds must also oppose in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures to be consistent, for during IVF, fertilized human eggs which are in the early stages of development are routinely

How can men live together in organized society?

We have been reading The Source, by James A. Michener.  Like many of Michener’s works, it is a fictional account which is loaded with facts, history, and at times profound insight.

The following is one of the latter.

It is revealed as one of the characters in the book is attempting to resolve a conflict that is troubling him.  It has to do with a knotted old olive tree and the fresh shoots that continue to grow from it, even though the tree itself appears dead.

He realizes that the olive tree represents Judaism, and the fresh shoots the ways in which it has reinvented itself over more than five millenia.

The character, a Christian Archeologist, is running his thoughts by his Jewish colleague.  The following excerpt from Michener’s narrative is the colleague’s response:

“My thought is that in those critical years (100 – 800 CE) Judaism went back to the basic religious precepts by which men can live together in a society, whereas Christianity rushed forward to a magnificent personal religion which never in ten thousand years will teach men how to live together.  You Christians will have beauty, passionate intercourse with God, magnificent buildings, frenzied worship, and exaltation of the spirit.  But you will never have that close organization of society, family life, and the little community that is possible under Judaism.  Let me ask you this:  Could a group of rabbis, founding their decisions on Torah and Talmud, possibly come up with an invention like the Inquisition, an essentially anti-social concept?”

The Jewish colleague continues:

“…Judaism can be understood, it seems to me, only if it is seen as the fundamental philosophy directed to the greatest of all problems: how can men live together in an organized society?”

The Christian Archeologist responds:

“I would have thought that the real religious problem is always ‘How can man come to know God?'”

To which the Jewish colleague replies:

“There’s the difference between us.  There’s the difference between Old Testament and New.  The Christian discovers the spirit of God, and the reality is so blinding that you go right out, build a cathedral and kill a million people.  The Jew avoids this intimacy and lives year after year in his ghetto, in a grubby little synagogue, working out the principles whereby men can live together.”

“The tremendously personal religion that evolved around the figure of Christ was all the He and Paul had envisaged.  It was brilliant, penetrating and a path to personal salvation.  It was able to construct soaring cathedrals and even more vaulted processes of thought.  Bit it was totally incapable of teaching men to live together.”

It has always troubled us that such a sharp distinction exists between Judaism and Christianity (and for that matter, Islam).  As a Christian, it is obvious to us that Christ came to show that once and for all, the God of the Old Testament, the one and only God, forgives.

History has shown that the blind pursuit of Christianity, Islam, of any other religion which is not firmly based in the precepts of how men can and must live together, bearing with one another, as the Jewish faith relentlessly strives to do, can lead to disastrous results for society.

It is fascinating that the Jews, for all that they have suffered, still strive towards helping all of mankind learn to live together.

It is even more fascinating that, with a few noteworthy exceptions, the Jews have been largely unable to form the society for which their religion continuously strives.

The problem of living together in society can only be solved if two things occur.  First, man must learn to truly and permanently forgive, as God has forgiven us.  Second, he must abandon the Might makes Right ideology and adopt True Capitalism, a radical respect for both the life and property of others, as the basis of his relations with others.

It would not be perfect, but it would be a large step in the right direction.


Book Review: The Haj

The Haj

By Leon Uris

Originally published in 1984 by Doubleday

We read the Haj for one reason and one reason only.  After the terrorist attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, we attended a dinner with our Great Uncle.  Our Great Uncle had been stationed in Northern Africa during World War II.

As the conversation inevitably turned to what motivates terrorist attacks, our Great Uncle said that if you want to understand this, you need to read “The Haj.”

Now, 10 years on from that conversation and with our dear Great Uncle departed to be with the Lord Jesus, we have taken heed of his advice to read The Haj. 

The novel tracks the events that occurred in Palestine from 1920’s through the 1950’s, a time when the displaced Jewish population from Europe and Russia was relocating to its traditional home in Palestine after the horrifying events of World War II on that continent.  This relocation caused much friction and eventually war between the Arab populations which had traditionally lived in Palestine.  It is a war that continues to this day.

The Haj follows a traditional Arab family as they are forced to leave their homes as the United Nations passes the Partition Plan for Palestine on November 29, 1947.  The novel details the struggle as the family finds itself perilously driven by a supposed fear of the Jews eventually into the open arms of their Arab neighbors.  What they find is that their Arab neighbors have closed their borders for fear of being overwhelmed by refugees.  The family eventually finds itself in a refugee camp in the West Bank near Jericho called Aqabat Jaber where they find that they are trapped, not by the Jews but by the refusal of their Arab brethren to evacuate them.  

This is perhaps the most astonishing idea presented by the novel, that the Palestinian refugee problem is a result of the Arab surrounding Arab nation’s refusal to negotiate with Israel to allow the refugees to return to their lands, which were now inside the Jewish state.

According to the novel, the Jews were willing to let the refugees return to their villages and to live at peace with them.  It infers that the Arab nations denied this opportunity to the refugees because they wanted to use the refugees as pawns to continue to stir up hatred towards Israel.  If the refugees were to return to their lands, they would lose these pawns.

A secondary reason for this is a circular reasoning that is brought to light in the book through the events at the an international commission in Zurich which attempted to bring a resolution to the plight of the refugees.  The Arab delegates were unable to reach an agreement solely on the basis of their inability to recognize the existence of Israel.  If the state of Israel does not exist, then with who do they negotiate?

Kept in idle in these camps, the Palestinians became prey to a non-stop barrage of anti-Israeli propaganda and many young men were either brainwashed into attacking Israel on suicide missions or sold by their families to be brainwashed for the same purpose.

Whatever the reason, the refugee / martyr problem persists today and is at the heart of the conflict which each day threatens to entangle the entire world in conflict.

The Haj is a raw look at Arab life through the eyes of Ishmael, son of Haj Ibrahim, the Muktar of Tabah, a village in Palestine located in the Ajalon Valley on the main road between Jaffa and Jerusalem.  Ishmael is the youngest son of Ibrahim al Soukori al Wahhabi and, according to tradition, is doomed to become the family shepherd.

While he escapes the fate of tending sheep, one of the many ironies in The Haj is that Ishmael does become the family shepherd.

Tabah’s traditional existence is disrupted with the sale of swampland near Tabah to the Jews by Effendi Fawzi Kabir, a Palestinian absentee landlord who owned great quantities of land and lived in luxury far away in Damascus. Despite initial tensions (the Arabs attack and are repelled by the Jews shortly after the Jews set up camp), the residents of Tabah learn to coexist with the kibbutz that the Jews have created out to the swampland that they have greatly overpaid for.

This tolerable coexistence, which is embodied in the mutual respect and eventual friendship that forms between Haj Ibrahim and Gideon Asch, a heroic leader of the Jewish settlers who is easily mistaken as an Arab.

Throughout the book, we come to understand that Haj Ibrahim is acutely aware of the weaknesses of his culture yet is resolute in his adherence to it.  This inner turmoil marks the Haj’s life and in the end, adherence to tradition wins his internal battle and kills him.

Many reviews of The Haj deride it for its glorification of the Jews and vilification of the Arabs.  This is understandable as the book is a deep exploration of Arab culture during what is perhaps one of its darkest periods.  Honor killings, murder, rape, torture, deception, the woman’s role as chattel in society, backstabbing, grudges, debauchery, sloth, and betrayal are all paraded in front of the reader in what is as often as not an R rated display.

Ishmael sums up what he learns in what he calls “the basic cannon of Arab Life”:

“It was me against my brother; me and my brother against our father; my family against my cousins and the clan; the clan against the tribe; and the tribe against the world.  And all of us against the infidel.” P.14

Another memorable line from which this view springs is the final discourse of Dr. Mudhil, the Arab archeologist who because of his dealing in artifacts is seen as one of the only Arabs in the West Bank who has contact with the Jews, who voices this fatalistic lament about Arab culture:

“We do not have leave to love one another and we have long ago lost the ability.  It was so written twelve hundred years earlier.  Hate is our overpowering legacy and we have regenerated ourselves by hatred from decade to decade, generation to generation, century to century.  The return of the Jews has unleashed that hatred, exploding wildly, aimlessly, into a massive force of self destruction.  In ten, twenty, thirty years the world of Islam will begin to consume itself in madness.  We cannot live with ourselves…we never have.  We cannot live with or accommodate the outside world…we never have…” P.522

 The book ends tragically with Haj Ibrahim, having been thwarted in every attempt to be free to return to his village, takes a bureaucratic post and gives in to fanaticism.  After killing his youngest daughter for dishonoring him, Ishmael takes his revenge on his father not by the sword but with his words.  He voices the ultimate dishonor, a secret that Ishmael has carried and now uses as a weapon against his father.  The Haj dies of shame.

Sadly, Ishmael, who one thinks will be able to escape to a better life, is drugged by his mother and older brother to be sold into the fedayeen as a suicide bomber.  Ishmael does escape, but only to run mad into the Qumran by the Dead Sea, presumably to die.

A thorough synopsis of the plot can be found here at

The overriding theme of The Haj is Arab fatalism.  Leon Uris was Jewish and in this light it may be seen that his depiction of the Jews as heroic and the Arabs and British as the villains in the events that occurred in Palestine from the 1920’s to the 1950’s and today is simply a product of his natural bias.

Be this as it may, a more accurate description would be that the Arab fatalism and brutality (which again may be a product of Uris’ natural bias) which is presented in the novel would make even the Nazi’s appear heroic.

The Arab / Jewish conflict merely provides a canvas upon which one can superimpose the eternal struggle of love versus hate.  Sadly, in the novel, the reader is left with the sensation that hate has triumphed.

Take heart, dear reader, for love will have the day!  It is guaranteed in the blood of Jesus!  Until then, we must pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  For if there is not peace there, there cannot be peace in our hearts.