"Personally, I look at the Americans and I see a people who have been very effectively brainwashed, or who simply have given in to the entirely human tendency to shuffle unquestioningly onto the path of least resistance and let themselves go. I see a people who, on a wholesale basis, have consciously or unconsciously decided to trade the idea of America for the false security of a totalitarian state."
And the hard reality is that the vast majority would raise their hands in favor of the current system that has the state deeply involved in pretty much every aspect of the economy and society at large. The level of support for the very same tangled body of state-controlled handouts, regulations and central economic planning now choking the last gasps of life out of the body politic is obvious and overwhelming. The champions of liberty are fighting against a very entrenched and increasingly dangerous public mindset. Today the enemy (of true freedom) is within. In fact, the nation is overrun by them... they dominate in most every community, in most businesses and even in most families.
Eventually — because the costs of the deleveraging trap makes organicy growth very difficult — the debt will either be forgiven, inflated or defaulted away. Endless rounds of tepid QE (which is debt additive, and so adds to the debt problem) just postpone that difficult decision. The deleveraging trap preserves the value of past debts at the cost of future growth. Under the harsh discipline of a gold standard, such prevarication is not possible. Without the ability to inflate, overleveraged banks, individuals and governments would default on their debt. Income would rapidly fall, and economies would likely deflate and become severely depressed. Yet liquidation is not all bad. The example of 1907 — prior to the era of central banking — illustrates this. Although liquidation episodes are painful, the clear benefit is that a big crash and depression clears out old debt. Under the present regimes, the weight of old debt remains a burden to the economy.
John Tamny of Forbes is one of the more informed contributors in the increasingly dismal state of economic commentating. Tamny readily admits he is on the libertarian side of things and doesn’t give into the money-making game of carrying the flag for a favored political party under the guise of a neutral observer. He condemns the whole of the Washington establishment for our current economic woes and realizes that government spending is wasteful in the sense that it is outside the sphere of profit and loss consideration. In short, Tamny’s column for both Forbes and RealClearMarkets.com are a breath of fresh air in the stale rottenness of mainstream economic analysis. Much to this author’s dismay however, Tamny has written a piece that denies one of the key functions through which central banks facilitate the creation of money. In doing so, he lets banks off the hook for what really can be classified as counterfeiting. In a recent Forbes column entitled “Ron Paul, Fractional Reserve Banking, and the Money Multiplier Myth,” Tamny attempts to bust what he calls the myth that fractional reserve banking allows for the creation of money through credit lending. According to him, it is an extreme exaggeration to say money is created “out of thin air” by fractional reserve banks as Murray Rothbard alleged. This is a truly outrageous claim that finds itself wrong not just in theory but also in plain evidence. Not only does fractional reserve banking play a crucial role in inflationary credit expansion, it borders on being outright fraudulent.
In addition to the compelling evidence that more active monetary and fiscal policy involvement did not produce beneficial results over the short run, three recent academic studies, though they differ in purpose and scope, all reach the conclusion that extremely high levels of governmental indebtedness diminish economic growth. In other words, deficit spending should not be called "stimulus" as is the overwhelming tendency by the media and many economic writers. Whereas government spending may have been linked to the concept of economic stimulus in distant periods, these studies demonstrate that such an assertion is unwarranted, and blatantly wrong in present circumstances. While officials argue that governmental action is required for political reasons and public anxiety, governments would be better off to admit that traditional tools only serve to compound existing problems.
NOT JUST SANDY WEILL ...
Too Big Leads To Destruction of the Rule of Law
Josh Barro of Bloomberg has an interesting theory. According to him, conservatives in modern day America have become so infatuated with the school of Austrian economics that they no longer listen to reason. It is because of this diehard obsession that they reject all empirical evidence and refuse to change their favorable views of laissez faire capitalism following the financial crisis. Basically, because the conservative movement is so smitten with the works of Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek, they see no need to pose any intellectual challenge to the idea that the economy desperately needs to be guided along by an “always knows best” government; much like a parent to a child. CNN and Newsweek contributor David Frum has jumped on board with Barro and levels the same critique of conservatives while complaining that not enough of them follow Milton Friedman anymore.
To put this as nicely as possible, Barro and Frum aren’t just incorrect; they have put their embarrassingly ignorant understandings of Austrian economics on full display for all to see.
Anna was best known as co-author with Milton Friedman of A Monetary
History of the United States, 1867-1960 (1963). She also was the staff
director of the United States Gold Commission, 1981-1982.
- Mario Monti: We Have a Week to Save the Eurozone (Guardian)
- Europe Central Bank Prepares to Relax Collateral Rules (WSJ)
- EU Banks' Risk in Eyes of Beholder: Worry Is That Lenders Are Boosting Gauge of Their Health (WSJ)
- Europe finally learns about subordination: Bailouts' Creditor Hierarchy Scares Private Bondholders (WSJ)
- Merkel Isolated in Race for Euro Crisis Solution (Spiegel)
- Fed’s Re-Twist May Lift Treasury Repurchase Agreement Rates (Bloomberg)
- China Said to Propose Keeping Limit on Local Government Loans (Bloomberg)
- Moody’s Downgrade Hits 15 Top Banks (FT)
- IMF Challenges Berlin’s Crisis Response (FT)
- Colombia to Auction Rights in 2013 to Gold and Coal, Not Coltan (Bloomberg)
In today’s world, there are many who want government to regulate and control everything. The most bizarre instance, though — more bizarre even than banning the sale of large-sized sugary drinks — is surely central banking. Why? Well, central banking was created to replace something that was already working well. Banking panics and bank runs happen, and they have always happened as long as there has been banking. But the old system that the Fed displaced wasn’t really malfunctioning — unlike what the defenders of central banking today would have us believe. Does central banking retard the economy by providing liquidity insurance and a backstop to bad companies that would not otherwise be saved under a free market “bailout” (like that of 1907)? And is it this effect — that we call zombification — that is the force that has prevented Japan from fully recovering from its housing bubble, and that is keeping the West depressed from 2008? Will we only return to growth once the bad assets and bad companies have been liquidated? That conclusion, we think, is becoming inescapable.
I don’t have a problem with Obama — or anyone else — smoking dope. As far as I am concerned, consenting adults have the liberty to do whatever they like so long as they don’t hurt others, or take their liberty or property. I don’t have a problem with Obama — or anyone else — defining themselves by smoking dope.
I have a problem with hypocrisy.
All is (once again) failing. What to do? Much more of the same of course. Only this time whip out the nuclear option: the Helicopter Money Drop. This is the logical next step that Citigroup's Willen Buiter sees as "Central Banks should also engage in 'helicopter money drops' to stimulate effective demand" - temporary tax cuts, increases in transfer payments, or boosts to exhaustive public spending - all financed directly by the willing central bank accomplice in the monetization gambit. In his words: "This will always be effective if it is implemented on a sufficient scale." It is not difficult to implement, would likely be politically popular (nom, nom, nom, more iPads), and in his mind need not become inflationary. He does come down to earth a little though from this likely-endgame scenario noting that "helicopter money is not [however] a solution to fiscal unsustainability." It is just a means of providing a temporary fiscal stimulus without adding to the stock of interest-bearing, redeemable public debt. Any attempt to permanently finance even rather small (permanent) general government deficits (as a share of GDP) by creating additional base money would soon – once inflation expectations adjust to this extreme fiscal dominance regime - give rise to unacceptably high rates of inflation and even hyperinflation. His estimate of the size of this one-off helicopter drop - beyond which these inflation fears may appear - is around 2% of GDP - hardly the stuff of Keynes-/Koo-ian wet dreams. The fact that this is being discussed as a possibility (and was likely always the end-game) by a somewhat mainstream economist should be shocking as perhaps this surreality is nearer than many would like to imagine.
While Krugman does not by any means endorse the level of centralism that Diocletian introduced, his defence of bailouts, his insistence on the planning of interest rates and inflation, and (most frighteningly) his insistence that war can be an economic stimulus (in reality, war is a capital destroyer) all put him firmly in Diocletian’s economic planning camp. So how did Diocletian’s economic program work out? Well, I think it is fair to say even without modern data that — just as Krugman desires — Diocletian’s measures boosted aggregate demand through public works and — just as Krugman desires — it introduced inflation. And certainly Rome lived for almost 150 years after Diocletian. However the long term effects of Diocletian’s economic program were dire. Have the 2008 bailouts done the same thing, cementing a new feudal aristocracy of bankers, financiers and too-big-to-fail zombies, alongside a serf class that exists to fund the excesses of the financial and corporate elite? Only time will tell.
In the not quite 100 years since the founding of your institution, America has exchanged central banking for a kind of central planning and the gold standard for what I will call the Ph.D. standard. I regret the changes and will propose reforms, or, I suppose, re-reforms, as my program is very much in accord with that of the founders of this institution. Have you ever read the Federal Reserve Act? The authorizing legislation projected a body “to provide for the establishment of the Federal Reserve banks, to furnish an elastic currency, to afford means of rediscounting commercial paper and to establish a more effective supervision of banking in the United States, and for other purposes.” By now can we identify the operative phrase? Of course: “for other purposes.” As you prepare to mark the Fed’s centenary, may I urge you to reflect on just how far you have wandered from the intentions of the founders? The institution they envisioned would operate passively, through the discount window. It would not create credit but rather liquefy the existing stock of credit by turning good-quality commercial bills into cash— temporarily. This it would do according to the demands of the seasons and the cycle. The Fed would respond to the community, not try to anticipate or lead it. It would not override the price mechanism— as today’s Fed seems to do at every available opportunity—but yield to it.