Saying we need continuous financial bubbles to keep full employment is such a flawed conception of economics, it belongs on an island of misfit philosophies. Krugman’s incessant promotion of statism is doing more harm to the economy than good. As an opinion-molder, he is perpetuating the economic malaise of the last few years. More bubbles won’t help the recovery, just harm it more. In the middle of a grease fire, Krugman calls for more pig fat. And the rest of us are the ones left burnt.
The Federal Reserve System was created on December 23, 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act into law. Today, the Fed has decided to commemorate the event today with all three living Fed chairman delivering remarks. We are sure it will be very exciting but in the interests of 'balance' we offer a few alternative views of the "success" of the venerable monopoly including its cost: since 1913, the dollar has lost nearly 90% of its purchasing power.
Though still a week shy of its centennial anniversary, the US Federal Reserve will hold a celebration this afternoon in Washington DC. Just imagine the scene - a bunch of current and former central bankers slapping each other on the back, congratulating one another for a job well done over the last 100 years. Of course, this is total nonsense... as is the concept of our modern monetary system in which we award total control of the money supply to a tiny central banking elite. Human beings are fallible. We are not gods. Yet we practically deify central bankers and entrust them with the power to manipulate markets, control prices around the world, and effectively dominate the economy. This system has proven to be foolish and destructive. While the Fed engages in its self-aggrandizement this afternoon, there is another far more important anniversary today - the Boston Tea Party.
China’s economy is straining to keep up a semblance of its former growth rate. The surest sign is the way a shadow market in bank paper has evolved to substitute the commodity that China is increasingly running short of: cash. Bankers are passing around their own ersatz currency, stimulating trade with what, in effect, are off-the-books loans. As in the wildcat currency era of the United States, the antebellum period before America had a national currency, this paper trades at a discount from province to province. It is increasingly used for speculative purposes, is potentially inflationary, and is hard to regulate. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has been unable or unwilling to crack down, lest it provoke a serious slowdown. But when the world’s second largest economy must resort to passing around IOUs, the financial community should take note.
A paper currency system contains the seeds of its own destruction. The temptation for the monopolist money producer to increase the money supply is almost irresistible. We are now in a situation that looks like a dead end for the paper money system. After the last cycle, governments have bailed out malinvestments in the private sector and boosted their public welfare spending. Deficits and debts skyrocketed. So will money printing be a constant with interest rates close to zero until people lose their confidence in the paper currencies? Can the paper money system be maintained or will we necessarily get a hyperinflation sooner or later? There are at least seven possibilities...
A major issue is the growing disparity between rich and poor, the 1% versus the 99%. While the president’s solutions differ from Republicans, they both ignore a principal source of this growing disparity. The source is not runaway entrepreneurial capitalism, which rewards those who best serve the consumer in product and price. (Would we really want it any other way?) There is another force that has turned a natural divide into a chasm… dun, dun, dun… the Federal Reserve. The relentless expansion of credit by the Fed creates artificial disparities based on political privilege and economic power.
To help readers get a sense of perspective how the US and Japan compare when matched to China, below we present a chart showing the fixed monthly "money" creation by the Fed and the BOJ compared to the most comprehensive money supply aggregate available in China - the Total Social Financing - for the month of November. The chart speaks for itself.
The rate on the 10-year Treasury bond has risen dramatically. Is it priced in to stocks? Does it mean recovery, at last?
The reigning paper money system is at the center of the growing income inequality and expanding poverty rates we find in many countries today. Nevertheless, states continue to grow in power in the name of taming the market system that has supposedly caused the impoverishment actually caused by the state and its allies. If those who claim to speak for social justice do nothing to protest this, their silence can only have two possible reasons. They either don’t understand how our monetary system functions, in which case, they should do their research and learn about it; or they do understand it and are cynically ignoring a major source of poverty because they may in fact be benefiting from the paper money system themselves.
They say those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. We’ve seen that maxim made true time and again. The cycle swings fear back to greed. The overcautious become the overzealous. And at the top, the story is always the same: Too much credit, too much speculation, the suspension of disbelief, and the spread of the idea that this time is different. The weaknesses of the human heart and mind means the swings will always exist. Our rudimentary understanding of the forces of economics, which in turn, reflect ultimately reflect the fallacies of people making investing, purchasing, and saving decisions, means policymakers will never defeat the vagaries of the business cycle. So no, this time isn’t different. The specifics may have changed, but the themes remain the same.
End America’s central bank because it caused the crashes of 2008, 1987, and 1929 and will blunder again. That’s what many critics are saying about the Federal Reserve System (the Fed), which turns 100 on December 23. They note that on the Fed’s watch America has endured numerous bubbles, crashes, and inflationary cycles that have greatly devalued the dollar. The Fed, they say, has caused or aggravated several crashes. “If you say the goal of the Fed was to prevent calamities, then you have to say that it has been a failure,” says William A. Fleckenstein. “History and current experience,” Joe Salerno adds, “reveal to us that groups endowed with a legal monopoly over any area of the economy are prone to use it to the hilt to enrich themselves, their friends and allies.”
Bitcoin and other Internet currencies are viewed by some as a Beanie baby fad and, as Citi's Steve Englander notes, by others as revolutionizing the financial system. Market acceptance of alternative currencies now looks to be growing a lot faster than the pace at which the supply of Bitcoin and Bitcoin wannabees is expanding the Internet money supply. The responses fell into five categories which we feel are well worth considering before trading or utilizing the digital currency (including Bitcoin's role in reserves management - Bitcoin with its inelastic supply and deflationary bias would look attractive to reserve managers as a complement to gold, and in contrast to fiat currencies in unlimited supply.). Among skeptics, a minority think that security is a much bigger issue than proponents admit. However correct the longer-term concerns, there is nothing obvious to derail the expansion of Internet currencies in the near-term, as they are meeting both legitimate and illicit economic and social needs.
Faith in the current system is as high as it has ever been, and folks don't want to hear otherwise. If you're one of those people who thinks it prudent to have intelligent discussion on some of these risks -- that maybe the future may turn out to be less than 100% awesome in every dimension -- you're probably finding yourself standing alone at cocktail parties these days. A helpful question to ask yourself is: if I could talk to my 2009 self, what would s/he advise me to do? Don't put yourself in a position to relearn that lesson so soon after the last bubble. Exercise the wisdom to look like an idiot today.
One economic myth is that paper money is wealth. The proponents of big government oppose honest money for a very specific reason. Inflation, the creation of new money, is used to finance government programs not generally endorsed by the producing members of society. It is a deceptive tool whereby a “tax” is levied without the people as a whole being aware of it. Since the recipients of the newly created money, as well as the politicians, whose only concern is the next election, benefit from this practice, it’s in their interest to perpetuate it. For this reason, misconceptions are promulgated about the “merits” of paper money and the “demerits” of gold. Simply put, “Easy” money causes hard times.
Just as in the 1930s the Fed fueled deflation by not making credit available, today the opposite seems to be the case – low rates are fueling deflation and preventing markets from clearing.