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10 Points Americans Must Understand About the Economy

January 15, 2010 5 comments

1. The interest rate is a price – the price of credit like the price of any good.  In a free market the price would be set like the price of any good at the intersection of the supply of funds (our savings), and demand for funds (businesses’ and individuals’ investing wants).  Instead, we have an interest rate that is arbitrarily picked by a handful of economists from the Federal Reserve Banks.  To repeat, one committee centrally plans the cost of credit, of which interest rates on all debt are directly or indirectly based.

2. The Federal Reserve has the monopoly power to print or inflate the money supply, thus artificially lowering the cost of money (the aforementioned interest rate).  This means that they can (and always do) devalue the money in your pocket as every dollar printed decreases the value of all dollars to come before them.  Inflating the money supply may not lead to an increase in prices if an equal or greater amount of goods is produced, but the purchasing power of the dollar will still be reduced because without printing money, your dollars would have been able to buy more goods.  Alternatively, if more dollars are printed than goods are produced, prices will increase though not necessarily uniformly across all goods.  Inflation may not manifest itself in explicitly higher prices but merely impede prices from falling for certain goods as they would were the money supply to remain constant.

3. When you deposit money in a regular checking account, the bank doesn’t hold onto this money.  Banks only keep a small percentage of the money you deposit on hand in their reserves, lending the majority of the money you (or the Fed for that matter) deposit to others who lend it to still others and so on, in the process substantially increasing the money supply.  This is known as fractional reserve banking.  If everyone in America or even a decent percentage of Americans tried to take their money out of the bank on a given day, millions would be unable to access their cash.  Effectively, even with FDIC Insurance, all of the banks are insolvent as they do not hold anywhere near 100% of the money you deposit in their vaults, nor does the FDIC have the funds to cover all deposits.  The hypothetical that the Fed could potentially print up money for the FDIC to distribute is beyond the scope of this post.

4. The government’s debt is merely an insidious tax like inflation.  Government debt can only be paid down by taxing the people.  This tax can occur through direct confiscation by government, or indirectly when holders of our government’s debt demand a higher rate of interest, which in turn signals to markets that our economy is not generating sufficient revenues to pay down the debt, which leads to a perception of economic weakness and thus an increased cost of borrowing for everyone in the economy.  If the government prints money to pay down debt (which in and of itself should cause our debt holders to flood the markets with our debt and thus raise interest rates on everyone), this will represent a tax on the people as well.

5. Deflation, or a decrease in the money supply is the only antidote to inflation.  If the money supply is decreased, each dollar in your pocket becomes worth more.  The concomitant fall in prices will correct the artificial initial rise in prices from government printing of money.  In the process, since decreasing the money supply increases the cost of money, unsustainable enterprises with heavy debt loads will be put out of business, cleansing the economy by freeing up unproductive resources.  Where debtors benefit from an increase in the money supply because they can pay down their borrowings with cheaper dollars, creditors will benefit from a decrease in the money supply because they are paid back with more valuable dollars, which is one of the reasons why government prefers to inflate as it can lessen its own debt load and that of many of its constituents.

6. Deflation in prices while a symptom of deflation of the money supply is also the natural result of increases in productivity, as goods produced more cheaply in greater quantities (in the absence of money printing) will lead to falling prices which benefits consumers.  The so-called “paradox of thrift” that the MSM uses to vilify deflation in prices is wrongheaded, as people will spend on all sorts of products knowing that over time they will fall in price, as we have witnessed with numerous electronics over the years.  Even during a depression, when asset prices fall to certain levels there will always be buyers.  And if people are paying off their debt and/or saving in a time of falling prices in lieu of spending, this will be good for the economy because increasing the pool of real savings lowers the interest rate and allows businesses and individuals to borrow funds for investment at lower cost, legitimately stimulating the economy.

7. Despite the wishes of President Obama, all taxes are passed on to consumers as companies raise their prices to compensate for the increased cost of doing business.

8. Government cannot create wealth.  All it can do is take money from some people and redistribute it to others.  Every dollar the government uses must be taken from the private economy. Printing money to pay for things as we noted merely devalues your dollars, effectively taxing you.  Government financing through debt represents a claim on your wealth, a tax which as noted may be paid directly or indirectly.  Thus, while federal, state and local taxes may appear on a historical basis relatively low, the tax rate is deceptively masked by excluding government bilking through inflation and debt.  Government is a wealth killer, not a wealth creator.

9. The real estate problem in our economy centers on the fact that people owe more money on their mortgages than they are able to pay down.  The only fix to this problem is for people to either generate more income to service their mortgages, or default.  Any intervention to keep people in homes they can’t afford will merely perpetuate market imbalances, propping up the value of real estate and preventing qualified buyers from purchasing homes at fair prices.  There will be no true recovery in the mortgage-backed securities  market until the forces of supply and demand sort out this mess.

10. Our economic crisis at the most basic level occurred because too much money and credit were pumped into the economy, given that again the interest rate was set artificially low not by supply and demand in the market but by government fiat.  The recession signals that we must fix the distortions and malinvestments resulting from the centrally planned interest rate. The healthy path to recovery is to allow prices to fall (aided by debt repayment), liquidate failed enterprises (encouraging reallocation of land, labor and capital to more productive and profitable lines of business) and encourage saving to increase the pool of loanable funds for economic expansion. Any actions to the contrary (i.e. more or less all government policies being implemented or bandied about) will merely prolong the pain.

Note that this is by no means a comprehensive study of the above subjects, but rather a cursory look at essentials that the American public must grasp before we can ever expect to return to prosperity.

Sound Money for a Sound State

February 26, 2009 1 comment


Every day we see signs of waning confidence. The politicians pontificate and the markets plunge. Talking heads rile the trading floors. People are panicking, but are unsure as to what drives the panic. Lying behind this turmoil is the fundamental flaw in our economy: our money. The antidote is gold.

Over the last few months we have seen gold rally up to $1000. Suddenly it is being heralded as the investment (if you held it since 2001, you’d really be laughing at this), and rightfully so. Even mindless stock jockeys speak to the fact that in times of uncertainty, gold is the place where people should park their cash. It is the asset of last resort. Yet if this is considered the only safe place to put our money when times are hard, then why not just make this our currency? Why do we have a paper dollar whose intrinsic worth is equivalent to that of paper and ink, or alternatively your faith in Nancy Pelosi?

As the always pithy Daily Reckoning notes, over the last 2,500 years, an ounce of gold has maintained a value roughly equivalent to 350 loaves of bread. Seems like a pretty safe store of wealth to me. Alternatively, the value of the dollar has dropped over 95% since the government (under the auspices of the Federal Reserve) took control of our money less than one hundred years ago. You have to ask yourself, would you rather have your government constrained in the money it creates by a tangible asset that has always held its value, or a government that holds its heavy hand on the cranks of the printing press?

This brings into question another issue. The government does not control the bread supply, the iPod supply or the Kudlow supply. But when it comes to money, a good exchangeable for these other goods and services, we give the government free rein. Sure, one might argue that the central bank is technically private, but this is just the deceitful nature in which the government bends the rules of its Constitution. It is akin to Fannie and Freddie being “quasi-public” entities. But why should the government grant itself a monopoly on this product, while subjecting all private firms to its anti-trust laws?

And how does the government maintain this monopoly on money? Why, legal tender laws of course. There was a time when money was coined privately, but those days are long gone. The question is, why shouldn’t the government allow a little friendly competition for the paper that it prints? The answer is that the power to control the money supply is great. Mainly, it allows the government to plunder the people. Here are a few politicians on the matter:

“Of all the contrivances for cheating the laboring classes of mankind, none has been more effective than that which deludes them with paper money.”

Daniel Webster’s disdain is matched by that of Thomas Jefferson:

“The evils of this deluge of paper money are not to be removed until our citizens are generally and radically instructed in their cause and consequences, and silence by their authority the interested clamors and sophistry of speculating, shaving, and banking institutions. Till then, we must be content to return quoad hoc to the savage state, to recur to barter in the exchange of our property for want of a stable common measure of value, that now in use being less fixed than the beads and wampum of the Indian, and to deliver up our citizens, their property and their labor, passive victims to the swindling tricks of bankers and mountebankers.”

On the other hand, he asserts,

“Specie is the most perfect medium because it will preserve its own level; because, having intrinsic and universal value, it can never die in our hands, and it is the surest resource of reliance in time of war.”

What of Woodrow Wilson, the man who signed the Fed into existence?

“I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the civilized world no longer a Government by free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.”

How about an economist for good measure? Perhaps our old friend Mr. Keynes:

“The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”

Thanks for that one, Johnny.

If paper money through inflation impoverishes the citizenry and destroys capitalism, then one has to wonder why the people continue to allow this system to hold sway across all nations. Further, the historical track record of paper monies shows that every single one has failed. But we continue to entrust our money to our politicians. To be sure it is great for some — for the bankers, the war-profiteers and the debtors, inflation is a boon. Not to mention the fact that it allows the government to do whatever it wishes — to run up unlimited debts, fight endless battles and further extend its largesse to its favored sons. This is an immoral process and one that undermines the integrity of our nation.

As we see the flood of people to gold as the only safe asset, in a time without price inflation no less, it behooves us to question the paper money through which our politicians pilfer. Restore power to the rightful hands of the people to produce their own currencies, and we can give the central bankers a run for their money. Our liberty depends upon it.

Ten Questions for Paulson, Bernanke & Co.

January 17, 2009 3 comments


1. Can we increase our debt and devalue our currency in order to restore our prosperity?

2. Do you believe it is our right as citizens to know how the TARP money is being spent, and what banks are using as collateral for the cash they are receiving?

3. Why will the economic stimulus package work, and historically has this type of stimulus ever worked?

4. Why does the Federal Reserve still hold gold in its reserves?

5. What is the paper USD intrinsically worth, and can you explain why it is okay for you to have a monopoly on it?

6. Can you name a fiat currency that has not eventually failed? (the answer can be found here)

7. Why has the purchasing power of the dollar decreased 95% since the Federal Reserve was created in 1913?

8. Can you explain why after a bubble bursts, falling prices are bad for consumers?

9. Can you explain why if inflation makes the price of goods higher for the consumer that it is good for the economy?

10. If we saw that pumping in massive amounts of credit to our financial system led to an unsustainable bubble, why is the goal of your policies to create massive amounts of credit?