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The Federal Reserve Is, and Always Has Been, Politicized – Article by Ron Paul

The Federal Reserve Is, and Always Has Been, Politicized – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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Audit the Fed recently took a step closer to becoming law when it was favorably reported by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. This means the House could vote on the bill at any time. The bill passed by voice vote without any objections, although Fed defenders did launch hysterical attacks on the bill during the debate as well as at a hearing on the bill the previous week.

One representative claimed that auditing the Fed would result in rising interest rates, a stock market crash, a decline in the dollar’s value, and a complete loss of confidence in the US economy. Those who understand economics know that all of this is actually what awaits America unless we change our monetary policy. Passing the audit bill is the vital first step in that process, since an audit can provide Congress a road map to changing the fiat currency system.

Another charge leveled by the Fed’s defenders is that subjecting the Fed to an audit would make the Fed subject to political pressure. There are two problems with this argument. First, nothing in the audit bill gives Congress or the president any new authority to interfere in the Federal Reserve’s operations. Second, and most importantly, the Federal Reserve has a long history of giving in to presidential pressure for an “accommodative” monetary policy.

The most notorious example of Fed chairmen tailoring monetary policy to fit the demands of a president is Nixon-era Federal Reserve Chair Arthur Burns. Burns and Nixon may be an extreme example — after all no other president was caught on tape joking with the Fed chair about Fed independence, but every president has tried to influence the Fed with varying degrees of success. For instance, Lyndon Johnson summoned the Fed chair to the White House to berate him for not tailoring monetary policy to support Johnson’s guns-and-butter policies.

Federal Reserve chairmen have also used their power to shape presidential economic policy. According to Maestro, Bob Woodward’s biography of Alan Greenspan, Bill Clinton once told Al Gore that Greenspan was a “man we can deal with,” while Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen claimed the Clinton administration and Greenspan’s Fed had a “gentleman’s agreement” regarding the Fed’s support for the administration’s economic policies.

The Federal Reserve has also worked to influence the legislative branch. In the 1970s, the Fed organized a campaign by major banks and financial institutions to defeat a prior audit bill. The banks and other institutions who worked to keep the Fed’s operations a secret are not only under the Fed’s regulatory jurisdiction, but are some of the major beneficiaries of the current monetary system.

There can be no doubt that, as the audit bill advances through the legislative process, the Fed and its allies will ramp up both public and behind-the-scenes efforts to kill the bill. Can anyone dismiss the possibility that Janet Yellen will attempt to “persuade” Donald Trump to drop his support for Audit the Fed in exchange for an “accommodative” monetary policy that supports the administration’s proposed spending on overseas militarism and domestic infrastructure?

While auditing the Fed is supported by the vast majority of Americans, it is opposed by powerful members of the financial elite and the deep state. Therefore, those of us seeking to change our national monetary policy must redouble our efforts to force Congress to put America on a path to liberty, peace, and prosperity by auditing, then ending, the Fed.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Arizona Challenges the Fed’s Money Monopoly – Article by Ron Paul

Arizona Challenges the Fed’s Money Monopoly – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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History shows that, if individuals have the freedom to choose what to use as money, they will likely opt for gold or silver.

Of course, modern politicians and their Keynesian enablers despise the gold or silver standard. This is because linking a currency to a precious metal limits the ability of central banks to finance the growth of the welfare-warfare state via the inflation tax. This forces politicians to finance big government much more with direct means of taxation.

Despite the hostility toward gold from modern politicians, gold played a role in US monetary policy for sixty years after the creation of the Federal Reserve. Then, in 1971, as concerns over the US government’s increasing deficits led many foreign governments to convert their holdings of US dollars to gold, President Nixon closed the gold window, creating America’s first purely fiat currency.

America’s 46-year experiment in fiat currency has gone exactly as followers of the Austrian school predicted: a continuing decline in the dollar’s purchasing power accompanied by a decline in the standard of living of middle- and working-class Americans, a series of Federal Reserve-created booms followed by increasingly severe busts, and an explosive growth in federal-government spending. Federal Reserve policies are also behind much of the increase in income inequality.

Since the 2008 Fed-created economic meltdown, more Americans have become aware of the Federal Reserve’s responsibility for America’s economic problems. This growing anti-Fed sentiment is one of the key factors behind the liberty movement’s growth and represents the most serious challenge to the Fed’s legitimacy in its history. This movement has made “Audit the Fed” into a major national issue that is now closer than ever to being signed into law.

Audit the Fed is not the only focus of the growing anti-Fed movement. For example, this Wednesday the Arizona Senate Finance and Rules Committees will consider legislation (HB 2014) officially defining gold, silver, and other precious metals as legal tender. The bill also exempts transactions in precious metals from state capital-gains taxes, thus ensuring that people are not punished by the taxman for rejecting Federal Reserve notes in favor of gold or silver. Since inflation increases the value of precious metals, these taxes give the federal government one more way to profit from the Federal Reserve’s currency debasement.

HB 2014 is a very important and timely piece of legislation. The Federal Reserve’s failure to reignite the economy with record-low interest rates since the last crash is a sign that we may soon see the dollar’s collapse. It is therefore imperative that the law protect people’s right to use alternatives to what may soon be virtually worthless Federal Reserve notes.

Passage of HB 2014 would also send a message to Congress and the Trump administration that the anti-Fed movement is growing in influence. Thus, passage of this bill will not just strengthen movements in other states to pass similar legislation; it will also help build support for the Audit the Fed bill and legislation repealing federal legal tender laws.

This Wednesday I will be in Arizona to help rally support for HB 2014, speaking on behalf of the bill before the Arizona Senate Finance Committee at 9:00 a.m. I will also be speaking at a rally at noon at the Arizona state capitol. I hope every supporter of sound money in the Phoenix area joins me to show their support for ending the Fed’s money monopoly.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

To Really ‘Make America Great Again,’ End the Fed! – Article by Ron Paul

To Really ‘Make America Great Again,’ End the Fed! – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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Former Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher recently gave a speech identifying the Federal Reserve’s easy-money/low-interest-rate policies as a source of the public anger that propelled Donald Trump into the White House. Mr. Fisher is certainly correct that the Fed’s policies have “skewered” the middle class. However, the problem is not specific Fed policies, but the very system of fiat currency managed by a secretive central bank.

Federal Reserve-generated increases in money supply cause economic inequality. This is because, when the Fed acts to increase the money supply, well-to-do investors and other crony capitalists are the first recipients of the new money. These economic elites enjoy an increase in purchasing power before the Fed’s inflationary policies lead to mass price increases. This gives them a boost in their standard of living.

By the time the increased money supply trickles down to middle- and working-class Americans, the economy is already beset by inflation. So most average Americans see their standard of living decline as a result of Fed-engendered money supply increases.

Some Fed defenders claim that inflation doesn’t negatively affect anyone’s standard of living because price increases are matched by wage increases. This claim ignores the fact that the effects of the Fed’s actions depend on how individuals react to the Fed’s actions.

Historically, an increase in money supply does not just cause a general rise in prices. It also causes money to flow into specific sectors, creating a bubble that provides investors and workers in those areas a (temporary) increase in their incomes. Meanwhile, workers and investors in sectors not affected by the Fed-generated boom will still see a decline in their purchasing power and thus their standard of living.

Adoption of a “rules-based” monetary policy will not eliminate the problem of Fed-created bubbles, booms, and busts, since Congress cannot set a rule dictating how individuals react to Fed policies. The only way to eliminate the boom-and-bust cycle is to remove the Fed’s power to increase the money supply and manipulate interest rates.

Because the Fed’s actions distort the view of economic conditions among investors, businesses, and workers, the booms created by the Fed are unsustainable. Eventually reality sets in, the bubble bursts, and the economy falls into recession.

When the crash occurs the best thing for Congress and the Fed to do is allow the recession to run its course. Recessions are the economy’s way of cleaning out the Fed-created distortions. Of course, Congress and the Fed refuse to do that. Instead, they begin the whole business cycle over again with another round of money creation, increased stimulus spending, and corporate bailouts.

Some progressive economists acknowledge how the Fed causes economic inequality and harms average Americans. These progressives support perpetual low interest rates and money creation. These so-called working class champions ignore how the very act of money creation causes economic inequality. Longer periods of easy money also mean longer, and more painful, recessions.

President-elect Donald Trump has acknowledged that, while his business benefits from lower interest rates, the Fed’s policies hurt most Americans. During the campaign, Mr. Trump also promised to make Audit the Fed part of his first 100 days agenda. Unfortunately, since the election, President-elect Trump has not made any statements regarding monetary policy or the Audit the Fed legislation. Those of us who understand that changing monetary policy is the key to making America great again must redouble our efforts to convince Congress and the new president to audit, then end, the Federal Reserve.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Do We Need the Fed? – Article by Ron Paul

Do We Need the Fed? – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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Stocks rose Wednesday following the Federal Reserve’s announcement of the first interest rate increase since 2006. However, stocks fell just two days later. One reason the positive reaction to the Fed’s announcement did not last long is that the Fed seems to lack confidence in the economy and is unsure what policies it should adopt in the future.

At her Wednesday press conference, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen acknowledged continuing “cyclical weakness” in the job market. She also suggested that future rate increases are likely to be as small, or even smaller, than Wednesday’s. However, she also expressed concerns over increasing inflation, which suggests the Fed may be open to bigger rate increases.

Many investors and those who rely on interest from savings for a substantial part of their income cheered the increase. However, others expressed concern that even this small rate increase will weaken the already fragile job market.

These critics echo the claims of many economists and economic historians who blame past economic crises, including the Great Depression, on ill-timed money tightening by the Fed. While the Federal Reserve is responsible for our boom-bust economy, recessions and depressions are not caused by tight monetary policy. Instead, the real cause of economic crisis is the loose money policies that precede the Fed’s tightening.

When the Fed floods the market with artificially created money, it lowers the interest rates, which are the price of money. As the price of money, interest rates send signals to businesses and investors regarding the wisdom of making certain types of investments. When the rates are artificially lowered by the Fed instead of naturally lowered by the market, businesses and investors receive distorted signals. The result is over-investment in certain sectors of the economy, such as housing.

This creates the temporary illusion of prosperity. However, since the boom is rooted in the Fed’s manipulation of the interest rates, eventually the bubble will burst and the economy will slide into recession. While the Federal Reserve may tighten the money supply before an economic downturn, the tightening is simply a futile attempt to control the inflation resulting from the Fed’s earlier increases in the money supply.

After the bubble inevitably bursts, the Federal Reserve will inevitably try to revive the economy via new money creation, which starts the whole boom-bust cycle all over again. The only way to avoid future crashes is for the Fed to stop creating inflation and bubbles.

Some economists and policy makers claim that the way to stop the Federal Reserve from causing economic chaos is not to end the Fed but to force the Fed to adopt a “rules-based” monetary policy. Adopting rules-based monetary policy may seem like an improvement, but, because it still allows a secretive central bank to manipulate the money supply, it will still result in Fed-created booms and busts.

The only way to restore economic stability and avoid a major economic crisis is to end the Fed, or at least allow Americans to use alternative currencies. Fortunately, more Americans than ever are studying Austrian economics and working to change our monetary system.

Thanks to the efforts of this growing anti-Fed movement, Audit the Fed had twice passed the House of Representatives, and the Senate is scheduled to vote on it on January 12. Auditing the Fed, so the American people can finally learn the full truth about the Fed’s operations, is an important first step in restoring a sound monetary policy. Hopefully, the Senate will take that step and pass Audit the Fed in January.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.


Why We Need Deflation and Higher Interest Rates – Article by John P. Cochran

Why We Need Deflation and Higher Interest Rates – Article by John P. Cochran

The New Renaissance Hat
John P. Cochran
April 5, 2015
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The Fed is seemingly slightly out of step with other central bankers as it recently hinted at possible future rate hikes in the official announcement following its March 20, 2015 meeting. But as many commentators have recognized, Janet Yellen, a strong proponent of Keynesian more-inflation-as-cure-for-unemployment policy, later downplayed the significance of the announcement. She was careful to indicate that rates would stay low for the near future and when (and if) rate increases begin, they will be measured. The Fed, like central bankers elsewhere, stays committed to a 2 percent inflation target as it continues a policy driven by a fear of deflation, a fear that is not supported by either good economic theory or economic history properly interpreted.

The errors of deflation-phobia can be drawn from Philipp Bagus’s excellent and recently released In Defense of Deflation. Bagus points out

In the economic mainstream, there are basically two main strands in contemporary deflation theories. The first strand can be represented by economists who in some way are inspired by Keynesian theories like Ben Bernanke, Lars E.O. Svensson, Marvin Goodfriend, or Paul Krugman. The first group fears that price deflation might put the economy in a liquidity trap and opposes all price deflation categorically. It represents the deflation phobia in its clearest form.

It is these theorists and their colleagues who currently dominate central bank thinking and make the case (weak and often only asserted as an imperative) for a positive inflation buffer.

Bagus does recognize a second group of mainstream economists with a more balanced view of deflation:

The second strand has representatives like Claudio Borio, Andrew Filardo, Michael Bordo, John L. Lane, and Angela Redish. Inspired by the Chicago School, the second group is more free market oriented. Bordo, for instance, received his doctoral degree from the University of Chicago. This group distinguishes between two types of deflation: good deflation and bad deflation.

Deflation Leads to Increases in Real Interest Rates, Which Brings Recovery

However, the main water carriers against this erroneous overemphasis by economists and the mainstream press on the alleged evils of deflation have been the Austrians. In his essays “A Reformulation of the Austrian Business Cycle Theory” and “An Austrian Taxonomy of Deflation” Joseph Salerno dismantles deflation-phobia and illustrates the benefits of higher interest rates. Moreover, “A Reformulation” is also a strong argument on why current policy retards recovery and why a policy which would allow financial markets to adjust to a new higher natural rate of interest is essential for restoring normalcy and prosperity. Salerno begins with examining why it is so unpleasant when an economy must adjust to fix the malinvestments and overconsumption that appeared in the boom phase:

The ABCT, when correctly formulated, does indeed explain the asymmetry between the boom and bust phases of the business cycle. The malinvestment and overconsumption that occur during the inflationary boom cause a shattering of the production structure that accounts for the pervasive unemployment and impoverishment that is observed during the recession. Before recovery can begin, the production structure must be painstakingly pieced back together again in a new pattern, because the intertemporal preferences of consumers have changed dramatically due to the redistribution and losses of income and wealth incurred during the inflation. This of course takes time.

At the heart of the problem is the fact that central bank-induced inflation has “wreaked havoc” on prices and consequently on economic calculation:

In addition, the recession-adjustment process is further prolonged by the fact that the boom has wreaked havoc with monetary calculation, the very moorings of the market economy. Entrepreneurs have discovered that their spectacular successes during the boom were merely a prelude to a sudden and profound failure of their forecasts and calculations to be realized. Until they have regained confidence in their forecasting abilities and in the reliability of economic calculation they will be understandably averse to initiating risky ventures even if they appear profitable. But if the market is permitted to work, this entrepreneurial malaise cures itself as the restriction of demand for factors of production drives down wages and other costs of production relative to anticipated product prices. The “natural interest rate,” i.e., the rate of return on investment in the structure of production, thus increases to the point where entrepreneurs are enticed to renew their investment activities and initiate the adjustment process. Success feeds on itself, entrepreneurs’ spirits rise, and the recovery gains momentum.

The market can only cure itself, Salerno explains, if prices are allowed to adjust, including decreases in “wages and other costs of production relative to anticipated product prices.” At the same time, it’s the resulting “steep rise” in real interest rates that draws capitalists and entrepreneurs back into the marketplace:

The rise in the natural interest rate that overcomes the pandemic demoralization among capitalists and entrepreneurs and sparks the recovery is reflected in the credit markets. For recovery to begin again, there needs to be a steep rise in the “real,” or inflation-adjusted, interest rate observed in financial markets. High interest rates do not stifle the recovery but are the sure sign that the readjustment of relative prices required to realign the production structure with economic reality is proceeding apace. The mislabeled “secondary deflation,” whether or not it is accompanied by an incidental monetary contraction, is thus an integral part of the adjustment process. It is the prerequisite for the renewal of entrepreneurial boldness and the restoration of confidence in monetary calculation. Decisions by banks and capitalist-entrepreneurs to temporarily hold rather than lend or invest a portion of accumulated savings in employing the factors of production and the corresponding rise of the loan and natural rates above some estimated “true” time preference rate does not impede but speeds up the recovery. This implies, of course, that any political attempt to arrest or reverse the decline in factor and asset prices through monetary manipulations or fiscal stimulus programs will retard or derail the recession-adjustment process.

New Defenders of Deflation

Citing work by Claudio Borio, head of the Monetary and Economic department at the BIS, listed above by Bagus, The Telegraph, ran a recent story by Szu Ping Chan, “Low Rates Will Trigger Civil Unrest as Central Banks Lose Control,” also highly critical of fear-of-deflation policy committed to 2 percent (or higher) inflation targets. Ms. Chan highlights work by Borio:

A separate paper co-authored by Mr Borio argued that periods of deflation has less economic costs than sustained falls in property prices. Its analysis of 38 economies over a period of more than 100 years showed economies grew by an average of 3.2pc during deflationary periods, compared with 2.7pc when prices were rising.

It said drawing blind comparisons with the 1930s were misguided. “The historical evidence suggests that the Great Depression was the exception rather than the rule,” said Hyun Shin, head of research at the BIS.

Mr. Bagus, Ms. Chan, and Mr. Borio have highlighted for us yet again why it is essential that institutional changes be made that lead to withering away of fiat money and create the possibility for sound money.

John P. Cochran is emeritus dean of the Business School and emeritus professor of economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver and coauthor with Fred R. Glahe of The Hayek-Keynes Debate: Lessons for Current Business Cycle Research. He is also a senior scholar for the Mises Institute and serves on the editorial board of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. Send him mail. See John P. Cochran’s article archives.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Cryptocurrencies and a Wider Regression Theorem – Article by Peter St. Onge

Cryptocurrencies and a Wider Regression Theorem – Article by Peter St. Onge

The New Renaissance Hat
Peter St. Onge
December 18, 2014
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The debate whether or not cryptocurrencies are “money” has put a spotlight on the Menger-Mises Regression Theorem. As stated, the theorem posits that a non-fiat money must have had value before it became a money. Some have used currencies’ lack of antecedent value as knocking it off the money pedestal or as forcing cryptocurrencies to ignominiously piggyback on fiat currencies’ own regressions.

In a 2013 post Konrad Graf makes the excellent point that such critiques misread the Regression Theorem. In reality, Graf argues, the theorem is not a hypothesis to be tested, rather the theorem tells us that cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin indeed had some antecedent value. At which point our task is to discover what that antecedent value was. Graf suggests several alternatives, including utility of Bitcoin as a geek toy, as art, or as social marker. Because of these non-monetary uses, Graf writes, bitcoin and the theorem do not threaten each other, but “merely gaze across the intellectual landscape at one another with knowing smiles.”

While I agree with Graf on his main point that the theorem implies cryptocurrencies did have antecedent value, I believe that both the original critique and Grafs’ response fall into a trap of misreading the theorem as requiring non-monetary and previously realized (“bought and sold”) benefits.

Money Is a Useful Good

Among Menger’s greatest contributions in his Principles is the realization that money is fundamentally a good like any other — demanded for its usefulness in enabling transactions and store of value — with an actual price dictated by its scarcity.

If money, like any other good, derives its value from the benefits it offers, it’s hard to see why the money, even those benefits, require an antecedent. Just as the internet can be valuable without a “pre-internet,” a cryptocurrency enabling anonymous, irreversible, low-regulation transactions and savings can be valuable without a precursor. [1] If there is no regression requirement for value in any other good, why does money alone bear this burden?

Must Money Have a Non-Monetary Use?

Instead, I would argue for a reading of the Regression Theorem with two important liberalizations. First, benefits provided by a money needn’t be non-monetary. That is, the benefits can reside in the good’s use as money itself — no need for geek-chic art. Second, antecedent demand needn’t have been realized — the use needn’t have actually occurred. It’s the antecedent demand, even latent, not the previous buying and selling, which counts in importing value via the Regression Theorem.

To give an example that satisfies both liberalizations, a benefit such as anonymous wire transfers is both a money-related benefit and is also a service that didn’t previously exist. In a liberalized Regression Theorem, this benefit would count as the antecedent demand giving the spark of life to a scarce cryptocurrency.

A concrete historical example of a currency offering both mainly monetary value and offering it only at moment of birth is Tang China’s paper money. Called “flying cash,” paper offered the key benefit of portability, set against its other risks compared with bullion coins (flammability, uncertain redemption). We could surely seek out non-monetary antecedent value for Tang cash — toilet paper comes to mind. But it seems a stretch to reach for artistic or hygiene uses, compared to the natural conclusion that flying cash was demanded because of its monetary benefits. The fact that demand for portable money was unrealized would simply increase paper money’s value to the unfortunate customer who lacked alternative light-weight money.

This mistaken focus on non-money-related and realized antecedent value is understandable, since even Mises seems to be mixing historical and praxeological discussion in Human Action (chapter 17, sec. 4) where Mises writes, “No good can be employed for the function of a medium of exchange which at the very beginning of its use for this purpose did not have exchange value on account of other employments.”

Here Mises seems to clearly state that Menger’s Regression Theorem requires a currency to have historically represented a commodity having non-money use. This is a natural interpretation, especially in context of Mises’s subsequent discussion of precious metals, clearly useful commodities that you can flash at parties.

But we must take care here to separate Mises’s historical generalization from the praxeological core of his statement. Because Mises has metal on his mind, he suggests the “other employments” must have been antecedent (“did not have”) and, in his subsequent discussion of metals, seems to imply the commodities should be both concrete and previously in use (realized) for non-money purposes.

Money Benefits Are as Useful as Non-Money Benefits

Again, praxeologically, none of these requirements are essential. Money benefits are as useful as non-money benefits, and a useful commodity could conceivably be created and become a medium of exchange at the same moment. So long as the commodity offers “employments” in the form of benefits to users. Cryptocurrencies’ anonymity, regulatory treatment, algorithmically fixed rate of growth, fee structure, and irreversibility of transfer are all money-related benefits, many unrealized before cryptocurrencies came along.

On this reading, and in agreement with Graf, cryptocurrencies are not at all a challenge to the Regression Theorem. They are a confirmation. At birth, cryptocurrencies offered useful features. These benefits function as “employments,” giving cryptocurrencies demand via transaction and store of-value benefits, which in turn import durable purchasing power.

Perceptions Are Important

That “seed” of demand can then be amplified by marketing — by framing the subjective benefits of the currency. Again like any other good, if individuals exert effort to communicate and frame the benefits of a cryptocurrency, then we might expect demand to increase. These individuals may be the owners of businesses that benefit from the currency, or they simply may be enthusiasts.

Now we can simply match these subjective benefits to scarcity to yield a price of a cryptocurrency. Below zero and the currency isn’t “good enough” — it’s not perceived to offer enough benefits. It’s not cool and it’s not art. Above zero and a currency is born: now Satoshi Nakamoto t-shirts are all the rage.

As technology lowers the costs of producing cryptocurrencies, broadening the Regression Theorem’s value requirement to accept novel money-related benefits opens up enormously the range of currencies that are possible in the future. It should be an exciting few decades in the world of currency innovation.

Notes

1. Cryptocurrencies benefit from a perception of anonymity, although whether or not there is actual anonymity in practice is another matter.

Peter St. Onge is an assistant professor at Taiwan’s Fengjia University College of Business. He blogs at Profits of Chaos.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

G. Stolyarov II and xpallodoc Discuss the Future – Video Interview

G. Stolyarov II and xpallodoc Discuss the Future – Video Interview

On November 30, 2014, Mr. Stolyarov was interviewed by YouTube user xpallodoc, and the wide-ranging discussion encompassed subjects from visions of the future, indefinite life extension and the concept of I-ness, the future of money and economies, technological progress, virtual worlds, political barriers to progress, artificial intelligence, marriage and family, and being part of the push toward radical abundance and technological breakthroughs within our lifetimes.

References
– “Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World” – Video by G. Stolyarov II
– “How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self” – Video by G. Stolyarov II

The Fed and the “Salvador Dali Effect” – Article by Dante Bayona

The Fed and the “Salvador Dali Effect” – Article by Dante Bayona

The New Renaissance Hat
Dante Bayona
November 28, 2014
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There is a story about the great Catalan surrealist painter Salvador Dali. It is said that in the last years of his life, when he was already famous, he signed checks knowing that they would not be submitted to the bank for payment. Rather, after partying with his friends and consuming the most expensive items the restaurants had to offer, he would ask for the bill, pull out one of his checks, write the amount, and sign it. Before handing over the check, he quickly turned it around, made a drawing on the back and autographed it. Dali knew the owner of the restaurant would not cash the check but keep it,put it in a frame, and display it in the most prominent place in the restaurant: “An original Dali.”

It was a good deal for Dali: his checks never came back to the bank to be cashed, and he still enjoyed great banquets with all of his friends. Dali had a magic checkbook.

But what would have happened if one day art collectors concluded that Dali’s work really did not capture the essence of surrealism, and therefore that his art was not of great value? If that had happened, every autographed check would have come back to the bank (at least in theory), and Dali would have had to pay up. If Dali had not saved enough money, he would have had to find a job painting houses.

While the analogy is not perfect, we may find that something similar can happen with the Fed and the dollar. For now, The Fed has a magic checkbook that allows it to spend without paying the bill because it thinks the checks will never come back to be cashed.

Dali died long before people stopped valuing his art, but the US economy does not enjoy such a convenient escape. What if, as in the case of art collectors who might no longer see great value in Dali’s work, the world loses faith in the quality of the dollar and stops using it for large international transactions? If that happens, in the same way Dali would have had to pay his bills, the US would also have to make good on the checks it signed. Would the US be able to pay its checks with more checks?

Since each country has its own currency, every central bank around the world has to print more of its national currency to buy the excess of dollars entering the country whenever the US expands its money supply. Thus, in the 1970s, in the wake of the Nixon Shock, members of OPEC accused the US of exporting inflation.

Recall that during the mid-1960s, the US central bank was financing a war in Vietnam and as well as funding Lyndon B. Johnson’s programs of “The Great Society”that supposedly would eliminate poverty. As the Fed was printing money, OPEC members had to inflate their currencies to buy the excess of dollars.

Central banks around the world have to buy excess of dollars entering their countries so their exports do not lose competitiveness. Thus, a double inflation is imposed on every country in the world, one created by its own domestic central bank, because all central banks inflate on their own, and another created by the US central bank. Hans-Hermann Hoppe wrote about the perils of monetary imperialism:

The dominating state will use its superior power to enforce a policy of internationally coordinated inflation. Its own central bank sets the pace in the process of counterfeiting, and the central banks of the dominated states are ordered to use its currency as their own reserves and inflate on top of them. Thus, along with the dominating state and as the earliest receivers of the counterfeit reserve currency, its associated banking and business establishment can engage in an almost costless expropriation of foreign property owners and income producers. A double layer of exploitation of a foreign state and a foreign elite on top of a national state and elite is imposed on the exploited class in the dominated territories, causing prolonged economic dependency on and relative economic stagnation in comparison with the dominant nation. It is this — very uncapitalist — situation that characterizes the status of the United States and the US dollar and that gives rise to the — correct — accusations concerning US economic exploitation and dollar imperialism. 1

While it is true that in the 1970s the dollar enjoyed a worldwide hegemony — given that all European countries had their currencies separated, and given that China and Russia were outside the capitalist world — now the situation is different. Vladimir Putin recently stated that “The international monetary system itself depends a lot on the U.S. dollar, or, to be precise, on the monetary and financial policy of the U.S. authorities. The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) want to change this.” 2

Salvador Dali had devised an ingenious method for not paying his bills. Similar stories are told about Pablo Picasso. But the Fed does not produce tangible items that people would rather hold on to, like an original Salvador Dali. The Fed does not produce work or items of value. The Salvador Dali effect, i.e., the ability to prevent checks from being cashed by creating something of real value, does not apply to the Fed. That is why it is good to remind the Fed, and the government, to be careful with the expenditures when partying, just in case the magic checkbook disappears.

  • 1. See Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis.” Journal of Libertarian Studies 9, no. 2 (Fall 1990). www.mises.org/journals/jls/9_2/9_2_5.pdf
  • 2. See Vladimir “Putin, No plans for BRICS military, political alliance.” Russia: RT. Retrieved 16 July 2014. www.rt.com/politics/official-word/172768-putin-brics-economies-alliance

Dante Bayona received his master’s degree in Austrian economics under the direction of Jesús Huerta de Soto in Spain. He was a 2014 Summer Fellow at the Mises Institute, works in the banking sector in New York, and collaborates with MisesHispano.org.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

The End of Quantitative Easing Is Not the End of Bad Policy – Article by John P. Cochran

The End of Quantitative Easing Is Not the End of Bad Policy – Article by John P. Cochran

The New Renaissance Hat
John P. Cochran
November 7, 2014
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Recently the financial press and media has been abuzz as the Federal Reserve moved closer to the anticipated end to its massive bond and mortgage backed securities purchases known as quantitative easing. James Bullard, President of the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, stirred controversy last week when he suggested the Fed should consider continuing the bond buying program after October. But at the October 29th meeting, the policy makers did as anticipated and “agreed to end its asset purchase program.” However one voting member agreed with Mr. Bullard. Per the official press release, “Voting against the action was Narayana Kocherlakota, who believed that, in light of continued sluggishness in the inflation outlook and the recent slide in market-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations, the Committee should commit to keeping the current target range for the federal funds rate at least until the one-to-two-year ahead inflation outlook has returned to 2 percent and should continue the asset purchase program at its current level” (emphasis added).

The action yesterday completes the phase out, which began in January 2014, of the controversial QE3 under the leadership of Ben Bernanke and continued unabated under Janet Yellen.

“Not the End of Monetary Easing”

While the headline in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the action as closing a “chapter on easy money,” a closer look illustrates this is perhaps not the case. The Journal, on the editorial page the same day offers a better perspective, supported by data and the rhetoric in the press release. Much to the determent of future economic prosperity, “The end of Fed bond buying is not the end of monetary easing.”

While quantitative easing has contributed to the massive expansion of the Fed balance sheet — now nearly $4.5 trillion in assets — it is not the whole story. Even as the Fed ends new buying of favored assets, the Fed balance sheet will not shrink. As pointed out by the Wall Street Journal, “QE is not over, and the Fed will still reinvest the principal payments from its maturing securities.” Even more relevant, during the phase out there was a continuing expansion of three broad measures of Fed activity; St. Louis Fed adjusted reserves (Figure 1), the monetary base (Figure 2), and Federal Reserve Banks — Total Assets, Eliminations from Consolidation program (Figure 3). (All data from FRED economic data series St. Louis Federal Reserve. Calculations are mine.)

Figure 1: St. Louis Fed Adjusted Reserves

Figure 2: The Monetary Base

Figure 3: Federal Reserve Banks — Total Assets, Eliminations from Consolidation

The Fed’s Balance Sheet Continues to Expand

Despite some ups and downs, adjusted reserves increased 15.8 percent from January 2014 through September 2014, the monetary base by 8.6 percent, and consolidated assets by 10.7 percent. Given QE purchases were $85 billion per month at their peak, this continuing expansion of the Fed balance sheet and the other relevant monetary aggregates, the phase out and end of quantitative easing represents not a change in policy stance, but only a shift in tools. Monetary distortion has continued unabated. The only plus in the change is that more traditional tools of monetary manipulation create only the traditional market distortions; Cantillon effects, false relative prices, particularly interest rates, and the associated misdirection of production and malinvestments. Temporarily gone is the more dangerous Mondustrial Policy where the central bankers further distort credit allocation by picking winners and losers.

As illustrated by the Fed speak in the press release, post QE3-forward policy will, despite John Taylor’s optimism that this would not be the case, continued to be biased against a return to a more balanced, less potentially self-defeating rules-based policy. Instead driven by the Fed’s unwise dual mandate and the strong belief by Fed leadership in Tobin Keynesianism, policy will continue to “foster maximum employment.” This despite strong theoretical arguments (Austrian business cycle theory and the more mainstream natural unemployment rate hypothesis)[1] and good empirical evidence that any short-run positive impact monetary policy may have on employment and production is temporary and in the long run, per Hayek, cause greater instability and potentially even higher unemployment.

The Lasting Legacy of QE

As pointed out by David Howden in “QE’s Seeds Are Already Sown,” and as emphasized by Hayek (in Unemployment and Monetary Policy: Government as Generator of the “Business Cycle”), and recently formalized by Ravier (in “Rethinking Capital-Based Macroeconomics”), the seeds of easy money and credit creation, even when sown during times with unused capacity, bring forth the weeds of instability, malinvestment, bust, and economic displacement. They do not bring the promised return to prosperity, sustainable growth, and high employment.

Since the phase-out is only apparent, and not a real change in policy direction, Joe Salerno’s warning (“A Reformulation of Austrian Business Cycle Theory in Light of the Financial Crisis,” p. 41) remains relevant:

(G)iven the unprecedented monetary interventions by the Fed and the enormous deficits run by the Obama admin­istration, ABCT also explains the precarious nature of the current recovery and the growing probability that the U.S economy is headed for a 1970s-style stagflation.

While highly unlikely there is still time to do the right thing, follow the policy advice of Rothbard and the Austrians, as argued earlier in more detail here and here. Despite some short run costs which are likely small compared to the cost of a decade of stagnation, such a policy is the only reliable route to return the economy to sustainable prosperity.

John P. Cochran is emeritus dean of the Business School and emeritus professor of economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver and coauthor with Fred R. Glahe of The Hayek-Keynes Debate: Lessons for Current Business Cycle Research. He is also a senior scholar for the Mises Institute and serves on the editorial board of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. Send him mail. See John P. Cochran’s article archives.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Inflation’s Not the Only Way Easy Money Destroys Wealth – Article by Frank Shostak

Inflation’s Not the Only Way Easy Money Destroys Wealth – Article by Frank Shostak

The New Renaissance Hat
Frank Shostak
October 14, 2014
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The US Federal Reserve can keep stimulating the US economy because inflation is posing little threat, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Kocherlakota said. “I am expecting an inflation rate to run below two percent for the next four years, through 2018,” he said. “That means there is more room for monetary policy to be helpful in terms of … boosting demand without running up against generating too much inflation.”

The yearly rate of growth of the official consumer price index (CPI) stood at 1.7 percent in August against two percent in July. According to our estimate, the yearly rate of growth of the CPI could close at 1.4 percent by December. By December next year we forecast the yearly rate of growth of 0.6 percent.

Does Demand Create More Supply?

It seems that the Minneapolis Fed President holds that by boosting the demand for goods and services — by means of additional monetary pumping — it is possible to strengthen economic growth. He believes that by means of strengthening the demand for goods and services the production of goods and services will follow suit. But why should that be so?

If by means of monetary pumping one could strengthen the economic growth then it would imply that — by means of monetary pumping — it is possible to create real wealth and generate an everlasting economic prosperity.

This would also mean that world wide poverty should have been erased a long time ago. After all, most countries today have central banks that possess the skills to create money in large amounts. Yet world poverty remains intact.

Despite massive monetary pumping since 2008, and the policy interest rate of around zero, Fed policymakers seem to be unhappy with the so-called economic recovery. Note that the Fed’s balance sheet, which stood at $0.86 trillion in January 2007 jumped to $4.4 trillion by September this year.

Production Comes Before Demand

We suggest that there is no such thing as an independent category called demand. Before an individual can exercise demand for goods and services, he/she must produce some other useful goods and services. Once these goods and services are produced, individuals can exercise their demand for the goods they desire. This is achieved by exchanging things that were produced for money, which in turn can be exchanged for goods that are desired. Note that money serves here as the medium of exchange — it produces absolutely nothing. It permits the exchange of something for something. Any policy that results in monetary pumping leads to an exchange of nothing for something. This amounts to a weakening of the pool of real wealth — and hence to reduced prospects for the expansion of this pool.

What is required to boost the economic growth — the production of real wealth — is to remove all the factors that undermine the wealth generation process. One of the major negative factors that undermine the real wealth generation is loose monetary policy of the central bank, which boosts demand without the prior production of wealth. (Once the loopholes for the money creation out of “thin air” are closed off the diversion of wealth from wealth generators towards non-productive bubble activities is arrested. This leaves more real funding in the hands of wealth generators — permitting them to strengthen the process of wealth generation (i.e., permitting them to grow the economy).

Artificially Boosted Demand Destroys Wealth

Now, the artificial boosting of the demand by means of monetary pumping leads to the depletion of the pool of real wealth. It amounts to adding more individuals that take from the pool of real wealth without adding anything in return — an economic impoverishment.

The longer the reckless loose policy of the Fed stays in force the harder it gets for wealth generators to generate real wealth and prevent the pool of real wealth from shrinking.

Finally, the fact that the yearly rate of growth of the CPI is declining doesn’t mean that the Fed’s monetary pumping is going to be harmless. Regardless of price inflation monetary pumping results in an exchange of nothing for something and thus, impoverishment.

Frank Shostak is an adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute and a frequent contributor to Mises.org. His consulting firm, Applied Austrian School Economics, provides in-depth assessments and reports of financial markets and global economies. See Frank Shostak’s article archives.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.