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

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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.

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

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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.

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Venezuela’s Bizarre System of Exchange Rates – Article by Emiliana Disilvestro & David Howden

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The New Renaissance HatEmiliana Disilvestro & David Howden
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Venezuela is currently going through its worst crisis in history, replete with an endless list of interesting problems. Foremost among these are severe shortages in even the most basic of necessities. Economists have used these shortages as textbook examples to illustrate the pernicious effects of price controls.

Few people, however, are aware that many of the country’s problems are caused by a complex monetary arrangement that makes use of four different exchange rates simultaneously. The result is that Venezuela can either be extremely cheap, or unbearably expensive, depending on the rate used.

Monetary chaos began in 2003 when the late President Hugo Chavez imposed currency controls to stem capital flight after an oil strike. At the time, one US dollar could fetch 1.6 Venezuelan bolivars. Today, barely ten years later, that same dollar can buy 172 bolivars, a devaluation of over 99 percent! Of course, that is in the official (i.e., government regulated) market. On the black market, the exchange rate is currently nearly 900 bolivars to the US dollar. That is, if you can find anyone selling dollars, or more importantly, looking to buy the badly tarnished Venezuelan currency.

This devaluation is in and of itself a large problem, both for consumers who must deal with high degrees of price inflation and for businesses that must undergo long-term capital planning decisions with a constantly moving monetary unit. However, it is the volatility of the exchange rate caused by the government’s continuous changes to currency restrictions and official rates that is proving the most cumbersome problem.

A Very Complex System of Exchange Rates

Currently there are four exchange rates: First is the official one, called CENCOEX, and which charges 6.30 bolivars to the dollar. It is only intended for the importation of food and medicine.

The next two exchange rates are SICAD I (12 bolivars per dollar) and SICAD 2 (50 bolivars per dollar); they assign dollars to enterprises that import all other types of goods. Because of the fact that US dollars are limited, coupons are auctioned only sporadically; usually weekly in the case of SICAD 1 and daily for SICAD 2. However, due to the economic crisis, no dollars have been allocated for these foreign exchange transactions and there hasn’t been an auction since August 18, 2015. As of November 2015, the Venezuelan government held only $16 billion in foreign exchange reserves, the lowest level in over ten years, and an amount that will dry up completely in four years time at the current rate of depletion.

The last and newest exchange rate is the SIMADI, currently at 200 bolivars per dollar. This rate is reserved for the purchase and sale of foreign currency to individuals and businesses.

There are many problems in Venezuela as a result of this complex system. The most obvious is the near impossibility to actually get assigned to these rates due to the complex bureaucratic process one must navigate to apply for them. In response to these difficulties, Venezuelans must rely on the black market to meet their demands for foreign currency. Therefore, people naturally rely on the black market rate, which although it is much less advantageous (at 900 vs. anywhere from 6.3 to 200 bolivars per dollar on the “official” market), at least offers the possibility to procure the much needed foreign exchange.

Corruption, which is a main characteristic of Venezuela’s political regime, is another problem derived from this complex monetary system. Officials within the government and those connected to it have taken advantage of their positions of power and influence to mismanage the money assigned for other, productive and necessary, institutions. Thus, well-connected individuals obtain US dollars through the legal channels and then sell them on the black market at a higher price. (This activity is one of the only ways to consistently earn high levels of profits in the beleaguered Venezuelan economy, and is only available to those privileged few who are connected to the proper government officials.)

This point is especially important when studying the vast array of shortages. The embezzlement of foreign currency intended for importing basic goods, e.g., foreign exchange reserved for the CENCOEX and SICAD exchange rates, leave legitimate businessmen with no options to obtain legally the necessary currencies to import goods. Owing to the rapidly depreciating bolivar, US dollars are hoarded as a means of savings, thus further exacerbating the foreign exchange shortage for importers. As a consequence, imports are unable to be paid for, leading to shortages on top of those already caused by extensive and damaging price controls.

The Poor Suffer the Most

These problems affect directly all citizens, but are especially pernicious to lower-income individuals. Many suppliers will only sell what few goods they have for US dollars, eschewing accepting bolivars in the payment of their wares. Black market currency sellers set up shop outside supermarkets to accommodate this phenomenon, but it must be noted that only the upper-middle and higher income earners are able to afford to pay the black market rate. The result is that the lower-income segment of Venezuelan society, those who price and currency controls are supposedly helping, are not able to obtain the currency necessary to buy simple goods and services (and the wealthy can only do so at a high price).

Although the business community demands to be paid in US dollars this harms lower-income individuals unduly and is a completely rational response. If businesses kept selling their scarce supply of goods at the official rate their shelves would deplete faster than they already do. Venezuelans earn income at the official rate of 6.30 bolivars to the US dollar while businesses must pay a much higher rate in order to import goods. This difference must be accounted for by stores asking for prices commensurate with what they must pay to stock their shelves.

The complex exchange rate system in Venezuela is not only a good example of unnecessary government meddling in the economy, but also explains why a corrupt political regime has been able to retain power for so long despite more than a decade of hardship imposed on the country. The use of several exchange rates has made it easy for the Chávez and Maduro governments and their followers to make enormous profits by embezzling the money assigned to the business community and individuals. By doing so, they have completely devalued the bolivar and impoverished what was once one of the richest countries in the world.

Emiliana Disilvestro studies international business at Saint Louis University at its Madrid campus.

David Howden is Chair of the Department of Business and Economics and professor of economics at St. Louis University’s Madrid Campus, and Academic Vice President of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada.

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.

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Will Seizure of Russian Assets Hasten Dollar Decline? – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
June 23, 2015
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While much of the world focused last week on whether or not the Federal Reserve was going to raise interest rates, or whether the Greek debt crisis would bring Europe to a crisis, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague awarded a $50 billion judgment to shareholders of the former oil company Yukos in their case against the Russian government. The governments of Belgium and France moved immediately to freeze Russian state assets in their countries, naturally provoking the anger of the Russian government.

The timing of these actions is quite curious, coming as the Greek crisis in the EU seems to be reaching a tipping point and Greece, having perhaps abandoned the possibility of rapprochement with Europe, has been making overtures to Russia to help bail it out of its mess. And with the IMF’s recent statement pledging its full and unconditional support to Ukraine, it has become even more clear that the IMF and other major multilateral institutions are not blindly technical organizations, but rather are totally subservient lackeys to the foreign policy agenda emanating from Washington. Toe the DC party line and the internationalists will bail you out regardless of how badly you mess up, but if you even think about talking to Russia you will face serious consequences.

The United States government is desperately trying to cling to the notion of a unipolar world, with the United States at its center dictating foreign affairs and monetary policy while its client states dutifully carry out instructions. But the world order is not unipolar, and the existence of Russia and China is a stark reminder of that. For decades, the United States has benefited as the creator and defender of the world’s reserve currency, the dollar. This has enabled Americans to live beyond their means as foreign goods are imported to the US while increasingly worthless dollars are sent abroad. But is it any wonder after 70-plus years of a depreciating dollar that the rest of the world is rebelling against this massive transfer of wealth?

The Europeans tried to form their own competitor to the dollar, and the resulting euro is collapsing around them as you read this. But the European Union was never considered much of a threat by the United States, existing as it does within Washington’s orbit. Russia and China, on the other hand, pose a far more credible threat to the dollar, as they have both the means and the motivation to form a gold-backed alternative monetary system to compete against the dollar. That is what the US government fears, and that is why President Obama and his Western allies are risking a cataclysmic war by goading Russia with these politically motivated asset seizures. Having run out of carrots, the US is resorting to the stick.

The US government knows that Russia will not blithely accept Washington’s dictates, yet it still reacts like a petulant child flying into a tantrum whenever Russia dares to exert its sovereignty. The existence of a country that won’t kowtow to Washington’s demands is an unforgivable sin, to be punished with economic sanctions, attempting to freeze Russia out of world financial markets; veiled threats to strip Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup; and now the seizure of Russian state assets.

Thus far the Russian response has been incredibly restrained, but that may not last forever. Continued economic pressure from the West may very well necessitate a Sino-Russian monetary arrangement that will eventually dethrone the dollar. The end result of this needless bullying by the United States will hasten the one thing Washington fears the most: a world monetary system in which the US has no say and the dollar is relegated to playing second fiddle.

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.

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Why Do We Celebrate Rising Home Prices? – Article by Ryan McMaken

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ryan McMaken
May 26, 2015
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In recent years, home price indices have seemed to proliferate. Case-Shiller, of course, has been around for a long time, but over the past decade, additional measures have been marketed aggressively by Trulia, CoreLogic, and Zillow, just to name a few.

Measuring home prices has taken on an urgency beyond the real estate industry because for many, home price growth has become something of an indicator of the economy as a whole. If home prices are going up, it is assumed, “the economy” must be doing well. Indeed, we are encouraged to relax when home prices are increasing or holding steady, and we’re supposed to become concerned if home prices are going down.

This is a rather odd way of looking at the price of a basic necessity. If the price of food were going upward at the rate of 7 or 8 percent each year (as has been the case with houses in many markets in recent years) would we all be patting ourselves on the back and telling ourselves how wonderful economic conditions are? Or would we be rightly concerned if incomes were not also going up at a similar rate? Would we do the same with shoes and clothing? How about with education?

With housing, though, increases in prices are to be lauded, we are told, even if they outpace wage growth.

We’re Told to Want High Home Prices

But in today’s economy, if home prices are outpacing wage growth, then housing is becoming less affordable. This is grudgingly admitted even by the supporters of ginning up home prices, but the affordability of housing takes a back seat to the insistence that home prices be preserved at all costs.

Behind all of this is the philosophy that even if the home-price/household-income relationship gets out of whack, most problems will nevertheless be solved if we can just get people into a house. Once someone becomes a homeowner, the theory goes, he’ll be sitting on a huge asset that (almost) always goes up in price, meaning that any homeowner will increase in net worth as the equity in his home increases.

Then, the homeowner can use that equity to buy furniture, appliances, and a host of other consumer goods. With all that consumer spending, the economy takes off and we all win. Rising home prices are just a bump in the road, we are told, because if we can just get everyone into a home, the overall benefit to the economy will be immense.

Making Homes Affordable with More Cheap Debt

Not surprisingly, we find a sort of crude Keynesianism behind this philosophy. In this way of thinking, the point of homeownership is not to have shelter, but to acquire something that will encourage more consumer spending. In other words, the purpose of homeownership is to increase aggregate demand. The fact that you can live in the house is just a fringe benefit. This macro-obsession is part of the reason why the government has pushed homeownership so aggressively in recent decades.

The fly in the ointment, of course, is if home prices keep going up faster than wages — ceteris paribus — fewer people will be able to save enough money to come up with either the full amount or even a sizable down payment on a loan.

Not to worry, the experts tell us. We’ll just make it easier, with the help of inflationary fiat money, to get an enormous loan that will allow you to buy a house. Thus, rock-bottom interest rates and low down payments have been the name of the game since the late 1980s.

We started to see the end game at work during the last housing bubble when Fannie Mae introduced the 40-year mortgage in 2005, which just emphasized that when it comes to being a homeowner, the idea is not to pay off the mortgage, but to “buy” a house and just pay the monthly payment until one moves to another house and gets a new thirty- or forty-year loan.

It Pays To Be in Debt

On the surface of it, it’s hard to see how this scenario is fundamentally different from just paying rent every month. If the homeowner stops paying the monthly payment, he’s out on the street, and the bank keeps the house, which is very similar to the scenario in which a renter stops paying a landlord. There’s (at least) one big difference here, however. It makes sense for the homeowner to get a home loan rather than rent an apartment because — if it’s a fixed-rate loan — price inflation ensures the real monthly payment will go down every month. Residential rents, on the other hand, tend to keep up with inflation.

But why would any lending institution make these sorts of long-term loans if the payment in real terms keeps getting smaller? After all, thirty years is a long time for something to go wrong.

Lenders are willing and able to do this because the loans are subsidized and underwritten through government creations like Fannie Mae (which buys up these loans on the secondary market), through bailouts, and through a myriad of other federal programs such as FHA. Naturally, in an unhampered market, a loan of such a long term would require high interest rates to cover the risk. But, Congress and the Fed have come to the rescue with promises of bailouts and easy money, meaning cheap thirty-year loans continue to live on.

So, what we end up with is a complex system of subsidies and favoritism on the part of lenders, homeowners, government agencies, and the Fed. The price of homes keeps going up, increasing the net worth of homeowners, and banks can make long-term loans on fairly risky terms because they know bailouts of various sorts will come if things go wrong.

But problems begin to arise when increases in home prices begin to outpace access to easy money and cheap loans. Indeed, we’re now seeing that homeownership rates are going down in spite of low interest rates, and vacancy rates in rental housing are at a twenty-year low. Meanwhile, new production in housing units is at 1992 levels, offering little relief from rising prices and rents. Obviously, something isn’t going according to plan.

Who Loses?

The old debt-based tricks that once kept homeownership climbing and accessible in the face of rising home prices are no longer working.

From a free market’s perspective, renting a home is neither good nor bad, but American policymakers long ago decided to favor homeowners over renters. Consequently, we’re faced with an economic system that pushes renters toward homeownership — price inflation and the tax code punishes renters more than owners — while simultaneously pushing home prices higher and higher.

During the last housing bubble, however, as homeownership levels climbed, few noticed or cared about this. So many renters became homeowners that rental vacancies climbed to record highs from 2004 to 2009. But in our current economy, one cannot avoid rising rents or hedge against inflation by easily leaving rental housing behind.

This time around, the cost of purchasing housing is going up by 6 to 10 percent per year, but few renters can join the ranks of the homeowners to enjoy the windfall. Instead, they just face record-high rent increases and a record-low inventory in for-sale houses.

There once was a time when rising home prices and rising homeownership rates could happen at the same time; it was possible for the government to stick to its unofficial policy of propping up home prices while also claiming to be pushing homeownership. We no longer live in such a time.

Ryan W. McMaken is the editor of Mises Daily and The Free Market. He has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre. 

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.

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Janet Yellen is Right: She Can’t Predict the Future – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
May 25, 2015
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This week I found myself in rare agreement with Janet Yellen when she admitted that her economic predictions are likely to be wrong. Sadly, Yellen did not follow up her admission by handing in her resignation and joining efforts to end the Fed. An honest examination of the Federal Reserve’s record over the past seven years clearly shows that the American people would be better off without it.

Following the bursting of the Federal Reserve-created housing bubble, the Fed embarked on an unprecedented program of bailouts and money creation via quantitative easing (QE) 1, 2, 3, etc. Not only has QE failed to revive the economy, it has further damaged the average American’s standard of living while benefiting the financial elites. None other than Donald Trump has called QE “a great deal for guys like me.”

The failure of quantitative easing to improve the economy has left the Fed reluctant to raise interest rates. Yet the Fed does not want to appear oblivious to the dangers posed by keeping rates artificially low. This is why the Fed regularly announces that the economy will soon be strong enough to handle a rate increase.

There are signs that investors are beginning to realize that the Fed’s constant talk of raising rates is just talk, so they are looking for investments that will protect them from a Fed-caused collapse in the dollar’s value. For example, the price of gold recently increased following reports of stagnant retail sales. An increased gold price in response to economic sluggishness may appear counterintuitive, but it is a sign that investors are realizing quantitative easing is not ending anytime soon.

The increase in the gold price is not the only sign that investors are interested in hard assets to protect themselves from inflation. Recently a Picasso painting sold for a record 180 million dollars. This record may not last long, as an additional two billion dollars worth of art is expected to go on the market in the next few weeks.

Another sign of the increasing concerns about the dollar’s stability is the growing interest in alternative currencies. Investing and using alternative currencies can help average Americans, who do not have millions to spend on Picasso paintings, protect themselves from a currency crisis.

Congress should ensure that all Americans can protect themselves from a dollar crisis by repealing the legal tender laws.

Congress should also take the first step toward monetary reform by passing the Audit the Fed bill. Unfortunately, Audit the Fed is not a part of the Federal Reserve “reform” bill that was passed by the Senate Banking Committee. Instead, the bill makes some minor changes in the Fed’s governance structure. These “reforms” are the equivalent of rearranging deck chairs as the Titanic crashes into the iceberg. Hopefully, the Senate will vote on, and pass, Audit the Fed this year.

The skyrocketing federal debt is also a major factor in the coming economic collapse. The Federal Reserve facilitates deficit spending by monetizing debt. Congress should make real cuts, not just reductions in the “rate of growth,” in all areas. But it should prioritize cutting the billions spent on the military-industrial complex.

Some say that eliminating the welfare-warfare state and the fiat currency system that props it up will cause the people pain. The truth is the only people who will feel any long-term pain from returning to limited, constitutional government are the special interests that profit from the current system. A return to a true free-market economy will greatly improve the lives of the vast majority of Americans.

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.

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

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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.

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Janet Yellen’s Christmas Gift to Wall Street – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Economics, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
December 21, 2014
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Last week we learned that the key to a strong economy is not increased production, lower unemployment, or a sound monetary unit. Rather, economic prosperity depends on the type of language used by the central bank in its monetary policy statements. All it took was one word in the Federal Reserve Bank’s press release — that the Fed would be “patient” in raising interest rates to normal levels — and stock markets went wild. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average had their best gains in years, with the Dow gaining nearly 800 points from Wednesday to Friday and the S&P gaining almost 100 points to close within a few points of its all-time high.

Just think of how many trillions of dollars of financial activity that occurred solely because of that one new phrase in the Fed’s statement. That so much in our economy hangs on one word uttered by one institution demonstrates not only that far too much power is given to the Federal Reserve, but also how unbalanced the American economy really is.

While the real economy continues to sputter, financial markets reach record highs, thanks in no small part to the Fed’s easy money policies. After six years of zero interest rates, Wall Street has become addicted to easy money. Even the slightest mention of tightening monetary policy, and Wall Street reacts like a heroin addict forced to sober up cold turkey.

While much of the media paid attention to how long interest rates would remain at zero, what they largely ignored is that the Fed is, “maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities.” Look at the Fed’s balance sheet and you’ll see that it has purchased $25 billion in mortgage-backed securities since the end of QE3. Annualized, that is $200 billion a year. That may not be as large as QE2 or QE3, but quantitative easing, or as the Fed likes to say “accommodative monetary policy” is far from over.

What gets lost in all the reporting about stock market numbers, unemployment rate figures, and other economic data is the understanding that real wealth results from production of real goods, not from the creation of money out of thin air. The Fed can rig the numbers for a while by turning the monetary spigot on full blast, but the reality is that this is only papering over severe economic problems. Six years after the crisis of 2008, the economy still has not fully recovered, and in many respects is not much better than it was at the turn of the century.

Since 2001, the United States has grown by 38 million people and the working-age population has grown by 23 million people. Yet the economy has only added eight million jobs. Millions of Americans are still unemployed or underemployed, living from paycheck to paycheck, and having to rely on food stamps and other government aid. The Fed’s easy money has produced great profits for Wall Street but it has not helped — and cannot help — Main Street.

An economy that holds its breath every six weeks, looking to parse every single word coming out of Fed Chairman Janet Yellen’s mouth for indications of whether to buy or sell, is an economy that is fundamentally unsound. The Fed needs to stop creating trillions of dollars out of thin air, let Wall Street take its medicine, and allow the corrections that should have taken place in 2001 and 2008 to liquidate the bad debts and malinvestments that permeate the economy. Only then will we see a real economic recovery.

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.

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

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Categories: Art, Economics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

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

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Categories: Economics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

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