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He Was a Middle-School Loan Shark – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

He Was a Middle-School Loan Shark – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker

It came out in passing last night, in discussions with a smart 17-year old, that he got in deep trouble in middle school. He was accused of loan sharking, and forced to do detention.

See if you think there is anything wrong with what he did.

The middle-school cafeteria had candy machines. Every candy cost a dollar. My friend carried extra ones with him. He would buy candy, and immediately people would ask if he could loan them money. He did. More and more people asked. He continued to loan people money, and only some would pay him back. His charity was losing him money.

So he had an idea. He would loan anyone a dollar. However, the next day they had to pay him two dollars. This was great because it weeded out people who were not serious about their candy needs, and got rid of those who had no intention of paying him back. His idea helped to ration his scarce resources. It had the additional advantage of making him some money, which incentivized him to make funds available.

Everyone was happy. He made money. They got their candy. Most everyone paid him back. If he began the week with $5, he ended the week with $10. This was nice. No one was hurt.

If a person was late in paying, he added an additional dollar for each day. Otherwise, why would people pay sooner rather than later? So if you borrowed one dollar on Monday, and didn’t pay until Friday, you would owe $5.

Of course he did have to start keeping books on who borrowed from him. He would sometimes have to hunt them down the next day. Sometimes people need gentle reminders, of course. Mostly people paid.

He was also rather merciful. Once a person got behind by three full weeks. She technically owed $15 on a $1 loan. He came to her and said, “let’s settle this debt today. I’ll take $10 and we can call it even.” She was relieved and happily paid.

My friend was making lots of money. And why? Because many students wanted candy and failed to make the proper financial preparations to purchase it. He was there to facilitate an exchange. They would get candy now, which is what they wanted, and he would be rewarded for anticipating their desires.

So far, I see nothing wrong with this at all.

However, you could express this in more severe terms. People often criticized payday loans for charging an annual percentage rate of 100-700%. Scandalous, right?

Well, think about the rate my friend was charging. It turns out to be 26,000%, based on $1 per weekday.

Keep in mind that we are talking about a 13-year old kid here. This is not exactly a member of the Medici banking family here. He was just trying to help people with a two-party win.

But as his financial holdings grew, and his practices became more formalized, his business became ever more lucrative. That’s when news of his empire began to leak to teachers and parents.

Predictably, there was mass outrage. He was hauled in and accused of “loan sharking.” There was a trial. He was declared guilty. He was put on detention and humiliated publicly.

Once he was out of the picture, kids no longer had any means of getting financing for their candy fixes. They just stood in front of the machines staring blankly. It’s hard to see how the overall middle-school economy was improved by this crackdown.

The response of the parents and teachers was a typical example of mob behavior against intelligent capitalist practices. It’s been going on for hundreds of years, particularly hurting people who make money with their minds through financial savvy.

This was the basis of anti-Semitism from the Middles Ages through the Nazi period, since, as Milton Friedman has explained, Jews have traditionally specialized in the enterprise of money-lending.

And it goes on today, with all the frenzy against usury, payday loans, pawn shops, and so on. Even the Occupy movement sampled some of this populist outrage against money-making.

Damnant quod non intellegunt. They condemn what they do not understand.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Dumb and Dumber – From Negative Interest Rates to Helicopter Money – Article by Paul-Martin Foss

Dumb and Dumber – From Negative Interest Rates to Helicopter Money – Article by Paul-Martin Foss

The New Renaissance Hat
Paul-Martin Foss

We’ve all run into someone who thinks that all it take to bring about prosperity is to give everyone a million dollars. If everyone is a millionaire, we’ll all be rich and be able to afford anything we want, or so the thinking goes. Any sound economist knows that wouldn’t be the case, however. If everyone were given a million dollars the increased amount of money chasing the existing stock of goods would merely result in a massive rise in prices. No one would be better off, at least not once prices were once again equilibrated. The concept of giving everyone a million dollars is so absurd that no one takes it seriously. That is, they don’t take it seriously when a million dollars is the proposed amount. When the amount is smaller, all of a sudden it becomes a viable and increasingly-discussed policy proposal: helicopter money.

Ben Bernanke was derided for bringing up the possibility of helicopter money in 2002, although the idea dates back to Milton Friedman. What Bernanke did say was:

Like gold, U.S. dollars have value only to the extent that they are strictly limited in supply. But the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost. By increasing the number of U.S. dollars in circulation, or even by credibly threatening to do so, the U.S. government can also reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to raising the prices in dollars of those goods and services. We conclude that, under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation.

In fact, if you read that speech you will see Bernanke touting the effectiveness of policies which the Fed has since tried and failed at, as well some policies which the Fed has not yet tried and which we hope it never will.

As a decade of stimulus, quantitative easing, and zero or below-zero interest rates has now proven to be an absolute failure, helicopter money is once again being discussed as a potential central bank action, by central bankers who have no idea what to do and who are grasping at straws. The chief fixed income analyst at Nordea bank has publicly speculated that the European Central Bank (ECB) might be able to distribute 1,300 euros to each European citizen in a bid to boost inflation.

This bid to boost inflation makes the age-old error of confusing more money and higher prices with greater wealth. We know from our million-dollar example that that isn’t the case. So why try on a small scale what fails at the large scale? It is like the minimum wage debate, in which those who favor boosting minimum wages argue that it will result in workers being better-paid and more well-off. Yet we know that raising the minimum wage will result in some workers losing their jobs, as businesses cannot absorb all the increased costs and must dismiss their least-productive workers. The challenge to the proponents of minimum wages always is, if $15 an hour is so good, why not $15,000 an hour? Well, that’s because such a large increase would make abundantly clear what the minimum wage proponents are trying to hide. Minimum wages make some workers better off, but they do so by forcing other workers out of work, thus their wage falls to $0. In the same way, if the ECB could give 1,300 euros to each person, why not 1,300,000 euros? Because prices would rise in result and quickly negate any short-term benefit gained by the monetary increase. That type of hypothetical question exposes the farce of such handouts.

If helicopter money is implemented, those who first gain the use of the new money may benefit by increasing consumption before prices rise, while others will see prices rise before they are able or willing to use the money. But the end result will be higher prices but no overall increase in welfare. The economy will not see any sort of burst in productivity from a one-shot injection. So what will be proposed next? How about multiple injections of helicopter money over extended periods of time? That would seem to follow.

But again, anticipation and expectation of future injections would not lead to economic growth. It would only serve to further raise prices as new money enters the economy and transfers wealth to those who first use the new money from those who don’t. Economic growth comes not from more money or higher prices, but from savings and investment. No matter where in the economy central bank monetary injections enter, they cannot and will not result in real economic growth.

Zero interest rates didn’t do what central banks thought they would do, so they moved to quantitative easing. QE didn’t do what central banks thought it would do, so they moved or are moving to negative interest rates. Negative interest rates won’t work either so, assuming they don’t completely destroy the banking system beforehand, central banks may very well resort to helicopter money. Guess what, that won’t work either. How much more suffering will central banks have to impose on their countries before people realize that they are monetarily, morally, and intellectually bankrupt?

Paul-Martin Foss is the founder, President, and Executive Director of the Carl Menger Center for the Study of Money and Banking, a think tank dedicated to educating the American people on the importance of sound money and sound banking.

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

Central Banks Should Stop Paying Interest on Reserves – Article by Brendan Brown

Central Banks Should Stop Paying Interest on Reserves – Article by Brendan Brown

The New Renaissance Hat
Brendan Brown

In 2008, the Federal Reserve began paying interest on reserve balances held on deposit at the Fed. It took more than seven decades from the US leaving the gold standard — in 1933 — for the fiat regime to do this and thus revoke a cardinal element of the old gold-based monetary system: the non-payment of any interest on base money.

The academic catalyst to this change came from Milton Friedman’s essay “The Optimum Quantity of Money” where he argued that the opportunity cost of paper money (any foregoing of interest compared to on alternative money-like instruments such as savings deposits) should be equal to its virtually-zero marginal cost of production. Opportunity cost could indeed be brought down to zero if base money (bank reserves, currency) in large part paid interest at the market rate. Under the gold standard, the opportunity cost of holding base money largely in metallic form (gold coin) was indeed typically significant. All forms of base money paid no interest. And the stream of interest income foregone in terms of present value was equal in principle to the marginal cost of gold production (this was equal to the gold price).

Interest on Reserves are Important to Controlling Markets and Imposing Negative Rates
Friedman, however, did not identify the catch-22 of his proposal. If the officials of the fiat money regime indeed take steps to close the gap between the marginal production cost and opportunity cost of base money, with both at zero, then there can be no market mechanism free of official intervention and manipulation for determining interest rates.

That is what we are now finding out in the few years since central banks in the US, Europe, and Japan started paying interest on reserves. (The ECB was authorized to do this since its launch in 1999, while the Fed and BoJ began following the 2008 financial crisis.) Central banks can now bind the invisible hand operating in the interest rate market to an extent almost unprecedented in peacetime. In some cases, central banks have even deployed a negative interest rate “tool” which would have been impossible under the prior status quo where base money paid no interest.

How We Got Here
The signing into law of the Financial Services Regulatory Relief Act in 2006 authorized the Federal Reserve to begin paying interest on reserves held by depository institutions beginning October 1, 2011. On the insistence of then Fed Chief Bernanke, that date was brought forward to October 1, 2008 by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. He was in the process of dispensing huge loans to troubled financial institutions but wanted nonetheless to keep interest rates at a positive level (one purpose here was to protect the money market fund industry).

Accordingly, the Federal Reserve Board amended its regulation D so that the interest rate paid on required reserves and on excess reserves would be at levels tied (according to distinct formulas at the start) to market rates. An official communiqué explained that the new procedure would eliminate the opportunity cost of holding required reserves (and thereby “deregulate”) and help to establish a lower limit for the Federal Funds rate, becoming thereby a useful tool of monetary policy.

This was useful indeed from the viewpoint of rate manipulators: by setting the rate on excess reserves the Fed could now determine the path of short-term interest rates and strongly influence longer term rates regardless of how the supply of monetary base was growing relative to trend demand. By contrast, under the gold standard and the subsequent first seven decades of the fiat money regime, interest rates in the money market were determined by forces which brought demand for base money into balance with the path of supply as set by gold mining conditions or by central bank policy decision respectively. A rise in rates meant that the public and the banks would economize on their direct or indirect holdings of base money and conversely.

Back Before the Fed Paid Interest on Reserves
Yes, under the fiat money system the central bank could effectively peg a short-term rate and supply whatever amount of base money was needed to underwrite that — but the consequential growth of supply in base money was a variable which got wide attention and remained an ostensible policy concern. Right up until the Greenspan era, the FOMC implemented policy decisions by directing the New York Fed money desk to increase or reduce the pace of reserve growth and changes in the Fed funds rate occurred ostensibly to accomplish that purpose. This old method of determining money market interest rates under a fiat regime — in which banks’ need for reserves was minute given deposit insurance, a generous lender of last resort, and too-big-to-fail — depended on the banking industry enduring what was essentially a tax on its deposit business, which was then magnified by fairly high legal reserve requirements. Thus, it is not surprising that the original impetus to paying interest on reserves, whether in the US or Europe, came from the banking lobby. There was no such burden under the gold standard even though the yellow metal earned no interest. Banks in honoring their pledge to deposit clients that their funds were convertible into gold had to visibly hold large amounts of the metal in their vaults or at hand in a reserve center. Actual and potential demand for monetary base by the public is more limited under a fiat money regime than under the gold standard as bank notes are hardly such a distinct asset as gold coin from other financial instruments.

More Problems with Friedmanite “Solutions”
Friedman, when he advocated eliminating the opportunity cost of base money under a fiat regime, hypothesized that this could occur under a long-run declining trend of prices rather than by the payment of interest. The real rate of return on base money could then be in line with the equilibrium real interest rate. This proposal for perpetually declining prices would also have been problematic, though. The interest rate would fluctuate, and in boom times be well above the rate of price decline. In any case, the rate of price decline would surely vary (sometimes into positive territory) in a well-functioning economy even when the long-run trend was constant (downward). The equilibrium real interest rate would be below the rate of price decline sometimes (for example, during business downturns), meaning that market rates even at zero would be too high. That situation did not occur often under the gold standard where prices were expected to be on a flat trend from a very long-run perspective and move pro-cyclically (falling to a low-point in the recession from which they were expected to rise in the subsequent business expansion, meaning that real interest rates would then be negative).

What Can Be Done?
So what is to be done to escape the curse? A starting point in the US would be for Congress to ban the payment of interest on bank reserves. And the US should use its financial power with respect to the IMF to argue that Japan and Europe act similarly within a spirit of G-7 coordination such as to combat monetary instability. We have seen in recent years how rate manipulation and negative rates are made possible by the payment of interest on reserves, and are potent weapons of currency warfare. Yes, the ban in the immediate would force the Federal Reserve to slim down its balance sheet so that supply and demand for base money would balance at a low positive level of interest rates. The Fed might have to swap its holdings of long-maturity debt for T-bills at the Treasury window so as to avoid any dislocation of the long-term interest rate market in consequence. That, not the Yellen-Fischer “rate lift off day and beyond,” is the road back to monetary normalcy.

Brendan Brown is an associated scholar of the Mises Institute and is author of Euro Crash: How Asset Price Inflation Destroys the Wealth of Nations and The Global Curse of the Federal Reserve: Manifesto for a Second Monetarist Revolution. See Brendan Brown’s article archives.

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

How Money Disappears in a Fractional-Reserve Money System – Article by Frank Shostak

How Money Disappears in a Fractional-Reserve Money System – Article by Frank Shostak

The New Renaissance Hat
Frank Shostak

Most experts are of the view that the massive monetary pumping by the US central bank during the 2008 financial crisis saved the US and the world from another Great Depression. On this the Federal Reserve Chairman at the time Ben Bernanke is considered the man that saved the world. Bernanke in turn attributes his actions to the writings of Professor Milton Friedman who blamed the Federal Reserve for causing the Great Depression of 1930s by allowing the money supply to plunge by over 30 percent.

Careful analysis will however show that it is not a collapse in the money stock that sets in motion an economic slump as such, but rather the prior monetary pumping that undermines the pool of real funding that leads to an economic depression.

Improving the Economy Requires Time and Savings
Essentially, the pool of real funding is the quantity of consumer goods available in an economy to support future production. In the simplest of terms: a lone man on an island is able to pick twenty-five apples an hour. With the aid of a picking tool, he is able to raise his output to fifty apples an hour. Making the tool, (adding a stage of production) however, takes time.

During the time he is busy making the tool, the man will not be able to pick any apples. In order to have the tool, therefore, the man must first have enough apples to sustain himself while he is busy making it. His pool of funding is his means of sustenance for this period—the quantity of apples he has saved for this purpose.

The size of this pool determines whether or not a more sophisticated means of production can be introduced. If it requires one year of work for the man to build this tool, but he has only enough apples saved to sustain him for one month, then the tool will not be built—and the man will not be able to increase his productivity.

The island scenario is complicated by the introduction of multiple individuals who trade with each other and use money. The essence, however, remains the same: the size of the pool of funding sets a brake on the implementation of more productive stages of production.

When Banks Create the Illusion of More Wealth
Trouble erupts whenever the banking system makes it appear that the pool of real funding is larger than it is in reality. When a central bank expands the money stock, it does not enlarge the pool of funding. It gives rise to the consumption of goods, which is not preceded by production. It leads to less means of sustenance.

As long as the pool of real funding continues to expand, loose monetary policies give the impression that economic activity is being boosted. That this is not the case becomes apparent as soon as the pool of real funding begins to stagnate or shrink. Once this happens, the economy begins its downward plunge. The most aggressive loosening of money will not reverse the plunge (for money cannot replace apples).

The introduction of money and lending to our analysis will not alter the fact that the subject matter remains the pool of the means of sustenance. When an individual lends money, what he in fact lends to borrowers is the goods he has not consumed (money is a claim on real goods). Credit then means that unconsumed goods are loaned by one productive individual to another, to be repaid out of future production.

The existence of the central bank and fractional reserve banking permits commercial banks to generate credit, which is not backed up by real funding (i.e., it is credit created out of “thin air”).

Once the unbacked credit is generated it creates activities that the free market would never approve. That is, these activities are consuming and not producing real wealth. As long as the pool of real funding is expanding and banks are eager to expand credit, various false activities continue to prosper.

Whenever the extensive creation of credit out of “thin air” lifts the pace of real-wealth consumption above the pace of real-wealth production this undermines the pool of real funding.

Consequently, the performance of various activities starts to deteriorate and banks’ bad loans start to rise. In response to this, banks curtail their loans and this in turn sets in motion a decline in the money stock.

Does every curtailment of lending cause the decline in the money stock?

For instance, Tom places $1,000 in a savings deposit for three months with Bank X. The bank in turn lends the $1,000 to Mark for three months. On the maturity date, Mark repays the bank $1,000 plus interest. Bank X in turn after deducting its fees returns the original money plus interest to Tom.

So what we have here is that Tom lends (i.e., gives up for three months) $1,000. He transfers the $1,000 through the mediation of Bank X to Mark. On the maturity date Mark repays the money to Bank X. Bank X in turn transfers the $1,000 to Tom. Observe that in this case existent money is moved from Tom to Mark and then back to Tom via the mediation of Bank X. The lending is fully backed here by $1,000. Obviously the $1,000 here doesn’t disappear once the loan is repaid to the bank and in turn to Tom.

Why the Money Supply Shrinks
Things are, however, completely different when Bank X lends money out of thin air. How does this work? For instance, Tom exercises his demand for money by holding some of his money in his pocket and the $1,000 he keeps in the Bank X demand deposit. By placing $1,000 in the demand deposit he maintains total claim on the $1,000. Now, Bank X helps itself and takes $100 from Tom’s deposit and lends this $100 to Mark. As a result of this lending we now have $1,100 which is backed by $1,000 proper. In short, the money stock has increased by $100. Observe that the $100 loaned doesn’t have an original lender as it was generated out of “thin air” by Bank X. On the maturity date, once Mark repays the borrowed $100 to Bank X, the money disappears.

Obviously if the bank is continuously renewing its lending out of thin air then the stock of money will not fall. Observe that only credit that is not backed by money proper can disappear into thin air, which in turn causes the shrinkage in the stock of money.

In other words, the existence of fractional reserve banking (banks creating several claims on a given dollar) is the key instrument as far as money disappearance is concerned. However, it is not the cause of the disappearance of money as such.

Banks Lend Less as the Quality of Borrowers Worsens
There must be a reason why banks don’t renew lending out of thin air. The main reason is the severe erosion of real wealth that makes it much harder to find good quality borrowers. This in turn means that monetary deflation is on account of prior inflation that has diluted the pool of real funding.

It follows then that a fall in the money stock is just a symptom. The fall in the money stock reveals the damage caused by monetary inflation but it however has nothing to do with the damage.

Contrary to Friedman and his followers (including Bernanke), it is not the fall in the money supply and the consequent fall in prices that burdens borrowers. It is the fact that there is less real wealth. The fall in the money supply, which was created out of “thin air,” puts things in proper perspective. Additionally, as a result of the fall in money, various activities that sprang up on the back of the previously expanding money now find it hard going.

It is those non-wealth generating activities that end up having the most difficulties in serving their debt since these activities were never generating any real wealth and were really supported or funded, so to speak, by genuine wealth generators. (Money out of “thin air” sets in motion an exchange of nothing for something — the transferring of real wealth from wealth generators to various false activities.) With the fall in money out of thin air their support is cut-off.

Contrary to the popular view then, a fall in the money supply (i.e., money out of “thin air”), is precisely what is needed to set in motion the build-up of real wealth and a revitalizing of the economy.

Printing money only inflicts more damage and therefore should never be considered as a means to help the economy. Also, even if the central bank were to be successful in preventing a fall in the money supply, this would not be able to prevent an economic slump if the pool of real funding is falling.

Frank Shostak is an Associated Scholar of the Mises Institute. His consulting firm, Applied Austrian School Economics, provides in-depth assessments and reports of financial markets and global economies. He received his bachelor’s degree from Hebrew University, master’s degree from Witwatersrand University and PhD from Rands Afrikaanse University, and has taught at the University of Pretoria and the Graduate Business School at Witwatersrand University.

This article was originally published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.

How Wilson and the Fed Extended the Great War – Article by Brendan Brown

How Wilson and the Fed Extended the Great War – Article by Brendan Brown

The New Renaissance Hat
Brendan Brown
November 9, 2014

As the world reflects on the incomprehensible horror of the Great War which erupted 100 years ago there is a question which goes unasked in the media coverage. How was there no peace deal between the belligerents in 1915 or at latest 1916 once it became clear to all — especially after the Battle of the Somme — that the conflict had developed into a stalemate and holocaust of youth?

While there had been some early hopes for peace in 1916, they quickly evaporated as it became clear that the British government would not agree to a compromise deal. The political success of those who opposed compromise was based to a considerable degree on the argument that soon the US would enter the conflict on the Entente’s (Britain and France) side.

Although the US had allowed the Entente (but not the Central Powers) to access Wall Street without restriction during the first two years of the war, the historical evidence shows that President Wilson had been inclined to threaten Britain with the ending of its access to vital US market financing for its war effort if it failed to negotiate seriously for peace. But Wilson was dissuaded from urging peace on the negotiators by his political adviser Colonel House.

A less well-known story is the role of the then-newly created Fed (which opened its doors in 1914) and its allies within the Wilson administration in facilitating Entente finance. Two prominent Fed members — Paul Warburg and Adolph Miller — had fought a rear-guard campaign seeking to restrict their new institution from discounting trade bills or buying acceptances (largely financing munitions) issued by the belligerents (in practice, the Entente Powers). But, they had been thwarted by the persistence of the New York Fed chief Benjamin Strong (closely allied to J.P. Morgan and others who were gaining tremendously from arranging loans to France and Britain) and the Treasury Secretary McAdoo, the son-in-law of President Wilson. (McAdoo, whose railroad company had been bailed out personally by J.P. Morgan, was also a voting member of the Federal Reserve Board).

Milton Friedman has argued that the creation of the Federal Reserve made no difference to the US monetary and economic outcomes during the period of neutrality (up until March 1917) or during the US participation in the war (to November 1918). The difference, Friedman contended, came afterward when the Fed allowed rapid monetary growth to continue for a further year. Under the pre-Fed regime, Friedman argues, the US would also have experienced huge inflows of gold during the period of neutrality and under existing procedures (for official US gold purchases), and these would have fueled rapid growth of high-powered money and hence inflation. In the period of war participation, the Treasury would have printed money with or without the Fed (as indeed had occurred during the Civil War).

There are two big caveats to consider about Friedman’s “the Fed made no difference” case. The first is that the administration and Wall Street’s ability to facilitate the flow of finance to the Entente would have been constricted in the absence of backdoor support (via trade acceptances and bills) by the new “creature of Jekyll Island” (the Fed). The second is that both camps within the Fed (Benjamin Strong on the one hand, and Paul Warburg and Adolph Miller on the other) were united in welcoming the accumulation of gold on their new institutions’ balance sheet. They saw this as strengthening the metallic base of the currency (both were concerned that the Fed’s creation should not be the start of a journey toward fiat money) and also as a key factor in their aims to make New York the number-one financial center in the world, displacing London in that role.

Without those hang-ups it is plausible that the US would have trodden the same path as Switzerland in dealing with the flood of gold from the belligerents and its inflationary potential. That path was the suspension of official gold purchases and effective temporary floating of the gold price. The latter might have slumped to say $10–14 per ounce from the then official level of $21 and correspondingly the dollar (like the Swiss franc) would have surged, while Sterling and the French franc come under intense downward pressure. In effect the Entente Powers would not have been able to finance their war expenditures by dumping gold in the US and having this monetized by the Fed and Treasury — a process which effectively levied an inflation tax on US citizens.

This suspension of gold purchases would have meant a better prospect of there being a gold-standard world being recreated in the ensuing peace. The exhaustion of British gold holdings during the war ruled out the resurrection of Sterling as gold money. Its so-called return to gold in 1925 was in fact a fixed exchange rate link to the US dollar. The US would have been spared much of the cumulative wartime inflation. The Fed would not have been so flush with gold that it could have tolerated the big monetary binge through 1919 before ultimately being forced by a decline in its free gold position to suddenly tighten policy sharply and induce the Great Recession of 1920–21. That episode led on to the Fed focusing during the 1920s on modern monetary management (counter-cyclical policy changes and price stabilization). The consequences of that focus, ultimately fatal to the gold order, were the Great Boom and the Great Depression.

Brendan Brown is an associated scholar of the Mises Institute and is author of Euro Crash: How Asset Price Inflation Destroys the Wealth of Nations and The Global Curse of the Federal Reserve: Manifesto for a Second Monetarist Revolution. See Brendan Brown’s article archives.

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

Interview with Chuck Grimmett on Dogecoin – Video by Jeffrey A. Tucker and Chuck Grimmett

Interview with Chuck Grimmett on Dogecoin – Video by Jeffrey A. Tucker and Chuck Grimmett

The New Renaissance Hat
Jeffrey A. Tucker and Chuck Grimmett
February 8, 2014


Commentary by Gennady Stolyarov II, Editor-in-Chief, The Rational Argumentator:

Jeffrey Tucker interviews Chuck Grimmett on Dogecoin and emerging cryptocurrencies.

They engage in a fascinating discussion on the 2-month-old cryptocurrency Dogecoin. Some excellent points include the following:

(1) It is pronounced “doge” as in “Venetian doge”.

(2) This conversation would have seemed ridiculous 1 year ago and unimaginable 5 years ago, yet it reflects reality today. (Even I, upon initially finding out about Dogecoin, had the thought that truth is stranger than fiction recurring in my mind for an entire day without pause.)

(3) Dogecoin offers an excellent opportunity for testing Milton Friedman’s monetarist rule of building a predictable rate of inflation into the money supply.

Dogecoin_logoChuck Grimmett is the Foundation for Economic Education’s Director of Web Media. Get in touch with him on Twitter: @cagrimmett

Jeffrey Tucker is a distinguished fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), CEO of the startup, and publisher at Laissez Faire Books.

This video is a production of

Mainstream Economists Prove Krugman Wrong About Hayek and Mises – Article by John P. Cochran

Mainstream Economists Prove Krugman Wrong About Hayek and Mises – Article by John P. Cochran

The New Renaissance Hat
John P. Cochran
September 13, 2013

Paul Krugman has recently been critical of Friedman (and Phelps), the Phillips curve, and the Natural Unemployment Rate (NUR) theory in the process of arguing that due to the recent Great Recession, the accompanying financial crisis, and Bush-Obama-Fed Great Stagnation, Friedman has vanished from the policy front. Krugman makes this claim despite the fact there is an on-going vigorous debate on rules versus discretion with at least some attention to Friedman’s plucking model. While maligning Friedman’s contributions, Krugman manages a slap at Austrians and claims a renewed practical relevance for Keynes:

What I think is really interesting is the way Friedman has virtually vanished from policy discourse. Keynes is very much back, even if that fact drives some economists crazy; Hayek is back in some sense, even if one has the suspicion that many self-proclaimed Austrians bring little to the table but the notion that fiat money is the root of all evil — a deeply anti-Friedmanian position. But Friedman is pretty much absent.

The Friedman-Phelps hypothesis was the heart of the policy effectiveness debate of the 1970s and early 80s. The empirical evidence developed during the debate over the policy implications of the NUR model, at least temporally, discredited active Keynesian discretionary policy as an effective tool to reduce unemployment in the long run. One result of the debate: monetary policy appeared to improve, especially compared to the Fed’s dismal record in the late 1920s and 1930s and the mid 1960s to the late 1970s. Central banks, à la Friedman, focused on rules-based policy and inflation targeting resulting in what many, following John B. Taylor, call the Great Moderation of the early 1980s to the early 2000s.

Krugman does recognize the “stagflation (of the 1970s) led to a major rethinking of macroeconomics, all across the board; even staunch Keynesians conceded that Friedman/Phelps had been right (indeed, they may have conceded too much [emphasis added]), and the vertical long-run Phillips curve became part of every textbook.”

My early work on Hayek and Keynes (see here and here) argued that this development was important, but misleading. The then current business cycle research and its newer variants could benefit from re-examining the issues at the heart of the Hayek-Keynes debate.

Money, banking, finance, and capital structure were, and still are, for the most part ignored in much of the new (post-Friedman-Phelps) macroeconomics including the new–Keynesian approaches. In this regard, Hayek (and Mises) had then, and has now, more to offer than Keynes.

Recent papers by respected mainstream economists are beginning to recognize that attention to Hayek and Mises can be useful. Guillermo Calvo of Columbia University, in a recent paper [PDF], has even gone so far as to argue, “the Austrian school of the trade cycle was on the right track” and that the Austrian School offered valuable insights and noting that:

There is a growing empirical literature purporting to show that financial crises are preceded by credit booms including Mendoza and Terrones (2008), Schularik and Taylor (2012), Agosin and Huaita (2012), and Borio (2012).

Calvo adds “[t]his was a central theme in the Austrian School of Economics.”

Claudio Borio highlights what Austrians have long argued is a key flaw in inflation-targeting or stable-money policy regimes such as many central banks either adopted or emulated during the 1980-2008 period. This flaw contributed to back-to-back boom-busts of the late 1990s and 2000s:

A monetary policy regime narrowly focused on controlling near-term inflation removes the need to tighten policy when financial booms take hold against the backdrop of low and stable inflation. And major positive supply-side developments, such as those associated with the globalisation of the real side of the economy, provide plenty of fuel for financial booms.

Borio thus recognizes that a time to mitigate a bust is (contra-Keynes) during the boom:

In the case of monetary policy, it is necessary to adopt strategies that allow central banks to tighten so as to lean against the build-up of financial imbalances even if near-term inflation remains subdued.

William R. White, another economist who has worked at the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) and has been influenced by Hayek, has come to similar conclusions as does Calvo, who argues “Hayek’s theory is very subtle and shows that even a central bank that follows a stable monetary policy may not be able to prevent business cycles and, occasionally, major boom-bust episodes.”

In the current environment, many, including Krugman, have argued for a higher inflation target or a higher nominal GDP target to jump start the current sluggish recovery.

Austrian business cycle theory on the other hand, as recognized by Borio and Calvo, provides analysis on why such a policy may be ineffective and if temporarily effective in the short run, harmful if not destructive, in the long run. (See here and here for more.)

An easy money and credit policy impedes necessary re-structuring of the economy and new credit creation begins a new round of misdirection of production leading to an “unfinished recession.” Calvo expounds:

Whatever one thinks of the power of the Hayek/Mises mix as a positive theory of the business cycle, an insight from the theory is that once credit over-expansion hits the real sector, rolling back credit is unlikely to be able to put “Humpty-Dumpty together again.”

It is too bad it took back-to-back harmful boom-bust cycles for the profession at large to begin to again examine Austrian insights, but it does illustrate how foolish Krugman is when he argues Austrians have nothing to bring to the table.

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.

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This article was originally published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.

Why the Deflationists Are Wrong – Article by Gary North

Why the Deflationists Are Wrong – Article by Gary North

The New Renaissance Hat
Gary North
August 23, 2012

An inflationist is someone who believes that price inflation is the result of two things: (1) monetary inflation and (2) central-bank policy.

A deflationist is someone who believes that deflation is inevitable, despite (1) monetary inflation and (2) central -bank policy.

No inflationist says that price inflation is inevitable. Every deflationist says that price deflation is inevitable.

Deflationists have been wrong ever since 1933.

Milton Friedman is most famous for his book A Monetary History of the United States (1963), which relies on facts collected by Anna Schwartz, who died recently.

It is for one argument: the Federal Reserve caused the Great Depression because it refused to inflate.

This argument, as quoted by mainstream economists, is factually wrong.

I often cite a study, where you can see that the monetary base grew under the Federal Reserve, 1931 to 1932. This graph is from a speech given by the vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. You can access it here.

Figure 1
I posted this first in early 2010.

We can see that there was monetary deflation of the money supply, beginning in 1930. This continued in 1931 and 1932, despite a deliberate policy of inflation by the Fed, beginning in the second half of 1931 and continuing through 1932.

Depositors kept pulling currency out of banks and hoarding it. They did not redeposit it in other banks. This imploded the fractional-reserve-banking process for the banking system as a whole. M1 declined: monetary deflation.

The Fed could not control M1. It could only control the monetary base.

The argument of Friedman and Schwartz was picked up by mainstream economists. It is his most famous and widely accepted position. Bernanke praised him for it on Friedman’s 90th birthday in 2002.

Why was the argument wrong, as applied to 1931–33? I must tell the story one more time. Four letters tell it: FDIC. Well, nine: FDIC + FSLIC. They did not exist.

Franklin Roosevelt froze all bank deposits in early March 1933, immediately after his inauguration. This calmed the public when the banks reopened a few days later. He verbally promised people that the banks were now safe.

The US government created federal bank-depositor insurance in 1933. The Wikipedia article describes the Banking Act of 1933, which was signed into law in June:

  • Established the FDIC as a temporary government corporation
  • Gave the FDIC authority to provide deposit insurance to banks
  • Gave the FDIC the authority to regulate and supervise state non-member banks
  • Funded the FDIC with initial loans of $289 million through the U.S. Treasury

That stopped the bank runs. The money supply reversed. It went ballistic. So did the monetary base.

The key event was therefore the Banking Act of 1933. After that, the money supply never fell again. After that, prices never fell again by more than 1 percent. That was in 1955.

All it took for prices to reverse and rise was this: an expansion of the monetary base coupled with bank lending.

Yet deflationists ever since 1933 have predicted falling prices. They die predicting this. Then their successors die predicting this.

They never learn.

They do not understand monetary theory. They do not understand monetary history. They therefore do not learn. They do not correct their bad predictions, year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation.

They still find people who believe them, people who also do not understand monetary theory or monetary history.

I have personally been arguing against them for four decades.

Price deflation has nothing to do with the fall in the price of stocks.

There can be monetary deflation as a result of excess reserves held at the Fed by commercial banks. But this is Fed policy. The Fed pays banks interest on the deposits. Even if it didn’t, there would still be excess reserves. But by imposing a fee on excess reserves, the Fed could eliminate excess reserves overnight. Then the money multiplier would go positive, price inflation would reappear, and the Fed would get blamed. So, it maintains a policy of restricting the M1 multiplier.

Every inflationist says that monetary inflation will produce hyperinflation unless reversed by the central bank. There will be a return to low prices after what Ludwig von Mises called the crack-up boom. The classic example is Germany in 1934. That was a matter of policy. The central bank substituted a new currency and stopped inflating.

John Exter — an old friend of mine — argued in the 1970s and 1980s that monetary deflation has to come, despite Fed policy. There will be a collapse of prices through deleveraging.

He was wrong. Why? Because it is not possible for depositors to take sufficient money in paper-currency notes out of banks and keep these notes out, thereby reversing the fractional-reserve process, thereby deflating the money supply. That was what happened in the United States from 1930 to 1933. If hoarders spend the notes, businesses will redeposit them in their banks. Only if they deal exclusively with other hoarders can they keep money out of banks. But the vast majority of all money transactions are based on digital money, not paper currency.

Today, large depositors can pull digital money out of bank A, but only by transferring it to bank B. Digits must be in a bank account at all times. There can be no decrease in the money supply for as long as money is digital. Hence, there can be no decrease in prices unless it is Fed policy to decrease prices. This was not true, 1930 to 1933.

Deflationists never respond to this argument by invoking either monetary theory or monetary history. You can and should ignore them until one of them does answer this, and all the others publicly say, “Yes. That’s it! We have waited since 1933 for this argument! I was blind, but now I see! I’m on board! I will sink or swim with this.”

Let me know when this happens. Until then, ignore the deflationists. All of them. (There are not many still standing.)

The fact that a new deflationist shows up is irrelevant. Anyone can predict inevitable price deflation. They keep doing this. Look for the refutation of the inflationists’ position. Look for a theory.

If you do not understand the case I have just made, you will not understand any refutation. In this case, just pay no attention to either side. If you cannot follow economic theory, the debate will confuse you. It’s not worth your time.

For background, see my book Mises on Money.

See also Murray Rothbard’s book What Has Government done to Our Money?

Gary North is the author of Mises on Money and Honest Money: The Biblical Blueprint for Money and Banking. He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible. Visit his website: Send him mail. See Gary North’s article archives.

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Copyright © 2012 by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.

Inflation is a Monetary Phenomenon – Article by Ron Paul

Inflation is a Monetary Phenomenon – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
July 18, 2012

Later this month Congress will have an unprecedented opportunity to force the Federal Reserve to provide meaningful transparency to lawmakers and taxpayers. HR 459, my bill known as “Audit the Fed,” is scheduled for a vote before the full Congress in July. More than 270 of my colleagues cosponsored the bill, and it has the support of congressional leadership. But its passage in the House of Representatives is only the beginning of the battle, as many Senators and the President still don’t see the critical need to have a national discussion about monetary policy.

The American public now senses that the Fed’s actions, especially since 2008, are enormously inflationary and will cause great harm to the American economy in the long run. They are beginning to understand what so many economists still don’t understand, which is that inflation is a monetary phenomenon, and rising prices are merely a symptom of that phenomenon.  Prices eventually rise when the supply of US dollars (paper or electronic) grows faster than the available goods and services being chased by those dollars.

This fundamental truth has been thoroughly explained by Milton Friedman and many others, so today’s Keynesian economists have no excuse for their claims that “inflation is under control.”  Ordinary Americans don’t need a PhD simply to look at the Fed’s balance sheet and understand the staggering amount of money creation that has occurred in recent years. They know it will have harmful consequences for all of us eventually.

I’ve spoken at length about inflation, and how Fed money creation is effectively a tax. Every dollar created out of thin air dilutes the value of the dollars in your pocket and your savings in the bank. But the truth is that we are only beginning to see the results of the Fed’s dramatic increase in the money supply. As former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan himself explained last week to Larry Kudlow, most of the dollar deposits created by the Fed via successive rounds of “quantitative easing” remain on the balance sheet of Fed member banks. Because of very rational economic fears, banks are not lending, businesses are not expanding, and individuals are shedding debt. So, the trillions of dollars created by the Fed since 2008 remained largely undeployed. When those dollars eventually make their way into the world economy, prices across all sectors of the economy are likely to rise dramatically.

The true evil of inflation is that newly created money benefits politically favored financial interests, especially banks, on the front end. Over time, however, the net result of monetary inflation is always the devaluation of savings and purchasing power. This devaluation discourages saving, which is the key to capital accumulation and investment in a healthy economy. Inflation also tends to hurt seniors and those living on fixed incomes the most.

For decades the Fed has operated without any meaningful oversight whatsoever, resulting in the loss of savings, loss of purchasing power, and loss of quality of life for all Americans. It causes individuals and businesses to make bad decisions, misallocating their capital because market signals have been distorted. It causes financial ruin by engineering the inevitable boom and bust cycles that so many erroneously blame on capitalism. And it does all this in secrecy, to the benefit of the financial and political classes. It is time to Audit the Fed, as a first step toward ending its unchecked power over our money and economic fortunes.

Representative Ron Paul (R – TX), MD, is a Republican candidate for U. S. President. See his Congressional webpage and his official campaign website

This article has been released by Dr. Paul into the public domain and may be republished by anyone in any manner.

Federal Student Aid and the Law of Unintended Consequences – Article by Richard Vedder

Federal Student Aid and the Law of Unintended Consequences – Article by Richard Vedder

The New Renaissance Hat
Richard Vedder
July 8, 2012

RICHARD VEDDER is the Edwin and Ruth Kennedy Distinguished Professor of Economics at Ohio University and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. He received his B.A. from Northwestern University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Illinois. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, National Review, and Investor’s Business Daily, and is the author of several books, including The American Economy in Historical Perspective and Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on May 10, 2012, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.

Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.

FEDERAL STUDENT financial assistance programs are costly, inefficient, byzantine, and fail to serve their desired objectives. In a word, they are dysfunctional, among the worst of many bad federal programs.

These programs are commonly rationalized on three grounds: on the grounds that assuring more young people a higher education has positive spillover effects for the country; on the grounds that higher education promotes equal economic opportunity (or, as the politicians say, that it is “a ticket to achieving the American Dream”); or on the grounds that too few students would go to college in the absence of federal loan programs, since private markets for loans to college students are defective.

All three of these arguments are dubious at best. The alleged positive spillover effects of sending more and more Americans to college are very difficult to measure. And as the late Milton Friedman suggested to me shortly before his death, they may be more than offset by negative spillover effects. Consider, for instance, the relationship between spending by state governments on higher education and their rate of economic growth. Controlling for other factors important in growth determination, the relationship between education spending and economic growth is negative or, at best, non-existent.

What about higher education being a vehicle for equal economic opportunity or income equality? Over the last four decades, a period in which the proportion of adults with four-year college degrees tripled, income equality has declined. (As a side note, I do not know the socially optimal level of economic inequality, and the tacit assumption that more such equality is always desirable is suspect; my point here is simply that, in reality, higher education today does not promote income equality.)

Finally, in regards to the argument that capital markets for student loans are defective, if financial institutions can lend to college students on credit cards and make car loans to college students in large numbers—which they do—there is no reason why they can’t also make student educational loans.

Despite the fact that the rationales for federal student financial assistance programs are very weak, these programs are growing rapidly. The Pell Grant program did much more than double in size between 2007 and 2010. Although it was designed to help poor people, it is now becoming a middle class entitlement. Student loans have been growing eight to ten percent a year for at least two decades, and, as is well publicized, now aggregate to one trillion dollars of debt outstanding—roughly $25,000 on average for the 40,000,000 holders of the debt. Astoundingly, student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt.

Nor is it correct to assume that most of this debt is held by young people in their twenties and early thirties. The median age of those with loan obligations today is around 33, and approximately 40 percent of the debt is held by people 40 years of age or older. So when politicians talk about maintaining low interest loans to help kids in college, more often than not the help is going to middle-aged individuals long gone from the halls of academia.

With this as an introduction, let me outline eight problems with federal student grant and loan programs. The list is not exclusive.

(1) Student loan interest rates are not set by the forces of supply and demand, but by the political process. Normally, interest rates are a price used to allocate scarce resources; but when that price is manipulated by politicians, it leads to distortions in the use of resources. Since student loan interest rates are always set at below-market rates, too much money is borrowed for college. Currently those interest rates are extremely low, with a key rate of 3.4 percent—which, after adjusting for inflation, is approximately zero. Moreover, both the president and Governor Romney say they want to continue that low interest rate after July 1, when it is supposed to double. This aggravates an already bad situation, and provides a perfect example of the fundamental problem facing our nation today: politicians pushing programs whose benefits are visible and immediate (even if illusory, as suggested above), while their extraordinarily high costs are less visible and more distant in time.

(2) In the real world, interest rates vary with the prospects that the borrower will repay the loan. In the surreal world of student loans, the brilliant student completing an electrical engineering degree at M.I.T. pays the same interest rate as the student majoring in ethnic studies at a state university who has a GPA below 2.0. The former student will almost certainly graduate and get a job paying $50,000 a year or more, whereas the odds are high the latter student will fail to graduate and will be lucky to make $30,000 a year.

Related to this problem, colleges themselves have no “skin in the game.” They are responsible for allowing loan commitments to occur, but they face no penalties or negative consequences when defaults are extremely high, imposing costs on taxpayers.

(3) Perhaps most importantly, federal student grant and loan programs have contributed to the tuition price explosion. When third parties pay a large part of the bill, at least temporarily, the customer’s demand for the service rises and he is not as sensitive to price as he would be if he were paying himself. Colleges and universities take advantage of that and raise their prices to capture the funds that ostensibly are designed to help students. This is what happened previously in health care, and is what is currently happening in higher education.

(4) The federal government now has a monopoly in providing student loans. Until recently, at least it farmed out the servicing of loans to a variety of private financial service firms, adding an element of competition in terms of quality of service, if not price. But the Obama administration, with its strong hostility to private enterprise, moved to establish a complete monopoly. One would think the example of the U.S. Postal Service today, losing taxpayer money hand over fist and incapable of making even the most obviously needed reforms, would be enough proof against the prudence of such a move. And remember: because of highly irresponsible fiscal policies, the federal government borrows 30 or 40 percent of the money it currently spends, much of that from overseas. Thus we are incurring long-term obligations to foreigners to finance loans to largely middle class Americans to go to college. This is not an appropriate use of public funds at a time of dangerously high federal budget deficits.

(5) Those applying for student loans or Pell Grants are compelled to complete the FAFSA form, which is extremely complex, involves more than 100 questions, and is used by colleges to administer scholarships (or, more accurately, tuition discounts). Thus colleges are given all sorts of highly personal and private information on incomes, wealth, debts, child support, and so forth. A car dealer who demanded such information so that he could see how badly he could gouge you would either be out of business or in jail within days or weeks. But it is commonplace in higher education because of federal student financial assistance programs.

(6) As federal programs have increased the number of students who enroll in college, the number of new college graduates now far exceeds the number of new managerial, technical and professional jobs—positions that college graduates have traditionally taken. A survey by Northeastern University estimates that 54 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed or unemployed. Thus we currently have 107,000 janitors and 16,000 parking lot attendants with bachelor’s degrees, not to mention bartenders, hair dressers, mail carriers, and so on. And many of those in these limited-income occupations are struggling to pay off student loan obligations.

Connected to this is the fact that more and more kids are going to college who lack the cognitive skills, the discipline, the academic preparation, or the ambition to succeed academically. They simply cannot or do not master well much of the rather complex materials that college students are expected to learn. As a result, many students either do not graduate or fail to graduate on time. I have estimated that only 40 percent or less of Pell Grant recipients get degrees within six years—an extremely high dropout or failure rate. No one has seriously questioned that statistic—a number, by the way, that the federal government does not publish, no doubt because it is embarrassingly low.

Also related is the fact that, in an attempt to minimize this problem, colleges have lowered standards, expecting students to read and write less while giving higher grades for lesser amounts of work. Surveys show that students spend on average less than 30 hours per week on academic work—less than they spend on recreation.  As Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa show in their book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, critical thinking skills among college seniors on average are little more than among freshmen.

(7) As suggested to me a couple of days ago by a North Carolina judge, based on a case in his courtroom, with so many funds so readily available there is a temptation and opportunity for persons to acquire low interest student loans with the intention of dropping out of school quickly to use the proceeds for other purposes. (In the North Carolina student loan fraud case, it was to start up a t-shirt business.)

(8) Lazy or mediocre students can get greater subsidies than hard-working and industrious ones. Take Pell Grants. A student who works extra hard and graduates with top grades after three years will receive only half as much money as a student who flunks several courses and takes six years to finish or doesn’t obtain a degree at all. In other words, for recipients of federal aid there are disincentives to excel.

* * *
If the Law of Unintended Consequences ever applied, it is in federal student financial assistance. Programs created with the noblest of intentions have failed to serve either their customers or the nation well. In the 1950s and 1960s, before these programs were large, American higher education enjoyed a Golden Age. Enrollments were rising, lower-income student access was growing, and American leadership in higher education was becoming well established. In other words, the system flourished without these programs. Subsequently, massive growth in federal spending and involvement in higher education has proved counterproductive.

With the ratio of debt to GDP rising nationally, and the federal government continuing to spend more and more taxpayer money on higher education at an unsustainable long-term pace, a re-thinking of federal student financial aid policies is a good place to start in meeting America’s economic crisis.