Sunday, August 2, 2015

Gold And The Grave Dancers

"Submitted by Pater Tenebrarum via,

The Asset They Love to Hate …

Back in the 1960s, Alan Greenspan wrote a well-known essay that to this day is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand the present-day monetary and economic system (which is a kind of “fascism lite” type of statism, masquerading as capitalism) and especially the almost visceral hate etatistes harbor toward gold. Greenspan’s essay is entitled “Gold and Economic Freedom”, and as the title already suggests, the two are intimately connected.

Alan Greenspan in the mid 1970s – although he later turned out to be a sell-out, his understanding of economics undoubtedly dwarfed that of his successors at the Fed (and we are not just saying this based on the essay discussed here).
Photo credit: Charles Kelly / AP Photo
What makes Greenspan’s essay especially noteworthy is that it manages to present both theory and history in a concise, easy to understand manner. There isn’t a word in it we would change. At one point, Greenspan provides a brief history lesson. Yes, the (relatively) free banking era in the United States in the 19th century involved fractional reserve banking and as a result, there were frequent boom and bust cycles. However, since there was no “lender of last resort” with an unlimited money printing capacity, these business cycles were sharp and brief, and the market economy quickly righted itself every time:
“A fully free banking system and fully consistent gold standard have not as yet been achieved. But prior to World War I, the banking system in the United States (and in most of the world) was based on gold and even though governments intervened occasionally, banking was more free than controlled. Periodically, as a result of overly rapid credit expansion, banks became loaned up to the limit of their gold reserves, interest rates rose sharply, new credit was cut off, and the economy went into a sharp, but short-lived recession. (Compared with the depressions of 1920 and 1932, the pre-World War I business declines were mild indeed.) It was limited gold reserves that stopped the unbalanced expansions of business activity, before they could develop into the post-World War I type of disaster. The readjustment periods were short and the economies quickly reestablished a sound basis to resume expansion.”
(emphasis added)
Alas, these relatively harmless business cycles provided interventionists with an opening to implement their central planning wet dreams, even though their ideas were based on what can charitably only be called appalling economic ignorance. This economic ignorance informs the monetary system to this day and we have nothing but contempt for these planners and their intellectual handmaidens.
We cannot quantify it with any precision, but we believe it can be taken as a given that they have retarded economic progress by an order of magnitude, for reasons of compounding alone. Based on historical data, we would estimate that average real annual growth would have been at least twice as large since 1913 than it has actually been if the economy had remained free. Compounded over more than a century, this is basically the difference between what we have today and the universe of Star Trek.

US-GNP-per-capita-1869-1918 (1)
US GNP per capita in the decades before the establishment of the Federal Reserve: equitable and strong growth, unmatched before and ever since – in spite of fairly frequent boom-bust cycles click to enlarge.
As Greenspan notes:
“But the process of cure was misdiagnosed as the disease: if shortage of bank reserves was causing a business decline — argued economic interventionists — why not find a way of supplying increased reserves to the banks so they never need be short! If banks can continue to loan money indefinitely — it was claimed — there need never be any slumps in business. And so the Federal Reserve System was organized in 1913.”
(emphasis added)
At the conclusion of his essay, Greenspan makes clear why the welfare/warfare statists just hate gold with a passion bordering on hysteria:
“Under a gold standard, the amount of credit that an economy can support is determined by the economy’s tangible assets, since every credit instrument is ultimately a claim on some tangible asset. But government bonds are not backed by tangible wealth, only by the government’s promise to pay out of future tax revenues, and cannot easily be absorbed by the financial markets. A large volume of new government bonds can be sold to the public only at progressively higher interest rates. Thus, government deficit spending under a gold standard is severely limited. The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit.


In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold. If everyone decided, for example, to convert all his bank deposits to silver or copper or any other good, and thereafter declined to accept checks as payment for goods, bank deposits would lose their purchasing power and government-created bank credit would be worthless as a claim on goods. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves.

This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard.”
(emphasis added)
This always was and remains true.

Bought Off Intellectuals

All the “justifications” for today’s system we hear from the supporters of the centrally planned fiat money dispensation are nothing but propaganda. This propaganda includes a number of historical lies (such as the old canard that “governments had no choice but to abandon the gold standard if they wanted to rescue the economy”), commingled with theoretical assertions that have been thoroughly refuted countless times.
One of the latter is that an economy allegedly cannot grow unless the money supply grows as well (the truth is that any money supply is as good as any other, and in a free market prices would simply adjust). Another is that central banks need to be able to apply their “scientific monetary policy” to make up for the alleged deficiencies of the free market. In reality, central banking and fiat money have slowed real economic growth to a crawl and have produced boom-bust cycles of ever greater amplitude. Something like the “Great Depression” would never have been possible without a Federal Reserve and two heavily interventionist governments coming to power in a row (first Hoover’s and then FDR’s).
The assertions listed above and similar ones are reiterated sotto voce by countless mainstream economists and the entire mainstream financial press at every opportunity. Hoever, this should be no surprise: The Federal Reserve has practically bought off the entire economics profession (incidentally, so have other central banks and assorted state-funded institutions).
The Federal Reserve, through its extensive network of consultants, visiting scholars, alumni and staff economists, so thoroughly dominates the field of economics that real criticism of the central bank has become a career liability for members of the profession


One critical way the Fed exerts control on academic economists is through its relationships with the field’s gatekeepers. For instance, at the Journal of Monetary Economics, a must-publish venue for rising economists, more than half of the editorial board members are currently on the Fed payroll — and the rest have been in the past


A Fed spokeswoman says that exact figures for the number of economists contracted with weren’t available. But, she says, the Federal Reserve spent $389.2 million in 2008 on “monetary and economic policy,” money spent on analysis, research, data gathering, and studies on market structure; $433 million is budgeted for 2009. That’s a lot of money for a relatively small number of economists.
(emphasis added)
In a free market, the market value of thousands of today’s hyper-specialized macroeconomists would be a tiny fraction of what they get paid by the State. In an unhampered free market economy, many of them would probably be forced to actually perform productive jobs. There would of course still be room for economists, but only the most committed and talented among them would could hope to receive funding. Absolutely no-one would bother paying for central planning advice or statist propaganda, that much is absolutely certain. Obviously these economists are highly unlikely to bite the hand that feeds them..."


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