Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Abolish the Fed and Go on a Diet

The media continue to avoid the biggest story of the coming decade, the decline of the dollar. The economy is important to everyone, even more so than the Iraqi War. Unfortunately, the progressive movement of the early twentieth century, followed by the Roosevelt liberals of the 1930s and the postwar Keynesian consensus, have enfeebled public conversation about the money supply and about the economy. The macroeconomics taught in most universities is nonsensical but the public has been told that an understanding of it is necessary to participate in public conversation about the Federal Reserve Bank. This is not true. Fed policy is a political variable. But the result of all the obfuscation and pretension is enervated public participation and the facilitation of the financial community's excessive influence on monetary policy.

The result of the twentieth century's institutionalization of progressive propaganda is that banking, Wall Street and corporate lobbies have dominant influence over the country's monetary policy. The major news media are largely in synch with the financial lobby and echo the academic Keynesian propaganda which purposes to legitimize the Fed. The result is the absence of debate about a policy that grievously harms the public in the interest of "well ordered" credit markets and stock market price increases. Although comments that the stock market will almost always go up are common, no major observer has asked why (my friend Howard S. Katz is the sole exception, as far as I know). The reason is that monetary expansion or inflation reduces interest rates and so increases the value that investors place on future income streams (accountants and actuaries call this the present value of future earnings). This distortion of valuations of the future is a government subsidy similar to a welfare benefit. Few Americans believe in welfare but most have been duped into believing in this subsidy.

The absence of debate has crippled the nation's ability to formulate a coherent economic policy. Instead, backroom deals have been made with the public's money supply, and we are learning about them now, when it is too late. Sadly, the interests that are represented, such as Wall Street, are not overly ethical and have learned little from their experiences with Worldcom and Enron earlier in the decade. The Fed will hurt many Americans, much as it did in the 1970s. But the difference between a diet and inflation is that in a diet, the person who suffers pays for self-indulgence. In inflation, the investors, debtors and corporate interests who benefited from the monetary expansion are not the ones who will pay.

The policy that the financial lobby has devised is curious. Foreign investors have been convinced to hold dollars, keeping the value of the dollar much higher than it would be in a market that is not politically driven. In turn, there has been more consumption of gasoline, manufactured goods and other imports. No one knows the extent to which consumption has exceeded the nation's true market power, but it might be by a considerable amount. The result is that suburbs have been developed, large cars driven, obesity increased and jobs disappeared. Jobs have disappeared, contrary to the fundamental claim of Keynesian economics about the effects of inflation and monetary expansion, because the dollar is stronger than it should be so costs look higher here than in other countries. Americans, who were once a muscular, dynamic nation, have become a nation of fat slobs who do not work but rather stay at home watching television and weighing 400 pounds. (I include myself and have recently lost twenty pounds and have been working out four times per week. But that's only the beginning.)

A report that Lenny Rann sent me today that was written by a bearish financial analyst suggests that Wall Street and the commercial banks have acted dishonestly toward the foreign investors who have been bankrolling them and the general public. The last 25 years' increases in the stock market are largely due to these subsidies, so when news came out today that the Chinese are fed up with us and are intending to invest elsewhere, the Dow fell 360 points, better than two percent. Much like Americans' waist lines, the stock markets have flourished because of the something-for-nothing mindset that Wall Street capitalism has created.

America is no longer the nation of innovation; of Edison; of manufacturing; of new ideas; of hard work; of entrepreneurship. Rather, it is the country of investment banks; Jim Cramer's whining for lower interest rates; and selfish indifference to the effects of dishonest money.

America is going to have to go on a diet. Americans have been deceived by the Republicans as well as the Democrats. In past economic declines, the tendency has been to resort to interventionism. That is the likely result now. The problem is that the decline has been caused by intervention. The only way out is to become more athletic, to return to the kind of policies that made the US a leader. Those are policies that foster innovation, entrepreneurship and self-reliance. Regulation will kill American leadership, as will the Fed. This day is no longer far off. It is near. The Fed ought to be abolished and ought to be viewed as the source of all the pain that Americans will feel in the coming decades.

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