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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A History of Central Banking In the United States

Human Nature and the "Perfect" Society

by Frank Chodorov

Anyone who speculates on man's ability to put his social life in perfect order must take into account the biological fact of longevity. Man seeks to satisfy his desires while he lives, not when death has cut short his appetites, and actuarial figures tell him just about how long he may expect to live.

His pattern of behavior is necessarily determined by his expectancy. Which is to say that in the nature of things his is a short-run view, although his perspective may be lengthened by a concern for the welfare of his immediate posterity, his children and grandchildren in being. Beyond that there is the "future of his country," a speculative interest that can have little bearing on his day-to-day chores.

The banker knows full well that the State's bonds in his vaults do not represent goods produced but are merely claims on production; the "interest" they yield is taxes, draughts on the marketplace, and he is in fact a tax collector once removed. Nor is he unaware of the inflationary character of these pieces of paper: that in the long run they depreciate the value of all his assets as well as those of his depositors, that the marketplace is indeed impoverished by his holdings.

What's more, if he stops to think about it, he must know that the more of these bonds he holds the more he must support the fiscal activities of the State, for depreciation of the value of these bonds could put him out of business. Prudence compels him to disregard such considerations; he cooperates with the State's financing schemes, even if he suspects that in doing so he will gradually be downgraded to a secretarial position. In his need for showing a profit this year he puts aside whatever scruples he may have about buying the State's bonds. The future must take care of itself.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What the Road to Hell is Paved With....

by Bill Bonner

Improving the world costs money. When you have it, your efforts either bear fruit. Or they don’t. But when you don’t have it, when you have to change the world on credit, then what?

John Maynard Keynes revolutionized the economics profession in the early 20th century. It was he more than anyone who changed it from a being a refuge for observers and willowy philosophers into a hard-charging phalanx for men of action. But Keynes’ big insight, like all the useful insights of economics, was based on a story with a moral.

In the Book of Genesis, Pharaoh had a dream. In it, he was standing by the river. Out came 7 fat cattle. Then, 7 lean cattle came up out of the river and ate the fat cattle. A similar dream involved ears of corn, with the good ones devoured by the thin ears.

Pharaoh was troubled. His dream interpreters were stumped. So, they sent for the Hebrew man who was said to be good at this sort of thing — Joseph. Pharaoh described what had happened in his dreams. Without missing a beat, Joseph told him what they meant. The 7 fat cattle and 7 fat ears of corn represented years of plenty with bountiful harvests. The 7 lean cattle and thin ears of corn represented years of famine. Joseph wasn’t asked his opinion, but he gave his advice anyway: Pharaoh should put into place an activist, counter-cyclical economic policy. He should tax 20% of the output during the fat years and then he would be ready with some grain to sell when the famine came. Genesis reports what happened next:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Central bank policies and the Ireland and Iceland 2008-12 financial crises

By Dr Frank Shostak.

There were a lot of commentaries regarding the Ireland and Iceland 2008-12 financial crises. Most of the commentaries were confined to the description of the events without addressing the essential causes of the crises. We suggest that providing a detailed description of events cannot be a substitute for economic analysis, which should be based on the essential causes behind a crisis. The essential cause is the primary driving force that gives rise to various events such as reckless bank lending (blamed by most commentators as the key cause behind the crisis) and a so called overheated economy.

Now in terms of real GDP both Ireland and Iceland displayed strong performance prior to the onset of the crisis in 2008. During 2000 to 2007 the average growth in Ireland stood at 5.9% versus 4.6% in Iceland. So what triggered the sudden collapse of these economies?

Central bank policy the key trigger for economic boom

What set in motion the economic boom (i.e. a strong real GDP rate of growth) in both Ireland and Iceland was an aggressive lowering of interest rates by the respective central banks of Ireland and Iceland. In Ireland the policy rate was lowered from 13.75% in November 1992 to 2% by November 2005. In Iceland the policy rate was lowered from 10.8% in November 2000 to 5.2% by April 2004.

Contra Richard Koo and the Keynesians: It is not about ‘aggregate demand’ but about real prices

by Detlev Schlichter

I do not want to waste your time and my energy with shooting down misguided Keynesian schemes all the time, schemes that have been refuted long ago and should by now be instantly laughed out of town whenever put forward. But arch-Keynesian Richard Koo’s latest attempt in the commentary section of the Financial Times to justify out-of-control deficit spending in the United States as a smartly designed and necessary policy that will keep ‘aggregate demand’ up and lead to recovery, is making the rounds on the internet. Koo’s article is a mechanical and naïve exposition of the 101 of Keynesian stimulus doctrine, clearly aimed at those who still perceive the economy as a simple equation with Y, C, I and lots of G in it. If private demand falls out from under the bottom of the economy, it can be replaced with the government’s demand. Simple.

And wrong, of course.

But the piece is not without some educational value. I promise this will be shorter than my attack on the new money mysticism at the IMF.

Fiscal suicide as recovery strategy

I am not sure if even in Washington there is anybody left who still seriously claims that $1trillion-plus deficits year-in and year-out are anything but a sure-fire sign of a public sector out of control – a public sector that despite generous and growing staffing levels is simply running out of fingers to put into the many holes from which the money is leaking. Yet Richard Koo wants us to believe there is a method to the recklessness, that this is a finely calibrated strategy to save the economy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"We're Flying Blind," Admits Federal Reserve President

Eric S. Rosengren, the president of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank, recently gave a speech at Babson College on November 1. That was a good place to give it. Founder Roger Babson in September, 1929, warned of a stock market crash. Wikipedia reports: "On September 5, 1929, he gave a speech saying, "Sooner or later a crash is coming, and it may be terrific." Later that day the stock market declined by about 3%. This became known as the "Babson Break". The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression soon followed."

Dr. Rosengren began:

Today I plan to highlight three main points about the economic outlook. I always like to emphasize that my remarks represent my views, not necessarily those of my colleagues on the Federal Open Market Committee or at the Board of Governors.

A first point is this: while it is still early to gauge the full impact of the Federal Reserve's September monetary policy committee decision to begin an open-ended mortgage-backed security purchase program, the program has so far worked as expected. The initial response in financial markets was larger than many expected. Given that our conventional monetary tool, the fed funds rate, has hit its lower bound of zero, we have turned to unconventional monetary policy. By that I mean policy that attempts to affect long-term interest rates directly, via asset purchases, rather than indirectly by setting the short-term interest rate, as in conventional policy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Downside of Debt

by Bill Bonner

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, president of Argentina, will never be remembered as a great economist. Nor will she win any awards for ‘accuracy in government reporting.’ Au contraire, under her leadership, the numbers used by government economists in Argentina have parted company with the facts completely. They are not even on speaking terms. Still, Ms. Fernandez deserves credit. At least she is honest about it.

The Argentine president visited the US in the autumn of 2012. She was invited to speak at Harvard and Georgetown universities. Students took advantage of the opportunity to ask her some questions, notably about the funny numbers Argentina uses to report its inflation. Her bureaucrats put the consumer price index — the rate at which prices increase — at less than 10%. Independent analysts and housewives know it is a lie. Prices are rising at about 25% per year.

At a press conference, Cristina turned the tables on her accusers:

“Really, do you think consumer prices are only going up at a 2% rate in the US?”

This Is A Moment In Time That’s Never Been Seen Before


“Greece is a serial bailout, restructuring, can-kick, and I guess this is going to continue as long as the riots don’t get worse. Maybe eventually Greece will get ejected from the euro. The question (in Europe) is, is Draghi going to get serious about the OMT or not?”
“My suspicion is he is going to. They are going to use the central bank there to make sure the euro doesn’t fracture, in the same way Greenspan and Bernanke have used the printing press to make sure that the United States financial markets don’t collapse.
I suspect Europe will muddle through as long as Draghi is willing to keep buying the government debt and keep the whole process moving.
“The (US) fiscal cliff, near as I can tell, is mostly just a boatload of tax hikes and some proposed spending cuts. But at the end of the day, there is a mood of class warfare in the country which is being fomented by the Democratic Party.
Part of the reason for the disparity of wealth in the country is because the policies of the Federal Reserve have helped eviscerate the middle class, both through losing money in bubbles and inflation, and the misallocation of capital and the ensuing destruction of jobs. So the Fed’s policies have hammered the middle class.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Carlo Ponzi, Alias Uncle Sam

by  Gary North

Carlo "Charles" Ponzi was a con man who was the Bernie Madoff of his era. For two years, 1918 to 1920, he sold an impossible dream: a scheme to earn investors 50% profit in 45 days. He paid off old investors with money generated from new investors. The scheme has been imitated ever since.

Every Ponzi scheme involves five elements:
1. A promise of statistically impossible high returns
2. An investment story that makes no sense economically
3. Greedy investors who want something for nothing
4. A willing suspension of disbelief by investors
5. Investors' angry rejection of exposures by investigators

Strangely, most Ponzi schemes involve a sixth element: the unwillingness of the con man to quit and flee when he still can. Bernie Madoff is the supreme example. But Ponzi himself established the tradition.

The Die Is Cast And Only One Question Remains


“The Rubicon is a river in Italy that played a major role in the history of Rome and Western Civilization. Prior to Julius Caesar, it was considered an inviolable boundary for a general commanding an army. To cross it with your army was considered an act of treason against the State.
Caesar did just that in 49 B.C. Caesar left Rome to be come the governor of Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy), Illyricum (southeastern Europe) and Transalpine Gaul (southern France) in 58 B.C.. Actually, he unsuccessfully fled Rome to avoid his mounting debts (he liked to gamble and was a bon vivant). He was only allowed to continue to Gaul after his wealthy friend Crassus paid and guaranteed the debts for him. His conquest of all of Gaul and the details of his military genius are well known, particularly since he wrote it all down in the form of a partial autobiography.
Ambitious men were not welcome to the old Roman order. The Romans had an unpleasant experience with a dictator that led to their founding, and it was in their DNA to despise such men. Caesar was a major threat....

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Jim Rogers Economic Collapse Martial Law Alex Jones

How Central Bank Policy Impacts Asset Prices Part 5: How Far Can They Go?

by Tyler Durden  source :
With the unlimited asset purchase announcements by the Fed and ECB recently, the limits of balance sheet expansion will be put to the test. The current levels would have been seen as inconceivable a mere few years ago and now it seems business-as-usual as investors have become heuristically biased away from the remarkable growth. The problem is - central banks are missing inflation targets and credit growth is still declining - need moar easing, forget the consequences.

Via SocGen:

Balance sheet expansion resumes in advanced countries
Following the unlimited asset purchases announcements by the ECB and the Fed, the limits of balance sheet expansion will be put to the test once again.

Let the Markets Clear!

by Ron Paul - Daily Paul

French businessman and economist Jean-Baptiste Say is credited with identifying the fundamental economic principle that aggregate demand for goods in an economy will equal the aggregate supply of goods when markets are permitted to operate. Or in Say’s words, “products are paid for with products.”

English classical economist David Ricardo, among others, more fully developed this principle into what has become known as “Say’s Law.” Say’s Law, according to Ricardo, leads us to understand that market equilibrium for goods is constant. This simply means that markets, when left alone by government planners or other fraudulent actors, inexorably tend toward an “equilibrium price” which eventually balances supply and demand for any particular good. Thus markets will clearthemselves of any surpluses or shortages in the form of excess supply and demand.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Broken Window Fallacy

This short video explains one of the most persistent economic fallacies of our day.

Made by Sam Selikoff and Luke Bessey.
See Luke's page:
See Sam's blog:

Against the Hurri-Keynesians


It seems that we may never rid ourselves of the broken-window fallacy.
Hurricane Katrina certainly did not stop economists from proclaiming the silver lining of natural disasters. On September 9, 2005, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao told USA Today that demand could create a labor shortage that could push up wage rates and that "We're going to see a tremendous boom in construction." On December 3rd, 2005, Nigel Gault, chief domestic economist at Global Insight, said, "We are now at the point where Hurricane Katrina's effects are adding to job creation rather than detracting from it."
And it's not only that disasters just have a silver lining: economists have long believed that natural disasters and wars are actually good for the economy! Until recently they have not made any attempt to empirically test their views. However, in 2002 Mark Skidmore and Hideki Toya published a paper where they found a positive correlation between disasters and human capital, productivity, and GDP growth.

How Central Bank Policy Impacts Asset Prices Part 2: Bonds

The Fed sees the need to reduce interest rates as it takes over the US Treasury and MBS markets; but the ECB's actions are more aimed at reducing divergences between peripheral nations and the core. As SocGen notes, it remains unclear how and when the Fed would exit this situation and in Europe, bond market volatility remains notably elevated relative to the US and Japan as policy action absent a political, fiscal, and banking union remains considerably less potent.

Via SocGen:

Fed action pushes rates to record lows

The Fed bought around $2tn of securities since November 2008, pushing rates to historical lows (US treasuries becoming popular safe havens also contributed to lowering rates).

It remains unclear how and when the Fed would exit this situation. Operation Twist expires at year-end and any extension seems to be put on hold until after the presidential elections.

A potential Romney victory could bring an end to low QE rates in 2014 (when Mr Bernanke’s term expires).

As a result of the very low rate environment, the US equity risk premium is currently extremely high (6.3% in October 2012).

Hurdles in transmission of ECB monetary policy

Praxeology and Liberalism

[ Human Action (1949)]

Liberalism, in its 19th-century sense, is a political doctrine. It is not a theory, but an application of the theories developed by praxeology and especially by economics to definite problems of human action within society.
As a political doctrine liberalism is not neutral with regard to values and the ultimate ends sought by action. It assumes that all men or at least the majority of people are intent upon attaining certain goals. It gives them information about the means suitable to the realization of their plans. The champions of liberal doctrines are fully aware of the fact that their teachings are valid only for people who are committed to these valuational principles.
While praxeology, and therefore economics too, uses the terms happiness and removal of uneasiness in a purely formal sense, liberalism attaches to them a concrete meaning. It presupposes that people prefer life to death, health to sickness, nourishment to starvation, abundance to poverty. It teaches man how to act in accordance with these valuations.
It is customary to call these concerns materialistic and to charge liberalism with an alleged crude materialism and a neglect of the "higher" and "nobler" pursuits of mankind. Man does not live by bread alone, say the critics, and they disparage the meanness and despicable baseness of the utilitarian philosophy. However, these passionate diatribes are wrong because they badly distort the teachings of liberalism.

Your Vote Still Doesn’t Matter

By Douglas French

I hit a nerve whenever I write about voting and democracy.

Point out the sheer lunacy of the civic religion and a certain group of readers will blow their stacks, sending back long emails stuffed with long words, calling me things like “intellectually vacuous” and insisting I’m full of “self-aggrandizement.”

Such is the case with an email from Laissez Faire Today reader B.R., who says he doesn’t normally like to start his criticisms with name-calling but believes the idea of not voting is “so astounding” that it “requires an equally strong tactic to stop its momentum in its tracks.”

I hate to break it to B.R., but the nonvoting train left the station a long time ago. For the last 50 years, 40-50% of eligible voters have chosen to stay home on presidential Election Days. President Obama’s campaign in 2008 actually pumped life into the election process.