Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jubilee as Protection against Fractional Reserve Banking

Imagine you had a $100 in your account, and your family needed some money. They all promise to pay you back, so you write a check for $400 to mom, $300 to dad, $200 to bro, and $100 to sis.

Inconceivable, right? Not if you call yourself a bank! Then it is perfectly legitimate. Welcome to the world of fractional reserve banking.

Fractional banking means that private parties can create money from scratch, then loan it out. Oh, yeah, AND require repayment on interest. On money they never had in the first place!

The money is made-up, but the debt is quite real! If you can't pay back their made-up money, with interest, they might just have the right to garnish your wages.

When looking at the big picture, the entire edifice of modern banking is a huge exploitation machine, run by the parasitic banking classes. Their method of operations is to create as much loan money as possible, because that means more profit for them. Thus, as you can see, it is the banks who are the primary drivers of unsustainable consumerism, perpetually encouraging and enabling debt burdens.

There is literally no end point, no natural limit to the amount of debt that banks will foist upon the commoners. The logic of competitive capitalism dictates the cut-throat competition to spread loan growth. The banking industry, just like biological parasites, will grow out of control until their host is destroyed. This is what Greenspan was referring to when he famously said his faith in capitalism was shaken: he naively assumed banks would regulate themselves to avoid self-destructive loan growth. The problem is, individual banks might want to restrict their own growth, but the banking system as a whole cannot. Banks who issue more debt simply crowd out and take over banks who issue less, thus ensuring out-of-control debt growth for the whole system.

The Jubilee cycle is like a regular innoculation and treatment, killing off the parasitic infestation of debt parasites. When bankers know that debt will automatically be forgiven, they will control their own debt-issuance. Why would they give out loans when they know the debt will be erased? At the beginning of the Jubilee cycle, long term loans, up to 50 years, are possible. As time gets closer to the Jubilee Year, loan terms are shortened. Naturally, banks would be far less likely to provide loans at all, as the risk of total loss is great if the debtor strings repayment out.

Under the fractional reserve system, banks are able to hoard wealth and power in a naked power grab. Jubilee offers protection against that power.

Now, some might suggest that we regulate banks, perhaps even eliminate fractional reserve banking altogether. Here is the problem:

As we know from history, money holders will attempt fractional reserve lending, getting away with it as much as they can. The proposal to regulate banks on that scale involves a massive state regulatory apparatus. As we know, bankers are expert at corrupting regulators, so even with the expense of a full regulatory regime, we cannot expect to ever truly eliminate fractional banking.

The Jubilee cycle would accomplish the best of all worlds: minimal government establishment, while leading banks to restrain themselves in accordinance with their own self-interests.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Necessity of the Jubilee Cycle in the Modern Economy

As detailed in my last article, the modern economic condition of primarily credit money creates a new economic dynamic:

Under traditional paper money schemes, the excessive issuance of money results in hyperinflation.

Under modern credit money schemes, the excessive issuance of money results in Minski moments of economic collapse because of unsustainable debt levels.

The ancient Jubilee cycle, extinguishing all debt every 50 years, is perfectly suited to this new modern condition. The Jubilee cycle would be the perfect restrictor and regulator of the Minski debt-collapse cycle, and is thus a necessity for economic stability in the modern world.

Many monetary theorists and reformers are looking backwards, and recommending that we reign in the Minski cycle by eliminating the fractional reserve banking system. However correct this proposal is on the theoretical level, it is impractical because time and knowledge cannot be undone. A similar critique faces those who would return us to the gold standard: it was tried, and abandoned, time has moved on. As much as we would like to return to a Constitutional system of limited government, Pandora's box has already been opened.

A debt-cancellation Jubilee is the best solution to our current economic situation, which was caused by excessive debt. The Jubilee system of periodic debt cancellation is the only way to keep it from happening again and again. The Jubilee cycle would be the bedrock of sustainable economic development, which is yet another long-range necessity which must be faced by forward-looking economic leaders.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Dangers and Advantages of Credit Creation

Excellent article by Peter Warburton over at Gold Eagle, http://www.gold-eagle.com/gold_digest_01/warburton041801.html, that, although written in 2001, deals with many issues we are facing today. The central problem he addresses, especially as he came from a monetarist perspective, is the lack of connection between money expansion and inflation, the very issue at the center of the inflation/deflation debate today.

Warburton accounts for this puzzling phenomenon as due to the role of credit. The rise of the credit-based economy has radically changed the economic landscale since the 1980s. As he puts it, "On the one hand, it has enabled the monetary aggregates to grow much more slowly than the credit aggregates, helping to keep inflation lower. On the other hand, the non-bank credit avalanche has enabled a furious pace of fixed investment in physical assets that has promoted structural global excess capacity in virtually all manufactured products and exerted downward pressure on product prices."

In other words, credit is inherently non-inflationary, and it allows economic activity to the point of overproduction and oversupply, which is actually disinflationary.

Even though he was writting in 2001, Wharburton exactly describes the conditions of 2009, noting that monetary expansions are mainly caused by banking stress, as the troubled banks hoard the cash: "The more obvious are the system’s weaknesses, the greater is the fear of collapse and the larger the demand for liquidity within the financial markets. In these stressful episodes, it is the financial markets themselves that are the principal driving force behind the monetary expansion. Hence, there is relatively little monetary impact on the product and labour markets, that is, on prices and wages."

Thus, we have massive expansion of the monetary base without inflation, because the banks are just sitting on the money.

Wharburton posits that inflation due to monetary expansion is not to be found on the consumer price level, because it affects other sectors, especially in the value of the currency itself. The real price paid for over-expansion of credit is overproduction and malinvestment. The final outcome is debt deflation: "In the limit, the construction of excess capacity gives rise to debt default, as the idle portion of capacity does not earn an income and cannot service the debt that financed its construction." The result: "central banks preside over the creation of additional liquidity for the financial system in order to hold back the tide of debt defaults that would otherwise occur." Again, we witnessed this precisely as described.

The real cost of this credit destruction is paid by the currency: "The latent losses in the credit system, emanating from non-performing loans and defaulting bonds, represent a charge against the value of the currency, as surely as if the edges of the notes and coins had been trimmed away. " The main obstacle to realizing it, is that the debasement of any one currency is kept hidden by the fact that all national paper currencies are being debased in the same fashion.

Jubilee Analysis:

Credit creation is a form of resource allocation, functionally equivalent to money. In other words, a credit line allows you to purchase real labor and resources, in direct competition with cash purchasers. Thus, credit creation can drive up prices just like cash creation can. The advantage of credit creation over cash creation is the avoidance of hyper-inflationary effects, as credit is created and extinguished. The downside is the tendency towards malinvestment and debt-deflation when credit levels become too high.

This is THE fundamental issue flying right over the heads of the Hard Money types. The majority of money is not centrally issued. Sure, our currency is issued by the feds, but most money is functionally created by banks in the form of credit. The only way to eliminate the issuance of credit money by banks is to eliminate the system of fractional reserve banking.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dollar Replacement Rumbles Begin

Wow, what a night. The dollar falls sharply, with gold up up up, all due to the DENIED rumor of Gulf state movement to leave the dollar. The Independent yesterday released a bombshell of a report detailing a secret plot to abandon the dollar in the oil trade (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/the-demise-of-the-dollar-1798175.html). The process is supposed to take 9 years, but markets reacted sharply in the following 24 hours!

The most amazing part of the story is the American press's complete lack of coverage of it. With today's movement in the dollar and gold, it seems they will have to cover it. We shall see.

Reuters India reports:
"...analysts said that while individual countries would find it relatively easy to stop using the dollar in settling oil trades, as Iran has already done, replacing the currency in which oil is priced would require a massive effort. The newspaper story did not make clear how the change would work, and many analysts doubted it would occur any time soon."

Frankly, this is assurance without substance. Why would it require massive effort? It could be done tomorrow! We are approaching the borderline between orderly and disorderly collapse of the dollar, meaning, how long will it take?

Every major non-NATO country has already come out and said they desire dollar replacement, and the Gulf states have already publicly stated their desire for a regional currency, so the latest denials ring hollow:

But top officials of Saudia Arabia and Russia, speaking on the sidelines of International Monetary Fund meetings in Istanbul, denied there were such talks. The two countries are the world's largest and second-largest oil exporters. Asked by reporters about the newspaper story, Saudi Arabia's central bank chief Muhammad al-Jasser said: "Absolutely incorrect." He repeated the same response when asked whether Saudi Arabia was in such talks. Kuwait's oil minister made similar remarks, while Russia's deputy finance minister Dmitry
Pankin said: "We did not discuss this at all." Algerian Finance Minister Karim Djoudi told Reuters: "Oil producing countries need to stabilise revenues but...I don't see a need for oil trade to be denominated differently."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Chartilist Monetary Theory Insanity

There is no doubt that operating under fiat currency introduces a new monetary theory that most people have not grasped, but the Chartilists have apparently jumped off the deep edge, as they have come up with a new theory of money that recommend larger government, zero interest rates, and expanding deficits.

Their basic argument appears to be that after the passing of the gold standard era in 1971, governments are no longer revenue-constrained, and thus, government money is free and goverment debt is just fine, better than fine, really, since government debt drives down interest rates and provides savings. To them, opposition to more government involvement and expanded deficits just boils down to "an ideological obsession that government is bad and private markets are good."

It seems we have run into another species of the modern Greenbackers, who believe that government money is now free, with the main difference being the Chartilists are based out of Australia. Frankly, these people are positively dangerous. I am tempted to attribute their lack of realistic thinking to the fact that they are leftists, and liberalism is defined as the substitution of fantasy for reality.

See, for example, this: "Imagine if the government saw through all the smokescreens and announced they were no longer issuing debt and would just continue to credit bank accounts as necessary to support full employment? The neo-liberals would scream inflation … but would soon run out of steam with that line of attack."

Also, this gem: "Why will inflation rise? With capacity utilisation rates so low around the world and spare labour capacity what will generate a widespread inflation? Perhaps oil prices? But that will be due to an olipolistic cartel (OPEC) and nothing to do with the deficits." (source quotes here: http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=5219#more-5219)

The fundamental issue can be boiled down to the question: since fiat-currency issuing governments can print their own money, why collect taxes at all, why not just issue new money to pay for government expenditures? The proposition sounds simple and self-evident, but glosses over some very deep problems.

The most fundamental problem is this: a) money that is created without an accompanying creation of real wealth is inflationary and b) government action does not create wealth. Thus, governments that issue new money to cover current expenses quickly spiral off into an inflationary tailspin. Money created to fund a service is inflationary because once the service is performed, the money still remains and so we have an ever-expanding money supply.

Compare that with a pure credit clearing system, a la Thomas Greco, wherein mutual credit is spontaneously created and extinguished in a balanced fashion with every economic transaction. Such credit clearing is non-inflationary, since credit is created then extinguished. If money had to be created for each transaction instead of credit, the volume of money would quickly rise exponentially. This process accounts for such historical inflations as occured in colonial Canada when, in response to a coin shortage, playing cards became money (described here: http://www.micheloud.com/FXM/MH/canada.htm).

Thus, to balance government expenditures, taxes must be extracted in an equal amount. Any excess of government expenditure above the amount removed through taxation is, by definition, inflationary. That is the problem with government deficits. Deficit spending is inherently inflationary, as they introduce money into the system without the creation of wealth.

Now, some might object, government could theoretically introduce money to pay for wealth creation activities. That point is true, it could. But it doesn't. That is not that nature or function of modern government. We don't have a wing of government devoted to creating economic wealth, although the Chinese do, and it is working fantastically for them.

Our governments, like China's, could indeed create entire industries from scratch with fiat money, and produce no inflation. Such industries would be an economic positive if they competed with foreign industries, or created industries that otherwise did not exist at all. But the fact is, most of our government programs today fund only welfare programs, which are transfers of wealth, not wealth creating.

It is a standard Keynesian idea that in times of economic downturn, government ramp up spending to replace shrinking private spending. The idea makes perfect sense, and works wonderfully, when targetted on wealth-creating industry and not connected to the fact of high and increasing debt.

When stimulus money merely goes to filling budget gaps, while increasing the debt load, the treatment is worse than the disease, because the economic condition post-stimulus will be worse than it was pre-stimulus.

Steve Keen Proves the People's Bailout Works Best

As I have been arguing all along, the only effective solution to debt deflation is cancellation of debt, and stimulus needs to go directly to the people, not to the banks. Perhaps Steve Keen cogitated over the comments I left on his blog, as he created a computer model to test the theory. Low and behold, his model proved the People's Bailout is correct: money given to banks is far less effective, even in theory, than money given directly to citizens.

As he puts it at his post http://www.debtdeflation.com/blogs/2009/09/19/it’s-hard-being-a-bear-part-five-rescued/:

I’ve recently developed a genuinely monetary, credit-driven model of the economy, and one of its first insights is that Obama has been sold a pup on the right way to stimulate the economy: he would have got far more bang for his buck by giving the stimulus to the debtors rather than the creditors.

The model shows that you get far more “bang for your buck” by giving the money to firms, rather than banks. Unemployment falls in both case below the level that would have applied in the absence of the stimulus, but the reduction in unemployment is far greater when the firms get the stimulus, not the banks: unemployment peaks at over 18 percent without the stimulus, just over 13 percent with the stimulus going to the banks, but under 11 percent with the stimulus being given to the firms.

The time path of the recession is also greatly altered. The recession is shorter with the stimulus, but there’s actually a mini-boom in the middle of it with the firm-directed stimulus, versus a simply lower peak to unemployment with the bank-directed stimulus.

When a credit crunch strikes, the pipes pumping the bank reserves to the firms shrink dramatically, while the pipe going in the opposite direction expands, and all other pipes remain the same size.

If you then fill up the bank reserves reservoir—by the government pumping the extra $100 billion into it—that money will only trickle into the economy slowly. If however you put that money into the firms’ bank accounts, it would flow at an unchanged rate to the rest of the economy—the workers—while flowing more quickly to the banks as well, reducing debt levels.

So giving the stimulus to the debtors is a more potent way of reducing the impact of a credit crunch—the opposite of the advice given to Obama by his neoclassical advisers.

Obama has been sold a pup by neoclassical economics: not only did neoclassical theory help cause the crisis, by championing the growth of private debt and the asset bubbles it financed; it also is undermining efforts to reduce the severity of the crisis.

This is unfortunately the good news: the bad news is that this model only considers an economy undergoing a “credit crunch”, and not also one suffering from a serious debt overhang that only a direct reduction in debt can tackle. That is our actual problem, and while a stimulus will work for a while, the drag from debt-deleveraging is still present. The economy will therefore lapse back into recession soon after the stimulus is removed.

Social Security Going Negative, Now

Add another log to the "inevitable inflation" fire: Social Security going negative now, not later. Because of our current debt deflation depression, revenues have fallen far, far faster than anticipated. Not only are revenues falling, many people are transferring their unemployment problem onto the Social Security system, as unemployment gets translated into early retirement and disability payments. The SS tax is not going to bring in enough to cover current SS payments, as soon as next year officially, probably right now in reality.

Remember, the SS Trust Fund is not a fund, and you certainly can't trust it. It is just an accounting trick. The SS tax money has been going into the general fund, helping mask the deficit, for years. The SS Trust Fund is simply a Treasury promise to pay.

Ok, so how will they pay, now that the SS tax is no longer sufficient to meet the SS payments? Raise the tax? Lower benefits? Those would take political will. Most likely: just print the money, driving up the debt and adding to the deficit, which is INHERENTLY INFLATIONARY!

It boggles my mind how the press stories continue to obfuscate and misinform. The AP article says, "The deficits — $10 billion in 2010 and $9 billion in 2011 — won't affect payments to retirees because Social Security has accumulated surpluses from previous years totaling $2.5 trillion."

They continue to push the mistaken idea that there is a surplus of money somewhere, a build up of cash that is waiting to be drawn down. The whole thing is a complete scam, abetted by people's economic and accounting ignorance. The article says, " Without a new fix, the $2.5 trillion in Social Security's trust funds will be exhausted in 2037. Those funds have actually been spent over the years on other government programs. They are now represented by government bonds, or IOUs, that will have to be repaid as Social Security draws down its trust fund."

So, how much sense does it make that the government can give a bond to another wing of government? It only seems to make sense as a linguistic sentence, it has no economic reality behind it whatsoever. Real translation: the money was taken in, it was spent, it is gone, there is no such thing as a trust fund. There is only a promise to pay, that is all, with no actual money to do the paying.

That is the psychology of hyperinflation. The refusal to cut budgets, the refusal to face reality. The money will be printed, there is no doubt.