The True Gold Standard (Second Edition)
The musty old document that supposedly governs this country, the Constitution of the United States put into practice way back in 1789, makes no provision for the governmental institution that has proven the most influential of our time: the Federal Reserve. About the only clause in the whole multi-page document that might even remotely pertain to authorizing a Federal Reserve is this expression from Article 1, Section 8:
“The Congress shall have Power To….coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures….”
That’s it. You can search the document up and down for lines referring to the monetary authority of the country, and all that will turn up is stuff on Letters of Marque, Presidential Electors, and permission to tax slave imports up to $10 per.
It is not the case that banking, much less “central banking”—or paper money for that matter—did not exist 225 years ago, such that the Founders could have authorized a Fed had they ever heard of such a thing. Paper money was a “warehouse receipt” for gold or silver coin (or bullion) that an institution kept because it was more convenient for the owner of the money to conduct affairs without hauling precious metals around on one’s person.
In the past twelve months the federal government has increased the national debt held by the public by $697 billion while the total debt has grown by $820 billion. Since revenue collected by the government is at record highs, these enormous deficits must be due to spending. Among the many extraordinary measures taken by the Federal Reserve over the past five or so years are several that are serving to enable President Obama and Congress in continuing to spend with little, if any, restraint. If we hope to get spending under control, it would help if the Fed stopped encouraging so much wasteful spending.
The Federal Reserve believes, with little evidence over the last five years to back them up, that government deficit spending and low interest rates can stimulate the economy and boost economic growth. The Fed has significant influence over interest rates, but no role in federal spending or taxes, so how does it enable the federal government in running deficits? The answer is by its purchasing of Treasury securities which holds interest rates down and its refunding of all its profits to the Treasury.
The Federal Reserve’s seemingly endless program of quantitative easing (QE) begun under Ben Bernanke, and continuing at a slightly slower pace under Janet Yellen, has some of the punditry and much of the electorate up in arms. With good reason.
Implicit in quantitative easing is the horribly obtuse notion that central banks can produce real economic growth through their monetary machinations. If only life were so simple.
Back in the world of the reasonable, the sole purpose of money is as a stable measure of value that facilitates the exchange of goods and investment. Quantitative easing, by its very name, involves the corruption of money’s sole purpose as a stable medium of exchange.
In that case it must be stressed that QE has in no way boosted growth. The latter results from investment in new and existing commercial concepts, and for destabilizing the value of money, QE works against the very investment that would drive economic growth.
Will America start prospering again — as it has not prospered for over a decade? Likely yes. But not without a fight. Now that Jim DeMint has raided Steve Moore from the Wall Street Journal that card might be Heritage Foundation vs. the White House. Could be big.
John Holdren, now Obama’s White House science advisor, 40 years ago termed America “overdeveloped.” Holdren co-authored a 1993 book, Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions, with Anne and Paul Ehrlich reportedly saying that, “A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States….” (Emphasis supplied.)
As Reason Magazine’s Ronald Bailey put it upon the occasion of Holdren’s nomination to White House service: “Holdren … acknowledge(s) ecological ignorance about the principles of economics, but [didn't] express any urgency in learning about them.” Holdren seems, to this columnist, still to favor “de-development” more euphemistically stated as “sustainable prosperity.”
The Federal Reserve System recently turned 100, but it has presided over a century of folly, argues Professor Richard Timberlake in his magisterial 2013 book Constitutional Money (Cambridge University Press). Timberlake, professor emeritus at the University of Georgia, makes a compelling case that the U.S. made a terrible blunder in abandoning the gold standard in favor of a fiat monetary system under the control of a few supposed experts.
While the proponents of the Fed were certain that America needed a modern, “scientific” system to control money and credit, what we have learned is that the rule of experts, no matter how brilliant their credentials, is far inferior to the stability of a self-regulating market. We have replaced the rule of law – both constitutional and economic – with the rule of men; that is just as damaging with regard to money as with any other aspect of life.