Daily Bell posts

The Daily Bell, a Swiss journal in the hard-money camp, interviewed me (here) , then had Larry Parks respond (here). Now they’ve critiqued my latest article, on the IMF (here). They’re not budging from their hard-money position, but they are so diplomatic! They say, “we will comment on it and hope that Brown doesn’t mind we have returned to her work. She shouldn’t write such interesting articles!” If anybody wants to jump in and defend the Greenbacker position, that would be great.

P.S. They did a followup here. Quite fun. Here is my favorite part:

Most people need backing of some sort to break through and capture a share of the public mind, but Ms. Brown has seemingly accomplished this all by herself, without funding of any kind. It almost defies comprehension. If we wore a thousand hats, they would all be doffed in respect to Ms. Brown’s courageous and apparently independent intellectual journey.

We are impressed enough with Ms. Brown’s approach to award her a title all her own, in fact. There are in our opinion, in modern economic thought, now Keynesians, Austrians and Brownians.

Of course, then they proceed to lay into all my best tenets, but whatever; let the games proceed!

There is more here, titled “The Brownian conundrum: Is a state solution possible?” (Daily Bell, October 10, 2009). Thanks, trusty bloggers and Daily Bell!

Oct 12, 2009: They’re still at it. They seem to have found our crowd congenial sparring partners. I think they’re congenial too! Anyone who wants to take a tilt at the hard-money windmill, it’s here.

34 Responses

  1. I posted feedback to the Larry Parks article.

    It seemed that Parks objected most strenuously to the idea of paper legal tender and I agree that paper money should not be legal tender for private debts but only for public debts.

    The following is from a post on Steve Keen’s Debt Watch

    The fundamental principles of modern monetary economics, By Bill Mitchell, Professor of Economics, University of Newcastle
    The following discussion outlines the macroeconomic principles underpinning modern monetary theory (sometimes referred to as Chartalism).

    The modern monetary system is characterised by a floating exchange rate (so monetary policy is freed from the need to defend foreign exchange reserves) and the monopoly provision of fiat currency. The monopolist is the national government. Most countries now operate monetary systems that have these characteristics.

    Under a fiat currency system, the monetary unit defined by the government has no intrinsic worth. It cannot be legally converted by government, for example, into gold as it was under the gold standard. The viability of the fiat currency is ensured by the fact that it is the only unit which is acceptable for payment of taxes and other financial demands of the government.

    Of course, fiat paper money (government money) would gain acceptance for private debts as well, but voluntarily.

  2. You clearly won that debate, Ellen, and I posted feedback to that effect. Mr. Parks is a libertarian ideologue, which may be good, may be bad, but his propositions are totally impractical. Nor do they deal with the very real reasons we, and the world, abandoned the gold standard.

    I think the Daily Bell’s most relevant point is the need to eliminate legal tender laws. I think the best of all worlds would involve limited currency competition, including bimetallism, as they recommend, in the same economic ecosystem as government-operated public banks, as you recommend, and private banks as well. Perhaps two or three chartered paper scripts.

    As I understand it, your position would still involve monopolistic government control of money issue, ie, one legal tender script, correct?

    • Hi, I’m not opposed to community currencies, local currencies, or privately minted precious metal coins (e.g. Liberty Dollars), but the official national currency I think should be created by the people of the nation through their representative government. Since that rather radical transition isn’t liable to happen for a while, however, a first step toward regaining control would be publicly-owned banks competing with private banks on their own terms. I think the publicly-owned banks would quickly win this competition, demonstrating their eminent superiority.

      • Do you mean you favor a legal tender law?

        I don’t see why we need a law declaring a particular currency to be a legal tender for private debt. Public fiat only requires acceptance for taxes.

        Of course, how does paper currency maintain value in an ideal tax-free society?

        • Then what does the government accept for taxes (assuming there are taxes or a government)?

  3. Ellen:

    I posted feedback, but the Daily Bell didn’t put it up on their site perhaps because it was critical. They do seem to have removed their original piece from their front page, placing it behind an older posting (i.e. out of chronological order).

    Here is what I sent them:

    I am not sure what your “disagreements” are with the analysis in Brown’s excellent piece. You restate (over & over) your view that gold-backing is a necessary feature of a proper monetary system but provide no analysis to support this view. The problem “is not so complex” in your view, your disagreement has a “nub”, but then several conclusory paragraphs without any argumentation – no actual reason WHY the analysis with which you disagree is incorrect.
    The one sentence which does contain a counter-argument to something in Brown’s piece is just plain wrong. To wit, you state “Gold and silver in a private, market-based system are impossible to manipulate with any regulatory or success” (sic). With respect to your manipulation point, in fact, gold-backed currencies are easily manipulated through fractional-reserve lending and have been since they first arose hundreds of years ago as receipts for gold deposited with a goldsmith. The system allowed the goldsmith to print more receipts than he had gold, and that basic manipulation has been a problem with paper currencies ever since – gold-backing does not solve that problem. With respect to the success point, America had a system of private, market-based gold-backed currencies in the 19th century. A group of bankers so successfully manipulated that system that they were able to cause passage of the Federal Reserve act, eliminating their competition. Only a “greenback”-style currency that is spent into existence by the government rather than borrowed into existence promises to avoid the inevitable concentration of monetary, and thus political, power that results from a system of private gold-backed currencies.
    Furthermore, your “disagreement” does not discuss Triffin’s Dilemma, which is the point of Brown’s piece, and your dismissive handling of SDRs indicates that you may not understand the issue she raises. You may not think the IMF is “much of” a central bank, but if Ms. Brown’s account of the recent G-20 summit is correct, somebody does.

    Keep up the good work!

    • This is first-rate, Foster. I concur on every point. It is easy to see why the Bell didn’t print it. In fact, they should be embarrassed by their entire stance on the issue, and Parks is somewhere off beyond Jupiter with his comments.

      But then the entire “gold is money” argument is an absurd anachronism, isn’t it? It essentially comes down to the argument that gold (or silver) has always been used as a means of exchange, so it should always remain so. As if there were no such thing as progress, the discovery of new and better ideas and ways of doing things.

      The Colonial Script (paper fiat money) was such an improvement, and as such it was a threat to England’s economic dominance, and had to be crushed. And so it was
      Same with the Greenbacks Lincoln issued. The bankers not only killed the Greenbacks, they killed Lincoln as well, in all probability.

      Returning to a gold backed system or gold money is absurd from so many points of view that only those who simply don’t (or won’t) understand the issues could buy into it, or sell it to others.

  4. “Of course, how does paper currency maintain value in an ideal tax-free society?”

    Because if it’s debt-free credit function is calibrated properly, it’s value will be maintained by negating the rise of Debt related to means of exchange imbalances. Deflation/Inflation is in-convenient to people and they will by and large go with what works best if given easily accessible options.

  5. I found it interesting that they agree with Ms Brown regarding the banks, but fail to see that the banks gained their power through the manipulation of gold and silver currencies, long before the western world first issued paper money. They state that history proves that a gold money system would prevent inflation and deflation, yet both inflation and deflation occurred throughout history in places that used gold or gold in combination with other metals as currency. There was also a statement that all gold that has ever been mined is still available for use in currency – totally downplaying the industrial and artistic use of gold. I’d prefer we keep most gold art works as they are and not melt them down for money!

  6. From what I read in The Daily Bell, it seems to me the crux of their objection to “Greenbacks” is that corrupt people in the government will inflate the money supply in order to give groups of people economic “treats” from the government so as to obtain votes to stay in office. Therefore, The Bell and the “hard money” group prefers money based on gold because it prevents this currency debasement.

    So then, the 64 dollar question seems to be, how would this natural tendency of government be prevented? Perhaps A Constitutional Amendment stipulating that the number of Greenbacks in circulation is fixed to a certain number – or maybe a ratio to a number such as population size of the country?

    I find it fascinating that it seems to all boil down to the question: “what should money be”? Such a simple question with literally titanic implications!

    • You’re on the right track Mark. The real question though, is “where should the money profits (interest) go?”. It can go to the people or the private bankers. “Their” objection to Greenbacks is only that more government (public) control over money means less for the banksters and financiers.

      Isn’t it ironic to argue they they worry about gov’t corruption causing inflation by giving out “economic treats” to “groups” when most of those groups are the ones bribing gov’t officials and buying elections?

      The real issue is how to clean up the gov’t enough to justly administer the money trust. That means eliminating the major sources of gov’t corruption, lobbying, and influence peddling – in other words all the “too big to fail” corporations and financial institutions that are the prime source of gov’t corruption.

      If the right computer models are invoked to keep the money supply equal to real production of goods and services (real wealth) then there will BE NO inflation of deflation, except in small amounts that can be adjusted.

      Gold and silver have nothing at all to do with money, except as commodities that have a flucuating market value just like wheat, corn, oil, etc. They could be useful as a starting valuation for a monetary unit, but in the end, all real money is backed by the wealth of the community or economy that issues it. Gold and silver are marketed to the world as “money” by those who control those markets, in order to make a huge profit. Those with the huge “supply” of any commodity talk up its value and increase its demand to make money.

      It’s all a game. It’s all “follow the money” or follow the channels of the flow of wealth.

      But the game is dangerous, even deadly. Its unsustainable. Its “Russian Roulette”. The longer its played the more certain the loss.

      The Daily Bell, the Austrians, the Central Bankers, the interlocking board members and CEOs of the Fortune 500 megacorps are all different faces for the same blood-sucking vampire – and its main interest is power and control. The same “WizOz” is behind all these apparently “competing” forces, or interests.

      Why do we content ourselves with pulling back only a small piece of the curtain, rather than the whole cloth?

      In the end it matters little whether gold or credit back our currency. All that matters is who gets to regulate, control and distribute the goodies, and who gets their hands on it first.

      Who controls the money (the economy) is who ultimately controls the government.

      Is that going to be a democratic process or an elitist one?

      Are we going to have self-government or some form of aristocracy or totalitarianism?

      These are the only real questions. Can we find answers?

      • It seems to me that the question is not who should control the money – because then whoever controls the money, whether it is gold or greenbacks will control everyone else – but rather what is money.
        I submit that if money has a value that is consistent and can not be gamed by people using government or other power for their own selfish purposes, then we have a level playing field in which the average Joe or Joesephina can prosper.
        The intent of Jefferson & Madison and the founders of our country was to prevent individuals, or groups of individuals, or groups of individuals aligned with other groups to gang up and take advantage of other individuals or groups. When money can be controlled by the government, this opens the door to those that can control government to use the government to give Joe and Joesephina the shaft.
        It seems to me that as light seems to be the consistent beginning point in the ecology of the universe, money must be the consistent beginning point of the ecology of the economy. Without a set, consistent value of money, we are open to abuse by those with power and influence who will use the power of government for their own selfish purposes by manipulating the money itself.

        • Mark, at 4:28 pm Said:

          “It seems to me that the question is not who should control the money – because then whoever controls the money, whether it is gold or greenbacks will control everyone else – but rather what is money.”

          Hello Mark. Bingo. That;s a roger, excet that once you properly define it you still have to properly issue and control (regulate) it.

          That’s what I was saying above, and for as long as I’ve been posting here, and elsewhere about money. It’s what Ellen Brown has been saying… it’s the central theme of her book, Web of Debt, and here articles. It’s the central theme of the forum we started: to define money and discuss the best ways for societies to handle it. It’s the central theme of Zarlenga’s text, “The Lost Science of Money””. Here is one of the finest treatises ever written, by Frederick Soddy in 1934 – still totally relevant today: The Role of Money

          It’s really impossible, and even Orwellian, to discuss “money” without first defining it is some meaningful way. Yet that is precisely what most of those discussing it today are doing – the Austrians, Libertarians, Gold and silver advocates. They all use flawed axioms (basic assumptions) and/or circular reasoning (non-logic) to attempt to make their case. They all fail to make the distinction between “money” and “wealth”, or between the token and the thing itself that the token stands for.

          ********************

          Here is my best composite definition of money:

          “Money” is a token, accounting entry, proxy, surrogate, coin, note, certificate, substitute, or stand-in for wealth, created by society (or an identifiable economy within a society) to facilitate and simplify complex transactions or barter exchanges. It must be universally acceptable within that economy, and that means it must be “legal” or “fiat money”. (Fiat down NOT mean paper money, as the myth goes.) For “money” to be universally accepted and trustworthy is must be accept by the government that issues it, and all subsidiary governments, in payment of taxes and fees. To meet the “trust” factor, it must also be of a predictable and stable value, neither subject to inflation nor deflation.

          That is a good definition of money. It could be made better by adding things that money is NOT, or does not need to be.

          For instance, money is never measured by its weight; only by its stamp, or official mark. If money is make of silver or gold, it is because of the durability and utility of those metals, not because of their value on the open metals markets.

          *******************

          “I submit that if money has a value that is consistent and can not be gamed by people using government or other power for their own selfish purposes, then we have a level playing field in which the average Joe or Joesephina can prosper.”

          Absolutely the point all sincere money reformers have been making for centuries, going back to Solon and Aristotle and up through Jefferson and Franklin to Henry George and the modern writers and thinkers.

          Thanks for your comments.

          • Some sweet day, humans are going to see the obvious for what it is: Money is token of work. You can “take it to the bank” that that realization is going to dawn on us. Because if it doesn’t, this species is not going to be around anymore.

            Work is time and energy sacrificed …is mandated by nature …is inherent in this circumstance known as being alive. Staying alive requires sacrifice of time and energies to working.

            Money is token of WORK.

            It isn’t anything else because it can’t be anything else – not on this planet anyway.

            Exchanging money = exchanging workhours (fractions or multiples of workhours).

            • XO, I would agree that work is the biggest component of money. That is because work (labor) is the biggest component of wealth, and money is a token of wealth. Wealth = Labor + Land (resources).

              The reason labor is so undervalued today is because those who own or control the land (resources – improperly called “capital”) take the increase in productivity for themselves. They do not fairly apportion the increased profits from more productive work to the laborer.

              In other words, money is a token of wealth, and wealth = work + resources.

              Cheers, Jere

  7. Ellen, I am truly impressed with the details printed in the Daily Bell, and how hard it is for any to accept that “the full faith and credit” of any entity stands for anything.

    Recent discussions with Bill McKibben, of 350.org, are trying to focus how the innovation that will be needed for the development of the drawdown of atmospheric CO2 concentration is going to be accomplished (paid for). I think you have hit the nail on the head but have not identified it clearly enough yet.

    Humans create value for each other in the relationships they foster. Most of these relationships are non-monetary as are most family connections and are priceless. The old adage paraphrased, family is where they have to take you when all else fails, is a statement of the irreplaceability of a family tie. The pain of severance of these ties is an indication of how valuable they really are. The connection that needs to be made with the impending effects of climate change is that if this change happens all basis for human and much other biological existence will disappear. If it does any value that anything has to anyone will go with it. This is something that needs to be tested with some real critique!

    It appears to me that the “full faith and credit” (FFC) maxim needs to be explained and shown to be limited only by the ability of life itself to function.

    If it stands the test of intense critique, the next question I have not thought through is how does this FFC result in transferable funds. Various commentators have mentioned the government spending into existence the currency and maybe that is the way it is created, but what is the rationale for causing a government purchase and what portion of the life force that is part of the FFC idea is able to qualify as a base from which this spending of maintenance liquidity can develop.

    If the problem of a debt based monetary system is that the funds are only generated by creation of a debt entry, in a FFC based system are there going to be any charges that are above the amount of funds that originate from government purchases. I can imagine that any transaction has costs that accrue to someone for the origination of a purchase that are in excess of the visible costs and that this eventually will catch up with the system just as the current ponzi scheme is now imploding. So if part of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is the ability to trade in the business of life, possibly the existence of life requires that we find a way to guarantee a currency base for that life to function at a basic maintenance level – essentially by our agreeing that we all are going to buy into existence the ability of any life (at least human life) for the full period of that life however long that might be. This guarantee could be a contract for the government to buy into existence the liquidity for the maintenance of that life. I am sure that there are many conundrums raised by this kind of thought, and they are more than I am able to describe now, but it needs to happen.

    An aside, I manage forests. Trees are immobile and are responsible for the effects they create and take the competition from their neighbors or die. They have no need for currency that is external to their internal self regulated system of allocation of scarce sugar throughout the tree, from roots to buds, from savings (whence maple syrup comes) to immediate expenditures like wound healing. On the other hand humans are mobile, can think about the choices they have and must make good choices – especially now in view of the apparent reality of human induced climate change. In light of the complex nature of trying to make good choices, the existence of the liquidity of and for life makes sense to me. If we realize that there are costs and returns for the act of conception, and the life time that ensues, and that some of the returns are priceless and some of the costs are going to become exponential (through environmental depletion and things like climate change) if we are not very thorough, then it is incumbent on us to both facilitate the best choices a family (all families) can make at the outset and follow through with facilitating liquidity.

  8. Excellent analysis, thanks! I’ve been looking into UCC law. All we have now is the law of contracts. In the 19th century, they had “real bills” — you could use your bills of lading representing products that were still on the ship, not to be delivered for months, just as if they were money. Similarly today, you could “monetize” your project that hasn’t been built yet, and pay the advance off with the earnings from the project when it is built. If it’s the type of project that doesn’t generate dollar earnings but improves the general quality of life, you can still monetize it. We just all pay for it collectively with a bit of inflation. And things such as health care and higher education actually DO pay for themselves, even though they don’t generate an immediate dollar income. They allow people to work longer and better at higher paying jobs, increasing the productivity of the economy generally — as well as the tax base, assuming we’re going to keep taxes in our system, which I would argue might not even be necessary.

    • Without taxes, how are we to prevent the hoarding of cash and wealth?

      What mechanism(s) should be used to keep money flowing in the real economy and not sitting in debt instruments allowing the current non-productive scheme of making money on money?

      • What’s wrong with hoarding cash? I do not trust banks/savings institutes to keep cash for me.

        • On the one hand, hoarding cash can cause deflation and destroy the economy.

          You are actually enunciating the appeal of the gold standard, which is the ultimate store of value, not dependent on government virtue to retain its value.

          The problem is, when you sit on cash in an inflationary environment, the government is making you poor.

          While banks are certainly unworthy of your trust, the government paper script is probably even less worthy as a store of value.

          • I have a job that is not all that secure as it is prone to periodical layoffs. What I do is to save money while I still have job and spend the money during my unemployment periods.

      • In his work “The Natural Economic Order”, Silvio Gesell had a solution to the money hoarding problem: make money decrease in value over time, not through inflation, but by applying a charge to the money itself. Some might count this as a tax, but at least it is open and honest, stabilizes the overall price level, and encourages economic activity.

    • The way Antal Fekete explains it, ‘real bills’ are IOU’s on finished and delivered goods which are due at some future time such as 90 days.

      It would seem to me that an advance on unbuilt projects would be more like a loan than a ‘real bill’. Daily Bell interview with Dr. Fekete

      • Real bills can be a confusing doctrine. But I don’t think such an advance would be a loan. A loan fronts money and charges interest. An advance is not really a real bill either, if money is exchanged, even if it is interest free. A real bill was its own form of money, pure credit, that allowed commerce to proceed in the absense of scare gold coin money. Gold was simply used to clear accounts at the credit clearing house/bank.

      • True, it’s not really a real-bill; but they’re all legal constructs, monetizing some future expectation of payment. Under UCC law, which became international law after abandonment of the gold standard, it seems to me future projects could be monetized in the same way that future expectations of delivery of goods are.

  9. I know this doesn’t belong here, but it’s the top post so you’re most likely to see it here.

    Lent a copy of your book, it caused me to update my own post about what — at that time — I thought was the solution to this mess:

    http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/11/20/chronicles-of-depression-20-427-777/

    The “ways out” being offered are no ways out. They’re all traps.

    I’m still reading your book, by the way. Excellent work. Opened my eyes to many things.

    • Don’t be so quick to say that a year of Jubilee every few years is the wrong solution. The clearing away of debt would help people see how a money system dependant upon debt quickly causes ruin and they’d quickly demand a better money system. Those years of Jubilee should result in only a few people having their debts writen off because only a few people will actually be indebted.

      When all of society is indebted, there is a serious problem and clearing away the debts would clear away the clutter which prevents people from clearly seeing the problem and how to fix it.

      So, it may not be a solution by itself, but its implementation would make it easier to find and apply real solutions.

      • Not only would Jubilee be the perfect solution to our current problem, it would be like a inoculation against the banking parasite disease into the future.

        Having a publicly controlled money supply is in no way a panacea to the problems of banking abuse. Would it even eliminate private banking? Probably not, as Ms Brown seems to be content with having state banks compete with private banks.

        For you see, having debt free Greenbacks is not that much different that what we already have, because the Fed rebates much of its profit back to the Treasury.

        Having state-run banks would divert some banking profit to the public sector, but it would not solve the problems of banking abuse which are inherent in the fractional reserve system. The Jubilee Cycle would solve that problem.

        Perhaps Ms Brown or some of her supporters envision a complete elimination of private banking? Short of such a step, which would create its own problems anyway, banking centralization of wealth will always be with us.

        • “For you see, having debt free Greenbacks is not that much different that what we already have, because the Fed rebates much of its profit back to the Treasury.”

          How do you know this is true? And how much is rebated against how much profit from the interest? And who does the accounting for this interest and these “rebates”?

          There has never been a legitimate and transparent independent audit of the Fed, or its transactions with the government, as far as I can determine. Perhaps you can provide us with some much wanted hard evidence for these claims?

  10. As many Web of Debt bloggers will know, reverting to a gold or silver ‘backing’ of the money supply just accumulates the necessity of Credit to the holders of Gold, inevitably creating another monopoly and thus distortion of the entire value system. It promises nothing different from the Debt Based fiat monopoly of the current financial system, with exactly the same outcomes but under the immediate processes of Deflation instead of Inflation – i.e. a different road in exactly the same direction to exactly the same place.

    The only way a modern & neutral means of exchange Value system can flourish is the through the distribution of the annually earnt debt-free credit to the population.

    And they have NO idea about the significance of the ‘myth’ of Atlantis.

    • The myth of Atlantis has many meanings, Nik, what exactly are you referring to?

  11. Sorry i’m not going to say specifically.
    But Atlantis was an empowered age (or myth if one wants), too much too soon though.

    I don’t believe it would get given up on and i do believe coercive expressions above particular thresholds will be more identifiable due to having a different earth dynamic available within the procession of time.

    But each to their own of course, ho hum.

  12. I get strange answers from the hard currency crowd when I ask how the gold money supply expands with expanding wealth (goods/services/population): 1) it doesn’t expand prices fall, 2) more gold is minted into money, 3) velocity increases.

    I don’t buy any of these:

    1) As a simple example, lets say under a gold standard, I build a house so it has a value (based on materials, quality, etc.). Now someone else builds an identical house but the money supply has not expanded. What is the value of the two identical houses? Is it half my cost? If I had used a gold-backed mortgage to finance my house, I have to repay my debt on something now valued half as much? What happens when the 3rd or 4th or 5th house gets built? Basically, the money supply limits the amount of assets that can be created, or asset values fall as more assets are built. Borrowing/repayment/interest becomes problematic. Also, if prices keep falling and supply of goods expanding, how small can you make a gold coin?

    2) There is a limit to how gold much can be minted into money – and it’s mostly slower than how fast we can create goods and services. But be careful what you wish for – in the 1849 California Gold Rush, there was an huge increase in gold and surprise, inflation in the West. This most likely helped lead to the panic of 1873 and the subsequent rise of the free silver movement.

    3) OK, so you can increase velocity. But there is a physical limit to how fast people will exchange physical commodities – especially something like gold. It just won’t work unless you go to a PAPER certificate system – which was done a long time ago and ended up turning into the fiat money system we have today.

    Finally, how do you decide who can go out and produce gold? I assume its a free country, so anyone can go out and become a miner – and what happens when those miners get together and form mining corporations. Do we need a big government to control the mining interest or just let the mining company become the private government?

    The hard money people literally want to “turn back the clock” so we can have all the problems and relive the panics of the past. It seems simple until you ask some basic questions – having the means of payment being a commodity that anyone can privately own will build a new set of bankers (miners) faster than you have seen – and we will make sure there isn’t a government strong to counter that interest enough because government (not human nature) is the cause of all evil.

    I figure that if the fiat money system works (sort of – with all its problems) with the group of crooks we have running it – it must have something going for it. There is no way a fundamentally flawed concept run by criminals ever gets off the ground.

    • That last statement is a zinger. Good one.

      Cheers, Jere

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