Business Insider published an article entitled “This is how a central bank could kill off cash and bring in negative interest rates on your savings.” According to that article,
“Since the financial crisis, the world’s understanding of economics has been undergoing a lot of rapid change. Ideas that would have been considered crazy just a decade ago are now seen as much more likely.”
The balance of the Business Insider article focused on “negative interest rates” as one of those “crazy” ideas. Negative interest rates are undoubtedly “interesting” but, for now, I’m more interested in asking why “crazy” ideas are becoming “more likely”.
Most of this inquiry deals with “crazy” but a lesser part deals with “more likely”.
• Let’s start with “more likely”. As used by Business Insider, “more likely” implies that the new “crazy” ideas will be more like unproven guesses than scientifically-tested principles. Our new “crazy ideas” will most likely not discover new economic truths and principles. Instead, people in positions of power will implement and even impose new ways of seeing and understanding economics.
Forget science. We’re going to learn new, unproven, economic hypotheses and beliefs. As with other concepts that depend on public confidence, the fundamental issue behind our “crazy ideas” won’t be whether an hypothesis is technically valid, but whether enough people can be made to actually believe in that hypothesis. If enough people can be made to believe, they will thereby supply the confidence needed to sustain even a potentially “crazy” idea—and the power of the leaders who advocate that “crazy idea”.
• For example, is the core idea of a “debt-based monetary system” rational or crazy? The answer is less important than the number of people who accept the idea. So long as enough people “believe” and have “confidence,” the idea will seem to work and therefore be presumed to be valid.
Democratic science. Truth by voting. New math. It doesn’t matter if you get the right answer. All that counts is whether your feel good about yourself.
In the context of conventional economic theory, many new “beliefs” may seem “crazy,” but who knows? Maybe there’s a chance that they’ll work.
The “maybe” in this scenario points to the “more” (or less) “likelihood” that a new, unproven and even untested “belief” will or won’t work (be accepted by the public). Increasingly, the issue will be less about whether a new belief works and more about does the public believe?
• Q: Why are we entering an era where economists propose new, “crazy” ideas that only have a chance of actually working?
A: Because established, conventional economic theories and control mechanisms are no longer working.
For example, lowering the prime interest rate to near zero has failed to stimulate the economy. Something’s not working.
Solution? Lower the prime rate below zero into a negative level. Sounds crazy, but who knows? Maybe it’ll actually work—but more importantly, maybe the public will accept and believe that “crazy” idea.
• “Crazy” ideas are gaining popularity because the basic assumptions and premises that previously supported conventional economic theory are failing and/or being shown to be false.
For example, former Federal Reserve chairman “Helicopter” Ben Bernanke spent much of his adult life studying the Great Depression. Mr. Bernanke concluded that if he were faced with another economic depression, he’d stimulate” the economy and prevent the depression by showering the country with massive quantities of currency as if dropping that cash from a “helicopter”.
Well, we came close a depression in A.D. 2008-2009 and Helicopter Ben issued hundreds of billions (then trillions) of dollars in fiat currency in order to “stimulate” the US and global economies. His trillion dollar showers succeeded insofar as he did avoid (or at least postpone) another Great Depression. He helped put the US economy into a state of semi-stable stagnation. Yay!
However, his trillion dollar showers did little to achieve positive stimulus. Most Americans aren’t much better off than they were in six years ago and only a few of us have legitimate reasons to suppose we’ll be much better off next year or even five years from now.
• Mr. Bernanke’s failed attempt to stimulate the US economy with a shower of cash raised several implications:
First, although Mr. Bernanke devoted his adult life studying the causes of the Great Depression (A.D. 1929 – 1939), his understanding and conclusions may be mistaken. For example, he believed that the remedy for depression was to flood the economy with cash (Quantitative Easing; QE). He engineered that flood, but the effects were so marginal and disappointing that they cast doubt on his conclusions.
If Quantitative Easing failed, maybe it couldn’t work because the underlying theory and/or premises were flawed. If so, the remedy for a Greater Depression must be something other than QE. Therefore, the Fed would be justified in searching for new ideas (even “crazier” than QE) to reestablish control of the economy and/or prevent another depression.
• Second, Mr. Bernanke’s theory (that economic depressions can be permanently prevented by periodically flooding the economy with cash) might be generally correct but nevertheless flawed in one or more essential details.
For example, what if there were something fundamentally different about today’s cash as compared to the cash that might’ve prevented the Great Depression?
I.e., during the Great Depression, all of the paper dollars in circulation were backed by gold or silver. We had an asset-based monetary system. Physical gold backed our gold certificates from before the Great Depression began in A.D. 1929 until gold coins were removed from domestic circulation in A.D. 1933. Silver dollars backed the remainder of our currency throughout the Great Depression and on into A.D. 1968 when government stopped redeeming paper dollars with silver.
All of the cash of the Great Depression had an intrinsic value. It was all backed by either gold or silver and therefore commanded real respect and generated real confidence.
Today, all of our cash is pure fiat. It’s not redeemable in gold or silver. It has no intrinsic value and therefore commands no significant respect. Does our fiat currency succeed or fail in generating sufficient public confidence to support and sustain our economy?
Could it be that Dr. Bernanke’s study of the Great Depression was generally correct in concluding that the solution to depression was to flood the economy with cash? Could it be that Dr. Bernanke’s conclusion was still mistaken by presuming that flooding today’s economy with debt-based, intrinsically-worthless fiat cash would have the same remedial effect as flooding the US economy of the 1930s with asset-based, intrinsically-valuable cash backed by gold or silver?
• In fact, even though “crazy” ideas about the economy may soon be in vogue, the idea that debt-based, fiat dollars can’t save us from a depression while asset-based dollars could is guaranteed to be officially rejected as “too crazy”.
Because the powers of the Federal Reserve, big government and the New World Order are all built on the cornerstone of debt-based, fiat currency. The ability to spin fiat dollars out of thin air is the fundamental magic of our age. The Powers That Be can’t abandon the debt-based monetary “sorcery” without also abandoning most of their financial and political powers. They won’t do it. They won’t voluntarily surrender their powers and dreams of one-world government—even if clinging to the debt-based monetary system means global and US economic ruin.
The only way the “Powers” will surrender their debt-based monetary system is if, by keeping that system, the central banks, national governments and the New World Order lose all public trust and confidence. Faced with the complete a complete loss of public confidence in the central banks and the existing monetary system, they might devolve back into an asset-based monetary system—at least, temporarily.
Why? Because without public confidence, the institutions of government and banking have no real power or control.
If the only way they can maintain public confidence is by restoring an asset-based monetary system, they’ll do it. They won’t like it and they’ll dump it as soon as the public becomes dumb enough to tolerate another transition to a debt-based monetary system. But to maintain the public confidence required to sustain the confidence game we call banking and government control, the Powers That Be might even restore an asset-based monetary system.
• While we wait for the looming depression to either happen or be permanently prevented, the Powers will propose one new “crazy” idea after another to try to hang onto public confidence without resorting to an asset-based monetary system. (Japan’s “Abenomics” is a good example of “craziness” masquerading as an economic remedy. So are QE and ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policy).)
But, why must we consider “crazy” ideas? Probably because they’re the only kind of ideas that will ultimately support and sustain the fundamental insanity of a debt-based monetary system.
Y’see, although the Business Insider article implies that “crazy ideas” in the field of economics are a new phenomenon, they’re not.
Our domestic economy has been based on the “crazy idea” that we can prosper with a debt-based, fiat currency ever since we abandoned silver-backing in A.D. 1968. In the global economy, we’ve been operating on the “crazy idea” that we can continue to prosper with a debt-based, fiat-dollar/petro-dollar ever since Nixon stopped redeeming foreign-held dollars with gold in A.D. 1971.
The essential concept of any fiat, debt-based currency is crazy. Mental illness is contagious. Once we traded our asset-based money for a fiat, debt-based monetary system, our economy and perhaps our nation became “crazy”.
• Here’s why:
Remember the old definition of “insanity”: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?
Well, according to some researchers, throughout human history there’ve been over 250 attempts by governments to impose fiat currencies. All of those attempts have failed except for five or six that are recent and have so far functioned without collapse. The US dollar, euro, yen are examples. But, the 250+ previous fiat currency attempts that ultimately led to economic collapse and political destruction established a track record sufficiently credible to remind us of that pragmatic definition of “insanity”—doing the same thing over and over in hopes of getting a different result.
Fiat currency is crazy.
Knowing that 98% of all previous fiat currencies have not only failed but contributed to national destruction, the “sorcerers” in the Federal Reserve and US government nevertheless decided to subject the American people, economy and nation to yet another fiat currency.
Perhaps, the Fed’s “sorcerers” argued that “this time it’s different”. This time, our genius economists, bankers and politicians were so much smarter than all the previous fools who’d tried fiat currencies that this time, the result would not be national poverty, collapse or destruction. Our sorcerers had found the proverbial money tree and they weren’t about to give it up.
Well, the idea that “this time it’s different” is just another way of saying that insanity means doing the same thing over and over and expecting different result. Why do the loonies keep doing the same crazy thing over and over? Because they believe that some how, some way, “this time” it’ll be “different”. So they try it again. And then again.
You can’t fault the crazies for lack of optimism. However, their objectivity is doubtful.
Result? Damned by its mad embrace of a fiat, debt-based currency, the US is now approaching the same sort of collapse that has so far plagued 98 to 99% of all previous nations that tried fiat currency.
Of course, maybe the Fed’s sorcerers weren’t crazy. Maybe they knew all along that by imposing a fiat currency, they could destroy The United States of America. Maybe national destruction was their objective all along. If so, they weren’t crazy—they were treasonous and should be tried for that offense, and if found guilty, hanged by the neck until dead.
• If Business Insider is correct in claiming that “crazy” economic policies will become more common, this “craziness” is not without precedent. For example,
Dropping money out of helicopters. Yes, that’s only a figure of speech, but it implicitly admits that the currency “dropped” is as worthless as chaff. How crazy is that?
Never paying our entire national debt. How crazy is that?
Imposing 2% annual inflation to allow government to rob its creditors and the American people. Isn’t that nuts?
Declaring some banks and other institutions to be too big to fail, too big to jail, too big to be held accountable to the “laws” of economics or the laws of society. How crazy is that?
How ‘bout having a debt-ceiling limit that’s continually revised upward but never downward? What kind of “limit” is that? Isn’t that a tad neurotic?
Having a Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) for nearly eight years. Do we really need to call a shrink to decide whether that idea is crazy or not?
“Crazy” isn’t new. There’s already plenty of “crazy” to be found in our government and banking systems. Business Insider is only warning that more “craziness” is coming.
• Crazy ideas aren’t limited to the US. They grow like mushrooms in any nation that’s embraced the fundamental insanity of a debt-based monetary system.
One of the “craziest ideas” on the global level is the repeated use of Quantitative Easing (giving trillions of fiat dollars to individuals and institutions that didn’t earn them) to stimulate national economies.
Really. Think about it. Imagine you see a man (figuratively) throwing masses of paper that looks like currency out of a helicopter. One of two things must be true: 1) man is crazy; or 2) the paper isn’t really money.
Do you see my point? By dispersing dollars as if they were worthless bits of paper, QE proves to the public that dollars are worthless. In an economy whose monetary system depends on public confidence, isn’t it crazy to repeatedly demonstrate that their currency is worthless? Doesn’t QE, by its very nature, tend to destroy public confidence and thereby diminish or destroy the fiat currency itself?
Alternatively, if you choose to have faith in the “In Fiat We Trust” motto, you could declare that the fiat dollar is still valuable, but Helicopter Ben Bernanke must’ve been nuts. But, if so, who’s responsible for not only appointing a mad man to run the Federal Reserve, but also allowing that nut to hold his office for eight years.
Whatever your preference, you’ll never convince anyone that if we see a man tossing currency to the wind, that both of the following premises are true: 1) the man is sane; and 2) the currency is valuable.
QE proves that either Ben Barnanke is crazy or fiat dollars are intrinsically worthless. Neither conclusion can inspire public confidence in our fiat monetary system. Thus, one reason for QE’s persistent failure to stimulate Japan’s, the US’s, EU’s and China’s economies may be that QE diminished confidence in the each nation’s fiat currency.
Consider: Before the onset of the Great Recession, the biggest unit of monetary measure commonly used was “billions”. When we talked about “billions of dollars,” we knew we were talking about lots of currency.
Today, “billions” are insignificant. They’re a rounding error. When we talk serious money, we’re talking “trillions” and sometimes even “quadrillions”.
Implication? QE has caused our perception of “big money” to have increased from billions to trillions. QE has thereby diminished our perception of the value of our currency. The billions that formerly made us jump, now make us yawn. If you want our attention talk about trillions. By increasing our perception of “big money” from billions to trillions, QE has subtly diminished our perception of value in every dollar bill.
This change in perception of monetary magnitude is evidence of something like a “psychological” inflation or even hyper-inflation. This “inflation” hasn’t yet shown up in our prices. But I suspect that it will.
In any case, QE has diminished confidence in our currency.
• Despite conventional belief that QE would provide positive stimulation to the economies of Japan, US, EU and now China, QE has largely failed to produce anything more than stagnation. Implication? Some of the fundamental premises on which QE is based may be false.
More, those repeated QE failures (in Japan, US, EU and China) imply that the world’s central banks don’t have any more tricks up their sleeves that can be construed as “conventional”. The bankers and government have to know that if they try QE again, it will fail again. Nevertheless, they must either keep trying the same old failed strategies in order to appear to be “doing something” and therefore still in control—or, they must “innovate” and come up with some new, even “crazy” ideas in order to at least maintain illusion of control over their national economies.
Look! The Federal Reserve (or Bank of Japan, or European Central Bank or People’s Bank of China) is doing something! Yay!—that means they must still be in control, right?
Doing something, doing anything, even doing something crazy, seems to inspire public confidence. At least for a while. “Doing something” implies that someone is in control.
After a while, however—after the people begin to see that nothing the central banks do actually succeeds at improving the public’s standard of living—the people begin to despair and lose confidence in their “do nothing” leaders and institutions.
As public confidence withers, so will the power of governments, banks and institutions that depend on, feed off, and exploit that confidence.
• The Federal Reserve’s failure to advance the whole economy over the past seven years has exposed the previous system of economic controls as flawed and ineffective. If control is to be maintained or simply claimed, the Federal Reserve and US government will need to devise some strategies that are new and perhaps so far removed from our ordinary understanding of conventional economics that these new strategies sound “crazy”.
If these strategies are seen to not only new but potentially “crazy,” they’ll inspire some questions.
First, will these new strategies be evidence of bold thinking and genius that will save us and our economy from depression? Or will these strategies be shown to be truly “crazy” and therefore certain to make matters even worse?
Second, if the new, “crazy” strategies don’t work, why not? What are we missing in that both conventional economic theory and new-and-improved “crazy ideas” can’t save us?
Third, what’s the real cause for our economic distress? Have our economic sorcerers really identified our fundamental problem or are they driven to adopt “crazy” ideas in order to conceal that fundamental problem?
Could it be that our fundamental problem is a debt-based monetary system? Could it be that a system that presumes debt to be wealth is inherently insane? Could it be that the “sorcerers” within the central banks, US government and New World Order derive their power from the debt-based monetary system? Could it be that therefore these sorcerers have a vested interest in preserving the debt-based monetary system? Could it be that these sorcerers’ very survival depends on maintaining a debt-based monetary system? If so, could it be that our economic “sorcerers” will resort to any measure—even the support and implementation of “crazy” ideas—in order to protect the debt-based monetary system?
I believe that the answers to the previous six questions are: Yes; Yes; Yes; Yes; Yes; and—you guessed it—Helck, yes.
• I’m convinced that our economic problems persists because we won’t face our fundamental problem.
I’m convinced that once we embraced the insanity of a debt-based monetary system, that the only way that insanity could be “normalized” was by creating and adopting more “crazy” ideas. (As I said, mental illness is contagious.)
I’m convinced our monetary madness feeds upon itself in the sense of “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”. In other words, the idea that debt can be treated as wealth is crazy. Once we adopt that “crazy” idea, the only way it could be supported was by adopting more “crazy ideas” like ZIRP, QE and Abenomics. Thus, it’s not surprising that Business Insider predicts that our economic future will be populated by (more) “crazy ideas”.
I’m convinced that the real solution to our economic problem not to devise and implement some new, “crazy” idea that will somehow allow the existing monetary system to continue—but to face and excise the “craziness” that we’ve already adopted: the debt-based monetary system.
That system is the mother of all modern economic madness.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in our premises.
The presumption that debt can be wealth (and especially, money) is madness. Those who advocate that premise may be recognized experts, but they are nevertheless crazy. Those who accept that premise will become crazy. The only way to sustain that premise is by adopting even more “crazy ideas”.
We won’t resolve our economic problems and return to economic sanity until we face the fundamental problem: our fiat, debt-based monetary system is insane—and then remove it and replace it with a constitutionally-mandated, asset-based money like silver or gold.
I’m not betting that we’ll replace our debt-based monetary system with a gold- or silver-based monetary system anytime soon. But I am betting that our economic malaise and the incidence of more “crazy” economic ideas will only increase until we do.