An Unorthodox Solution To The World’s Economic Problems

dr frank hollenbeck.jpeg

Dr. Hollenbeck was a senior economist at the State Department, chief economist at Caterpillar Overseas, and strategist and research director at the Bank Edouard Constant in Geneva, Switzerland. He is currently a professor of economics and finance at the International University of Geneva.  

Magic Solution to Debt Problem – Dr. Frank Hollenbeck Unleashed – Dukascopy TV – Swiss Forex Bank & Marketplace – IMF Central Bank The FED World Bank – Chicago Plan – Gold Standard

 

Authored by Frank Hollenbeck via Mises.ca,

We currently face a monumental dilemma. How do we extract ourselves from all this excessive debt without crashing the world economy? There is a solution which is totally counterintuitive: print even more money. In other words, to get out of the deep, deep hole we are in, dig even deeper.

It is called the Chicago plan. With a stroke of a pen, money would be substituted for debt, without the negative consequences of printing money. Banking would be restructured so that it never again leads to boom and bust cycles, and most debt, public and private, could be cancelled.  It’s basically a “one time” get out of jail card for the world economy.

The plan, and there are different versions, was first developed in the 1920s and 193os by the leading economists of the time. A version of this plan was actually put on Roosevelt’s desk, and was presented to Congress for implementation in 1934.

Back then, economists realized that it was the rapid expansion and contraction of credit, not driven by fundamentals of the real economy, which created most booms and busts. This is because banks can make a loan and then finance it out of thin air, through the fractional reserve banking system- something no other business can do. Of course, central banks adding unnecessary liquidity aggravated the problem and made the boom and bust cycles worse.

An essential feature of all the different Chicago plans is that it would require banks to hold 100% reserves against deposits.

Currently, banks in the U.S. normally are required to hold between 0 and 10 percent reserves against deposits. According to the Chicago plan, banks would be required to exchange their assets for enough money to bring their reserves up to 100%. It is basically an asset swap, with the government exchanging cash for almost all the banks private and public debt. This new money in the banking system just sits there since banks have a new 100% reserve requirement, so there are no inflationary consequences of all this new printing.  An IMF paper on the Chicago plan estimates that government could cancel the entire government debt held by banks and over $15 trillion of private debt!

Irvin Fisher, a Yale economist whom Milton Friedman called America’s greatest economist, said that the plan would greatly reduce the severity of business cycles, probably eliminating booms and busts. Bank runs would be impossible, making deposit insurance unnecessary, and it would greatly reduce the amount of public and private debt.

The IMF paper using state of the art economic modeling concluded that Dr. Fisher was right, and that the plan would be even more beneficial. Real GDP growth would initially surge by 10% resulting from the elimination of many distortions.

Many Austrians would normally cringe at such a plan since it implies massive government intervention and the strengthening, although temporarily, of government influence on the economy. This, however, can be viewed as one of the few legitimate roles for governments: enforcing property rights. Fractional reserve banking is fraud (see here and here) since it generates multiple claims to the same real resources or goods and services. The Chicago plan would simply be taking ill-gotten gains away from the counterfeiters.

The plan, if structured correctly, would achieve most of what Austrian economists have been proposing for many years, and would finally set the world economy on a stable path.

First, it is important to put a wall between the deposit function and the loan function. Historically, the incentive to engage in the FRB Ponzi scheme, committing fraud, is simply too great. These functions should not coexist in the same entity. We should have deposit banks and investment trusts, which should be 100% equity financed. These investment trusts or loan banks would then be like any other business and would not need any more regulation than that of the makers of potato chips.

A very interesting feature of the crypto-currency  bitcoin is the “bitcoin wallet.” To a large degree, this would eliminate the need for deposit banks. We could have a worldwide crypto-currency, call it the Dypre (first letters of major currencies), or multiple cryto-currencies linked to gold.  Banks would then finally act as true financial intermediaries instead of the fraudsters they are today. Some of the assets in the asset swap could be bank ATMs, to be converted to cryto-currency distribution points and then sold off to the private sector.

Governments should not be allowed to finance banks – a feature of the IMF plan. Investing in a loan bank or, more accurately, a 100% equity financed investment trust, should be like investing in the stock market. You know you could lose everything. However, money in a deposit bank is there, for sure, to pay your rent and electricity bills.

Second, central banks should be abolished. Every dollar that the central bank prints is a tax on cash balances: a tax which no one has voted for. Deflation should be the norm, as during much of the 19th century. A real gold standard should be seriously considered, since governments simply cannot be trusted. There is simply too much temptation to print money to fund spending, or to use the printing press to reach unattainable macroeconomic goals. This will finally stop governments from fiddling with the economy’s most important price: the interest rate.

Finally, private debt instruments should cease to exist if they are fraudulent in nature. This is a very important since past attempts to separate deposit banking from loan banking failed because banks were able to create near money-a demand deposit in a different dress (e.g., a money market mutual fund).

Many free market economist fear that such a plan would simply allow government and the private sector to ramp up borrowing all over again. The difference this time is that governments and households would have to compete with the demand for plants and equipment (investment) for a limited amount of funds coming from slow-moving savings. Higher interest rates would quickly create pressures for less borrowing.

The ideal solution would be to link a balance budget to the plan. Governments would then depend solely on direct taxation to fund spending. The government would have to explain to the taxpayer why he must forgo his flat screen television at Christmas to pay for soldiers in Afghanistan or planes over Lybia. The average citizen would finally realize there is no free lunch, and that government services require real sacrifices.

The Chicago plan failed in the 30s because the banking cartel killed it. Today the situation is different. People blame banks for the current monumental mess we are in. If academic economists can get together behind some version of this plan, as they did in the 30s, it is possible, with public support, to bring the banking cartel, obviously screaming and kicking, to the alter of 100% reserve banking.

Inaction is not an option. Today, we are between a rock and a hard place with no good choices. We are left with the increasing likelihood of severe depressions and hyperinflations eventually leading to dictatorships. If history is a guide, Napoleon and Hitler, both responsible for millions of deaths, rode to power on a wave of discontent that followed periods of excessive monetary printing. For Napoleon it was the hyperinflation of 1790-1797, and for Hitler the hyperinflation of 1921-1923. In that situation, no one really wins.

Europe is a runaway train with a certain crash in its future. European governments would be wise to discuss a rapid implementation of this plan for their economies, before extremism takes hold again, and Europe repeats its catastrophic past.

It is essential that we start a banking revolution before it is too late. The Chicago plan would restructure the banking system leaving a world for our children that is stable without the booms and busts that have created so much hardship for so many.

 

Dr. Frank Hollenbeck Unleashed – Dukascopy TV – Swiss Forex Bank & Marketplace – IMF Central Bank The FED World Bank – Chicago Plan – Gold Standard

http://themindunleashed.org/2016/09/an-unorthodox-solution-to-the-worlds-economic-problems.html

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Guest commentary curated by Forbes Opinion.

GUEST POST WRITTEN BY

Frank Hollenbeck

Dr. Hollenbeck is a professor of economics and finance at the International University of Geneva.

Since the early 19th century, economists have consistently preached that the value of money or its purchasing power should be stable or relatively stable. David Ricardo, in 1817, said: “A currency, to be perfect, should be absolutely invariable in value.”

According to this view, money as a unit of account should be equivalent to a yardstick measuring an immutable distance. Over the last century, this view of money has led economists to suggest that prices, reflecting the purchasing power of money, as measured by a price index [1], should also be stable and that central banks should actively interfere with the market economy to bring stability to such an index. The U.S. Central bank has essentially been following such a policy since its inception in 1913. Price stability is inscribed in the Maastricht Treaty, and the goal of hitting a 2% CPI inflation target is a variant of this widely-held view.

Yet, this policy has been mostly responsible for the great depression that started in 1929 and the great recession that began in 2008. It is responsible for the widening growth in income inequalities (here) and the mass economic distortions of the last century. When you do not recognize your errors of the past, you are condemned to repeat them!

The purchasing power of money is determined, like most things in a capitalist system, by supply and demand. [2] Changes in the demand for money (think of shifts in the curve) are caused essentially by two forces:

The first is the subjective valuations by individuals of the value of goods and services which is reflected in the wide array of relative prices in a capitalist economy. Since these subjective valuations are constantly changing, so will relative prices and the purchasing power of money. Some prices will go up, others will fall, and the overall purchasing power of money will vary within a range which can be large or small depending on the changes in these subjective valuations. (see here)

The second is the general expansion or growth of a capitalist economy. A simple example will make this clear. Suppose we have $10 to spend on 10 apples; market forces normally will generate an equilibrium price of $1 per apple. If we double the number of apples, the individual price will fall to 50 cents and the purchasing power of money will have doubled. During the last two centuries, the growth in output of goods and services should have led to a continuous and significant increase in the purchasing power of money. This did not happen.

These changes occurring from the demand side are desirable since they reflect a capitalist system adjustment in relative and absolute prices that attempts to best meet society’s most urgent needs with available resources. Even if the supply of money was perfectly stable, the purchasing power or value of money should be expected to vary and, more importantly, be allowed to vary. Any attempt to counter these desirable changes will cause distortion in absolute and relative prices as well as interest rates. This interference will cause a misallocation of resources creating an ever-growing gap between what society wants and what is being produced. The longer the attempt to counter these forces, the large the gap and the longer the adjustment necessary to realign output with demand. By trying to keep prices stable from 1921 to 1929 and prior to the 2008 crash, the central bank interfered with these two forces: changes in relative prices and the natural tendency for the value of money to increase.

The supply of money comes from three sources. The first is additional mining, if money is a commodity, like gold. The second is the banking sector creating money out of thin air through fractional reserve banking. The third is the government engaging in legal counterfeiting (fiat currencies) or indirectly by influencing the ability of banks to create money out of thin air (or acting as a fractional reserve bank itself).

Now, the economy gains nothing directly from changes in the supply of money. There is no optimum quantity of money since any amount of money will do. Yet, changes in the supply of money alters absolute prices which will change the quantity demanded of money (think of movement along the curve) and since money enters the economy by benefiting the early recipients at the expense of the late recipients, it also alters relative prices and the demand for money (shifts in the curve) indirectly. Therefore, the best money supply is one that does not move.

The advocates for a stable purchasing power usually cite a need to counter either the additional mining of gold (under a gold standard) or changes (increase or decrease) in the money supply resulting from fractional reserve banking. What these advocates seem to miss is that it is impossible to separate or identify changes coming from the supply side and changes coming from the demand side. They occur simultaneously. Any attempt to counter changes in the supply side must interfere with changes that occur continuously on the demand side. Today’s attempts to counter the deflationary force (here and here) that occur naturally in the bust phase of a business cycle are misguided policy because central bankers are simply ignorant of underlying forces determining the value of money.

In the early years of the 20th century, advocates of sound money lost the intellectual battle to those advocating stable money. Only Austrian economists were left to defend sound money.

Sound money is a medium of exchange that enables absolute and relative prices to function the most efficiently in allocating goods and resources that best meet society’s most urgent needs. Its purchasing power is determined by markets, independent of governments and political parties. Sound money does not need, and should not be expected, to be stable. To be perfect, it should be exclusively determined by factors influencing the demand for money.

The gold standard is the closest we have come to sound money. The greatest advantage of a gold standard is to greatly limit the government’s ability to engage in legal counterfeiting. [3] This advantage more than makes up for the few shortcomings of using gold as a medium of exchange. Yet, under a gold standard, the supply of money could still vary considerably. Banks could still create money substitutes that are not 100% backed by gold. The government could also influence the money supply through the creation of unbacked money substitutes and through its influence on the banking sector. When the U.S. central bank was created in 1913, the average reserve requirement went from about 21% to 10% which caused to a surge in the money supply. Yet, during this period, the U.S. was on a gold standard. [4]

The advocates for a stable purchasing power usually cite a need to counter either the additional mining of gold (under a gold standard) or changes (increase or decrease) in the money supply resulting from fractional reserve banking. What these advocates seem to miss is that it is impossible to separate or identify changes coming from the supply side and changes coming from the demand side. They occur simultaneously. Any attempt to counter changes in the supply side must interfere with changes that occur continuously on the demand side. Today’s attempts to counter the deflationary force (here and here) that occur naturally in the bust phase of a business cycle are misguided policy because central bankers are simply ignorant of underlying forces determining the value of money.

In the early years of the 20th century, advocates of sound money lost the intellectual battle to those advocating stable money. Only Austrian economists were left to defend sound money.

 

Sound money is a medium of exchange that enables absolute and relative prices to function the most efficiently in allocating goods and resources that best meet society’s most urgent needs. Its purchasing power is determined by markets, independent of governments and political parties. Sound money does not need, and should not be expected, to be stable. To be perfect, it should be exclusively determined by factors influencing the demand for money.

The gold standard is the closest we have come to sound money. The greatest advantage of a gold standard is to greatly limit the government’s ability to engage in legal counterfeiting. [3] This advantage more than makes up for the few shortcomings of using gold as a medium of exchange. Yet, under a gold standard, the supply of money could still vary considerably. Banks could still create money substitutes that are not 100% backed by gold. The government could also influence the money supply through the creation of unbacked money substitutes and through its influence on the banking sector. When the U.S. central bank was created in 1913, the average reserve requirement went from about 21% to 10% which caused to a surge in the money supply. Yet, during this period, the U.S. was on a gold standard. [4]

In addition, the mining of gold will add to supply. Normally, an increase in supply of any commodity is a benefit to society, since abundance is preferred to scarcity. But in this case, the value of gold is determined primarily by its role as a medium of exchange and not as a commodity.

This should naturally lead Austrian economists to also advocate for the creation of a medium of exchange whose supply is even more stable than gold: a worldwide currency built on block chain technology. If money was this crypto currency (e.g. bitcoin), counterfeiting would be impossible since there is nothing in a crypto currency to counterfeit. Banks would no longer manage deposits since deposits would reside outside these banks in crypto currency wallets. This would essentially end fractional reserve banking (here and here) and the ability of banks to create money out of thin air. What about legal counterfeiting? Normally no, but all currency systems still require governments to play by the rules of the game. The gold standard ended when the government reneged on its social contract to play by those rules.

A monetary reform to sound money would significantly boost growth, as well as significantly alter and diminish the roles of government and banks in our economy. [5]

Stable money was a chimera. It did not bring stability to the world economy. It did not counter the instability emanating from deposit banking. It actually added to the severity of booms and busts. To function efficiently, capitalism needs a foundation of sound money, not stable money.

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Footnotes:

1. The CPI is an inaccurate measure of a subset of all prices: everything money can be spent on. (here)

2. Bastiat understood this back in 1849 when he wrote in What Is Money?:

“a measure of length, size, surface is a quantity agreed upon, and unchangeable. It is not so with gold and silver (money). This varies as much as that of corn, wine, cloth or labor, and from the same causes, for it has the same source and obeys the same laws.”

3. Monetary policy is “econspeak” for legal counterfeiting.

4. Rothbard’s, America’s Great Depression, page 26

5. The transition period would require the government to exchange this new crypto currency, before the first transactions (the genesis block), for bank assets in a variant of the Chicago plan. (here)

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Dr. Hollenbeck was a senior economist at the State Department, chief economist at Caterpillar Overseas, and strategist and research director at the Bank Edouard Constant in Geneva, Switzerland. 

 

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2016/08/19/the-chimera-of-stable-money/#66acba467694

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