Monday, December 15, 2008

political (hopeless) hope

I don't mean that one cannot hope that (micro) elements of government might not improve-- but instead, the idea that (macro) government should be worthy of (legitimate) hope.

Gary North with on hope in politics and idolatry toward government-- with a particular application to fiat money...

North starts by citing Hebrews 11:1-- "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen"-- and then bookends it with
Proverbs 13:12-- "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life"...

His thesis...

Hope sells. In 1992, Bill Clinton's campaign biography was titled, The Man from Hope. In 2008, Barack Obama's campaign autobiography was titled, The Audacity of Hope. Appealing to disgruntled voters' hope in change is a time-honored tactic of political challengers, because there are always lots of disgruntled voters. (Show me a gruntled voter, and I'll show you a successful lobbyist.) No matter who gets elected, insufficient change occurs, which creates an opportunity for another political challenger to offer hope.As far as the broad mass of voters is concerned, there is only hope deferred....Political desire never comes. Political hope is never realized. But the dream never dies. And a sucker is born every minute.

North's application to the Fed...

From the first year of operation of the Federal Reserve System in November 1914 until today, the official statistics of the Federal government indicate that the dollar has declined in purchasing power by 95%. You can verify this with the inflation calculator, posted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It's here.

Officially, the Federal Reserve System was established to attain two goals: (1) to provide monetary stability; (2) to avoid recessions – financial panics, as they were called back then. How successful was the FED? In World War I, there was price inflation. In 1921, there was a recession. In 1929–41, there was a depression. Then came World War II, when there would have been mass inflation, due to Federal Reserve policy of buying Treasury debt at a fixed, low rate, except that the government imposed price and wage controls, thereby producing a rationed economy marked by shortages of consumer goods. In short:

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12).

We do not get the tree of life. Instead, we get the tree that money grows on. The money is worth progressively less....

The U.S. Treasury has a line of credit to the Federal Reserve System. The Federal Reserve System also has a line. It has three lines: inflation, debt-swapping, and blarney.

Inflation is tied to blarney: "We can keep the credit markets alive."

Debt-swapping is tied to Treasury debt. The FED issues this offer: "Bring in your crushed beer cans, and we will trade you our silverware." Put more precisely: "Bring in your non-marketable debt, and we will swap our AAA-rated U.S. government debt at face value."

This promise ends whenever: (1) the FED runs out of U.S. Treasury IOUs, or (2) the U.S. Treasury loses its AAA-rating.

Who rates the Treasury's debt? The same credit-rating firms that rated toxic-waste IOUs AAA until August of 2007. Today, there are no markets for this debt at anything near face value, except at the FED.

Will the U.S. Treasury ever lose its AAA-rating? Yes, according to the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, John Whitehead.


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