If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Complexity: Life, Scale, & Civilization

SFI hosted a public panel discussion on the nature of complexity. "Complexity: Life, Scale, and Civilization" convened some of the biggest thinkers in science to grapple with some of the biggest questions in science.

"From the Big Bang to the Mayans, from the gene to the global economy, why is there complexity in the universe?" asks SFI External Professor David Krakauer, who moderated the discussion. "This is about the biggest questions you would ever want answered. Why are we here? What is the fate of our species? What is the fate of our planet?"

Complexity: Life, Scale, & Civilization

Thursday, August 16, 2012

IMF Paper Backs Full Reserve Banking!

The International Monetary Fund has released a paper “The Chicago Plan Revisited” that supports the proposals of Irving Fisher – those which are the basis for Positive Money’s proposals - using state of the art economic modelling.

In their summary the authors Jaromir Benes and Michael Kumhof write:

At the height of the Great Depression a number of leading U.S. economists advanced a proposal for monetary reform that became known as the Chicago Plan. It envisaged the separation of the monetary and credit functions of the banking system, by requiring 100% reserve backing for deposits.

Irving Fisher (1936) claimed the following advantages for this plan:

(1) Much better control of a major source of business cycle fluctuations, sudden increases and contractions of bank credit and of the supply of bank-created money.

(2) Complete elimination of bank runs.

(3) Dramatic reduction of the (net) public debt.

(4) Dramatic reduction of private debt, as money creation no longer requires simultaneous debt creation.

We study these claims by embedding a comprehensive and carefully calibrated model of the banking system in a DSGE model of the U.S. economy. We find support for all four of Fisher’s claims.

Here are few extracts from the paper:

We therefore conclude that Fisher’s (1936) claims regarding the Chicago Plan, as listed in the abstract of this paper, are validated by our model.

The effectiveness of countercyclical policy would be further enhanced under the Chicago Plan relative to present monetary arrangements. [B]ank runs can obviously be completely eliminated… It would lead to an instantaneous and large reduction in the levels of both government and private debt, because money creation no longer requires simultaneous debt creation…

By validating these claims in a rigorous, microfounded model, we were able to establish that the advantages of the Chicago Plan go even beyond those identified by Fisher (1936)…

One additional advantage is large steady state output gains due to the removal or reduction of multiple distortions, including interest rate risk spreads, distortionary taxes, and costly monitoring of macroeconomically unnecessary credit risks.

Another advantage is the ability to drive steady state inflation to zero in an environment where liquidity traps do not exist… This ability to generate and live with zero steady state inflation is an important result, because it answers the somewhat confused claim of opponents of an exclusive government monopoly on money issuance, namely that such a monetary system would be highly inflationary. There is nothing in our theoretical framework to support this claim. And as discussed in Section II, there is very little in the monetary history of ancient societies and Western nations to support it either.

The History of Monetary Thought in Section II is very interesting and certainly worth reading is the analysis of Government versus Private Control over Money Issuance (p 12).

On the other hand, the historically and anthropologically correct state/institutional story for the origins of money is one of the arguments supporting the government issuance and control of money under the rule of law. In practice this has mainly taken the form of interest-free issuance of notes or coins, although it could equally take the form of electronic deposits.

The historical debate concerning the nature and control of money is the subject of Zarlenga (2002), a masterful work that traces this debate back to ancient Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. Like Graeber (2011), he shows that private issuance of money has repeatedly led to major societal problems throughout recorded history, due to usury associated with private debts. Zarlenga does not adopt the common but simplistic definition of usury as the charging of “excessive interest”, but rather as “taking something for nothing” through the calculated misuse of a nation’s money system for private gain.

To summarize, the Great Depression was just the latest historical episode to suggest that privately controlled money creation has much more problematic consequences than government money creation. Many leading economists of the time were aware of this historical fact. They also clearly understood the specific problems of bank-based money creation, including the fact that high and potentially destabilizing debt levels become necessary just to create a sufficient money supply, and the fact that banks and their fickle optimism about business conditions effectively control broad monetary aggregates. The formulation of the Chicago Plan was the logical consequence of these insights.

Download: The Chicago Plan Revisited | IMF

Source: IMF Paper Backs Full Reserve Banking!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sound Money: Parallel Currencies and the Roadmap to Monetary Freedom | Ron Paul | Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology Subcommittee

Before the United States House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy, Hearing on Sound Money: Parallel Currencies and the Roadmap to Monetary Freedom, August 2, 2012

One of the most pressing issues of our time is the push for monetary freedom. The only sound monetary system is one which protects sound money and allows consumers, businesses, and investors the freedom to transact in the currency of their choice. The importance of sound money is summed up nicely by Ludwig von Mises: "It is impossible to grasp the meaning of the idea of sound money if one does not realize that it was devised as an instrument for the protection of civil liberties against despotic inroads on the part of governments." It is no wonder that governments fight tooth and nail against sound money, as sound money protects the well-being of the middle class and the poor while preventing the expansion of government.

Governments throughout history have sought to monopolize the issuance of money, either directly or through the creation of central banks. The growth of central banking in the 20th century allowed governments to monetize their debt in an indirect manner while still ensuring a ready market for government debt. And central banks' slow but sure debasement of the currency allowed governments to repay their debts in devalued money. What debtor would not want such a sweetheart deal?

Indeed, the 20th century witnessed a revolt by governments against the strictures of sound money. In some countries such as Weimar Germany the revolution came quickly and the results were both immediately apparent and instantaneously disastrous. In other countries such as the United States, the revolt came more gradually, with the destructive effects of money printing only recently becoming apparent to more and more Americans.

Over the past 100 years, the Federal Reserve has continually pumped new money into the economy, resulting in a 96 percent devaluation of the dollar. This devaluation does not affect everyone equally, as the banks who receive this new money first benefit from using it before prices rise, while average Americans suffer the price rises first and receive only a trickle of money well afterward. In this way the Fed enriches Wall Street while impoverishing Main Street, leading to a growing disparity of wealth.

The wealthy are always able to protect the value of their assets against inflation to an extent that the middle class and poor cannot. Anyone with enough money and resources can set up a foreign bank account denominated in euros or Hong Kong dollars, or purchase gold and silver that will be safely stored in London or Singapore. The rich are best able to purchase precious metals, the only ones able to invest in high-yielding hedge funds, and the ones most able to shelter their assets from punitive taxation.

All the legislation and regulation that ostensibly protects the average American from losing money in fact does exactly the opposite. It keeps the average American from being able to defend against inflation by investing in precious metals, forces him into mediocre investment opportunities that do not even keep up with inflation, and leaves him at the mercy of the taxman. Compared to their counterparts in other countries, the average American has far fewer financial options available to them.

Mexican workers can set up accounts that are denominated in ounces of silver, and can take delivery of that silver whenever they want, tax-free. In Singapore and some other Asian countries, individuals can set up bank accounts denominated in gold and silver. Debit cards can be linked to gold and silver accounts so that customers can use their gold and silver to make point of sale transactions, a service which is only available to non-Americans. In short, Americans have far fewer options to protect their wealth than citizens of many foreign countries do.

The solution to this problem is to legalize monetary freedom and allow the circulation of parallel and competing currencies. There is no reason why Americans should not be able to transact, save, and invest in the currency of their choosing. Unfortunately, decades of government restrictions and regulations have hampered and prevented the circulation of parallel currencies and destroyed the familiarity of Americans with any sort of money aside from Federal Reserve Notes or bank deposits denominated in U.S. dollars. The thought of introducing parallel currencies undoubtedly scares many people who understandably wish to minimize their financial risk.

All financial activity is fraught with risk. Most people understand the risks inherent in stock or bond investment, but the risk of holding savings accounts or cash is still drastically under-appreciated. Everyone is familiar with the maxim "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" and investors and savers are constantly urged to diversify their portfolios, yet the U.S. government continues to set roadblocks that force Americans to transact and save in dollars that continue to depreciate.

According to the government's official figures, price inflation runs around two percent per year which means that, since interest rates on savings accounts are near zero, the real rate of return on savings accounts is negative. Anyone holding a savings account or cash is losing nearly two percent of the value of his savings per year with this relatively mild inflation. Some private economists estimate that actual price inflation is running closer to nine percent per year, which would make the loss from holding dollars enormous.

Even greater danger comes during bouts of hyperinflation, such as during Weimar Germany and more recently in Zimbabwe. But when Zimbabwe's dollar became worthless, people began to use U.S. dollars, South African rand, and Zambian kwacha to conduct transactions. Similarly in Weimar Germany, many individuals resorted to using dollars, pounds, and precious metals. So despite the economic hardship wrought by hyperinflation, not all economic activity ground to a halt, largely due to the circulation of parallel currencies. Should the United States ever face a hyperinflationary crisis, which due to the Fed's quantitative easing is very possible, the only means of survival would be through the use of parallel currencies.

It is horribly unjust to force the American people to do business with a dollar that is continuously debased by the Federal Reserve. Forcing a monopoly currency with legal tender status onto the people benefits the issuer (government) while harming consumers, investors, and savers. The American people should be free to use the currency of their choice, whether gold, silver, or other currencies, with no legal restrictions or punitive taxation standing in the way. Restoring the monetary system envisioned by the Constitution is the only way to ensure the economic security of the American people.


Dr. Richard Ebeling, Professor of Economics, Northwood University
Mr. Nathan Lewis, Principal, Kiku Capital Management LLC
Mr. Rob Gray, Executive Director, The American Open Currency Standard

Sound Money: Parallel Currencies and the Roadmap to Monetary Freedom