A more worthy selection in today’s WSJ is this selection from Judy Shelton:
The world is not ending. Despite the wrenching turmoil in global financial markets and morbid allusions to the death throes of capitalism, it ain’t over. Not until people quit believing in themselves, not until people quit believing in a better future.
But the whimpering is real, and justified, because it hurts to have your world come crashing down. And global financial markets are definitely crashing, even when the impact is momentarily softened through massive injections of artificial money — “artificial” because the fiat money does not represent a store of genuine value but rather an airy government claim to future wealth yet to be created.
In the aftermath of this financial catastrophe, as we sort out causes and assign blame, with experts offering various solutions — More regulation! Less complex financial instruments! — let’s not lose sight of the most fundamental component of finance. No credit-default swap, no exotic derivative, can be structured without stipulating the monetary unit of account in which its value is calculated. Money is the medium of exchange — the measure, the standard, the store of value — which defines the very substance of the economic contract between buyer and seller. It is the basic element, the atom of financial matter.
It is the money that is broken.
A lot of us free market types out here agree and have been trying to get someone to pay attention. Maybe the silver lining in this crisis is that people finally start to realize that the Federal Reserve is the source of our troubles. Even Alan Greenspan gets it:
Think of it: Nothing is more vital to capitalism than capital, the financial seed corn dedicated to next year’s crop. Yet we, believers in free markets, allow the price of capital, i.e., the interest rate on loanable funds, to be fixed by a central committee in accordance with government objectives. We might as well resurrect Gosplan, the old Soviet State Planning Committee, and ask them to draw up the next five-year plan.
“There are numbers of us, myself included, who strongly believe that we did very well in the 1870 to 1914 period with an international gold standard.” It would be easy to dismiss this statement as a quaint relic from Mr. Greenspan’s earlier days as an Ayn Rand acolyte; his article on “Gold and Economic Freedom” appears in her 1966 compendium “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.” But Mr. Greenspan said it, rather emphatically, last October on the Fox Business Network. He was responding to the interviewer’s question: “Why do we need a central bank?”
Hell, even John Maynard Keynes got it:
“It is common to speak as though, when a Government pays its way by inflation, the people of the country avoid taxation. We have seen that this is not so. What is raised by printing notes is just as much taken from the public as is a beer-duty or an income-tax. What a Government spends the public pay for. There is no such thing as an uncovered deficit.”
Ultimately, Shelton gets to the gold standard:
That’s how a gold standard works. A bimetallic system, linked to silver and gold, works the same way. In either case the money is fixed to a common anchor — and thus automatically functions as a common currency to serve the needs of legitimate producers and consumers throughout the world.
How would such an approach cure financial market ills? Nothing can rescue humans from occasionally making bad choices or succumbing to herding instincts. But on the same principle as democracy and free elections, embedded in the aggregate judgment of individuals over time is a wisdom that outperforms the most ostensibly savvy administrator. Sound money would go a long way toward eliminating the distortions that pervert financial decisions and credit allocations. Price signals do matter; if they don’t, then free markets don’t matter, and capitalism doesn’t work. In which case, let government dictate demand and regulate supply.
No, we need to fix the money. Literally.
Excellent article. Read the whole thing.