Anti-inflationary sovereign credit against financial predation: the answer for Greece and Europe

In this article, Ellen Woods first explains why the German hyper-inflation of the thirties was not caused by the printing of money by the government, but by speculative attacks of shortsellers and private banks creating huge credits for them, then shows how several countries got out of economic meltdowns by creating sovereign credit for productive purposes only. Inflation only occurs when there is more money than activity, NOT when the money supply and real economic activities are matched.

This point is hugely important for countries like Greece, who could thereby avoid the current death spiral.

Excerpt by Ellen Woods:

“The notion that a government could fund itself by printing and delivering paper receipts for goods and services received was first devised by the American colonists. Benjamin Franklin credited the remarkable growth and abundance in the colonies, at a time when English workers were suffering the impoverished conditions of the Industrial Revolution, to the colonists’ unique system of government-issued money. In the nineteenth century, Senator Henry Clay called this the “American system,” distinguishing it from the “British system” of privately-issued paper banknotes. After the American Revolution, the American system was replaced in the U.S. with banker-created money; but government-issued money was revived during the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln funded his government with U.S. Notes or “Greenbacks” issued by the Treasury.

The dramatic difference in the results of Germany’s two money-printing experiments was a direct result of the uses to which the money was put. Price inflation results when “demand” (money) increases more than “supply” (goods and services), driving prices up; and in the experiment of the 1930s, new money was created for the purpose of funding productivity, so supply and demand increased together and prices remained stable. Hitler said, “For every mark issued, we required the equivalent of a mark’s worth of work done, or goods produced.” In the hyperinflationary disaster of 1923, on the other hand, money was printed merely to pay off speculators, causing demand to shoot up while supply remained fixed. The result was not just inflation but hyperinflation, since the speculation went wild, triggering rampant tulip-bubble-style mania and panic.

This was also true in Zimbabwe, a dramatic contemporary example of runaway inflation. The crisis dated back to 2001, when Zimbabwe defaulted on its loans and the IMF refused to make the usual accommodations, including refinancing and loan forgiveness. Apparently, the IMF’s intention was to punish the country for political policies of which it disapproved, including land reform measures that involved reclaiming the lands of wealthy landowners. Zimbabwe’s credit was ruined and it could not get loans elsewhere, so the government resorted to issuing its own national currency and using the money to buy U.S. dollars on the foreign-exchange market. These dollars were then used to pay the IMF and regain the country’s credit rating.8 According to a statement by the Zimbabwe central bank, the hyperinflation was caused by speculators who manipulated the foreign-exchange market, charging exorbitant rates for U.S. dollars, causing a drastic devaluation of the Zimbabwe currency.

The government’s real mistake, however, may have been in playing the IMF’s game at all. Rather than using its national currency to buy foreign fiat money to pay foreign lenders, it could have followed the lead of Abraham Lincoln and the American colonists and issued its own currency to pay for the production of goods and services for its own people. Inflation would then have been avoided, because supply would have kept up with demand; and the currency would have served the local economy rather than being siphoned off by speculators.

Is the United States, then, out of the hyperinflationary woods with its “quantitative easing” scheme? Maybe, maybe not. To the extent that the newly-created money will be used for real economic development and growth, funding by seigniorage is not likely to inflate prices, because supply and demand will rise together. Using quantitative easing to fund infrastructure and other productive projects, as in President Obama’s stimulus package, could invigorate the economy as promised, producing the sort of abundance reported by Benjamin Franklin in America’s flourishing early years.

There is, however, something else going on today that is disturbingly similar to what triggered the 1923 hyperinflation. As in Weimar Germany, money creation in the U.S. is now being undertaken by a privately-owned central bank, the Federal Reserve; and it is largely being done to settle speculative bets on the books of private banks, without producing anything of value to the economy.

As gold investor James Sinclair warned nearly two years ago:

“[T]he real problem is a trembling $20 trillion mountain of over the counter credit and default derivatives. Think deeply about the Weimar Republic case study because every day it looks more and more like a repeat in cause and effect . . . .”

The $12.9 billion in bailout funds funneled through AIG to pay Goldman Sachs for its highly speculative credit default swaps is just one egregious example. To the extent that the money generated by “quantitative easing” is being sucked into the black hole of paying off these speculative derivative bets, we could indeed be on the Weimar road and there is real cause for alarm. We have been led to believe that we must prop up a zombie Wall Street banking behemoth because without it we would have no credit system, but that is not true. There is another viable alternative, and it may prove to be our only viable alternative. We can beat Wall Street at its own game, by forming publicly-owned banks that issue the full faith and credit of the United States not for private speculative profit but as a public service, for the benefit of the United States and its people.”

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