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Arieon the White Goat

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[sticky post] My Personal Constitution [May. 20th, 2012|05:11 pm]
Arieon the White Goat
1. I will strive to help/mentor those who come to me for help or advice as much as my time and energy allows, especially those who are fated to me, or those that I have a good reason to help and wants to be helped.

2. I will pick up new knowledge on a weekly basis by reading or by experiencing.

3. Money will be my servant, not my master. Over time, I will want to achieve financial independence by prudent budgeting, savings, and investments.

4. I will exercise wisdom in food and exercise/activity choices to maintain reasonable physical and mental health by taking the middle path.

5. I will strive to achieve a balance between my work life and non-work life by taking regular rests and breaks from work whenever my finances allows. I believe that work is a good way of self-expression but I will not subject myself to voluntary slavery by spending too much time at work and neglect other non-work aspects of life.

6. I will contribute to my career and endeavours of my choice without compromising my work and rest or using trickery or sacrificing anyone under my charge to get ahead. I will treat the people around me and under my charge as how I want to be treated, and we will advance as a team for I can only succeed when my mentees and those under my charge succeed. My career-related success is a by-product/side-effect of the success of my mentees and those under my charge.

7. I will measure my own accomplishments by how I feel and the contributions I made to advance and improve the standing, lives and knowledge of those around me.

8. I can like and dislike a person at the same time. I like a person for what they do and not who they are. Similarly, I dislike a person for what they do and not who they are. Every atom in every being had been forged in the furnace of a star. Heritage, wealth, beliefs, social standing, and religion are not discriminants. Only their actions does.

9. I will err on the side of generosity whenever possible.
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Debt-Based System [Dec. 23rd, 2016|09:25 pm]
Arieon the White Goat
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If you add up all the printed Singapore dollars (including coins) today, you will get SGD 36.31 billion, which is also known as M0 money supply or base money. However, Singapore's M1 and M2 money supply are SGD 166.64 billion and SGD 548.10 billion respectively (reference: http://www.tradingeconomics.com/singapore/money-supply-m2). Given that M0 is physical available currency, M1 is defined as M0 plus checking accounts, demand deposits and negotiable order of withdrawal (NOW) accounts (reference: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/m1.asp). M2 is then defined as M1 plus savings deposits, money market securities, mutual funds and other time deposits (reference: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/m2.asp).

The main issue is why and how can there be more "money" than printed / physical money? I am using the terms money and currency interchangeably here despite having very definite differences. To further illustrate my point, total banks' balance sheets in Singapore stands at SGD 1.119 trillion.

This is where our debt-based economy comes into play. More specifically, it can certainly be said that anything more than M0 is debt; which means 96.755% of the total banks' balance sheet is debt at the very optimistic case.

So how does this work?

Say I obtained licence to operate a finance company (Company A), under Moneylenders Act (Singapore Statutes Chapter 188), with starting working capital of SGD 1 million or 1000 thousand; and by law, I have to maintain 30% reserve capital. This means that my bank account must have at least 30% of my liabilities. Since my company, Company A, just started; I call this Time 0. Let's look at Company A's balance sheet - asset is SGD 1000 thousand cash, liability is SGD 0.

Time 1: Company A loaned out a total of SGD 500 thousand at SIBOR (Singapore Interbank Overnight Borrowing Rate) + 5% interest with 5 year tenure. For simplicity, you can assume that 10 prospective car buyers wanting to borrow SGD 50 thousand each and all met the legislated criteria. Assuming that SIBOR is 3%, this means that the total of SGD 500 thousand will be loaned out at 5%. What this means is that using loan amortization, Company A will receive SGD 566,137 on SGD 500,000 loan, or SGD 66,137 in interest over 5 years. Not a lot of earnings but it is sufficient as an exercise. Company A's balance sheet:

Assets are

  • Cash: SGD 500,000

  • Unencumbered interest bearing account receivable: SGD 566,137

Liability is SGD 0.

At this point, Company A's reserve ratio is infinite (Cash of SGD 1,000,000 / Liabilities of SGD 0).

Time 2: Company A take this unencumbered interest bearing account receivable of SGD 500 thousand to another finance company (Company B) to use as collateral to borrow SGD 500 thousand on SIBOR of 3%. Company B will give Company A this loan as the total amount payable by Company A to Company B is SGD 539,061; which is less than the SGD 566,137 received by Company A on the loans. If you think this is incredible, it is not. When I take out a mortgage, my lender wants my income records and not my balance sheet. This really means that my mortgage approval is on the assumption that my future earning ability is equal or higher than my current earning ability - it does not matter if I had spent every single cent on my previous earnings. Anyway, what is Company A's balance sheet now?

Assets are

  • Cash: SGD 1,000,000

  • Encumbered interest bearing account receivable: SGD 500,000

  • Unencumbered interest bearing account receivable: SGD 66,137

Liabilities are

  • Account payable to Company B: SGD 500,000

This hits an interesting part - the interest to Company B has not incurred as Company A can, in reality, use the borrowed cash (from Company B) to pay off the loan from Company B on the very next day; of course, dependent on loan agreement.

At this point, Company A's reserve ratio is 200% (Cash of SGD 1,000,000 / Liabilities of SGD 500,000).

Time 3: Company A repeats Time 1 and loaned out another SGD 500,000 with 5% interest on 5 year loan tenure. Company A's balance sheet is then:

Assets are

  • Cash: SGD 500,000

  • Encumbered interest bearing account receivable: SGD 500,000

  • Unencumbered interest bearing account receivable: SGD 632,274 (SGD 566,137 + SGD 66,137)

Liabilities are

  • Account payable to Company B: SGD 500,000

At this point, Company A's reserve ratio is still 100% (Cash of SGD 500,000 / Liabilities of SGD 500,000).

Time 4: Company A repeats Time 2 by using SGD 500,000 unencumbered account receivable as collateral to go to Company B for SGD 500,000 loan at SIBOR. In fact, Company A can go to Company C, it really does not matter too much. Company A's balance sheet is then:

Assets are

  • Cash: SGD 1,000,000

  • Encumbered interest bearing account receivable: SGD 1,000,000

  • Unencumbered interest bearing account receivable: SGD 132,274

Liabilities are

  • Account payable to Company B: SGD 1,000,000

At this point, Company A's reserve ratio is still 100% (Cash of SGD 1,000,000 / Liabilities of SGD 1,000,000).

Summary: What had Company A just done? It just moved cash from one hand to the other, and collect interest. Company A produced absolutely nothing at all; and yet, it "earned" SGD 132,274. In order for Company A to grow, it has to push more loans. Can we really expect Company B and the rest of the finance companies not to be doing the same? Of course not. Then, does Company A wants all the loans owed to itself be repaid? Of course not, as Company A's revenue is from the interest on the loans it issued. Can you then see why banks and finance companies want to offer loans to you, or offer re-financing opportunities?
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Deflation: Making Sure "It" Doesn't Happen Here [Nov. 22nd, 2016|08:15 pm]
Arieon the White Goat
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Deflation: Making Sure "It" Doesn't Happen Here

Remarks by Governor Ben S. Bernanke
Before the National Economists Club, Washington, D.C.
November 21, 2002


Ref: https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/Speeches/2002/20021121/default.htm

Since World War II, inflation--the apparently inexorable rise in the prices of goods and services--has been the bane of central bankers. Economists of various stripes have argued that inflation is the inevitable result of (pick your favorite) the abandonment of metallic monetary standards, a lack of fiscal discipline, shocks to the price of oil and other commodities, struggles over the distribution of income, excessive money creation, self-confirming inflation expectations, an "inflation bias" in the policies of central banks, and still others. Despite widespread "inflation pessimism," however, during the 1980s and 1990s most industrial-country central banks were able to cage, if not entirely tame, the inflation dragon. Although a number of factors converged to make this happy outcome possible, an essential element was the heightened understanding by central bankers and, equally as important, by political leaders and the public at large of the very high costs of allowing the economy to stray too far from price stability.

With inflation rates now quite low in the United States, however, some have expressed concern that we may soon face a new problem--the danger of deflation, or falling prices. That this concern is not purely hypothetical is brought home to us whenever we read newspaper reports about Japan, where what seems to be a relatively moderate deflation--a decline in consumer prices of about 1 percent per year--has been associated with years of painfully slow growth, rising joblessness, and apparently intractable financial problems in the banking and corporate sectors. While it is difficult to sort out cause from effect, the consensus view is that deflation has been an important negative factor in the Japanese slump.

So, is deflation a threat to the economic health of the United States? Not to leave you in suspense, I believe that the chance of significant deflation in the United States in the foreseeable future is extremely small, for two principal reasons. The first is the resilience and structural stability of the U.S. economy itself. Over the years, the U.S. economy has shown a remarkable ability to absorb shocks of all kinds, to recover, and to continue to grow. Flexible and efficient markets for labor and capital, an entrepreneurial tradition, and a general willingness to tolerate and even embrace technological and economic change all contribute to this resiliency. A particularly important protective factor in the current environment is the strength of our financial system: Despite the adverse shocks of the past year, our banking system remains healthy and well-regulated, and firm and household balance sheets are for the most part in good shape. Also helpful is that inflation has recently been not only low but quite stable, with one result being that inflation expectations seem well anchored. For example, according to the University of Michigan survey that underlies the index of consumer sentiment, the median expected rate of inflation during the next five to ten years among those interviewed was 2.9 percent in October 2002, as compared with 2.7 percent a year earlier and 3.0 percent two years earlier--a stable record indeed.

The second bulwark against deflation in the United States, and the one that will be the focus of my remarks today, is the Federal Reserve System itself. The Congress has given the Fed the responsibility of preserving price stability (among other objectives), which most definitely implies avoiding deflation as well as inflation. I am confident that the Fed would take whatever means necessary to prevent significant deflation in the United States and, moreover, that the U.S. central bank, in cooperation with other parts of the government as needed, has sufficient policy instruments to ensure that any deflation that might occur would be both mild and brief.

Of course, we must take care lest confidence become over-confidence. Deflationary episodes are rare, and generalization about them is difficult. Indeed, a recent Federal Reserve study of the Japanese experience concluded that the deflation there was almost entirely unexpected, by both foreign and Japanese observers alike (Ahearne et al., 2002). So, having said that deflation in the United States is highly unlikely, I would be imprudent to rule out the possibility altogether. Accordingly, I want to turn to a further exploration of the causes of deflation, its economic effects, and the policy instruments that can be deployed against it. Before going further I should say that my comments today reflect my own views only and are not necessarily those of my colleagues on the Board of Governors or the Federal Open Market Committee.

Deflation: Its Causes and Effects
Deflation is defined as a general decline in prices, with emphasis on the word "general." At any given time, especially in a low-inflation economy like that of our recent experience, prices of some goods and services will be falling. Price declines in a specific sector may occur because productivity is rising and costs are falling more quickly in that sector than elsewhere or because the demand for the output of that sector is weak relative to the demand for other goods and services. Sector-specific price declines, uncomfortable as they may be for producers in that sector, are generally not a problem for the economy as a whole and do not constitute deflation. Deflation per se occurs only when price declines are so widespread that broad-based indexes of prices, such as the consumer price index, register ongoing declines.

The sources of deflation are not a mystery. Deflation is in almost all cases a side effect of a collapse of aggregate demand--a drop in spending so severe that producers must cut prices on an ongoing basis in order to find buyers.1 Likewise, the economic effects of a deflationary episode, for the most part, are similar to those of any other sharp decline in aggregate spending--namely, recession, rising unemployment, and financial stress.

However, a deflationary recession may differ in one respect from "normal" recessions in which the inflation rate is at least modestly positive: Deflation of sufficient magnitude may result in the nominal interest rate declining to zero or very close to zero.2 Once the nominal interest rate is at zero, no further downward adjustment in the rate can occur, since lenders generally will not accept a negative nominal interest rate when it is possible instead to hold cash. At this point, the nominal interest rate is said to have hit the "zero bound."

Deflation great enough to bring the nominal interest rate close to zero poses special problems for the economy and for policy. First, when the nominal interest rate has been reduced to zero, the real interest rate paid by borrowers equals the expected rate of deflation, however large that may be.3 To take what might seem like an extreme example (though in fact it occurred in the United States in the early 1930s), suppose that deflation is proceeding at a clip of 10 percent per year. Then someone who borrows for a year at a nominal interest rate of zero actually faces a 10 percent real cost of funds, as the loan must be repaid in dollars whose purchasing power is 10 percent greater than that of the dollars borrowed originally. In a period of sufficiently severe deflation, the real cost of borrowing becomes prohibitive. Capital investment, purchases of new homes, and other types of spending decline accordingly, worsening the economic downturn.

Although deflation and the zero bound on nominal interest rates create a significant problem for those seeking to borrow, they impose an even greater burden on households and firms that had accumulated substantial debt before the onset of the deflation. This burden arises because, even if debtors are able to refinance their existing obligations at low nominal interest rates, with prices falling they must still repay the principal in dollars of increasing (perhaps rapidly increasing) real value. When William Jennings Bryan made his famous "cross of gold" speech in his 1896 presidential campaign, he was speaking on behalf of heavily mortgaged farmers whose debt burdens were growing ever larger in real terms, the result of a sustained deflation that followed America's post-Civil-War return to the gold standard.4 The financial distress of debtors can, in turn, increase the fragility of the nation's financial system--for example, by leading to a rapid increase in the share of bank loans that are delinquent or in default. Japan in recent years has certainly faced the problem of "debt-deflation"--the deflation-induced, ever-increasing real value of debts. Closer to home, massive financial problems, including defaults, bankruptcies, and bank failures, were endemic in America's worst encounter with deflation, in the years 1930-33--a period in which (as I mentioned) the U.S. price level fell about 10 percent per year.

Beyond its adverse effects in financial markets and on borrowers, the zero bound on the nominal interest rate raises another concern--the limitation that it places on conventional monetary policy. Under normal conditions, the Fed and most other central banks implement policy by setting a target for a short-term interest rate--the overnight federal funds rate in the United States--and enforcing that target by buying and selling securities in open capital markets. When the short-term interest rate hits zero, the central bank can no longer ease policy by lowering its usual interest-rate target.5

Because central banks conventionally conduct monetary policy by manipulating the short-term nominal interest rate, some observers have concluded that when that key rate stands at or near zero, the central bank has "run out of ammunition"--that is, it no longer has the power to expand aggregate demand and hence economic activity. It is true that once the policy rate has been driven down to zero, a central bank can no longer use its traditional means of stimulating aggregate demand and thus will be operating in less familiar territory. The central bank's inability to use its traditional methods may complicate the policymaking process and introduce uncertainty in the size and timing of the economy's response to policy actions. Hence I agree that the situation is one to be avoided if possible.

However, a principal message of my talk today is that a central bank whose accustomed policy rate has been forced down to zero has most definitely not run out of ammunition. As I will discuss, a central bank, either alone or in cooperation with other parts of the government, retains considerable power to expand aggregate demand and economic activity even when its accustomed policy rate is at zero. In the remainder of my talk, I will first discuss measures for preventing deflation--the preferable option if feasible. I will then turn to policy measures that the Fed and other government authorities can take if prevention efforts fail and deflation appears to be gaining a foothold in the economy.

Preventing Deflation
As I have already emphasized, deflation is generally the result of low and falling aggregate demand. The basic prescription for preventing deflation is therefore straightforward, at least in principle: Use monetary and fiscal policy as needed to support aggregate spending, in a manner as nearly consistent as possible with full utilization of economic resources and low and stable inflation. In other words, the best way to get out of trouble is not to get into it in the first place. Beyond this commonsense injunction, however, there are several measures that the Fed (or any central bank) can take to reduce the risk of falling into deflation.

First, the Fed should try to preserve a buffer zone for the inflation rate, that is, during normal times it should not try to push inflation down all the way to zero.6 Most central banks seem to understand the need for a buffer zone. For example, central banks with explicit inflation targets almost invariably set their target for inflation above zero, generally between 1 and 3 percent per year. Maintaining an inflation buffer zone reduces the risk that a large, unanticipated drop in aggregate demand will drive the economy far enough into deflationary territory to lower the nominal interest rate to zero. Of course, this benefit of having a buffer zone for inflation must be weighed against the costs associated with allowing a higher inflation rate in normal times.

Second, the Fed should take most seriously--as of course it does--its responsibility to ensure financial stability in the economy. Irving Fisher (1933) was perhaps the first economist to emphasize the potential connections between violent financial crises, which lead to "fire sales" of assets and falling asset prices, with general declines in aggregate demand and the price level. A healthy, well capitalized banking system and smoothly functioning capital markets are an important line of defense against deflationary shocks. The Fed should and does use its regulatory and supervisory powers to ensure that the financial system will remain resilient if financial conditions change rapidly. And at times of extreme threat to financial stability, the Federal Reserve stands ready to use the discount window and other tools to protect the financial system, as it did during the 1987 stock market crash and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Third, as suggested by a number of studies, when inflation is already low and the fundamentals of the economy suddenly deteriorate, the central bank should act more preemptively and more aggressively than usual in cutting rates (Orphanides and Wieland, 2000; Reifschneider and Williams, 2000; Ahearne et al., 2002). By moving decisively and early, the Fed may be able to prevent the economy from slipping into deflation, with the special problems that entails.

As I have indicated, I believe that the combination of strong economic fundamentals and policymakers that are attentive to downside as well as upside risks to inflation make significant deflation in the United States in the foreseeable future quite unlikely. But suppose that, despite all precautions, deflation were to take hold in the U.S. economy and, moreover, that the Fed's policy instrument--the federal funds rate--were to fall to zero. What then? In the remainder of my talk I will discuss some possible options for stopping a deflation once it has gotten under way. I should emphasize that my comments on this topic are necessarily speculative, as the modern Federal Reserve has never faced this situation nor has it pre-committed itself formally to any specific course of action should deflation arise. Furthermore, the specific responses the Fed would undertake would presumably depend on a number of factors, including its assessment of the whole range of risks to the economy and any complementary policies being undertaken by other parts of the U.S. government.7

Curing Deflation
Let me start with some general observations about monetary policy at the zero bound, sweeping under the rug for the moment some technical and operational issues.

As I have mentioned, some observers have concluded that when the central bank's policy rate falls to zero--its practical minimum--monetary policy loses its ability to further stimulate aggregate demand and the economy. At a broad conceptual level, and in my view in practice as well, this conclusion is clearly mistaken. Indeed, under a fiat (that is, paper) money system, a government (in practice, the central bank in cooperation with other agencies) should always be able to generate increased nominal spending and inflation, even when the short-term nominal interest rate is at zero.

The conclusion that deflation is always reversible under a fiat money system follows from basic economic reasoning. A little parable may prove useful: Today an ounce of gold sells for $300, more or less. Now suppose that a modern alchemist solves his subject's oldest problem by finding a way to produce unlimited amounts of new gold at essentially no cost. Moreover, his invention is widely publicized and scientifically verified, and he announces his intention to begin massive production of gold within days. What would happen to the price of gold? Presumably, the potentially unlimited supply of cheap gold would cause the market price of gold to plummet. Indeed, if the market for gold is to any degree efficient, the price of gold would collapse immediately after the announcement of the invention, before the alchemist had produced and marketed a single ounce of yellow metal.

What has this got to do with monetary policy? Like gold, U.S. dollars have value only to the extent that they are strictly limited in supply. But the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost. By increasing the number of U.S. dollars in circulation, or even by credibly threatening to do so, the U.S. government can also reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to raising the prices in dollars of those goods and services. We conclude that, under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation.

Of course, the U.S. government is not going to print money and distribute it willy-nilly (although as we will see later, there are practical policies that approximate this behavior).8 Normally, money is injected into the economy through asset purchases by the Federal Reserve. To stimulate aggregate spending when short-term interest rates have reached zero, the Fed must expand the scale of its asset purchases or, possibly, expand the menu of assets that it buys. Alternatively, the Fed could find other ways of injecting money into the system--for example, by making low-interest-rate loans to banks or cooperating with the fiscal authorities. Each method of adding money to the economy has advantages and drawbacks, both technical and economic. One important concern in practice is that calibrating the economic effects of nonstandard means of injecting money may be difficult, given our relative lack of experience with such policies. Thus, as I have stressed already, prevention of deflation remains preferable to having to cure it. If we do fall into deflation, however, we can take comfort that the logic of the printing press example must assert itself, and sufficient injections of money will ultimately always reverse a deflation.

So what then might the Fed do if its target interest rate, the overnight federal funds rate, fell to zero? One relatively straightforward extension of current procedures would be to try to stimulate spending by lowering rates further out along the Treasury term structure--that is, rates on government bonds of longer maturities.9 There are at least two ways of bringing down longer-term rates, which are complementary and could be employed separately or in combination. One approach, similar to an action taken in the past couple of years by the Bank of Japan, would be for the Fed to commit to holding the overnight rate at zero for some specified period. Because long-term interest rates represent averages of current and expected future short-term rates, plus a term premium, a commitment to keep short-term rates at zero for some time--if it were credible--would induce a decline in longer-term rates. A more direct method, which I personally prefer, would be for the Fed to begin announcing explicit ceilings for yields on longer-maturity Treasury debt (say, bonds maturing within the next two years). The Fed could enforce these interest-rate ceilings by committing to make unlimited purchases of securities up to two years from maturity at prices consistent with the targeted yields. If this program were successful, not only would yields on medium-term Treasury securities fall, but (because of links operating through expectations of future interest rates) yields on longer-term public and private debt (such as mortgages) would likely fall as well.

Lower rates over the maturity spectrum of public and private securities should strengthen aggregate demand in the usual ways and thus help to end deflation. Of course, if operating in relatively short-dated Treasury debt proved insufficient, the Fed could also attempt to cap yields of Treasury securities at still longer maturities, say three to six years. Yet another option would be for the Fed to use its existing authority to operate in the markets for agency debt (for example, mortgage-backed securities issued by Ginnie Mae, the Government National Mortgage Association).

Historical experience tends to support the proposition that a sufficiently determined Fed can peg or cap Treasury bond prices and yields at other than the shortest maturities. The most striking episode of bond-price pegging occurred during the years before the Federal Reserve-Treasury Accord of 1951.10 Prior to that agreement, which freed the Fed from its responsibility to fix yields on government debt, the Fed maintained a ceiling of 2-1/2 percent on long-term Treasury bonds for nearly a decade. Moreover, it simultaneously established a ceiling on the twelve-month Treasury certificate of between 7/8 percent to 1-1/4 percent and, during the first half of that period, a rate of 3/8 percent on the 90-day Treasury bill. The Fed was able to achieve these low interest rates despite a level of outstanding government debt (relative to GDP) significantly greater than we have today, as well as inflation rates substantially more variable. At times, in order to enforce these low rates, the Fed had actually to purchase the bulk of outstanding 90-day bills. Interestingly, though, the Fed enforced the 2-1/2 percent ceiling on long-term bond yields for nearly a decade without ever holding a substantial share of long-maturity bonds outstanding.11 For example, the Fed held 7.0 percent of outstanding Treasury securities in 1945 and 9.2 percent in 1951 (the year of the Accord), almost entirely in the form of 90-day bills. For comparison, in 2001 the Fed held 9.7 percent of the stock of outstanding Treasury debt.

To repeat, I suspect that operating on rates on longer-term Treasuries would provide sufficient leverage for the Fed to achieve its goals in most plausible scenarios. If lowering yields on longer-dated Treasury securities proved insufficient to restart spending, however, the Fed might next consider attempting to influence directly the yields on privately issued securities. Unlike some central banks, and barring changes to current law, the Fed is relatively restricted in its ability to buy private securities directly.12 However, the Fed does have broad powers to lend to the private sector indirectly via banks, through the discount window.13 Therefore a second policy option, complementary to operating in the markets for Treasury and agency debt, would be for the Fed to offer fixed-term loans to banks at low or zero interest, with a wide range of private assets (including, among others, corporate bonds, commercial paper, bank loans, and mortgages) deemed eligible as collateral.14 For example, the Fed might make 90-day or 180-day zero-interest loans to banks, taking corporate commercial paper of the same maturity as collateral. Pursued aggressively, such a program could significantly reduce liquidity and term premiums on the assets used as collateral. Reductions in these premiums would lower the cost of capital both to banks and the nonbank private sector, over and above the beneficial effect already conferred by lower interest rates on government securities.15

The Fed can inject money into the economy in still other ways. For example, the Fed has the authority to buy foreign government debt, as well as domestic government debt. Potentially, this class of assets offers huge scope for Fed operations, as the quantity of foreign assets eligible for purchase by the Fed is several times the stock of U.S. government debt.16

I need to tread carefully here. Because the economy is a complex and interconnected system, Fed purchases of the liabilities of foreign governments have the potential to affect a number of financial markets, including the market for foreign exchange. In the United States, the Department of the Treasury, not the Federal Reserve, is the lead agency for making international economic policy, including policy toward the dollar; and the Secretary of the Treasury has expressed the view that the determination of the value of the U.S. dollar should be left to free market forces. Moreover, since the United States is a large, relatively closed economy, manipulating the exchange value of the dollar would not be a particularly desirable way to fight domestic deflation, particularly given the range of other options available. Thus, I want to be absolutely clear that I am today neither forecasting nor recommending any attempt by U.S. policymakers to target the international value of the dollar.

Although a policy of intervening to affect the exchange value of the dollar is nowhere on the horizon today, it's worth noting that there have been times when exchange rate policy has been an effective weapon against deflation. A striking example from U.S. history is Franklin Roosevelt's 40 percent devaluation of the dollar against gold in 1933-34, enforced by a program of gold purchases and domestic money creation. The devaluation and the rapid increase in money supply it permitted ended the U.S. deflation remarkably quickly. Indeed, consumer price inflation in the United States, year on year, went from -10.3 percent in 1932 to -5.1 percent in 1933 to 3.4 percent in 1934.17 The economy grew strongly, and by the way, 1934 was one of the best years of the century for the stock market. If nothing else, the episode illustrates that monetary actions can have powerful effects on the economy, even when the nominal interest rate is at or near zero, as was the case at the time of Roosevelt's devaluation.

Fiscal Policy
Each of the policy options I have discussed so far involves the Fed's acting on its own. In practice, the effectiveness of anti-deflation policy could be significantly enhanced by cooperation between the monetary and fiscal authorities. A broad-based tax cut, for example, accommodated by a program of open-market purchases to alleviate any tendency for interest rates to increase, would almost certainly be an effective stimulant to consumption and hence to prices. Even if households decided not to increase consumption but instead re-balanced their portfolios by using their extra cash to acquire real and financial assets, the resulting increase in asset values would lower the cost of capital and improve the balance sheet positions of potential borrowers. A money-financed tax cut is essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman's famous "helicopter drop" of money.18

Of course, in lieu of tax cuts or increases in transfers the government could increase spending on current goods and services or even acquire existing real or financial assets. If the Treasury issued debt to purchase private assets and the Fed then purchased an equal amount of Treasury debt with newly created money, the whole operation would be the economic equivalent of direct open-market operations in private assets.

Japan
The claim that deflation can be ended by sufficiently strong action has no doubt led you to wonder, if that is the case, why has Japan not ended its deflation? The Japanese situation is a complex one that I cannot fully discuss today. I will just make two brief, general points.

First, as you know, Japan's economy faces some significant barriers to growth besides deflation, including massive financial problems in the banking and corporate sectors and a large overhang of government debt. Plausibly, private-sector financial problems have muted the effects of the monetary policies that have been tried in Japan, even as the heavy overhang of government debt has made Japanese policymakers more reluctant to use aggressive fiscal policies (for evidence see, for example, Posen, 1998). Fortunately, the U.S. economy does not share these problems, at least not to anything like the same degree, suggesting that anti-deflationary monetary and fiscal policies would be more potent here than they have been in Japan.

Second, and more important, I believe that, when all is said and done, the failure to end deflation in Japan does not necessarily reflect any technical infeasibility of achieving that goal. Rather, it is a byproduct of a longstanding political debate about how best to address Japan's overall economic problems. As the Japanese certainly realize, both restoring banks and corporations to solvency and implementing significant structural change are necessary for Japan's long-run economic health. But in the short run, comprehensive economic reform will likely impose large costs on many, for example, in the form of unemployment or bankruptcy. As a natural result, politicians, economists, businesspeople, and the general public in Japan have sharply disagreed about competing proposals for reform. In the resulting political deadlock, strong policy actions are discouraged, and cooperation among policymakers is difficult to achieve.

In short, Japan's deflation problem is real and serious; but, in my view, political constraints, rather than a lack of policy instruments, explain why its deflation has persisted for as long as it has. Thus, I do not view the Japanese experience as evidence against the general conclusion that U.S. policymakers have the tools they need to prevent, and, if necessary, to cure a deflationary recession in the United States.

Conclusion
Sustained deflation can be highly destructive to a modern economy and should be strongly resisted. Fortunately, for the foreseeable future, the chances of a serious deflation in the United States appear remote indeed, in large part because of our economy's underlying strengths but also because of the determination of the Federal Reserve and other U.S. policymakers to act preemptively against deflationary pressures. Moreover, as I have discussed today, a variety of policy responses are available should deflation appear to be taking hold. Because some of these alternative policy tools are relatively less familiar, they may raise practical problems of implementation and of calibration of their likely economic effects. For this reason, as I have emphasized, prevention of deflation is preferable to cure. Nevertheless, I hope to have persuaded you that the Federal Reserve and other economic policymakers would be far from helpless in the face of deflation, even should the federal funds rate hit its zero bound.19

References

Ahearne, Alan, Joseph Gagnon, Jane Haltmaier, Steve Kamin, and others, "Preventing Deflation: Lessons from Japan's Experiences in the 1990s," Board of Governors, International Finance Discussion Paper No. 729, June 2002.

Clouse, James, Dale Henderson, Athanasios Orphanides, David Small, and Peter Tinsley, "Monetary Policy When the Nominal Short-term Interest Rate Is Zero," Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Finance and Economics Discussion Series No. 2000-51, November 2000.

Eichengreen, Barry, and Peter M. Garber, "Before the Accord: U.S. Monetary-Financial Policy, 1945-51," in R. Glenn Hubbard, ed., Financial Markets and Financial Crises, Chicago: University of Chicago Press for NBER, 1991.

Eggertson, Gauti, "How to Fight Deflation in a Liquidity Trap: Committing to Being Irresponsible," unpublished paper, International Monetary Fund, October 2002.

Fisher, Irving, "The Debt-Deflation Theory of Great Depressions," Econometrica (March 1933) pp. 337-57.

Hetzel, Robert L. and Ralph F. Leach, "The Treasury-Fed Accord: A New Narrative Account," Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Economic Quarterly (Winter 2001) pp. 33-55.

Orphanides, Athanasios and Volker Wieland, "Efficient Monetary Design Near Price Stability," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies (2000) pp. 327-65.

Posen, Adam S., Restoring Japan's Economic Growth, Washington, D.C.: Institute for International Economics, 1998.

Reifschneider, David, and John C. Williams, "Three Lessons for Monetary Policy in a Low-Inflation Era," Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking (November 2000) Part 2 pp. 936-66.

Toma, Mark, "Interest Rate Controls: The United States in the 1940s," Journal of Economic History (September 1992) pp. 631-50.


Footnotes

1. Conceivably, deflation could also be caused by a sudden, large expansion in aggregate supply arising, for example, from rapid gains in productivity and broadly declining costs. I don't know of any unambiguous example of a supply-side deflation, although China in recent years is a possible case. Note that a supply-side deflation would be associated with an economic boom rather than a recession.

2. The nominal interest rate is the sum of the real interest rate and expected inflation. If expected inflation moves with actual inflation, and the real interest rate is not too variable, then the nominal interest rate declines when inflation declines--an effect known as the Fisher effect, after the early twentieth-century economist Irving Fisher. If the rate of deflation is equal to or greater than the real interest rate, the Fisher effect predicts that the nominal interest rate will equal zero.

3. The real interest rate equals the nominal interest rate minus the expected rate of inflation (see the previous footnote). The real interest rate measures the real (that is, inflation-adjusted) cost of borrowing or lending.

4. Throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century, a worldwide gold shortage was forcing down prices in all countries tied to the gold standard. Ironically, however, by the time that Bryan made his famous speech, a new cyanide-based method for extracting gold from ore had greatly increased world gold supplies, ending the deflationary pressure.

5. A rather different, but historically important, problem associated with the zero bound is the possibility that policymakers may mistakenly interpret the zero nominal interest rate as signaling conditions of "easy money." The Federal Reserve apparently made this error in the 1930s. In fact, when prices are falling, the real interest rate may be high and monetary policy tight, despite a nominal interest rate at or near zero.

6. Several studies have concluded that the measured rate of inflation overstates the "true" rate of inflation, because of several biases in standard price indexes that are difficult to eliminate in practice. The upward bias in the measurement of true inflation is another reason to aim for a measured inflation rate above zero.

7. See Clouse et al. (2000) for a more detailed discussion of monetary policy options when the nominal short-term interest rate is zero.

8. Keynes, however, once semi-seriously proposed, as an anti-deflationary measure, that the government fill bottles with currency and bury them in mine shafts to be dug up by the public.

9. Because the term structure is normally upward sloping, especially during periods of economic weakness, longer-term rates could be significantly above zero even when the overnight rate is at the zero bound.

10. S See Hetzel and Leach (2001) for a fascinating account of the events leading to the Accord.

11. See Eichengreen and Garber (1991) and Toma (1992) for descriptions and analyses of the pre-Accord period. Both articles conclude that the Fed's commitment to low inflation helped convince investors to hold long-term bonds at low rates in the 1940s and 1950s. (A similar dynamic would work in the Fed's favor today.) The rate-pegging policy finally collapsed because the money creation associated with buying Treasury securities was generating inflationary pressures. Of course, in a deflationary situation, generating inflationary pressure is precisely what the policy is trying to accomplish.

An episode apparently less favorable to the view that the Fed can manipulate Treasury yields was the so-called Operation Twist of the 1960s, during which an attempt was made to raise short-term yields and lower long-term yields simultaneously by selling at the short end and buying at the long end. Academic opinion on the effectiveness of Operation Twist is divided. In any case, this episode was rather small in scale, did not involve explicit announcement of target rates, and occurred when interest rates were not close to zero.

12. The Fed is allowed to buy certain short-term private instruments, such as bankers' acceptances, that are not much used today. It is also permitted to make IPC (individual, partnership, and corporation) loans directly to the private sector, but only under stringent criteria. This latter power has not been used since the Great Depression but could be invoked in an emergency deemed sufficiently serious by the Board of Governors.

13. Effective January 9, 2003, the discount window will be restructured into a so-called Lombard facility, from which well-capitalized banks will be able to borrow freely at a rate above the federal funds rate. These changes have no important bearing on the present discussion.

14. By statute, the Fed has considerable leeway to determine what assets to accept as collateral.

15. In carrying out normal discount window operations, the Fed absorbs virtually no credit risk because the borrowing bank remains responsible for repaying the discount window loan even if the issuer of the asset used as collateral defaults. Hence both the private issuer of the asset and the bank itself would have to fail nearly simultaneously for the Fed to take a loss. The fact that the Fed bears no credit risk places a limit on how far down the Fed can drive the cost of capital to private nonbank borrowers. For various reasons the Fed might well be reluctant to incur credit risk, as would happen if it bought assets directly from the private nonbank sector. However, should this additional measure become necessary, the Fed could of course always go to the Congress to ask for the requisite powers to buy private assets. The Fed also has emergency powers to make loans to the private sector (see footnote 12), which could be brought to bear if necessary.

16. The Fed has committed to the Congress that it will not use this power to "bail out" foreign governments; hence in practice it would purchase only highly rated foreign government debt.

17. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970, Washington, D.C.: 1976.

18. A tax cut financed by money creation is the equivalent of a bond-financed tax cut plus an open-market operation in bonds by the Fed, and so arguably no explicit coordination is needed. However, a pledge by the Fed to keep the Treasury's borrowing costs low, as would be the case under my preferred alternative of fixing portions of the Treasury yield curve, might increase the willingness of the fiscal authorities to cut taxes.

Some have argued (on theoretical rather than empirical grounds) that a money-financed tax cut might not stimulate people to spend more because the public might fear that future tax increases will just "take back" the money they have received. Eggertson (2002) provides a theoretical analysis showing that, if government bonds are not indexed to inflation and certain other conditions apply, a money-financed tax cut will in fact raise spending and inflation. In brief, the reason is that people know that inflation erodes the real value of the government's debt and, therefore, that it is in the interest of the government to create some inflation. Hence they will believe the government's promise not to "take back" in future taxes the money distributed by means of the tax cut.

19. Some recent academic literature has warned of the possibility of an "uncontrolled deflationary spiral," in which deflation feeds on itself and becomes inevitably more severe. To the best of my knowledge, none of these analyses consider feasible policies of the type that I have described today. I have argued here that these policies would eliminate the possibility of uncontrollable deflation.

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My thoughts and experiences on MLM [Apr. 20th, 2016|10:38 am]
Arieon the White Goat
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Today, a friend asked me about MLM again and my thoughts on it. It is a lot to explain about my experience with it but here it is...

I had a friend back then in BMT called Jason Chien, whom introduced me to NOP (Number One Product). NOP is essentially a multi-level marketing company founded by James Phang Wah. To cut the long story short, I was presented the business case of NOP and how I can make a business out of it. In the end, I joined under Jackie Hoo Choon Cheat with Jason as my upline. James Phang and Jackie Hoo are eventually sentenced for falsification changes related to Sunshine Empire in November 2010, and sentenced to 9 and 7 years imprisonment respectively.

Multi-level marketing or MLM is a legitimate business model of sales where commission is earned both from sales and recruiting new sales team. MLM is also synonymous with direct marketing or referral marketing.

This is how it works. Let’s say I want to start a MLM on Nissin instant noodles. Say, the retail price is $1.00 per packet and I can get it at wholesale for $0.20 per packet. If I were to sell it by myself, I will earn a profit of $0.80 per packet. But then I will consider, how many packets can I lug around and sell? Why not I recruit others (my sales team) to help me while I give them some of my $0.80/packet profit? However, to ensure that I have committed sales team, I will insist that each salesperson has to buy 100 packets of Nissin instant noodles from me at a discounted rate of $0.85/packet. This means 2 things. Firstly, if I sell 100 packets to my first salesperson (call him James) at $0.85/packet, I will be make a profit of $0.65/packet as my cost is $0.20/packet, and my total profit from the 100 packets will be $65. Secondly, James can either enjoy a 15% discount on the retail price as he bulk purchase at $0.85/packet instead of the retail $1.00/packet or James can sell the 100 packets that he had bought at $1.00/packet and earns a total of $15 (from $0.15/packet). This is the basic concept of commission earning - the same applies anywhere when a salesperson makes a commission.

MLM expands on this traditional concept of commission in a few ways. Originally, James can only earn $0.15 commission per packet, no matter how many thousands of packets he sells. How can I motivate him to sell more? Simple, by tiered system of commission.

I will set that if James sells more than 2000 packets of Nissin instant noodles, he will be able to purchase from me at the cost of $0.80/packet. This means that at the 2001st packet, James’ commission is $0.20/packet instead of the initial $0.15/packet.

If more than 5,000 packets of cumulative sales, James’ purchase price is reduced to $0.75/packet; thus, his commission increases to $0.25/packet. If more than 10,000 packets of cumulative sales, James’ purchase price is reduced to $0.70/packet; thus, his commission increases to $0.30/packet. If more than 50,000 packets of cumulative sales, James’ purchase price is reduced to $0.65/packet; thus, his commission increases to $0.35/packet. If more than 100,000 packets of cumulative sales, James’ purchase price is reduced to $0.60/packet; thus, his commission increases to $0.40/packet. Finally, if more than 1,000,000 packets of cumulative sales, James’ purchase price is reduced to $0.40/packet; thus, his commission increases to $0.60/packet.

Let’s table this out.

Sales Volume James’
Total Cost
James’ Total Commission James’
Commission per Pack
My Profits
1-2000 $1700 $300 $0.15 $1300
2001 - 5000 $2400 $600 $0.20 $1800
5001 -
10000
$3750 $1250 $0.25 $2750
10001 -
50000
$28,000 $12,000 $0.30 $20,000
50001 -
100000
$32,500 $17,500 $0.35 $22,500
100001 -
1000000
$540,000 $360,000 $0.40 $360,000

To make it into MLM, I will just have to say that James can recruit his own sales team under 2 conditions. Firstly, the sales volume of that salesperson he brings in will be counted under his sales volume. Secondly, he will take only the difference in commission. For example, if James bring in 2 of his friend, Alex and Kenneth, as downlines. Both Alex and Kenneth are super-salesman and sold 3000 packets in the first month. Hence, James total sales volume will be 6000 packets even if he is not selling a single packet. That will immediately enable James to buy from me at $0.75/packet (more than 5000 packets). However, both Alex and Kenneth are still in the 2001 to 5000 packet bracket, they will get from me at $0.80/packet and I reward the difference of $0.05/packet to James. Remember, I am making money regardless of how many packets James, Alex, and Kenneth sell.

This means that when Alex and James are in the same bracket, James cannot earn the difference in commission. So, how can James continue to make money? There are 3 ways. Firstly, James can start selling and earn his full load of commission but will James do this? Unlikely, he had enjoyed the idea of taking commission for almost no work done. Secondly, James can motivate Alex and Kenneth to sell more so that he can reach the next bracket before them. This sounds like chasing a tail. Eventually, all of them will reach the highest commission bracket of $0.40/packet, then what? The last way is for James to recruit another downline. The last way is probably what James will do. Comparing between the first and last method, James probably realizes that his recruiting efforts will bring more benefits per unit time (last method) than doing sales himself (first method).

Also, I cannot restrict recruitment to James alone; I will have to open it up to Alex and Kenneth as well.

In the end, what is going to happen? James will be recruiting 10 downlines instead of just 2 and that will make up his sales volume of 1000 packets (10 entry requirement of 100 packets each), plus his own entry of 100 packets. Each of the 1st generation 10 downlines to bring in 10 downlines, that will be 100 of 2nd generation downlines and James’ sales volume will be 11100 packets (10000 packets from 100 of 2nd generation downlines + 1000 packets from 10 of his 1st generation downlines + 100 packets from himself).

The focus will move from sales to recruitment. At the end of the day, it is no different from pyramid scheme when recruitment becomes paramount and what downlines “earn’ are just recruitment dollars. And where these recruitment dollars come from? From the downlines that have to “buy” products that they may never use to join. Remember, I will make profits regardless of the individual sales volume of each downline. Hence, it does not serve me any additional benefits to police and limit such activities; in fact, I will encourage anything that serves me.

Anyway, I spent about 2 thousand dollars buying a magnetic mattress to join NOP. I slept on it for a few months and cannot see any effects at all. To cut the long story short, I had a fallout with Jason and eventually ended any ties with NOP. I had traced examples of false selling and so on. I had confronted them, all the way up to the Managing Director. During personal confrontation, they admitted to their falsehood but retracted and denied at the last moment. Am I surprised? Not really, they had been doing that for a long time. It is pointless pursuing this as James Phang even told me that I will need to have recorded their confessions to mean anything. Then, I remembered what I had read before, “人惡,人怕天不怕,人善,人欺天不欺”, “作善天降百祥,作惡天降百殃” and “不是不报,日子未到”. I will let karma deals with them. Never underestimate the forces of karma and retribution. Always remember, a thousand days of sunshine over a thousand days is a nice day for beach everyday but a thousand days of sunshine concentrated into a day will burn you into a crisp. Eventually, I managed to return the mattress for about $400. Inclusive of my own commission, I lost about a thousand dollars here.

What had this episode taught me? Quite a lot. It certainly taught me some of the lies in selling but more importantly, it taught me how such scheme can work. I had spent a lot of time deciphering MLM and I can smell one coming from far.  Every now and then, there are people who want to talk to me about MLM but they have no idea what I had gone through during that time.
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Human Freedom Rests on Gold Redeemable Money by Hon. Howard Buffett (1948) [Jan. 25th, 2016|12:34 pm]
Arieon the White Goat
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Is there a connection between Human Freedom and A Gold Redeemable Money? At first glance it would seem that money belongs to the world of economics and human freedom to the political sphere.

But when you recall that one of the first moves by Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler was to outlaw individual ownership of gold, you begin to sense that there may be some connection between money, redeemable in gold, and the rare prize known as human liberty.

Also, when you find that Lenin declared and demonstrated that a sure way to overturn the existing social order and bring about communism was by printing press paper money, then again you are impressed with the possibility of a relationship between a gold-backed money and human freedom.

In that case then certainly you and I as Americans should know the connection. We must find it even if money is a difficult and tricky subject. I suppose that if most people were asked for their views on money the almost universal answer would be that they didn’t have enough of it.

In a free country the monetary unit rests upon a fixed foundation of gold or gold and silver independent of the ruling politicians. Our dollar was that kind of money before 1933. Under that system paper currency is redeemable for a certain weight of gold, at the free option and choice of the holder of paper money.

Redemption Right Insures Stability

That redemption right gives money a large degree of stability. The owner of such gold redeemable currency has economic independence. He can move around either within or without his country because his money holdings have accepted value anywhere.

For example, I hold here what is called a $20 gold piece. Before 1933, if you possessed paper money you could exchange it at your option for gold coin. This gold coin had a recognizable and definite value all over the world. It does so today. In most countries of the world this gold piece, if you have enough of them, will give you much independence. But today the ownership of such gold pieces as money in this country, Russia, and all divers other places is outlawed.

The subject of a Hitler or a Stalin is a serf by the mere fact that his money can be called in and depreciated at the whim of his rulers. That actually happened in Russia a few months ago, when the Russian people, holding cash, had to turn it in — 10 old rubles and receive back one new ruble.

I hold here a small packet of this second kind of money — printing press paper money — technically known as fiat money because its value is arbitrarily fixed by rulers or statute. The amount of this money in numerals is very large. This little packet amounts to CNC $680,000. It cost me $5 at regular exchange rates. I understand I got clipped on the deal. I could have gotten $2 million if I had purchased in the black market. But you can readily see that this Chinese money, which is a fine grade of paper money, gives the individual who owns it no independence, because it has no redemptive value.

Under such conditions the individual citizen is deprived of freedom of movement. He is prevented from laying away purchasing power for the future. He becomes dependent upon the goodwill of the politicians for his daily bread. Unless he lives on land that will sustain him, freedom for him does not exist.

You have heard a lot of oratory on inflation from politicians in both parties. Actually that oratory and the inflation maneuvering around here are mostly sly efforts designed to lay the blame on the other party’s doorstep. All our politicians regularly announce their intention to stop inflation. I believe I can show that until they move to restore your right to own gold that talk is hogwash.

Paper Systems End in Collapse

But first let me clear away a bit of underbrush. I will not take time to review the history of paper money experiments. So far as I can discover, paper money systems have always wound up with collapse and economic chaos.

Here somebody might like to interrupt and ask if we are not now on the gold standard. That is true, internationally, but not domestically. Even though there is a lot of gold buried down at Fort Knox, that gold is not subject to demand by American citizens. It could all be shipped out of this country without the people having any chance to prevent it. That is not probable in the near future, for a small trickle of gold is still coming in. But it can happen in the future. This gold is temporarily and theoretically partial security for our paper currency. But in reality it is not.

Also, currently, we are enjoying a large surplus in tax revenues, but this happy condition is only a phenomenon of postwar inflation and our global WPA. It cannot be relied upon as an accurate gauge of our financial condition. So we should disregard the current flush treasury in considering this problem.

From 1930-1946 your government went into the red every year and the debt steadily mounted. Various plans have been proposed to reverse this spiral of debt. One is that a fixed amount of tax revenue each year would go for debt reduction. Another is that Congress be prohibited by statute from appropriating more than anticipated revenues in peacetime. Still another is that 10% of the taxes be set aside each year for debt reduction.

All of these proposals look good. But they are unrealistic under our paper money system. They will not stand against postwar spending pressures. The accuracy of this conclusion has already been demonstrated.

The Budget and Paper Money

Under the streamlining Act passed by Congress in 1946, the Senate and the House were required to fix a maximum budget each year. In 1947 the Senate and the House could not reach an agreement on this maximum budget so that the law was ignored.

On March 4 this year the House and Senate agreed on a budget of $37 billion. Appropriations already passed or on the docket will most certainly take expenditures past the $40 billion mark. The statute providing for a maximum budget has fallen by the wayside even in the first two years it has been operating and in a period of prosperity.

There is only one way that these spending pressures can be halted, and that is to restore the final decision on public spending to the producers of the nation. The producers of wealth — taxpayers — must regain their right to obtain gold in exchange for the fruits of their labor. This restoration would give the people the final say-so on governmental spending, and would enable wealth producers to control the issuance of paper money and bonds.

I do not ask you to accept this contention outright. But if you look at the political facts of life, I think you will agree that this action is the only genuine cure.

There is a parallel between business and politics which quickly illustrates the weakness in political control of money.

Each of you is in business to make profits. If your firm does not make profits, it goes out of business. If I were to bring a product to you and say, this item is splendid for your customers, but you would have to sell it without profit, or even at a loss that would put you out of business. — well, I would get thrown out of your office, perhaps politely, but certainly quickly. Your business must have profits.

In politics votes have a similar vital importance to an elected official. That situation is not ideal, but it exists, probably because generally no one gives up power willingly.

Perhaps you are right now saying to yourself: “That’s just What I have always thought. The politicians are thinking of votes when they ought to think about the future of the country. What we need is a Congress with some ‘guts.’ If we elected a Congress with intestinal fortitude, it would stop the spending all right!”

I went to Washington with exactly that hope and belief. But I have had to discard it as unrealistic. Why?

Because an economy Congressman under our printing-press money system is in the position of a fireman running into a burning building with a hose that is not connected with the water plug. His courage may be commendable, but he is not hooked up right at the other end of the line. So it is now with a Congressman working for economy. There is no sustained hookup with the taxpayers to give him strength.

When the people’s right to restrain public spending by demanding gold coin was taken from them, the automatic flow of strength from the grass-roots to enforce economy in Washington was disconnected. I’ll come back to this later.

In January you heard the President’s message to Congress. or at least you heard about it. It made Harry Hopkins, in memory, look like Old Scrooge himself. Truman’s State of the Union message was “pie-in-the-sky” for everybody except business. These promises were to be expected under our paper currency system. Why? Because his continuance in office depends upon pleasing a majority of the pressure groups.

Before you judge him too harshly for that performance, let us speculate on his thinking. Certainly he can persuade himself that the Republicans would do the same thing if they were In power. Already he has characterized our talk of economy as “just conversation.” To date we have been proving him right. Neither the President nor the Republican Congress is under real compulsion to cut Federal spending. And so neither one does so, and the people are largely helpless.

But it was not always this way.

Before 1933 the people themselves had an effective way to demand economy. Before 1933, whenever the people became disturbed over Federal spending, they could go to the banks, redeem their paper currency in gold, and wait for common sense to return to Washington.

Raids on Treasury

That happened on various occasions and conditions sometimes became strained, but nothing occurred like the ultimate consequences of paper money inflation. Today Congress is constantly besieged by minority groups seeking benefits from the public treasury. Often these groups. control enough votes in many Congressional districts to change the outcome of elections. And so Congressmen find it difficult to persuade themselves not to give in to pressure groups. With no bad immediate consequence it becomes expedient to accede to a spending demand. The Treasury is seemingly inexhaustible. Besides the unorganized taxpayers back home may not notice this particular expenditure — and so it goes.

Let’s take a quick look at just the payroll pressure elements. On June 30, 1932, there were 2,196,151 people receiving regular monthly checks from the Federal Treasury. On June 30, 1947, this number had risen to the fantastic total of 14,416,393 persons. This 14 million figure does not include about 2 million receiving either unemployment benefits of soil conservation checks. However, It includes about 2 million GI’s getting schooling or on-the-job-training. Excluding them, the total is about l2 million or 500% more than in 1932. If each beneficiary accounted for four votes (and only half exhibited this payroll allegiance response) this group would account for 25 million votes, almost by itself enough votes to win any national election.

Besides these direct payroll voters, there are a large number of State, county and local employees whose compensation in part comes from Federal subsidies and grants-in-aid.

Then there are many other kinds of pressure groups. There are businesses that are being enriched by national defense spending and foreign handouts. These firms, because of the money they can spend on propaganda, may be the most dangerous of all.

If the Marshall Plan meant $100 million worth of profitable business for your firm, wouldn’t you Invest a few thousands or so to successfully propagandize for the Marshall Plan? And if you were a foreign government, getting billions, perhaps you could persuade your prospective suppliers here to lend a hand in putting that deal through Congress.

Taxpayer the Forgotten Man

Far away from Congress is the real forgotten man, the taxpayer who foots the bill. He is in a different spot from the tax-eater or the business that makes millions from spending schemes. He cannot afford to spend his time trying to oppose Federal expenditures. He has to earn his own living and carry the burden of taxes as well.

But for most beneficiaries a Federal paycheck soon becomes vital in his life. He usually will spend his full energies if necessary to hang onto this income. The taxpayer is completely outmatched in such an unequal contest. Always heretofore he possessed an equalizer. If government finances weren’t run according to his idea of soundness he had an individual right to protect himself by obtaining gold.

With a restoration of the gold standard, Congress would have to again resist handouts. That would work this way. If Congress seemed receptive to reckless spending schemes, depositors’ demands over the country for gold would soon become serious. That alarm in turn would quickly be reflected in the halls of Congress. The legislators would learn from the banks back home and from the Treasury officials that confidence in the Treasury was endangered.

Congress would be forced to confront spending demands with firmness. The gold standard acted as a silent watchdog to prevent unlimited public spending. I have only briefly outlined the inability of Congress to resist spending pressures during periods of prosperity. What Congress would do when a depression comes is a question I leave to your imagination.

I have not time to portray the end of the road of all paper money experiments.

It is worse than just the high prices that you have heard about. Monetary chaos was followed in Germany by a Hitler; in Russia by all-out Bolshevism; and in other nations by more or less tyranny. It can take a nation to communism without external influences. Suppose the frugal savings of the humble people of America continue to deteriorate in the next 10 years as they have in the past 10 years? Some day the people will almost certainly flock to “a man on horseback” who says he will stop inflation by price-fixing, wage-fixing, and rationing. When currency loses its exchange value the processes of production and distribution are demoralized.

For example, we still have rent-fixing and rental housing remains a desperate situation.

For a long time shrewd people have been quietly hoarding tangibles in one way or another. Eventually, this individual movement into tangibles will become a general stampede unless corrective action comes soon.

Is Time Propitious

Most opponents of free coinage of gold admit that that restoration is essential, but claim the time is not propitious. Some argue that there would be a scramble for gold and our enormous gold reserves would soon be exhausted.

Actually this argument simply points up the case. If there is so little confidence in our currency that restoration of gold coin would cause our gold stocks to disappear, then we must act promptly.

The danger was recently highlighted by Mr. Allan Sproul, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who said:

“Without our support (the Federal Reserve System), under present conditions, almost any sale of government bonds, undertaken for whatever purpose, laudable or otherwise, would be likely to find an almost bottomless market on the first day support was withdrawn.”

Our finances will never be brought into order until Congress is compelled to do so. Making our money redeemable in gold will create this compulsion. The paper money disease has been a pleasant habit thus far and will not he dropped voluntarily any more than a dope user will without a struggle give up narcotics. But in each case the end of the road is not a desirable prospect.

I can find no evidence to support a hope that our fiat paper money venture will fare better ultimately than such experiments in other lands. Because of our economic strength the paper money disease here may take many years to run its course.

But we can be approaching the critical stage. When that day arrives, our political rulers will probably find that foreign war and ruthless regimentation is the cunning alternative to domestic strife. That was the way out for the paper-money economy of Hitler and others. In these remarks I have only touched the high points of this problem. I hope that I have given you enough information to challenge you to make a serious study of it.

I warn you that politicians of both parties will oppose the restoration of gold, although they may outwardly seemingly favor it. Also those elements here and abroad who are getting rich from the continued American inflation will oppose a return to sound money. You must be prepared to meet their opposition intelligently and vigorously. They have had 15 years of unbroken victory.

But, unless you are willing to surrender your children and your country to galloping inflation, war and slavery, then this cause demands your support. For if human liberty is to survive in America, we must win the battle to restore honest money.

There is no more important challenge facing us than this issue — the restoration of your freedom to secure gold in exchange for the fruits of your labors.

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Gold and Economic Freedom by Alan Greenspan (1966) [Jan. 25th, 2016|11:02 am]
Arieon the White Goat
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An almost hysterical antagonism toward the gold standard is one issue which unites statists of all persuasions. They seem to sense — perhaps more clearly and subtly than many consistent defenders of laissez-faire — that gold and economic freedom are inseparable, that the gold standard is an instrument of laissez-faire and that each implies and requires the other.

In order to understand the source of their antagonism, it is necessary first to understand the specific role of gold in a free society. Money is the common denominator of all economic transactions. It is that commodity which serves as a medium of exchange, is universally acceptable to all participants in an exchange economy as payment for their goods or services, and can, therefore, be used as a standard of market value and as a store of value, i.e., as a means of saving.

The existence of such a commodity is a precondition of a division of labor economy. If men did not have some commodity of objective value which was generally acceptable as money, they would have to resort to primitive barter or be forced to live on self-sufficient farms and forgo the inestimable advantages of specialization. If men had no means to store value, i.e., to save, neither long-range planning nor exchange would be possible.

What medium of exchange will be acceptable to all participants in an economy is not determined arbitrarily. First, the medium of exchange should be durable. In a primitive society of meager wealth, wheat might be sufficiently durable to serve as a medium, since all exchanges would occur only during and immediately after the harvest, leaving no value-surplus to store. But where store-of-value considerations are important, as they are in richer, more civilized societies, the medium of exchange must be a durable commodity, usually a metal. A metal is generally chosen because it is homogeneous and divisible: every unit is the same as every other and it can be blended or formed in any quantity. Precious jewels, for example, are neither homogeneous nor divisible. More important, the commodity chosen as a medium must be a luxury. Human desires for luxuries are unlimited and, therefore, luxury goods are always in demand and will always be acceptable. Wheat is a luxury in underfed civilizations, but not in a prosperous society. Cigarettes ordinarily would not serve as money, but they did in post-World War II Europe where they were considered a luxury. The term "luxury good" implies scarcity and high unit value. Having a high unit value, such a good is easily portable; for instance, an ounce of gold is worth a half-ton of pig iron.

In the early stages of a developing money economy, several media of exchange might be used, since a wide variety of commodities would fulfill the foregoing conditions. However, one of the commodities will gradually displace all others, by being more widely acceptable. Preferences on what to hold as a store of value will shift to the most widely acceptable commodity, which, in turn, will make it still more acceptable. The shift is progressive until that commodity becomes the sole medium of exchange. The use of a single medium is highly advantageous for the same reasons that a money economy is superior to a barter economy: it makes exchanges possible on an incalculably wider scale.

Whether the single medium is gold, silver, seashells, cattle, or tobacco is optional, depending on the context and development of a given economy. In fact, all have been employed, at various times, as media of exchange. Even in the present century, two major commodities, gold and silver, have been used as international media of exchange, with gold becoming the predominant one. Gold, having both artistic and functional uses and being relatively scarce, has significant advantages over all other media of exchange. Since the beginning of World War I, it has been virtually the sole international standard of exchange. If all goods and services were to be paid for in gold, large payments would be difficult to execute and this would tend to limit the extent of a society's divisions of labor and specialization. Thus a logical extension of the creation of a medium of exchange is the development of a banking system and credit instruments (bank notes and deposits) which act as a substitute for, but are convertible into, gold.

A free banking system based on gold is able to extend credit and thus to create bank notes (currency) and deposits, according to the production requirements of the economy. Individual owners of gold are induced, by payments of interest, to deposit their gold in a bank (against which they can draw checks). But since it is rarely the case that all depositors want to withdraw all their gold at the same time, the banker need keep only a fraction of his total deposits in gold as reserves. This enables the banker to loan out more than the amount of his gold deposits (which means that he holds claims to gold rather than gold as security of his deposits). But the amount of loans which he can afford to make is not arbitrary: he has to gauge it in relation to his reserves and to the status of his investments.

When banks loan money to finance productive and profitable endeavors, the loans are paid off rapidly and bank credit continues to be generally available. But when the business ventures financed by bank credit are less profitable and slow to pay off, bankers soon find that their loans outstanding are excessive relative to their gold reserves, and they begin to curtail new lending, usually by charging higher interest rates. This tends to restrict the financing of new ventures and requires the existing borrowers to improve their profitability before they can obtain credit for further expansion. Thus, under the gold standard, a free banking system stands as the protector of an economy's stability and balanced growth. When gold is accepted as the medium of exchange by most or all nations, an unhampered free international gold standard serves to foster a world-wide division of labor and the broadest international trade. Even though the units of exchange (the dollar, the pound, the franc, etc.) differ from country to country, when all are defined in terms of gold the economies of the different countries act as one — so long as there are no restraints on trade or on the movement of capital. Credit, interest rates, and prices tend to follow similar patterns in all countries. For example, if banks in one country extend credit too liberally, interest rates in that country will tend to fall, inducing depositors to shift their gold to higher-interest paying banks in other countries. This will immediately cause a shortage of bank reserves in the "easy money" country, inducing tighter credit standards and a return to competitively higher interest rates again.

A fully free banking system and fully consistent gold standard have not as yet been achieved. But prior to World War I, the banking system in the United States (and in most of the world) was based on gold and even though governments intervened occasionally, banking was more free than controlled. Periodically, as a result of overly rapid credit expansion, banks became loaned up to the limit of their gold reserves, interest rates rose sharply, new credit was cut off, and the economy went into a sharp, but short-lived recession. (Compared with the depressions of 1920 and 1932, the pre-World War I business declines were mild indeed.) It was limited gold reserves that stopped the unbalanced expansions of business activity, before they could develop into the post-World War I type of disaster. The readjustment periods were short and the economies quickly reestablished a sound basis to resume expansion.

But the process of cure was misdiagnosed as the disease: if shortage of bank reserves was causing a business decline — argued economic interventionists — why not find a way of supplying increased reserves to the banks so they never need be short! If banks can continue to loan money indefinitely — it was claimed — there need never be any slumps in business. And so the Federal Reserve System was organized in 1913. It consisted of twelve regional Federal Reserve banks nominally owned by private bankers, but in fact government sponsored, controlled, and supported. Credit extended by these banks is in practice (though not legally) backed by the taxing power of the federal government. Technically, we remained on the gold standard; individuals were still free to own gold, and gold continued to be used as bank reserves. But now, in addition to gold, credit extended by the Federal Reserve banks ("paper reserves") could serve as legal tender to pay depositors.

When business in the United States underwent a mild contraction in 1927, the Federal Reserve created more paper reserves in the hope of forestalling any possible bank reserve shortage. More disastrous, however, was the Federal Reserve's attempt to assist Great Britain who had been losing gold to us because the Bank of England refused to allow interest rates to rise when market forces dictated (it was politically unpalatable). The reasoning of the authorities involved was as follows: if the Federal Reserve pumped excessive paper reserves into American banks, interest rates in the United States would fall to a level comparable with those in Great Britain; this would act to stop Britain's gold loss and avoid the political embarrassment of having to raise interest rates. The "Fed" succeeded; it stopped the gold loss, but it nearly destroyed the economies of the world, in the process. The excess credit which the Fed pumped into the economy spilled over into the stock market, triggering a fantastic speculative boom. Belatedly, Federal Reserve officials attempted to sop up the excess reserves and finally succeeded in braking the boom. But it was too late: by 1929 the speculative imbalances had become so overwhelming that the attempt precipitated a sharp retrenching and a consequent demoralizing of business confidence. As a result, the American economy collapsed. Great Britain fared even worse, and rather than absorb the full consequences of her previous folly, she abandoned the gold standard completely in 1931, tearing asunder what remained of the fabric of confidence and inducing a world-wide series of bank failures. The world economies plunged into the Great Depression of the 1930's.

With a logic reminiscent of a generation earlier, statists argued that the gold standard was largely to blame for the credit debacle which led to the Great Depression. If the gold standard had not existed, they argued, Britain's abandonment of gold payments in 1931 would not have caused the failure of banks all over the world. (The irony was that since 1913, we had been, not on a gold standard, but on what may be termed "a mixed gold standard"; yet it is gold that took the blame.) But the opposition to the gold standard in any form — from a growing number of welfare-state advocates — was prompted by a much subtler insight: the realization that the gold standard is incompatible with chronic deficit spending (the hallmark of the welfare state). Stripped of its academic jargon, the welfare state is nothing more than a mechanism by which governments confiscate the wealth of the productive members of a society to support a wide variety of welfare schemes. A substantial part of the confiscation is effected by taxation. But the welfare statists were quick to recognize that if they wished to retain political power, the amount of taxation had to be limited and they had to resort to programs of massive deficit spending, i.e., they had to borrow money, by issuing government bonds, to finance welfare expenditures on a large scale.

Under a gold standard, the amount of credit that an economy can support is determined by the economy's tangible assets, since every credit instrument is ultimately a claim on some tangible asset. But government bonds are not backed by tangible wealth, only by the government's promise to pay out of future tax revenues, and cannot easily be absorbed by the financial markets. A large volume of new government bonds can be sold to the public only at progressively higher interest rates. Thus, government deficit spending under a gold standard is severely limited. The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit. They have created paper reserves in the form of government bonds which — through a complex series of steps — the banks accept in place of tangible assets and treat as if they were an actual deposit, i.e., as the equivalent of what was formerly a deposit of gold. The holder of a government bond or of a bank deposit created by paper reserves believes that he has a valid claim on a real asset. But the fact is that there are now more claims outstanding than real assets. The law of supply and demand is not to be conned. As the supply of money (of claims) increases relative to the supply of tangible assets in the economy, prices must eventually rise. Thus the earnings saved by the productive members of the society lose value in terms of goods. When the economy's books are finally balanced, one finds that this loss in value represents the goods purchased by the government for welfare or other purposes with the money proceeds of the government bonds financed by bank credit expansion.

In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold. If everyone decided, for example, to convert all his bank deposits to silver or copper or any other good, and thereafter declined to accept checks as payment for goods, bank deposits would lose their purchasing power and government-created bank credit would be worthless as a claim on goods. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves.

This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists'; tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists'; antagonism toward the gold standard.
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Francisco's 'Money' Speech from "Atlas Shrugged" [Jan. 25th, 2016|10:57 am]
Arieon the White Goat
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  Rearden heard Bertram Scudder, outside the group, say to a girl who made some sound of indignation, "Don't let him disturb you. You know, money is the root of all evil – and he's the typical product of money."

     Rearden did not think that Francisco could have heard it, but he saw Francisco turning to them with a gravely courteous smile.

     "So you think that money is the root of all evil?" said Francisco d'Aconia. "Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

     "When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor – your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money. Is this what you consider evil?

     "Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions – and you'll learn that man's mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.

     "But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man's capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made – before it can be looted or mooched – made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can't consume more than he has produced.

     "To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except by the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return. Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them, but no more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of the traders. Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss – the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery – that you must offer them values, not wounds – that the common bond among men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of goods. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men's stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best your money can find. And when men live by trade – with reason, not force, as their final arbiter – it is the best product that wins, the best performance, then man of best judgment and highest ability – and the degree of a man's productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money. Is this what you consider evil?

     "But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causality – the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.

     "Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants; money will not give him a code of values, if he's evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he's evaded the choice of what to seek. Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no man may be smaller than his money. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

     "Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth – the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done no better with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one would not bring back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve that mind that cannot match it. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

     "Money is your means of survival. The verdict which you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence. Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men's vices or men's stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hope of getting more than your ability deserves? By lowering your standards? By doing work you despise for purchasers you scorn? If so, then your money will not give you a moment's or a penny's worth of joy. Then all the things you buy will become, not a tribute to you, but a reproach; not an achievement, but a reminder of shame. Then you'll scream that money is evil. Evil, because it would not pinch-hit for your self-respect? Evil, because it would not let you enjoy your depravity? Is this the root of your hatred of money?

     "Money will always remain an effect and refuse to replace you as the cause. Money is the product of virtue, but it will not give you virtue and it will not redeem your vices. Money will not give you the unearned, neither in matter nor in spirit. Is this the root of your hatred of money?

     "Or did you say it's the love of money that's the root of all evil? To love a thing is to know and love its nature. To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men. It's the person who would sell his soul for a nickel, who is the loudest in proclaiming his hatred of money – and he has good reason to hate it. The lovers of money are willing to work for it. They know they are able to deserve it.

     "Let me give you a tip on a clue to men's characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.

     "Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another – their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.

     "But money demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it. Men who have no courage, pride, or self-esteem, men who have no moral sense of their right to their money and are not willing to defend it as they defend their life, men who apologize for being rich – will not remain rich for long. They are the natural bait for the swarms of looters that stay under rocks for centuries, but come crawling out at the first smell of a man who begs to be forgiven for the guilt of owning wealth. They will hasten to relieve him of the guilt – and of his life, as he deserves.

     "Then you will see the rise of the double standard – the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money – the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law – men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims – then money becomes its creators' avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they've passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

     "Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society's virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.

     "Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it becomes, marked: 'Account overdrawn.'

     "When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, 'Who is destroying the world?' You are.

     "You stand in the midst of the greatest achievements of the greatest productive civilization and you wonder why it's crumbling around you, while you're damning its life-blood – money. You look upon money as the savages did before you, and you wonder why the jungle is creeping back to the edge of your cities. Throughout men's history, money was always seized by looters of one brand or another, but whose method remained the same: to seize wealth by force and to keep the producers bound, demeaned, defamed, deprived of honor. That phrase about the evil of money, which you mouth with such righteous recklessness, comes from a time when wealth was produced by the labor of slaves – slaves who repeated the motions once discovered by somebody's mind and left unimproved for centuries. So long as production was ruled by force, and wealth was obtained by conquest, there was little to conquer. Yet through all the centuries of stagnation and starvation, men exalted the looters, as aristocrats of the sword, as aristocrats of birth, as aristocrats of the bureau, and despised the producers, as slaves, as traders, as shopkeepers – as industrialists.

     "To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a country of money – and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man's mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being – the self-made man – the American industrialist.

     "If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose – because it contains all the others – the fact that they were the people who created the phrase 'to make money'. No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity – to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted, or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality.

     "Yet these were the words for which Americans were denounced by the rotted cultures of the looters' continents. Now the looters' credo has brought you to regard your proudest achievements as a hallmark of shame, your prosperity as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards, and your magnificent factories as the product and property of muscular labor, the labor of whip-driven slaves, like the pyramids of Egypt. The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hide – as, I think, he will.

     "Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns – or dollars. Take your choice – there is no other – and your time is running out."

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Why Batman does not kill Joker once and for all and never have to deal with him again [Dec. 14th, 2015|09:51 pm]
Arieon the White Goat
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Why Batman does not kill Joker once and for all and never have to deal with him again but let Joker escape time after time?

In the legend of Twenty-One, an alpha male wolf (ear tag number 21); he had never lost a fight nor kill a fellow defeated rival wolf. Even another wolf, Casanova, caused him much problem; Twenty-One had defeated Casanova many time but never kill him. After Twenty-One died of old age, Casanova became the alpha male. Casanova disliked fighting but ended up killed while fighting a rival wolf pack. But all of Casanova's pack, including Twenty-One's grandchildren and great-grandchildren escaped.

The highest leader is ability and power combined with restraint. It is the peaceful warrior, like Gandhi and Mandala, with the higher status than ruthless strongmen, like Stalin.

It is not my knowledge, skills, and accomplishments that defines me; but the willingness to share what I know, and to bring people who bothered to hear me out onto greater heights, that defines me. It is my capacity to share, teach, educate, and mentor; despite the pain, disappointment, time and again; that defines me.

There will be upsets and disappointments; this is neither the first nor the last.

For it is those that matters and those already deserving of my time and efforts whom will draw the greatest benefits I can render. Those non-deserving nor matter; by their own acts, attitude, and admissions; will receive much less from me, if any at all; but it is not me who refuses to give but themselves whom refuse the gift.
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乙未中秋 [Sep. 27th, 2015|06:38 pm]
Arieon the White Goat
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中秋月圆高望台
回眉独思日不来
花容圆缺太阴排
唯独满灼太阳开

柔银嫦娥吴刚殿
二仙各待空闺楼
射日不忍娥泣遍
吴嫂不义砍树头

万年水流空悲切
回头苦岸情执烈
天若有情天亦老
抹执识空方岸道
-- 林汉忠

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Conditions Leading to the Origin of Money [Sep. 24th, 2015|08:28 pm]
Arieon the White Goat
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Consider the case of a single person on an deserted island who has to fend for himself and gather or hunt food for his survival. Even though he may have to construct his own shelter and manufacture his own clothings, shoes, and other deemed necessities of life; he will not need to have money. If we expand this to a group of people on the same isolated island and each responsible for his own food and necessities, there is no need for money. If this group of people had decided to cooperate and divide the tasks of survival; for example, a group is responsible for hunting and gathering while another group is responsible for cooking and yet, another group is responsible for manufacturing shoes and clothes; there will be no need for money - as much as money is not mentioned in William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

Essentially, the boys in Golding's Lord of the Flies are engaged in central planning and production. There is no need for money in such a sociey. Communism is essentially form of such centralized planning and production; and the need for money is not present.

In the case where different groups of people are producting but there is no free market, in the sense that conversion between each goods to another good is defined and fixed, which is the narrowest form of bartering; there is no need for money. It may be inconvienient to define such bartering exchanges but the absolute need for money is not there.

In bartering within central control, there is an exchange to maintain equilibrium to ensure that there is sufficient goods of each kind but not too much or too little. The underlying medium of exchange is labour.

Consider this. If it takes 2 hours to weave a fishing net and 1 hour to catch 5 decent sized fishes, then the net weaver can want 10 fishes for the labour put into weaving the net. This is assuming that all parties have equivalent weaving skills and fishing skills. However, if the fisherman is only willing to part 5 fishes for a net, the weaver would rather fish using his own net, assuming that there is no preference of labour.

Labour can be expanded to include personal preference and skill differences. Bearing some personal variations, it can be safely assumed that a person with preference for fishing will reach a skill level similar to other fishermen. The same can be said for the net weaver. The bartering rate between fishes and nets wil have to reflect this, and is denominated by labour, preference and skill. Since preference results in skill and skill results in labour expended for the same output or productivity; labour, preference, and skill can be collectively denoted as skilled labour.

All these are under the assumption that all skilled persons of the same art has similar productivity, which is defined as the unit of output per unit time. Although this assumption is unlikely in reality, the mean productivity of the group can be used. To maintain productivity; therefore, the value of their goods; the group will essentially eliminate those of low productivity. The exchange between goods is still a money-less barter.

However, this system poses 2 problems. Firstly, there is a need for (M^2 - M) bartering rates given that there are M number of good available. This may be tedious but not insurmountable. This exchange can be defined in central control even though it takes a great accuracy of knowledge of the units of skilled labour that does into each unit of goods.

Secondly, there is a double coincidences of wants. This is the biggest issue with pure bartering. Consider this. A shoe maker spends 3 hours of his time to make a pair of shoes and a fisherman can hunt 5 fishes per hour. Then the implied bartering rate is 15 fishes per pair of shoes. The reality of the problem lies in that the lifespan of a pair of shoes will exceed the life sustenance of 15 fishes. As a result, the shoe maker starves to death. This can mean that a society can easily end up in a situation where nobody wants another's produce.

In the above case, the need to find a person who wants your produce and you wanting the other person's produce is known as double coincidences of wants.

The natural realization as a result of double coincidences of wants is an intermediatry goods for the purpose of bartering. For example, the shoe maker may increase the odds of people wanting his shoes by first bartering his manufactured shoes into more barter-able goods, such as salt, water, or food. He may then either choose to consume or use it as goods to barter for a different goods, in an indirect fashion. This intermediatry goods of bartering is essentially money.

Bearing in mind that all goods are essentially the representation for units of skilled labour, it can be said that money is in reality, also a representation of units of skilled labour.

However, money reduces the odds of double coincidences of wants but does not eliminate it. It is very possible to be producing a goods that nobody wants in the first place. This is the case of an unmarketable skill.

In short, money is the result of the desire to reduce the odds of double coincidences of wants. It is a natural progression to simplify and improve the odds of successful bartering but money is not a mandate of centralized planning and production.
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