What Pinochet Did for Chile

by Robert A. PackenhamWilliam Ratliff

Pinochet directed the coup of September 11, 1973, and presided until 1990 over a military regime that violated human rights, shut down political parties, canceled elections, constrained the press and trade unions, and engaged in other undemocratic actions during its more than 16 years of rule. These facts are important and widely recounted.

A number of other important truths about the Pinochet period and its legacy are equally well documented but less well known. Indeed, they are often not acknowledged at all. (A notable partial exception to this rule was the Washington Post editorial of December 12 that bore the headline “A dictator’s double standard: Augusto Pinochet tortured and murdered. His legacy is Latin America’s most successful country.”) We will focus on the generally neglected, discounted, distorted, and sometimes falsely denied or suppressed aspects of the Pinochet legacy that have truly made Chile, despite its continuing challenges, “Latin America’s most successful country.”

What Kind of Democracy Did the Coup Displace?

The 1973 coup is often represented as having destroyed Chilean democracy. Such characterizations are half-truths at best. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Chile’s democracy was already well on the road to self-destruction. The historian James Whelan caught its tragic essence when he wrote that Chile’s was a “cannibalistic democracy, consuming itself.” Eduardo Frei Montalva, Chile’s president from 1964 to 1970, who helped to bring in Salvador Allende as his successor, later called the latter’s presidency “this carnival of madness.” Freedoms increasingly overwhelmed responsibilities. Lawlessness became rampant. Uncontrolled leftist violence had also been escalating during the government of Christian Democrat Frei Montalva, before Allende became president and long before Pinochet played any role whatsoever in Chilean politics.

In 1970, Allende won 36.2 percent of the popular vote, less than the 38.6 percent he had taken in 1964 and only 1.3 percent more than the runner-up. According to the constitution, the legislature could have given the presidency to either of the top two candidates. It chose Allende only after he pledged explicitly to abide by the constitution. “A few months later,” Whelan reports, “Allende told fellow leftist Regis Debray that he never actually intended to abide by those commitments but signed just to finally become president.” In legislative and other elections over the next three years, Allende and his Popular Unity (UP) coalition, dominated by the Communist and Socialist parties, never won a majority, much less a mandate, in any election. Still Allende tried to “transition” (his term) Chile into a Marxist-Leninist economic, social, and political system.

Allende’s closest UP allies were the Communists, the right wing of the UP, but both were pressed to move faster than they wanted by the left wing of the UP, mainly members of Allende’s Socialist Party, and by ultraleftists (the term used by the Communists) to the left of the UP. Violence escalated rapidly, with the extreme left, including many members of the president’s own party, seizing properties and setting up independent zones in cities and the countryside, often contrary to what Allende and the Communists thought prudent. In the process Allende, his supporters, and extremists they could not control virtually destroyed the economy, fractured the society, politicized the military and the educational systems, and rode roughshod over Chilean constitutional, legal, political, and cultural traditions. Thus by July 1973, if not earlier, Chile was looking at an incipient civil war.

Pinochet’s 1973 coup was supported by Allende’s presidential predecessor and by an overwhelming majority of the Chilean people.

Many on the left had long believed that capitalism and democracy were incompatible. In a brazen demonstration of its contempt for majority wishes, and for the institutions of what it called “bourgeois democracy,” the pro-Allende newspaper Puro Chile reported the results of the March 1973 legislative elections with this headline: “The People, 43%. The Mummies, 55%.” This attitude and the actions that followed from it galvanized the center-left and right, whose candidates had received almost two-thirds of the votes in the 1970 election, against Allende. On August 22, 1973, the Chamber of Deputies, whose members had been elected just five months earlier, voted 81–47 that Allende’s regime had systematically “destroyed essential elements of institutionality and of the state of law.” (The Supreme Court had earlier condemned the Allende government’s repeated violations of court orders and judicial procedures.) Less than three weeks later, the military, led by newly appointed army commander in chief Pinochet, overthrew the government. The coup was supported by Allende’s presidential predecessor, Eduardo Frei Montalva; by Patricio Aylwin, the first democratically elected president after democracy was restored in 1990; and by an overwhelming majority of the Chilean people. Cuba and the United States were actively involved on opposite sides, but the main players were always Chilean.

Authoritarian, Not Totalitarian

The Chilean military regime from 1973 to 1990 was authoritarian, certainly, but not totalitarian. This distinction is fundamental in comparative political analysis. Totalitarian regimes legitimize and practice very high degrees of penetration into all aspects of the economy, society, religion, culture, and family, whereas authoritarian regimes do not. Totalitarian regimes have dominant single parties; coherent, highly articulated, widely disseminated ideologies; very high levels of mass mobilization and participation directed and manipulated by the regime; and a strict control over candidates, when there are any, and policies. Authoritarian regimes have mentalities more than ideologies, low levels of political participation, and limited pluralism and competition of policies and political actors (including the press), with some constraints on regime control and manipulation of the polity, society, economy, family, religion, culture, and the press.

Consider also the two types of regimes’ different propensities to enable a transition to democracy. Totalitarian systems—once in place and short of external military conquest and occupation—are much harder to change than authoritarian ones. Pinochet’s authoritarianism in Chile ended after 16 years in a peaceful and constitutional transfer of power, permitted by a constitution passed in 1980; Castro’s totalitarian regime in Cuba has lasted 48 years so far. Chile’s democracy after 1990 has been vigorous and stable. As reported by Hector Schamis in the Journal of Democracy (October 2006), Chile’s current foreign minister, Alejandro Foxley, recognized early in the first post-Pinochet democratic government that “the constitutional rules left by Pinochet had ‘somewhat ironically fostered a more democratic system,’ for they forced major actors into compromise rather than confrontation and, by ‘avoiding populism,’ increased ‘economic governability.’”

The Economic Legacy

It has become fashionable in some quarters lately to claim that Chile’s successful record of economic development in recent decades actually began in 1990, during the first civilian government since 1973. That claim is false. The historical record is clear. President Pinochet and his civilian advisers, after an elaborate and lengthy process of deliberation and decision making in 1973–1975, in which various alternative courses of action were considered, put in place the radically new set of market-oriented structures and policies that have been and remain the foundations of Chile’s subsequent three decades of economic and social development. This new model, which we call social capitalism, was adjusted, revised, and supplemented during the Pinochet years, most importantly in response to an economic crisis in the early 1980s and also in the post-1990 civilian years. But its main elements have not changed, and thus far no post-1990 government has proposed or seriously considered going back to either of the two previous, failed models, namely, state capitalism (1938–70) or state socialism (1970–73).

As the then finance minister, Alejandro Foxley, said in a 1991 interview: “We may not like the government that came before us. But they did many things right. We have inherited an economy that is an asset.” All four civilian governments since 1990 have maintained the new, more market-oriented economic and social models inherited from the military regime. Although there were changes at the margins after 1990, the point of sharpest and deepest positive change was unquestionably 1973 and immediately thereafter, not 1970 or 1990.

The Neoliberalism Myth

It is often said and widely believed that Pinochet’s economic reforms eliminated any significant role of the state in the economy. The claim is that he introduced a neoliberal model, that is, raw, savage capitalism of the kind attributed to Chile in the nineteenth century. The facts are otherwise. Chile’s largest industry and biggest foreign-exchange earner by far is copper, which was nationalized in the late 1960s and early 1970s and has remained so ever since. Domestic banks were deregulated in the late 1970s but reregulated with vigor in the early 1980s. Poverty had increased enormously during and in the wake of the UP’s disastrous economic policies, and it decreased only as a result of the state-led stabilization policies, structural reforms, and targeted social programs of the Pinochet period. Major state expenditures for direct action social programs targeted to the poorest of the poor were initiated in the middle 1980s, not after 1990. Poverty levels, as high as 50 percent in 1984, were reduced to 34 percent by 1989. They continued to fall after 1990 to 15 percent in 2005. The Concertación, the alliance of political parties of the center and left that has won the past four presidential elections, deserves some credit for the post-1990 years, but so does the Pinochet government. It created the underlying economic policies and structures in the 1970s and 1980s that the Concertación maintained and that produced jobs for the poor and an economic surplus to enable targeted state antipoverty programs.

Legacies for the World

The innovations in economic and social policy of the Pinochet government had significant influences on, and implications for, not only subsequent governments in Chile but also the rest of Latin America and the wider world. Today almost the entire globe relies on the state less and on markets more than in 1973. The first country in the world to make that momentous break with the past—away from socialism and extreme state capitalism toward more market-oriented structures and policies—was not Deng Xiaoping’s China or Margaret Thatcher’s Britain in the late 1970s, Ronald Reagan’s United States in 1981, or any other country in Latin America or elsewhere. It was Pinochet’s Chile in 1975.

What once looked like a reactionary economic model is now the standard in much of the world.

At that time the Chilean economic model was considered anathema almost everywhere—partly because of its association with Chile’s military regime but also because it was viewed (wrongly, as it turned out) as an unthinkable, reactionary model per se, especially for developing countries. (Of the many military regimes in Latin America in the sixties, seventies, and eighties, the only one to break with state capitalism was Chile’s.) But global perceptions of the Chilean economic model changed, slowly at first, more rapidly and massively after the mid-1980s. By now, the economic policies of most countries of Latin America; North America; Western, Central, and Eastern Europe; China; India; Russia and its former republics; much of Africa; and many other places around the world have followed the Chilean lead rather than fled from it.

The autumn of Two Dictators

Pinochet’s death occurred just as Fidel Castro was lying gravely ill in Cuba. Have commentators described and evaluated them with equal accuracy and fairness over the decades?

Castro killed at least as many Cubans as Pinochet did Chileans. Pinochet’s government has been justly condemned for engaging in some terrorist activities abroad, from Argentina to the United States. Amnesty International strongly supported the Chilean leader’s extradition to Spain in 1998 for a trial it thought would enact justice. But Castro trained thousands of guerrillas from countries all over the world and sent hundreds of thousands of Cuban troops to many countries on at least three continents to launch and wage wars that brought untold death and destruction. We can’t recall human rights organizations agitating for his extradition, or for his being brought to justice even posthumously in Cuba. Finally, Chile is the most successful case of economic, social, and political development in Latin America and a pioneer in the global shift to enlightened social capitalism. Cuba is a dismal, impoverished, dynastic totalitarian anachronism.

All four civilian governments since 1990 have maintained the new, more market-oriented economic and social models inherited from the military regime.

How many nations a decade or century from now will aspire to the “successes” of Fidel Castro—or of Salvador Allende? A much more positive case can be made for major parts of Pinochet’s legacy. It’s time to acknowledge that the legacies of the Pinochet years are a much better mix than they are usually said to be.

Fed Drains $485 Billion in Liquidity from Market via Reverse Repos, Undoing 4 Months of QE, Even as QE Continues, Total Assets Near $8 Trillion

Article written by Wolf Richter of Wolf Street

May 27, 2021

This morning, the Fed sold a record $485 billion in Treasury securities via overnight “reverse repos” to 50 counterparties, beating the prior record set on December 31, 2015. These overnight reverse repos will mature and unwind tomorrow morning. Today, yesterday’s $450 billion in overnight reverse repos matured and unwound, and were more than replaced with this new batch of $485 billion in overnight reverse repos.

Reverse repos are liabilities on the Fed’s balance sheet. They’re the opposite of repos, which are assets. With these reverse repos, the Fed is sellingTreasury securities to counterparties and is taking their cash, thereby massively draining liquidity from the market – the opposite effect of QE.

In past years of large reserves following QE, banks shed reserves via reverse repos, reducing reserves on the balance sheet and increasing their Treasury holdings, to dress up their balance sheet at the end of the quarter, and particularly at the end of the year. Reverse repos declined after the Fed started reducing its assets during Quantitative Tightening in 2018 and 2019. But the current record spike is taking place in the middle of the quarter, a sign that the enormous amount of liquidity is going haywire:

This is a crazy situation that the Fed backed into.

Even as liquidity is going haywire, and as the Fed trying to deal with it via reverse repos, the Fed is still buying about $120 billion per month in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities, thereby adding liquidity.

But with its reverse repos of $485 billion, the Fed undid four months of QE!

The Fed could stop buying securities altogether and reduce its balance sheet, which would also drain liquidity from the market. But the Fed cannot do that because it said it would be slow and deliberate in announcing changes in its monetary policy, and that it might eventually talk about talking about tapering, so it can’t just suddenly do an about-face.

But this liquidity-haywire situation appears to be an emergency that needs to be addressed now, and so the Fed is addressing it through the backdoor via the overnight reverse repos.

At the same time, the Fed continues QE. Its total assets were of $7.90 trillion on its balance sheet as of May 26, released today, were down by $19 billion from the record last week, following the typical pattern. These assets include $5.09 trillion in Treasury securities and $2.24 trillion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS):

The Fed has discussed this liquidity issue during the last FOMC meeting and summarized some of the discussions in its meeting minutes. It noted that “a modest amount of trading” in the reverse repo market took place at negative yields, meaning that there is so much demand for Treasury securities, and so much liquidity chasing them, that the holders of liquidity were willing to lose money to obtain Treasury securities. This threatens to push related rates into the negative, such as SOFR (Secured Overnight Financing Rate) which is the Fed’s reference rate to replace LIBOR.

The Fed, sitting on $5.09 trillion in Treasury securities, has been stepping into the reverse repo market, selling Treasuries overnight to satisfy this demand for Treasuries and keep yields from meandering below zero.

The tsunami of liquidity.

Everyone has their own theory as to why there is so much demand for Treasury securities. But one thing we know: the banking system is creaking under a huge amount of liquidity.

Bank reserves on deposit at the Fed – a liability on the Fed’s balance sheet, money that the Fed owes the banks and that it pays the banks currently 0.1% interest on – ballooned to a record of $3.98 trillion on April 14 and have since then zigzagged down a smidgen. On the Fed’s balance sheet released today, they were at $3.81 trillion. This is a sign of just how much liquidity banks are swimming in:

The drawdown of the Treasury General Account.

The government sold a gigantic amount of debt last spring, adding $3 trillion to its debt in a few months and kept the unspent amounts in its checking account – the General Treasury Account or GTA at the Fed, which is a liability for the Fed, money that it owes the US Treasury. The balance in the GTA ballooned to $1.8 trillion by July 2020, compared to the pre-crisis range between $100 billion and $400 billion.

The Mnuchin Treasury started spending down the balance in the checking account by borrowing a little less. By early January, the GTA was down to $1.6 trillion.

The Yellen Treasury formalized the drawdown and in early February announced that it would bring the balance down to $500 billion by June. This turned out to be too much too fast, and it now looks like August will be the month when the drawdown reaches the $500 billion mark.

On the balance sheet the Fed released today, the balance as of May 26 was down to $779 billion. Down by $821 billion since February, $279 billion to go:

The drawdown of the GTA has some implications for the markets: this is money that the government will spend but doesn’t have to collect in taxes or borrow; it already borrowed it in March through June last year. And the Fed mopped up this debt with its $3 trillion in asset purchases. So the drawdown means that the government has been spending this money that the Fed had already monetized in the spring last year.

All of this has big implications for the markets. These are huge amounts, in terms of reserves on deposit at the Fed, the drawdown of GTA at the Fed, and now the reverse repos at the Fed, all of them liabilities at the Fed, all of them representing different aspects of the massive flows of liquidity that are now bouncing off the walls.

How Governments Killed the Gold Standard

Article by: Joseph Salerno

The historical embodiment of monetary freedom is the gold standard. The era of its greatest flourishing was not coincidentally the 19th century, the century in which classical liberal ideology reigned, a century of unprecedented material progress and peaceful relations between nations. Unfortunately, the monetary freedom represented by the gold standard, along with many other freedoms of the classical liberal era, was brought to a calamitous end by World War I.

Also, and not so coincidentally, this was the “War to Make the World Safe for Mass Democracy,” a political system which we have all learned by now is the great enemy of freedom in all its social and economic manifestations.

Now, it is true that the gold standard did not disappear overnight, but limped along in weakened form into the early 1930s. But this was not the pre-1914 classical gold standard, in which the actions of private citizens operating on free markets ultimately controlled the supply and value of money and governments had very little influence.

Under this monetary system, if people in one nation demanded more money to carry out more transactions or because they were more uncertain of the future, they would export more goods and financial assets to the rest of the world, while importing less. As a result, additional gold would flow in through a surplus in the balance of payments increasing the nation’s money supply.

Sometimes, private banks tried to inflate the money supply by issuing additional bank notes and deposits, called “fiduciary media,” promising to pay gold but unbacked by gold reserves. They lent these notes and deposits to either businesses or the government. However, as soon as the borrowers spent these additional fractional-reserve notes and deposits, domestic incomes and prices would begin to rise.

As a result, foreigners would reduce their purchases of the nation’s exports, and domestic residents would increase their spending on the relatively cheap foreign imports. Gold would flow out of the coffers of the nation’s banks to finance the resulting trade deficit, as the excess paper notes and checks were returned to their issuers for redemption in gold.

To check this outflow of gold reserves, which made their depositors very nervous, the banks would contract the supply of fiduciary media bringing about a monetary deflation and an ensuing depression.

Temporarily chastened by the experience, banks would refrain from again expanding credit for a while. If the Treasury tried to issue convertible notes only partially backed by gold, as it occasionally did, it too would face these consequences and be forced to restrain its note issue within narrow bounds.

Thus, governments and commercial banks under the gold standard did not have much influence over the money supply in the long run. The only sizable inflations that occurred during the 19th century did so during wartime when almost all belligerent nations would “go off the gold standard.” They did so in order to conceal the staggering costs of war from their citizens by printing money rather than raising taxes to pay for it.

For example, Great Britain experienced a substantial inflation at the beginning of the 19th century during the period of the Napoleonic Wars, when it had suspended the convertibility of the British pound into gold. Likewise, the United States and the Confederate States of America both suffered a devastating hyperinflation during the War for Southern Independence, because both sides issued inconvertible Treasury notes to finance budget deficits. It is because politicians and their privileged banks were unable to tamper with and inflate a gold money that prices in the United States and in Great Britain at the close of the 19th century were roughly the same as they were at the beginning of the century.

Within weeks of the outbreak of World War I, all belligerent nations departed from the gold standard. Needless to say by the war’s end the paper fiat currencies of all these nations were in the throes of inflations of varying degrees of severity, with the German hyperinflation that culminated in 1923 being the worst. To put their currencies back in order and to restore the public’s confidence in them, one country after another reinstituted the gold standard during the 1920s.

Unfortunately, the new gold standard of the 1920s was fundamentally different from the classical gold standard. For one thing, under this latter version, gold coin was not used in daily transactions. In Great Britain, for example, the Bank of England would only redeem pounds in large and expensive bars of gold bullion. But gold bullion was mainly useful for financing international trade transactions.

Other countries such as Germany and the smaller countries of Central and Eastern Europe used gold-convertible foreign currencies such as the US dollar or the pound sterling as reserves for their own domestic currencies. This was called the gold-exchange standard.

While the US dollar was technically redeemable in honest-to-goodness gold coin, banks no longer held reserves in gold coin but in Federal Reserve notes. All gold reserves were centralized, by law, in the hands of the Fed and banks were encouraged to use Fed notes to cash checks and pay for checking and savings deposit withdrawals. This meant that very little gold coin circulated among the public in the 1920s, and residents of all nations came increasingly to view the paper IOUs of their central banks as the ultimate embodiment of the dollar, franc, pound, etc.

This state of affairs gave governments and their central banks much greater leeway for manipulating their national money supplies. The Bank of England, for example, could expand the amount of paper claims to gold pounds through the banking system without fearing a run on its gold reserves for two reasons.

Foreign countries on the gold exchange standard would be willing to pile up the paper pounds that flowed out of Great Britain through its balance of payments deficit and not demand immediate conversion into gold. In fact by issuing their own currency to tourists and exporters in exchange for the increasing quantities of inflated paper pounds, foreign central banks were in effect inflating their own money supplies in lock-step with the Bank of England. This drove up prices in their own countries to the inflated level attained by British prices and put an end to the British deficits.

In effect, this system enabled countries such as Great Britain and the United States to export monetary inflation abroad and to run “a deficit without tears” — that is, a balance-of-payments deficit that does not involve a loss of gold.

But even if gold reserves were to drain out of the vaults of the Bank of England or the Fed to foreign nations, British and US citizens would be disinclined, either by law or by custom, to put further pressure on their respective central banks to stop inflating by threatening bank runs to rid themselves of their depreciating notes and retrieve their rightful property left with the banks for safekeeping.

Unfortunately, contemporary economists and economic historians do not grasp the fundamental difference between the hard-money classical gold standard of the 19th century and the inflationary phony gold standard of the 1920s.

Thus, many admit, if somewhat grudgingly, that the gold standard worked exceedingly well in the 19th century. However, at the same time, they maintain that the gold standard suddenly broke down in the 1920s and 1930s and that this breakdown triggered the Great Depression. Monetary freedom in their minds is forever discredited by the tragic events of the 1930s. The gold standard, whatever its merits in an earlier era, is seen by them as a quaint and outmoded monetary system that has proved it cannot survive the rigors and stresses of a modern economy.

Those who implicate the gold standard as the main culprit in precipitating the events of the 1930s generally fall into one of two groups. One group argues that it was an inherent flaw in the gold standard itself that led to a collapse of the financial system, which in turn dragged the real economy down into depression. Writers in the second group maintain that governments, for social and political reasons, stopped adhering to the so-called rules of the gold standard, and that this initiated the downward spiral into the abyss of the Great Depression.

From either perspective, however, it is clear that the gold standard can never again be trusted to serve as the basis of the world’s monetary system. On the one hand, if it is true that the gold standard is fundamentally flawed, that in itself is a crushing practical argument against the principle of monetary freedom. On the other hand, if the gold standard is in fact a creature of rules contrived by governments, and it is politically impossible for them to follow those rules, then monetary freedom is simply irrelevant from the outset.

The first argument is the Keynesian argument and the second the monetarist argument against the gold standard.

Two recent books have elaborated these arguments against the gold standard. The economic historian Barry Eichengreen published a book in 1992 entitled Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression.Eichengreen summarized the argument of this book in the following words:

The gold standard of the 1920s set the stage for the Depression of the 1930s by heightening the fragility of the international financial system. The gold standard was the mechanism transmitting the destabilizing impulse from the United States to the rest of the world. The gold standard magnified that initial destabilizing shock. It was the principle obstacle to offsetting action. It was the binding constraint preventing policymakers from averting the failure of banks and containing the spread of financial panic. For all these reason the international gold standard was a central factor in the worldwide Depression. Recovery proved possible, for these same reasons, only after abandoning the gold standard.

According to Eichengreen, then, not only was the gold standard responsible for initiating and internationally propagating the Great Depression, it was also the primary reason why the recovery was delayed for so long.

It was only after governments one after another in the 1930s severed the link between their national currencies and gold that their national economies finally began to recover. This was because, unbound by the rules of the gold standard, governments were now able to bail out their banking systems and run budget deficits financed by bank credit inflation without the constraining fear of losing their gold reserves.

Thus, the phrase “golden fetters” in the title of Eichengreen’s book is a reference to Keynes’s statement in 1931, “There are few Englishman who do not rejoice at the breaking of our gold fetters.”

Of course, what Keynes and Eichengreen fail to understand is that the end of the classical liberal era in 1914 caused the removal from government central banks of the “golden handcuffs” of the genuine gold standard. Were these “golden handcuffs” still in place in the 1920s, central banks would have been rigidly constrained from inflating their money supplies in the first place and the business cycle that culminated in the Great Depression would not have taken place.

A second book that inculpates the gold standard as a leading cause of the Great Depression was published in 1998 and is entitled The Great Depression: An International Disaster of Perverse Economic Policies. According to the authors, Thomas E. Hall and J. David Ferguson, one of the most perverse and destabilizing economic policies of the 1920s involved the Fed violating the rules of the gold standard by allegedly “sterilizing” the inflow of gold from Great Britain.

This means that the Fed refused to pyramid inflated paper dollars on top of these newly acquired gold reserves in quantities sufficient to drive US prices up to the inflated level of British prices. This policy would have made US products more expensive relative to British products on world markets and would have helped mitigate Great Britain’s ongoing loss of gold reserves through its balance-of-payments deficits.

These deficits were the result of the fact that Great Britain had returned to the gold standard after its wartime inflation at the prewar gold parity, which, given the inflated level of domestic prices, significantly overvalued the British pound in terms of the dollar.

These deficits could have been avoided if the British government had either deflated its price level sufficiently or chosen to return to gold at a devalued exchange rate reflecting the true extent of its previous inflation.

Hall and Ferguson, however, ignore these considerations, arguing that when the United States sterilizes gold,

The impact on the system is that Britain bears the brunt of the adjustment. Since the money supply in the United States did not rise, neither did U.S. incomes and prices as they were supposed to, which would have helped Britain eliminate their payments deficit. Since Britain was not aided by rising exports to the United States, Britain must experience a more severe decline in incomes and prices than would have been the case if the U.S. money supply had gone up. In this way Britain would bear the brunt of the adjustment in the form of a more severe recession than would have occurred if the United States had been playing by the rules. Thus it was critical that each country play fair.

Thus, in Hall and Ferguson’s view, the rules of the gold standard dictate that when one central bank irresponsibly engages in monetary inflation and subsequently attempts to maintain an overvalued exchange rate, less inflationary central banks must rush to its aid and expand their own nations’ money supplies in order to prevent it from losing its gold reserves.

But if a nation losing gold due to inept or irresponsible monetary policy can always count on those gaining gold to share “the brunt of the adjustment” by expanding their own money supplies, this is surely a recipe for worldwide inflation.

Now, this line of argument indicates that Hall and Ferguson completely misunderstand the true purpose and function of the gold standard. To begin with, a gold standard functions much better without a central bank, because these institutions, as creatures of politics, are inherently inflationary and tend to promote rather than restrain the inflationary propensities of the fractional-reserve commercial banks.

But, second, under a genuine gold coin standard, the choices of private households and firms effectively control the money supply. As I explained above, if the residents of one nation demand to hold more money for whatever reason, they can obtain the precise quantity of gold coin they require through the balance of payments by temporarily selling more exports and buying fewer imports.

This implies that, if a central bank does exist and it wishes to act in accordance with a genuine gold standard, it should always “sterilize” gold inflows by issuing additional notes and deposits only on the basis of 100 percent gold reserves and insisting that the commercial banks do the same. It should not permit these gold reserves to be used as the basis of a multiple credit expansion by the banking system.

In this way, a nation’s money supply would be completely subject to market forces. By the way, this is precisely how the distribution of the supply of dollars between the different states of the United States is determined today. There is no government agency charged with monitoring and controlling New Jersey’s or Alabama’s money supply.

Hall and Ferguson reveal their uneasiness with and lack of insight into the operation of the money supply process under a genuine gold standard with the following example:

Suppose a fad had swept the nation in 1927 because Calvin Coolidge appeared in public wearing one gold earring. Then every teenager in America wanted to wear a gold earring “just like silent Cal”.… The result would be an [increase] in the commercial demand for gold. Since more gold would be used in earrings less would be available for money.… It would be beyond the power of government to do anything about this fact. What a scary thought, the teenagers of America would have caused the U.S. money supply to decline.

While it is true that the commercial demand for gold does play a role in determining the supply and value of money under a gold standard, it is hardly cause for alarm. Rather, it highlights the important fact that the gold standard evolved on the market from a useful commodity with a preexisting supply and demand and was not the product of a set of arbitrary rules promulgated by governments.

Now, Hall and Ferguson conclude that by breaking the rules of the game and persisting in sterilizing the gold inflows from 1929 to 1933, the Fed caused a monetary deflation in Great Britain and throughout Europe. The nations losing gold were forced to contract their money supplies and this contributed to a financial collapse and a precipitous decline in real economic activity that marked the onset of the Great Depression.

Thus while the authors blame the initiation of the Great Depression on Fed sterilization policies, they attribute its length and severity to the gold standard. According to the authors, as long as European countries remained on the gold standard and US sterilization continued, there could be no end of the Depression in sight. The US gold stock would become a huge pile of sterilized and useless gold. Starting with the British in 1931, our trading partners began to recognize this fact, and one by one they left the gold standard. The Germans and ironically the United States were among the last to leave gold and so were hurt the worst, experiencing the longest and deepest forms of the Depression.

So although Eichengreen emphasizes the gold standard as a restraint on government monetary policy and Hall and Ferguson the failure of governments to play by its rules, in effect, they reach the same conclusion: the gold standard, and with it monetary freedom, stands indicted as a primary cause of the greatest economic catastrophe in history.

In the face of the historical evidence they adduce, can any defense be mounted in favor of the gold standard? The answer is a resounding “yes,” and the defense is as simple as it is impregnable. As I have tried to indicate above, the case against the gold standard is from beginning to end a case of mistaken identity. The genuine gold standard did not fail in the 1920s, because it had already been destroyed by government policies after 1914.

The monetary system that sowed the seeds of the Great Depression in the 1920s was a central-bank-manipulated and inflationary pseudogold standard. It was central banking that failed in the 1920s and stands discredited to this day as the cause of the Great Depression.

A detailed case in support of this view can be found in the works of Murray N. Rothbard, particularly in his book America’s Great Depression and in A History of Money and Banking in the United States: The Colonial Era to World War II.

In these works you will read that the US money supply, properly defined, increased from 1921 to 1928 at the annual rate of 7 percent per year, a rate of monetary inflation that was unseen under the classical gold standard. You will also learn that during the 1920s the Fed, far from operating as the deflationary force on the money supply portrayed by some monetarists, increased the categories of bank reserves within its control at the annual rate of 18 percent per year.

Finally you will read that from 1929 to 1932, the Fed continued to exercise a highly inflationary impact on the money supply, as it feverishly pumped new reserves into the banking system in a vain attempt to ward off the cyclical downturn entailed by its own earlier inflation of the money supply. The Fed was defeated in this endeavor to pump up the money supply and “reflate” prices in the early 1930s by domestic and foreign depositors who reclaimed their rightful property from an inherently bankrupt US banking system. They had suddenly lost confidence in the Fed-controlled monetary system masquerading as a gold standard, when they perceived at last the dwindling prospect of ever redeeming the rapidly expanding mountain of inflated paper claims for their gold dollars.

Inflation Is Great If You’re Already Rich

Written by Doug French

he 4.2 percent Consumer Price Index (CPI) bounce for April sent a chill through some traders and financial commentators who had expected a tamer number like a 3.6 or 3.9 percent from last year’s covid price level air pocket. 

The MarketWatch headline screamed, “U.S. Inflation Soars in April to Thirteen-Year High, CPI Shows, and Reveals Fresh Stress on the Economy.” Barron’s was slightly more relaxed: “Surging Inflation Is Hammering the Stock Market. Why It Isn’t Time to Panic Just Yet.” Then there was Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who tweeted, “So, the inflation report wasn’t a nothingburger, but it was sort of a White Castle slider—not a very big deal.”

Before the 4.2 percent print, John Authers posted a piece on Bloomberg, “Markets Give Powell a Break. It May Be Transitory.” “It” being CPI. “Transitory” being a term Powell uses often, a.k.a., “don’t worry, be happy, this too will pass.” 

With all of this teeth gnashing over CPI and money supply, Nobelist Krugman offered up what he calls “Krugman Wonks Out: Return of the Monetary Cockroaches,” where he says, “[C]ockroach ideas, false beliefs that sometimes go away for a while but always come back.” The false belief according to him is that increases in the supply of money lead to inflation, meaning price inflation.

We must remember what Ludwig von Mises wrote, “What people today call inflation is not inflation, i.e., the increase in the quantity of money and money substitutes, but the general rise in commodity prices and wage rates which is the inevitable consequence of inflation. This semantic innovation is by no means harmless.”

So while Chairman Powell claims to be adhering to the Fed’s mandate of stable prices, stable prices in a world with the division of labor and technology running step for step like Affirmed and Alydar in the 1978 Belmont Stakes, prices should be falling, making everyone, especially those at the bottom of the economic food chain better off.

Tragically, Powell sees it another way. Reuters reported the Fed chair as saying that “low inflation hurts American businesses and households and constrains the Fed’s ability to offset economic shocks with easy monetary policy.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Professor Jörg Guido Hülsmann wrote in Deflation and Liberty,

In a word: the dangers of deflation are chimerical, but its charms are very real. There is absolutely no reason to be concerned about the economic effects of deflation—unless one equates the welfare of the nation with the welfare of its false elites. There are by contrast many reasons to be concerned about both the economic and political consequences of the only alternative to deflation, namely, re-inflation—which is of course nothing but inflation pure and simple.

Given the retirement of the Contra Krugman team of Tom Woods and Bob Murphy, I’m left to point out that what Krugman can’t see must not be. Where’s the hyperinflation, you zombies and monetary cockroaches? He said we cried wolf ten years ago and are doing it again.

Now, he fingers the crypto crowd for the money-printing panic. He claims to be patient, but those who seek escape from the government’s currency and are arguing “[f]iat money is doomed because the Fed won’t stop running the printing press” are wrong, he says, because “nothing like that has happened in the U.S.”

But it has happened and is happening. Murray Rothbard explained, “[A]n increase in the money supply can only dilute the effectiveness of each existing money unit, and therefore must be “inflationary” in the sense of raising prices beyond what they would have been otherwise.”

“What they would have been otherwise” being the key. Were the Weimar Republic or recently Zimbabwe or today’s Venezuela sophisticated economies ripe with technology and the division of labor, creating efficiencies and pushing down prices? No. Those governments printed money, and their people had nowhere to escape the falling currency but by buying up consumer goods, creating shortages, clearing shelves, and forcing up prices until their entire economies fell apart.

Everyone has seen pictures of empty shelves in Venezuela. Meantime, the one-year return on the Caracas stock exchange is 1,804.92 percent according to Bloomberg.

Venezuela’s well-to-do survive and possibly thrive, while the poor starve. And, for Nobel laureates and Fed chairmen that’s just fine.

The US has inflation. It benefits the rich, at the expense of the poor.

“Inflation is the true opium of the people and it is administered to them by anticapitalist governments and parties,” wrote Mises.

What Krugman can’t see is that people are escaping the Fed’s money creation by buying stocks, bonds, real estate, crypto, NFTs, and who knows what all. While it might not be hyper, yet, the Fed is providing an overdose of what Mises called true opium.

Silver Price: Eyes on $28 as Demand Exceeds Supply

Silver price is higher as its industrial and safe-haven demand rises. Investors are now keen on FOMC meeting minutes on Wednesday.

silver price

Inflation concerns

On Friday, silver price was higher as a reaction to the stagnation of April’s retail sales. Analysts expected a reading of 1.0% compared to March’s 10.7%.  Besides, Fed officials like Governor Christopher Waller and Vice Chair Richard Clarida have downplayed inflation fears. In the ensuing sessions, investors will be keen on the FOMC meeting minutes scheduled for Wednesday. Fed maintained a dovish tone in its recent interest rate decision.    

Industrial demand

Unlike its lustrous cousin – gold, silver is more than a hedge against inflation. Due to its durability and electrical conductivity, it has various technological, electrical, and industrial applications. The reopening of economies and shift towards the green economy has heightened silver’s industrial demand. According to the Silver Institute, the metal’s industrial demand in the current year is significantly beyond its supply. On the supply side, it is risen by 8% in 2021 compared to the prior year’s -4%. In comparison, its demand has soared by 15%, which is significantly higher than 2020’s -10%. A continuation of this trend is likely to push silver price higher.

Silver Price Technical Outlook

Silver price has continued with its uptrend on Friday’s session. On a larger scale, the uptrend has continued since late March. On 30th March, the precious metal had its price drop to the lowest level since mid-December 2020. Subsequently, it been on a rebound journey characterised by several pullbacks and sideway trading moments. Over the past one-and-a-half months, it has risen by about 16.61%. At the time of writing, it was up by 0.74% at 27.60.  

On a daily chart, silver price is trading above the two and four-week exponential moving averages. Besides, it is within an ascending channel, which substantiates the bullish outlook. I expect the precious metal to rise further as bulls target 28 in the short-term and 30 towards the end of the second quarter.

In today’s session, the price is likely to rise to past the psychological 28 to 28.38. At that point, it will find resistance along the channel’s upper border. It may then pull back and trade sideways along 28 before moving higher. Notably, that has been an important resistance level since August 2020.  

Article originally featured here

Inflation: More Evidence

Recall the definition of inflation: “Any Increase in the economy’s supply of money not consisting of an increase in the stock of the money metal.” ~Murray N. Rothbard, Phd from “What Has Government Done to Our Money?”

After understanding the definition of inflation, review the chart listed here in this article. It shows the growth of the monetary base since January 2008. Clearly, the trend for monetary base expansion demonstrates an upward trend since 2008. This can be explained by all the bailouts, repo agreements, stimulus packages, and etc that have been done during this time period by the Federal Reserve and US Government.

People conflate the notion of increase in prices as inflation. The increase in prices occur after the monetary base has been expanded beyond the amount of money metal. Note: Prices can rise due to other factors, such as increased scarcity for a resource. That is not the focus of the article.

As more monetary base units are printed, beyond the money metal in storage, each unit in circulation becomes less “valuable”. At this point, it requires more monetary base units to purchase goods and services. This is why prices rise from the increase in the monetary base.

This is why Gold, Silver, and Bitcoin is so appealing to investors. These assets allow for investors to hedge against inflation, and store value for future consumption across time. Their current amounts can not be increased by a governing body.

Source: St Louis Federal Reserve

USD Purchasing Power and Current Issues with Inflation: Why buy Gold, Silver and Bitcoin

Featured below is a graph showing the “Purchasing Power of the Consumer Dollar”. This graph shows the output of the purchasing power of the dollar since November of 2006. Notice the downward trend of the purchasing power of the dollar.

This should be a concern for savers of dollars, and it should be a wake up call to action to make moves to insure their assets are beating the trend of inflation.

Recall: Inflation is the expansion of the monetary base(money supply) that is greater than the actual amount of metal stored. In this case, the metal considered would be gold or silver.

Consider all the stimulus packages, bailouts, monetary injections, repurchase agreements, and other monetary/fiscal policy measures that have been done since 2006. While that is under consideration, think about the growing United States Government debt. If any economist is telling you inflation is low, they are not being honest. Per the definition of inflation, it is here.

This is why the smart money is on Gold, Silver, and Bitcoin. This is why serious investors, who are concerned with inflation, need to look at these assets to hedge against inflation.

(source: FRED.St Louis Federal Reserve. Time expressed in number of months)

The Edict of Diocletian: A Case Study in Price Controls and Inflation

By Murrary Rothbard

Citizens of the old Roman Empire distrusted paper currency and refused to accept anything but gold or silver coin as money. So the rulers found themselves barred from inflating the money supply by the unobtrusive method of printing additional currency.

But the Roman emperors soon discovered an ingenious device. They proceeded to call in the coins of the realm, ostensibly for repairs. Then, by various means, such as filing off small parts of the coins, or introducing cheaper alloys, they reduced the silver content of the money without changing its original face value. This devalution enabled them to add many more silver coins to the Roman money supply. The practice was started by Nero, and accelerated by his successors. By Diocletian’s time, the denarius (standard silver coin) had been reduced to one-tenth of its former value.

The result was a steep rise in prices throughout the vast Roman empire. As has happened throughout history, the public indignantly accused merchants and speculators of causing the rise in prices. It was generally agreed that the only remedy was stringent maximum price controls by the government.

Accordingly, Emperor Diocletian, a “friend of the people,” issued his famous Edict in 301 A.D. setting ceiling prices on all types of commodities, and maximum wages for all occupations. A few typical examples: Beans, crushed, 100 denarii; beans, uncrushed, 60 den.; beans, dried kidney, 100 den. Veterinary, for clipping hoofs, 6 den. per animal. Veterinary, for bleeding heads, 20 den. per animal. Writer, for best writing, 25 den. per 100 lines. Writer, for writing of the second quality, 20 den. per 100 lines.

Diocletian’s proclamation introducing the Edict bears marked resemblance to modern exhortations:

We must check the limitless and furious avarice which with no thought for mankind hastens to its own gain. This avarice, with no thought of the common need, is ravaging the wealth of those in extremes of need. We — the protectors of the human race — have agreed that justice should intervene as arbiter, so that the solution which mankind itself could not supply might, by the remedies of our foresight, be applied to the general betterment of all.

In the markets, immoderate prices are so widespread that the uncurbed passion for gain is not lessened by abundant supplies. Men whose aim it always is to profit, to restrain general prosperity, men who individually abounding in great riches which could completely satisfy whole nations, try to capture smaller fortunes and strive after ruinous percentages. Concern for humanity in general persuades us to set a limit to the avarice of such men. Profiteers, covertly attacking the public welfare, are extorting prices from merchandise such that in a single purchase a soldier is deprived of his bonus and salary.

Therefore, we have decreed that there be established a maximum so that when the violence of high prices appears anywhere, avarice might be checked by the limits of our statute. To ensure adequate enforcement, anyone who shall violate this statute shall be subject to a capital penalty. The same penalty shall apply to one who in the desire to buy shall have conspired against the statute with the greed of the seller. Also subject to the death penalty is he who believes he must withdraw his goods from the general market because of this regulation.

We urge upon the loyalty of all that a law constituted for the public good may be observed with obedience and care.

If anyone could force people to trade at the ceiling prices, Diocletian was the man. Yet the absolute emperor of the civilized world, a veteran general with myriads of secret police at his command, was soon forced to surrender. After a short interval almost nothing was offered for sale, and there was a great scarcity of all goods.

Diocletian was obliged to repeal the price-fixing Edict. Prices were finally stabilized in 307 A.D. when the government stopped diluting the money supply.

Types of Money

Robert Kioysaki discusses the different types of money, gold, silver and Bitcoin. He also mentions why individual savers are losing money by saving fiat currency in their bank account.

Many economists in the past have written about the ills of fiat currency. Robert’s points are supported by well respected economists such as, Murray Rothbard, Phd, Ludwig Von Mises, and many more. Both Rothbard and Mises(Mises was Rothbard’s mentor) wrote extensively regarding the social ills of the use of fiat currency.

This video covers some of the reasons why individuals should use Gold, Silver, and Bitcoin to save money for the future.

Who Bought the $4.5 Trillion Added in One Year to the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt, Now at $27.9 Trillion?

Someone had to buy every dollar of this monstrous debt. Here’s Who. The Fed isn’t the only one. But China continues to unwind its holdings.

by Wolf Richter of Wolf Street

So we’ll piece together who bought those trillions of dollars in Treasury Securities that have whooshed by over the past 12 months.

Tuesday afternoon, the Treasury Department released the Treasury International Capital data through  December 31 which shows the foreign holders of the US debt. From the Fed’s balance sheet, we can see what the Fed bought. From the Federal Reserve Board of Governors bank balance-sheet data, we can see what the banks bought. And from the Treasury Department’s data on Treasury securities, we can see what US government entities bought.

Share of foreign holders falls to 25% for first time since 2007:

In the fourth quarter, foreign central banks, foreign government entities, and foreign private-sector entities such as companies, banks, bond funds, and individuals, reduced their holdings by $35 billion from the third quarter, to $7.04 trillion. This was still up from a year ago by $192 billion (blue line, right scale in the chart below). But their share of the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt fell to 25.4%, the lowest since 2007 (red line, right scale):

Japan (blue line), the largest foreign creditor of the US, reduced its holdings in Q4 by $20 billion, to $1.26 trillion. But compared to a year earlier, its holdings were still up by $102 billion.

China (red line) continued on trend, gradually reducing its holdings. In Q4, its holdings ticked down just a tad, and over the 12-month period fell by $8 billion, to $1.06 trillion:

Japan’s and China’s relative importance in the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt continues to decline, with their combined total ($2.32 trillion) now down to a share of 8.4%, the lowest in years:

Read the rest here….