< HOME  Sunday, February 05, 2006

The MOTHER of all MYTHS

OVER and OVER the mainstream media mindlessly propagates the myth that the Fed 'fights' inflation by increasing INTEREST rates. It's time to put this colossal fiction to rest, once and for all.

Let's start by defining inflation:

[a] persistent increase in the level of consumer prices OR a persistent decline in the purchasing power of money

But, are they both the same thing? And what triggers them?

Demand-Pull Inflation - [is] summarized as "too much money chasing too few goods." In other words, if demand is growing faster than supply, then prices will increase. This usually occurs in growing economies.

Cost-Push Inflation - When companies' costs go up, they need to increase prices to maintain their profit margins. Increased costs can include things such as wages, taxes, or increased costs of imports. [of course, no one ever mentions interest]

This raises some KEY questions. First, does each type of inflation require a different monetary approach in response?

And if so, how does the Fed know which type of inflation the economy is suffering from?

To answer the second, there's no indication that the Fed distinguishes between the two causes of inflation. In fact, it appears that regardless of its cause, the Fed has a 'one size fits all' method of dealing with inflation that comes in two favorite flavors: open market operations and the discount rate.

That makes the cause of inflation irrelevant, at least when it comes to the Fed's response. But, we shall see that, as the aggregate level of debt accumulates in the economy, the underlying cause of inflation becomes increasingly important with respect to the effect the Fed's response has on the economy.

Through open market operations, the Fed increases or decreases bank reserves by buying or selling securities, respectively. "The Fed buys securities when it wants to increase the flow of money and credit, and sells securities when it wants to reduce the flow."

When the Fed sees that too much money is going through the economy and prices are rising too quickly (inflation), they put the brakes on by selling securities. This reduces the amount of reserves available to banks, causing interest rates to rise, and banks will not make as many loans because it costs more for consumers to borrow.

Or, the Fed increases or decreases the infamous discount rate, thereby setting "the interest rate that a regional Reserve Bank charges banks and financial institutions when they borrow funds on a short-term basis."

Changes in the discount rate can affect:

  • Lending rates (by making it either more or less expensive for banks to get money to lend or hold in reserve)
  • Other open market interest rates in the economy (because of its "announcement effect") [NOTE: it need not actually affect prices, but only threaten to]

Let's ignore, for now, the glaring illegitimacy of a private banking cartel that allows member banks to create their own money from thin air and lend it out at interest!

By now, it should be fairly obvious that, by increasing the supply of money and credit beyond the level of productivity in the economy, the Fed (and its cohorts) cause demand-pull inflation.

(See, Why the Federal Reserve is Irrelevant for a compelling argument that banks wield unfettered control over the money supply through zero-reserve lending.)

In fact, the only other possible cause of demand-pull inflation is a decline in productivity, which the Fed (and its cohorts) bring about by contracting the money supply, making it more difficult to conduct business, i.e., be productive!

You see, even though increased dollars to goods ratio can cause the price of goods to rise, the inverse does not necessarily cause deflation - not for products whose marginal cost is relatively high, or whose price is inelastic.

In fact, in an economy like ours where control over capital and industry is concentrated in a handful of corporations, if push comes to shove, they are more likely to destroy or hoard their goods before selling them at below optimum price in our market.

So, when the Fed 'tightens' the money supply through open market operations it merely arrests the inflation that it caused!

BUT also, when the Fed 'tightens' the money supply, it slows down the economy (a.k.a. productivity) which in turn pulls on the dollars to goods ratio, keeping prices inflated!

But, hold on to your hats; it gets worse.

Next, we examine cost-push inflation and ask how does the Fed know when to act?

Basically, the Fed monitors consumer PRICES and the COSTS of doing business, focusing mainly on the cost of labor.

As I've already demonstrated, the inflated prices that you and I perpetually suffer from are different from the prices that the Fed relies upon to guide its monetary policy. While they worry about "core" inflation, we suffer from REAL inflation measured by an index of prices that include volatile goods (food and energy).

Why are they volatile? Because we need these products, so suppliers extort whatever price the market will bear.

Why does the Fed ignore volatile prices, and act only on changes in core, or elastic prices?

First, the Fed doesn't care about us. But also, there's NO risk that the price of necessary goods would deflate below desired price; every price is the desired price! Control over food and energy sectors is so concentrated that suppliers simply dictate prices, consumers either pay or do without the product.

Finally, the cost variable the Fed seems to monitor more closely than any other is Labor.

[L]abor accounts for roughly two-thirds of all business costs.

Is that really true? Not entirely.

The exact proportion varies according to the capital versus the labor, maintenance, administrative and other costs of the goods and services we buy. [see, Margrit Kennedy, PDF p.3]

For example, garbage collection is very labor intensive, whereas public housing is not. So, even though ours is primarily a service economy, it is also an economy saddled with DEBT, i.e., high financing costs, which may dramatically affect the ratio of capital to labor costs.

Nevertheless, the Fed focuses almost exclusively on labor. Consider the following formula used by a senior analyst to predict whether the Fed will tighten the money supply:

"This is a Fed tightening trifecta: strong economic growth (via payrolls), resource utilization pressures (via the unemployment rate) and inflation risks (via average weekly earnings)."

There are a number of things wrong with this formula. First, all these indicators are consistent with increased productivity. Companies certainly don't hire more people unless they're productive, and while lower unemployment and increased wages may indicate, as the Fed argues, a 'tightened labor market,' it's still not inconsistent with productivity; ordinarily, where profits are the goal, companies would never dish out what they could not recoup.

What business does the Fed have stifling productivity???

Moreover, this formula focuses only on labor, to the exclusion of other costs, specifically, capital.

Nevertheless, this economist sees the following labor figures as clear evidence that the Fed will increase rates yet again in March of this year:

  • The unemployment rate in the [US] dipped to 4.7 per cent last month, its lowest level since July 2001.
  • Employers added 193,000 new jobs in January for the biggest addition since November; and
  • Average hourly earnings also edged up in January, climbing by 0.4 per cent – matching December's gain.

First, it is not clear that these estimates of fluctuations in labor (which are at best tenuous) can actually cause inflation. For example, a new technology or business process may improve productivity such that increases in labor costs would not (necessarily) increase the price of goods.

But also, the economy's aggregate financing costs may already be so high that any effort to 'fight' the higher cost of increased wages with a further increase in interest rates could have disastrous consequences, like stagflation:

"the combination of high unemployment and economic stagnation with inflation."
So, to sum it up, the Fed (and its cohorts) cause demand-pull inflation, after which they badly exacerbate cost-push inflation by raising interest rates in our already debt-ridden economy.

The TRUTH is that the Fed does NOT, and CANNOT 'fight' inflation by increasing interest rates.

If anything, the Fed fights de-flation and productivity, to the benefit of banks and their offspring corporations and to the detriment of American workers and consumers.

34 Comments:

At Sunday, February 05, 2006, Blogger Jeff G said...

To paraphrase a line from the movie Trading Places, regardless of how our client's fair, Duke & Duke always get their cut. If I'm understanding you correctly, it sounds like a protection racket for the very wealthy. That's just peachy.

 
At Sunday, February 05, 2006, Blogger qrswave said...

I love that movie! It's a timeless tragic comedy.

Precisely.

 
At Sunday, February 05, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

INFLATION IS NOT AN INCREASE IN PRICES! ITS AN INCREASE IN THE MONEY SUPPLY. CHECK ANY BASIC ECONOMICS BOOK!

INCREASE IN PRICES IS A CONSECUENCE OF INFLATION.

 
At Sunday, February 05, 2006, Blogger Monsignor Dornigan said...

The execution of the Romanovs

 
At Sunday, February 05, 2006, Blogger qrswave said...

Anon, thanks for the comment. whether you want to call increased prices 'a type of inflation' or 'a result of inflation' does not affect my analysis.

As long as INTEREST is charged on every dollar that circulates in this economy, there will always have to be increasing amounts of money issued to PAY that interest. Hence, perpetual inflation.

Also, money is more often than not loaned to people who are doing nothing productive with it. This exacerbates inflation by further increasing the dollar to goods ratio.

Conclusion: there is no way on earth that increasing interest rates can 'fight' inflation. It only transfers existing wealth from working americans to moneylenders.

To compound things, moneylenders and their brokers accelarate inflation by speculating arbitrarily on futures with all the interest they collect from hard working Americans.

monignor, thanks for stopping by. Do you want to add anything beside the link? I noticed that you included it in a different post, too.

 
At Monday, February 06, 2006, Blogger Masher1 said...

When are you going to learn? You have 1000 bux american and you live in america you owe 26,500.00 after you give up your 1000 bux. NOW WHAT?

 
At Monday, February 06, 2006, Blogger Masher1 said...

Suppose he who you owe this sum comes to collect what then all 280-390 million folk? are you going to pull over 8.26 trillion domestic debt and another 7 trillion hidden government debt what then? do you think this loan was un-secured on Americas part? I tell you now YOU CANNOT EVEN PAY 1/10 of that which you owe. 1/10 of it. Do you think that you can WAR your way out of an 14.8 trillion debt to anyone? Will you see the error of your combined need to not pay the going rate for what ever? can the lands around you survive the collapse of the FED and all of its organs? is there any way to stop the KILLING so that you can get that great deal at WAL-MART? Can Any one reccomend a good fallout shelter installer? How big of a blast is china capable of agailn? I hate exponent numbers. YOU SHOULD TOO.

 
At Monday, February 06, 2006, Anonymous Apollonian said...

Well qrswave, I note ur above entry about "interest," for which u have quite a fixation. So tell us, do u have any references for ur assertions?--do u at least have any arguments?--(if u do, try to be brief without babbling on and on.)

One cannot but notice ur habitual method: (a) someone presents an argument, (b) and then u totally ignore it, (c) continuing with ur original thesis as if u never had to answer the refutation(s)/criticisms submitted. Note such behavior is quite irrational, if not psychotic. Why do people bother talking to u? Same with ur promise given, not kept, to restore my 12:45 post to "...Vampires to donate Blood" blog. Do u know what u're doing?

Look, rule-of-law is founded upon contract; yes or no? If folks make contracts involving "interest," why shouldn't their contracts be respected? U're all wet in regard to "interest" issue.

You seem to be confusing things with the fractional-reserve system by which all money is (or soon becomes) product of debt. The refutation to fractional-reserve is simple: fraud based upon counterfeiting must be overthrown in favor of rule-of-law, solid commodity money. Let's just try to keep things simple as possible, eh?

Regarding Masheri1, I'm afraid the "solution" is to overthrow and abolish the Fed, an absolute necessity, as well as all fraud and counterfeiting--and then to institute a real regime of rule-of-law featuring sanctity-of-contract.

But Jews would resist with their usual insane fanaticism. So we're gonna have to unite our people with a solid Christian foundation in order to contend. Life sucks, u know. Apollonian

 
At Monday, February 06, 2006, Blogger qrswave said...

Apollonian, I don't ignore your questions and your comments. My time is limited.

Of course contracts are important. But, that does not make every contract equal in its virtue or its value to society. For example, no one would uphold a contract to kill.

Interest is nothing but exploitation. If you went to a friend and asked to borrow something and they asked you for something more valuable in return, you would probably only agree because you have no alternative, and then you'd think he's an asshole, which he would be. But, should society come in a break up the contract? That depends on how egregious the exploitation is.

But, the most important question to resolve at this juncture in time is not whether the government should uphold private contracts that involve interest, but the government allows its citizens to be held hostage by a handful of exploiters who control the money supply.

Fiat money is nothing but a legal decree designed to facilitate exchange among ALL people. As such it is the governments duty to endeavor to make it available to every man and woman who has the will, and the ability to make productive use of it.

Interest is an evil concept that requires for its success the manufacture of need. If interest were not ENABLED by law, it would not matter if it were not abolished by law because simply, people would never CHOOSE to pay it.

 
At Monday, February 06, 2006, Anonymous Apollonian said...

Eeeyucchhh. Qrswave, u call that an answer?--u should be ashamed. U still present not a single reference for ur special pleading built upon mawkish, putrid, emotion and sentimentalism, and ur "argument," such as it is, regarding contract is a miserable failure.

Yes, fiat money is a known fraud only resorted to by desperate governments, esp. in war-time. It's the present fractional-reserve fraud that's so tricky, needing nothing less than Constantinian Christian revolution, this Christianity necessarily understood as absolutely antisemitic.

Lord, but I'd be embarrassed to offer the kind of arguments u do. Check out my own essay on the subject on WhiteAlert.com under essays heading--I give references. Apollonian

 
At Wednesday, May 03, 2006, Blogger rcglinsk said...

I'm really confused about the disagreement between qrswave and appollonian. In the first case, a comment pointed out that inflation is an increase in money supply and that price increase is a result. That is correct, but qrswave's comment that whether you call price increases inflation or not does not change his analysis was also correct. It's the very definition of a semantic difference. This happens to me sometimes too. If the solution to a disagreement is extremely simple the objceting party commonly feels as though their idea was ignored or written off.

On the second disagreement about whether a contract must be honored regardless of its contents, qrswave made the exact argument made in and accepted by this country's courts when they refuse to enforce a contract. For example, in the case of Walker-Thomas, that court held invalid a contract for appliances on credit that lumped together all purchases into a single debt, even when individual appliances had been paid for. A woman bought a couch, refrigerator, washing machine and other appliances. She paid the principle and interest charges on each appliance. She then bought a stereo on the same agreement and missed a payment. Becasue the contract lumped all previous debt together with the old debt, the company repossesed ever appliance she had bought. The court decided that since the woman had effectively and fairly paid for each previous appliance, she was only required to return the stereo and pay damages for not fufilling only the debt related to the stereo.

Qrswave may not be a law student like me and might not come up with good examples to support his well reasoned arguments off the top of his head, but that lack does not justify the reference to "mawkish, putrid, emotion and sentimentalism." Since I doubt appollonian would enjoy being so insulted, he should consult his christian teachings when deciding whether to levy the same on others.

Finally, I would like anyone's opinion on the following proposal for a system of loans not based on interest. Common today is something called a ground lease. When a company wants to develop say a downtown lot by building an office building, they will sell the land to an inverstor (either a bank or middleman with a new bank loan) for a large amount of money, and agree to make rent payments over a period years. The total rent payments of course add up to more money than the initial investment, so they function in essentially the same way as servicing a loan. Under the current arrangement, at the end of the lease period the property and all the buildings and other improvements pass into the possession of the landlord, however, a simple change to the laws regulating these activities could make the land pass to the tennant. In this way, a loan and repayment of greater value situation is achieved, but if payments are missed no more money is owed and interest does not acrue. Of course, the tennant's rights to posses the property end, but sometimes people try to live beyond thier means and the market deals with them in its way.

Just throwing something out there. I think a similar plan could easily finance home construction for example, and basically any other economic activity based around improving land.

 
At Wednesday, May 03, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but most laws are irrelevant if we are to truly live a free life. Most laws, especially in respect to finance and tax, are there to control the people.

I believe that all truth is inherently simple. When a group of criminals prints money out of thin air and the people are under the illusion that this is a just system (an illusion which can only be created through the implementation of law), inflation will occur. It is not important to me how the flow of fiat money between the Gov and the Fed occurs. If money were backed by a commodity (usually gold), it would be impossible for the money to be artificially inflated. Yes, inflation or deflation may occur as the amount of the most widely used commodity for transactions increases or decreases. However, it would be impossible for one group to create commodities from nothing. If the amount of gold increases, then that means someone has had to do the work of getting the gold out of the ground. Therefore the money we use would in fact be backed by labor and not thin air.

I guess I'm just not smart enough to understand all these complex arguments.
Law is slavery, the absence of law is freedom, and there is really no counter argument unless you resort to backing your argument with the law.

Please comment on what I have written so that I may learn.

 
At Thursday, May 18, 2006, Anonymous damien said...

Sorry anonymous, but others will have to rebut your argument in detail. For now it's enough to point out that society is far too complex to survive without laws. Maybe on a hippie commune, but not a modern society. Laws are essential.

 
At Sunday, June 01, 2008, Blogger bonanza.35 said...

The Fed pretends to fight inflation but was put in place to create inflation which is the most insidious tax of all. No one can escape it, everyone pays it. It's purpose is to take it all over time. Doesn't matter how prudent you are and how carefully you save, they will get it all over time. As for laws VS no laws all laws over those needed to protect us from each other, and governments both foreign and domestic are simply economic or revenue (slavery) laws.

 
At Monday, August 25, 2008, Blogger hANOVER fIST said...

The Federal Reserve needs to be abolished from the annals of history - they are nothing but a cancerous boil on WE THE PEOPLE's ass.

 
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An Alternative to Capitalism?

The following link, takes you to a "utopian" article, entitled "Home of the Brave?" which I wrote and appeared in the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:


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John Steinsvold

 
At Monday, November 24, 2008, Blogger qrswave said...

john - I agree, completely - cooperation should replace competition in the economy and in society. But, why if it works on a national basis, can we not apply it globally?

If we are all brothers (and sisters) here in the US, then why can't we be the same all over the world?

After all, we are all human...At least those of us who respect the inalienable right of their fellow human beings to live with dignity ...

 
At Thursday, December 11, 2008, Blogger John Steinsvold said...

qrswave,

Why not apply it globally?

First, we have to prove to the rest of the world that it works. We have to get the kinks out.


When the other countries are satisfied that it works well here in the USA, they will, I'm sure, follow suit.

John Steinsvold

 
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