Loose Money and the Roots of the Crisis

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

-- T.S. Eliot
"The Hollow Men" (1925)

The world is not ending. Despite the wrenching turmoil in global financial markets and morbid allusions to the death throes of capitalism, it ain't over. Not until people quit believing in themselves, not until people quit believing in a better future.

But the whimpering is real, and justified, because it hurts to have your world come crashing down. And global financial markets are definitely crashing, even when the impact is momentarily softened through massive injections of artificial money -- "artificial" because the fiat money does not represent a store of genuine value but rather an airy government claim to future wealth yet to be created.

In the aftermath of this financial catastrophe, as we sort out causes and assign blame, with experts offering various solutions -- More regulation! Less complex financial instruments! -- let's not lose sight of the most fundamental component of finance. No credit-default swap, no exotic derivative, can be structured without stipulating the monetary unit of account in which its value is calculated. Money is the medium of exchange -- the measure, the standard, the store of value -- which defines the very substance of the economic contract between buyer and seller. It is the basic element, the atom of financial matter.

It is the money that is broken.

These days, we don't often refer to the validity of the money itself but rather to "monetary policy" and how the Federal Reserve has managed to calibrate the money supply to economic activity over the last two decades. There are plenty of critiques; the most pointed ones blame former Fed chief Alan Greenspan for keeping interest rates too low, too long.

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Kathleen M. Packard, Publisher
Ralph J. Benko, Editor

In Memoriam
Professor Jacques Rueff
(1896-1978)

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