Common Sense

PERHAPS the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason. -Thomas Paine (1737-1809). Common Sense, 1776

Friday, June 01, 2012


"...a debt is a saleable commodity, or chattel; and may be used like money; and produce all the effects of money." --John R. Commons, Legal Foundations of Capitalism, (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers 1995), p.246 Originally published in 1924 by The Macmillan Company

But what happens when more than 95% of the money supply is debt -- that is, I.O.U.s of one kind or another?

Hi Jake!

There's monetary deflation and price deflation. They're related. The law of supply and demand applies. The supply of money constantly grows most of the time. The only time it shrinks is when the supply of I.O.U.s shrinks. I.O.U.s such as fiat paper money, megabyte money, the note on the back of Bill's airline sleeve that promised you $10,000 for your Backgammon BR, T-bills, corporate bonds, etc.

As long as the supply of these I.O.U.s doesn't increase (or, rarely, decrease) quickly, nobody cares or notices much. When gold circulates, because of the small amount that can be mined each year, production usually slightly lags the need for more money caused by always increasing trade. Additionally, technological innovation and market competition cause the prices of things to go down. Under those stable money conditions, prices "deflate" slightly despite the slight inflation in money supply. No problem!

The problems happen when the supply of fiat or credit suddenly shrinks or grows a bunch. If the supply balloons, that's hyperinflation, if it shrinks a bunch, that's MONETARY deflation. Both lead to the economy shrinking or "deflating." For the same reason but by different paths. That doesn't happen to any great extent with gold circulating because the supply of gold remains RELATIVELY constant.

Deflation is scarier because it becomes self-feeding. Sellers are forced to drop prices because people have less money. If you have money, though, that's good because supply and demand means the value of the money goes up. After price drops, you can buy more for less. So, what's wrong with that?

The problem is that debt doesn't get smaller. If you owe $100, it doesn't shrink to reflect the fact money is relatively more valuable -- and while the price you get for what you sell goes down, the amount you have to pay for that I.O.U -- or interest on it -- doesn't shrink.  So, for all intents and purposes, during monetary deflation, debt gets relatively larger for those in debt. So I can't pay you so you can't pay Wally so he can't pay Bill and all those IOUs we wrote become instantly worthless -- or at least severely discounted -- because people don't trust them anymore and won't readily accept them in trade or for debt payments -- or they want big discounts -- or a lot more interest to off-set the greater percieved risk of default.  Even banks across the road from each other don't trust each other's I.O.U.s  I saw this happene in Moscow in 1998.  As a result, fewer loan/I.O.U.s are written and circulated. 

That shrinks the defacto money supply and the monetary deflation becomes self-feeding. So the biggest problem is that after deflationary shrinkage, money isn't available to service or roll-over other debt. Like, for example, Greek government debt. Or Uncle's debt. That in itself is bad enough but then Governments get desperate, and unlike the rest of us, if there isn't a gold standard or circulating gold, they run the presses to take care of their debts, special "projects" like wars, etc.

If they get it just right, the bankster-government axis prints up the same amount that's been destroyed by debt deflation. Fat chance. Remember Keynes' Follies, or, Prediction: The Limits of Economic Control Keynes' follies. But, to the extent they create money, it steals from everyone holding money and money demominated I.O.U.s and enables them to transfer that stolen money to their friends, neighbors, campaign contributors -- and their special projects. In the case of the U.S. government-bankster axis, wars for example.

Even if they're well intentioned, they can't return the money to the people -- the part of the existing economy -- who lost it and so that disrupts the whole rest of the economy. It shifts spending from the rest of the economy to the interests receiving the newly created debt-money from the government and Federal Reserve.  Usually, the banks. 

Duck & cover,

P.S. And, of course, this reverse Robin Hood effect makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. And so you get increasing wealth disparity.


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