Of Money and Metals Part III – Debt: The Barbarous Relic

1/19/2012 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

{Editor”s note: The following is a continuation of the series “Of Money and Metals.”  Please click here to view the Part I and Part II

As the world descended further into depression which eventually led it into the Second World War (Editor’s Note:  It should come as no surprise that the only two World Wars have come after the declaration that debt is money), The Keynesian adherents clamored for more debt as the only answer to the world’s economic ills.

What Keynes and his Harvard trained legions fail to comprehend is that the only permanent cure for an economic depression is to allow each individual to declare what he or she will use as money and allow market participants to coalesce around what at that time is best suited for the role of money.  For balance sheet recessions, such as the one the world is currently experimenting, are merely symptoms of a rigid money supply which has failed to keep up with the demands of a dynamic economy.

Under current theory, the government sacrifices the dynamic economy in the name of preserving the “integrity” of the monetary system.

When it is quite obvious that it is the monetary system that has failed, the government’s response can only be seen as idiotic at best.

What makes the situation of the past 100 years even more untenable is that money, instead of operating as a lubricant for economic activity, is more like concrete.  Such is the inherently destructive nature of debt as money. 

For the only rule with regards to money which is imposed as a matter of natural law is that debt cannot ever be money.  It is a concept so clear that it escapes most academics and government officials.

Now, the Keynesian indoctrinated readers of these words are no doubt dusting off the “silver bullet” of Keynesian theory:  That gold, which is widely held as the logical alternative to the “debt is money” insanity, is a “barbarous relic.”  In layman’s terms, Keynesian theory holds that any attempt to limit the money supply via natural means, the most popular being a gold standard (fixing the price of gold in terms of monetary units) will cause a deflationary spiral which will bankrupt the entire world.

The former "Barbarous Relic" - photo by Toi Mine courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Even Adam Smith argued that the mining of metals for use as currency was essentially a lamentable waste of resources.

We could not agree with them more.  The limited amounts of gold in the world make it wholly unfit for everyday exchange.  Gold, rather, is generally agreed upon to be the most perfect savings vehicle that the world has yet discovered.

So Keynes, despite promoting a theory which sacrifices the yang (savings) and glorifies the yin (debt) is right after all?  Not quite…

Using the same logic with which the Keynesian so adeptly slays the gold standard, it quickly becomes obvious that by declaring that debt is money is not only a violation of natural law, it makes debt, rather than gold, the new barbarous relic.

Debt has a distinct disadvantage to gold in that it can be quickly and completely destroyed.  Once it is assumed by the majority that a certain debtor will not be able to make good on their debts, the debts owed by the debtor, and any money in circulation which is either directly or indirectly related to the existence of these debts, is destroyed.  For debt, at its base level, is a figment of the imagination until it is settled in real terms by the delivery of money in settlement of the debt.

It would hold, then, that debt, the new “barbarous relic,” is exponentially more dangerous than gold when used as money.  The reasoning is the following, while the quantity of debt in the world can be suddenly and permanently reduced, the quantity of gold, which is admittedly difficult to increase, is at the same time extremely difficult to decrease.

Yet even given the strong advantage of gold over debt as money, it is obvious that both the Keynesians and the gold bugs are sadly mistaken in formulating their ultimate solution to the eternal problem of the money supply.

When it comes to determining the proper money supply, Adam Smith’s invisible hand of the market can be seen slapping both Keynesians and gold bugs silly!

For the problem with declaring anything, be it gold, debt, or white elephants as money, has nothing to do with the fitness of gold, debt, or white elephants for use as money, rather, it lies in the act of the minority attempting to dictate what will be used as money by the majority.

Money, in a general sense, is a good of the highest order.  There is nothing in nature which states that gold, silver, seashells, or anything else must be used as money.  The historical association of gold and silver as money is the result of their superior fitness for the role of money.  It is simply a product of the collective wisdom of mankind, gleaned from experience as free exchange and the division of labor began to bring order to man’s chaotic surroundings.

However, just because gold and silver were superior in their role as money in the past does not necessarily mean that they enjoy some sort of divine designation as money.

Gold and Silver, like all things occurring in nature, are in limited supply.  The fact that they occur in nature gives them a distinct advantage over debt (which is simply a promise to pay in the future) in that debt, which is theoretically in infinite supply, quickly loses value against scarce real goods due to the fact that debt, in theory, enjoys an infinite supply.

Anyone can make promises to pay in the future, it is the function of debt markets to determine what those promises are worth today.  Ironically, the value of debt today is perilously tied to speculations about the money supply, which is in turn dependent upon the issuance of debt.  Thus, declaring debt as money provides the economy with yet another hindrance in that the debt markets are increasingly disconnected from their noble origins; the debtor’s perceived productive capacity.

It is clear that mankind is in a perilous predicament.  Will we take hold of the simple answer, which lies in free banking and free determination of what will serve as money?

More to come…

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for January 19, 2012

Copper Price per Lb: $3.80
Oil Price per Barrel:  $100.41

Corn Price per Bushel:  $6.06  
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  1.97%


Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,657 PERMANENT UNCERTAINTY

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  1.50%
Unemployment Rate:  8.5%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  0.0%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  12,625  

M1 Monetary Base:  $2,167,800,000,000 RED ALERT!!!  THE ANIMALS ARE LEAVING THE ZOO!!!
M2 Monetary Base:  $9,805,600,000,000 YIKES UP $1 Trillion in one year!!!!!!!