Thursday, 17 December 2009

Bernanke joins the ranks of Hitler & Stalin

Time magazine has made Bernanke person of the year. Jesus wept. Let's leave it to Peter Schiff to tell us what he thinks of that.

By the way, a disappointing thing for me has always been that, while I revere Milton Friedman in many ways, especially his Free to Choose, it's actually his ideas that Bernanke follows. Friedman was, bizarrely, a staunch and articulate libertarian, in every area except monetary policy. He seemed to change his mind in later years, but while writing his most influential works he always suggested that government's big mistake in the Great Depression was not inflating the money supply!

Of course, the real issues here are this. Government monopolised issuance of the currency, making it fiat (i.e. funny) money. They inflated the bubble through policies of easy credit. (By the way, every bubble in history has been caused by government - don't believe theories such as the "madness of crowds" - they were all down to the madness of those in power.) They also took over the role of insurer or lender of last resort in the event of bank runs. They made it illegal for any private body to do this.

So what they did wrong is not performing this role properly. And of course they weren't going to to. They don't have the first clue - their incompetence is unbounded.

But not printing enough money? Just generating more worthless, paper money off the presses? Excuse me? It's a shame, and it's baffling, that Friedman took this view, as it shows he didn't actually understand what money is, at all. And that's a hard thing to say, as he is a great man in many ways. He was a great debater, and by all accounts a genuinely great guy. I'm reminded of an anecdote whereby a fellow academic said he was worried about people plagiarising his ideas. Friedman told him that people plagiarising his ideas was a good thing - it showed his ideas were working.

How libertarian is that? And there are many other examples of his greatness. But if only he hadn't thrown the Fed that bone - that of "stimulating" the economy by printing phantom money backed by nothing. Because a lot of people listened to him. Like Bernanke, who said on the occasion of Friedman's birthday - you're right. we caused the last Depression - sorry, we won't do it again. And instead, they're going to cause a bigger one, by doing exactly what Friedman said to do.

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