One of the main objectives of this blog is to apply the Theory of Economic Time from Carlos Bondone. I do not agree completely with Professor Fekete approach but I have to say that his observations are often brilliant. What I miss in Fekete is that he has not been able to systematize his views on an organized theory (maybe he is working on it, that would be great).
I was reading an interview with Joseph Salerno on The Daily Bell and it catched my attention when the interviewer asked the following:
Daily Bell: ……..Dr. Fekete writes then: “The law does not allow the F.R. banks to purchase Treasury paper directly from the Treasury because that would make money creation through the F.R. banks a charade, reserve requirements a farce, and the dollar a sham” He also writes, “The fact is that the Federal Reserve banks can purchase Treasury paper only if they pay with F.R. credit that has been legally created.”
Then Dr. Salerno answers: “Assuming that Fekete has actually said these things, then he is confused, to say the least. I cannot explain exactly what he means, but I will respond to some of his statements.”
I am going to comment just this part of his Dr. Salerno´s answer:
[...] But where does the Fed obtain the funds from that it transfers to the sellers? It literally and instantaneously creates them out of thin air – or in cyberspace – by the stroke of a computer key[...]
Not surprisingly, he really did not understand Fekete´s point. As I said at the begining, Fekete’s acute views do not fit on orthodox austrian theories, because he is finding flaws. That´s why I think he should systematize all his observations in a theory. If professor Fekete is open to study it, I am sure he would embrace the Theory of Economic Time, which would be an excellent plattform to further develop his brilliant observations.
Regarding Dr. Salerno´s answer, “creates them [the funds] out of thin air” is not a fortunate expression at all. While this is expression would be ok for popular economics, a technical discussion needs much more precission. This “out of thin air” statement is very frequent amongst many other austrian scholars. Answering this to Fekete, when Fekete is clearly denouncing that the Fed is creating credit, not money, makes me think that the “out of thin air” expression is not just rethoric, it is a reflection of a deeper error.
The dollars created by the Fed that Fekete is mentioning are credit, and they are not backed by nothing. They are backed by future goods (i.e. bonds, mortgages, etc). Future goods are far from being nothing. Does the compromise of paying a mortgage the next 20 years equal to nothing? Does the future taxation power of the US equal to nothing? We might dislike the monetizacion of future goods (i.e. debt), but we can not ignore the facts, stating that future goods are “thin air” or “nothing”.
“Mainstream austrians” do not differentiate properly money and credit within their Monetary Theory. For them, gold and actual dollars can both be money, as long as both of them are used as a medium of exchange. They are admitting that gold and dollars are within the same scientific category, speaking in terms of monetary theory. But, it is possible to create gold the same way dollars are created? the answer is No. In fact, gold is not created, it is produced. So we have commodity money (gold) that can not be created at will, and dollars than can be created at the willingness of a debtor and a creditor. Sure we want to classify them within the same scientific category?
Gold is a present economic good, dollars are credit. Their scientific nature is extremely different, just as air or vacuum are extremely different concepts, even when both of them may share the utility to keep a ship afloat in the sea. Present goods and credit can both be currency, but only present goods should be classified as money, because if we also classify credit as money, then we are indirectly allowing the following aberration: money = credit and gold is money, then gold = credit.
Please, I implore followers of Mises, Hayek and Rothbard to review seriously their monetary theories. This economic crisis is an open window for austrians to be listened, but with a flawed theory, austrian principles will be ephemeral and the return to unlimited indebted monetary systems will be ensured. Monetarist and Keynesians will find the way within the current austrian monetary theory to again inject credit as money, because the theory allows this to happen.
This is a brief summary of Carlos Bondone Monetary Theory which i think provides a clear solution from a qualitative point of view:
Currency: Indirect medium of exchange and unit of account. Currency Types:
- Money: Present good used as currency (wheat, gold, silver, deposit certificates of gold or silver, etc.).
- Credit currency: Any currency that is not money, it can only be credit. Then there are the following types of credit currencies:
- Regular Credit currency: When the present good that cancels the debt is specified, and so is its quality, quantity and due date. This is the case for Real Bills or old bank bills that where redeemable for gold or silver.
- Irregular Credit Currency: When the present good that cancels the debt is not specifed or its quality or its quantity or its due date. This is the case for fiat currencies such as dollars or euros.
This categorization and classification of concepts is not a trivial nor a semantic issue. It has very important scientific implications. If you don´t think so, just compare the above structure with the following from Mises. I tried to translate Bondone`s Monetary structure (red labels) to Mises’, and you can see how different they are. For Mises, commodity money, credit money and fiat money are within the same superior monetary category (Money in the narrower sense or money proper):
* On these cases, Mises scheme was not specific enough to determine which credit currencies are regular and which ones are irregular
For those of you who are interested, you may find Carlos Bondone online books at www.carlosbondone.com