Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Alcohol and Fiat Money: The Cause of and Cure for Most of Our Problems

"Alcohol: the cause of - and solution to - all of life's problems" is a statement attributed to America's most influential philosopher and ethicist, Homer Simpson. And with the actions of our Federal Government in recent months, I think his statement also applies to fiat money - money that is created out of nothing by a government no longer required to have actual backing behind the paper. Got pain? Let's create billions of dollars from thin air - or thin paper - to bail out debtors and bankers, and hand out a few fistfuls to the masses to fuel more binge spending binge. The drinks are on the house! Your house. And your income and savings.

Here we are in the midst of economic shocks caused by the sub-prime crisis and the associated popping of the housing bubble. Markets are nervous, stocks are down, and the banking industry is bleeding. This pain can be traced in large part to the loose monetary policy of our government, which for years used artificially low interest rates and massive creation of money from nothing through the miracle of the fractional reserve system of the Federal Bank. Cheap, easy credit was created under Greenspan's reign, driving up demand for homes and allowing banks to give out home loans to people who barely had a pulse. With property values rising, the cheap loans allowed people to make loads of money by buying homes, which reduced the risk of defaults for the lenders. It was easy money - and strongly inflationary.

But once interest rates climbed again to more reasonable levels, and once the higher rates at from ARMs kicked into gear, many of the home owners who couldn't possibly afford their mortgages in the first place now - surprise - couldn't afford them after all. Defaults. Pain. Loss . I know a woman whose husband is an essentially unemployed drug addict, and she has extensive health problems and a low-paying job with a houseful of children - but she was able to get loans for a new van and a "Greenspan" home. Amazing.

Bubbles must come down. The longer they are artificially sustained, the harder they may fall. This one may yet offer much greater pain, even with the $140 billion recently injected into the economy and the current redistribution of wealth campaign to stimulate spending of the masses. The money creation is aimed at bailing out the banks and bailing out the debtors at the cost of those who have tried to live frugally and save instead of spending like crazy. Our problems are ultimately caused by this nation's spendthrift ways, both at the level of government as well as at an individual level. And the solution to the pain is to drive this nation further into debt and encourage people to spend more, more, more. Alcohol and fiat money, the cause and cure of most of life's problems.

Ether 9:11 should give us pause. When the ancient Jaredite nation was on the verge of disaster, as power-hungry maniacs gained a stranglehold on the government with their secret combinations, they resorted to giving out money as a way to gain power over the masses: "Now the people of Akish were desirous for gain, even as Akish was desirous for power; wherefore, the sons of Akish did offer them money, by which means they drew away the more part of the people after them."

Our Founding Fathers must be rolling over in their graves. It used to be that proposals for massive deficit spending, redistribution of wealth, and government handouts of money to the masses would get one labeled as a socialist and a threat to the Republic. When McGovern proposed giving everyone $1000 in his 1972 Presidential campaign, America rejected the socialist offer and handed him a 49-state loss. Now this kind of binge drinking of debt and power is an unstoppable habit for Republicans and Democrats alike, with bipartisan efforts resulting in checks being sent out as we speak. It may feel great for a while, but the end result is disaster.

So how's your food storage coming along?

We are facing more than inflationary "headwinds" now. We are riding in a swift current of inflation. Look at the price of gold, for example. It is now at $900 an ounce. Last year when I expressed my concerns about inflation on this blog, it was under $700. Silver has gone from around $13 an ounce last year (congrats to those who took my advice to get some!) to $17 now. Oil is approaching $100 a barrel. Wheat, milk, etc., are ascending rapidly. Congrats to those of who who have been investing in wheat, Mormon style. The value of your food storage is skyrocketing. Our dollar is tanking as inflation eats away at our money.

The most frightening words I've heard in a long time come in this amazing video clip from Ron Bernanke about 5 minutes into the clip. He explains that a weak dollar is not a problem because the only effect it has on Americans with dollars is to make the price of imported goods go up. That's incredible. This is one of the most powerful men in the world, an unelected ultra-powerful official entrusted with the well being of our economy (contrary to the principles our nation was built upon). Does he not understand the basics of our economy and the impact of trade in the global economy? If the dollar drops by 50%, nearly ALL of our goods are going to become more expensive. This is true even goods that are entirely domestic in origin, because as long as the rest of the world can buy them at a discount, foreign demand for those goods will increase and drive up the price. But he wants us to believe that inflation is not a problem. Frightening. Utterly frightening. It would be scary if he were just ill informed, but surely he knows exactly why his statement is absurd. And that's what really scares me. Well, this is a good time to prepare for a difficult future. Get out of debt, get all the education you can, save as much as you can, and don't keep it all in dollars that will lose 10% of their value or more in the coming year. Provident living and preparing for the future is a key theme for Latter-day Saints, and it should be for all of us.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

There's not enough discussion in the bloggernacle on this theme.

SteSmo said...

Ahem... Jeff, the quote from Homer Simpson that you are looking for is from the 8th Season of "The Simpsons" in the episode "Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment" and goes like thus:

"To alcohol! The cause of - and solution to - all of life's problems."

Just thought I would let you know before a troll comes in here and accuses you of misquoting a source. Not that you, as a pseudo-intellectual Mopologist, would ever dream of doing that.

;0)

Steve Smoot

NM said...

"Provident living and preparing for the future is a key theme for Latter-day Saints"? And it should be for all of us?

Hmm, Jesus said:

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Do Not Worry. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

=P

NM said...

Also...
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Hehe..

Mormanity said...

NM, as the father of a new baby - congratulations - I assume that you, like most responsible fathers of all faiths, are concerned about providing for your family and ensuring - even to the point of "worrying" - that there will be food and fuel and clothing in the future.

This is not an expression of lack of faith on your part, or neglect of the Word. We must not put money and possessions over the Lord or be focused on them, but we have a responsibility to be wise stewards here, to stay out of debt, to help the poor, to build up the kingdom of God with our resources, and to provide for our family. The theme of provident living has been part of God's teachings from the most ancient times, when God gave Adam stewardship over the Garden and later told Adam that he must work to provide bread by the sweat of his brow. Preparing for future times of difficulty is demonstrated in God's directions to Joseph to create a massive food storage program to let the people of Egypt survive seven years of famine. It's key to the story of the ark and of the Exodus. And it's part of our lives today.

The call to go into the world without purse or script was specifically directed to his disciples going on full-time proselyting missions, but the rest of us can't ignore the need to take care of that purse/bank account and pay our bills, etc., while providing for our family and preparing for the future.

Anonymous said...

To NM:

There’s no denying that Christ said those things and as an LDS member I want to reconcile current Church teachings with those of Christ. I believe the current teachings are Chirst’s direction to me. My Evangelical friends respond just as you have when they see my measly attempt at a year supply of food. They ask where is my trust in God? I’ve learned some amazing things as a result of my food storage and I’ll share them with you.

1. Charity:

Charity is an event that requires two parties. To meet the needs of someone in need there has to be someone who can meet that need. On a day to day basis the mana from heaven must first pass through the hands of someone who went out and collected the mana. When the man who has gives to the man who has not, both profit from the transaction. When possible I want to put myself in a position where I can help. That takes foresight and preparation.

I understand that I’m no better than Steinbeck’s mouse, and God very easily can create a situation that overwhelms my efforts to prepare. Shouldn’t I at least try? I’m happy to say that my friends have benefited from my efforts. On several occasions I’ve been able to throw open the barn doors and allowed them to fill their arms with enough to get them through a rough spot.

2. Trust in the Arm of the Lord or the Arm of Flesh.

This ones a bit personal. I work for the Federal Government in the Department of Health and Human Services. My job is to design and build potable water systems on the Navajo Indian Reservation. In my own program of sanitation facilities construction a family who lives near an existing waterline will wait on average 2 years for water and sewer facilities. If you live some distance from existing facilities you may wait more than a decade. Some have been waiting several decades. What amazes me is that most families living within several hundred feet of an existing water main, families with some money, will choose to wait several years for the free services rather than pay two or three thousand dollars to have the services installed immediately by a private contractor.

The Reservation system has created a population dependant on the government to provide homes, medical care, education, and food. To many on the reservation the “bare minimum” is the daily reality and amazingly it’s good enough. To me, waiting for assistance from the government is the epitome of trusting on the arm of flesh. If you decide not to engage your God given intellect; if you decide not to refer to your divinely inspired wisdom; if you decide not to prepare, than you made the decision to become dependant on uninspired men or underfunded government programs. I’d rather not.

Food storage isn’t just a bunch of food in the basement, it’s an attitude. Not an attitude of pride and godless self reliance, but an attitude of gratitude and dependence on God. It’s a recognition that God has spoken, and an exercising of my agency. It’s oil in the lamp!

Patrick

KC said...

I was in the 3% of the Utah voters who chose Ron Paul.

I fear the day will soon come that I'll be wagging my finger and saying "I told you so."

It will be little comfort though... Until then I'll be trading my currency for assets asap.

Gary said...

Jeff:

I've read your post twice and I still don't understand your use of the word, fiat.

I mean, I know you are referring to money the government simply creates, but what does that have to do with the car?

Forgive my naivtee.

Mormanity said...

Fiat is an English word taken from the Latin, meaning "let it be done." Fiat refers to an arbitrary decree, and fiat money refers to money that is simply printed by a government without inherent value - nothing but faith in it as a medium of exchange keeps it afloat. And the problem with fiat currencies is that they inevitably crash because the people with the printing press cannot resist the temptation to just keep printing to solve all the problems they have, many of which originate from the abuse of fiat money in the first place.

Have you ever seen some of the postage stamps from Germany in the later 1920s? As the Weimar Republic was collapsing, their fiat currency was becoming worthless. So postage went from one mark to ten to a thousand to millions and then billions. I've got some of those old stamps somewhere and it's amazing to see them - 50 million mark stamps, for example.

Zimbabwe is going through this crisis as we speak. Printing presses out of control.

Jayleen said...

NM - That's why we have a Prophet to lead and guide us in our day as all Prophets led the people in their day. Just as Noah got a special word for his day to build an Ark, in our day our Prophet who hears from the Lord tells us what we need to do in our day.

Do you think you should cease to work and just sit in your yard waiting for food to drop out of heaven? Or better yet, be delivered right to your door? Even Pizza delivery people expect to be paid.

Stop paying your rent and see if you have a door to open. It's nice to know scriptures but even better to know how to apply them in real life. ;)

Anonymous said...

Good article on fiat money: click here.

Andrew Miller said...

It's shame that the biggest socialist spending bill in American history was passed by the Republican Party who supposedly stands for fiscal conservatism. It is going to catch up with us for sure.

NM said...

Thanks for that Jeff. Thank you too Patrick. =)

A few months ago, I saw a google video entitled 'Money As Debt' - a simple video explaining to simple people like me the absurdities of how money is generated. Whilst it is absurd (and strangely amusing), its implications are globably devastating.

Jayleen,

Again, thank you too for what you said. Jesus' words (I think) were not to exhort us to stop working, but to realise that everything that we have (even work) comes from God. Right? I think Matthew 6: 24-34 are to show that we-should-not-worry, because ultimately God is in control...

I wrote about this subject a few days ago on my blog. What do you make of it?

Dan and Wendy said...

Well, I'm feeling better that I gave my recently married daughter food supply as her Christmas gift last December...I better stock up on some more.

Doug Forbes said...

All money is fiat money. Banks create money by loaning it out. When done properly, this is a good thing.

For example, a bank loans a builder money to build a house. The house is created. Lots of people are employed; carpenters, brick-layers, plumbers, electricians, and a host of people who created the building materials. Real wealth is created to match the money created. All is well.

Then the builder sells the house to people who get a mortgage. The original building loan is paid back and replaced by a 30 year loan. As the house deteriorates and losses real value, the mortgage is paid back. Paying back a loan takes the money out of the system, it anihilates it. The balance between money and things to buy with money is maintained. This is central banking; the greatest invention since fire.

Ludwig said...

What terrible economic reasoning.

Anonymous said...

Well surely, Ludwig, you'll offer an explanation as to why (or even what!) this is "terrible economic reasoning"? Rather than just taking a shot?

Ludwig said...

Beside the fact that most of what Doug wrote would be a non-sequitur even if it were true, it is riddled with nonsense. The most patently false statements:

-All money is fiat money.

-Banks create money by loaning it out.

-As the house deteriorates and losses real value, the mortgage is paid back.

-Paying back a loan takes the money out of the system, it anihilates it.

Ludwig said...

Now, if a bank that actually possesses money (that is, real value) decides to loan it to someone who wants to build a house, and will be able to pay it back with usury, obviously this is a good thing. The bank uses its low time preference to make money in the far future, while the homeowner gains decades of use of a house that he otherwise wouldn't enjoy.

None of this requires money (value) to be created or destroyed.

Anonymous said...

Central Banking is the most dangerous thing since fire. Ever wonder why a central bank was one of the 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto? Power, baby. Filthy, corrupting power and the ability to defraud a nation.

Doug Forbes said...

You are mistaken Ludwig. Lending of money by banks does effectively create money ex-nihilo. This is basic monetary theory. Any college textbook on the subject will explain it in greater detail. Or you can look it up on line. Try googling "reserve ratio" or "money supply".

Ludwig said...

It's so disheartening that many in the Church embrace the Keynesian nonsense that even the prophets have spoken against for much of the past century. It is bad science and bad policy, and furthermore it is immoral.

Mormanity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
drug treatment said...

Indeed, alcohol is capable of causing trouble in a person's life. Furthermore, alcohol creates chaos in careers and family relationships that tend to break apart.