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IPFS News Link • Federal Reserve

The Sophistry of the US Dollar and Modern Monetization

Rather, the sophistry is in the evolving nature of US dollar and its role as the world's reserve currency, and too often the discussions that surround it. Perhaps rationalization would be a better word, but sophistry captures the intent of it I think. As you may recall, the basis for the unilateral departure of the US from the Bretton Woods regime and the gold standard under Nixon was that the full faith and credit of the US Treasury, with an independent Fed as guardian of the realm, would force the Dollar to act as though it were still externally constrained, as in the case of a gold standard. As Greenspan said, the dollar works as long as it acts as though it were on a gold standard. This is why, as I recall, the Fed is prohibited by statute and custom from buying debt directly from the Treasury. It must first pass through the public markets at auction, in the belief that market discipline will prevent excess money creation by legitimate price discovery and higher interest rates as required. It might be useful to consider at this time a different definition for monetization, that is not the archaic 'printing of money.' Monetization might best be described as those actions which consciously misprice the value of money, and by corollary the associated risk. As you can see this includes the debasement of specie money through various means, but also the more modern method of egregiously tinkering with interest rates beyond merely policy rate adjustments. As I have pointed out previously, to circumvent market discipline merely requires a Fed with the will to do it, and a few complicit primary dealer banks to play along with it. This can work well as long as no one with sufficient sovereign standing calls them on it, or the people who are the users of the currency rise up en masse against it. This is convenient arrangement amongst regulators and market fixers is merely an impasse, and is not sustainable in a floating exchange rate system. The arrangement requires ever increasing duplicity and threat of force. After these many years, the dollar is now literally hanging on to its value with its reserve currency nails. And so I think a collapse of the dollar is more possible now than at any time in the past. It is only sustained by the trauma which the decline of such a large economy would cause on the world markets and those central banks unfortunate enough to hold its debt. This is the best case one can make to explain a hyperinflation