Tag Archives: Federal Reserve

I See Dead People; Modern Money Mechanics or How the Fed Works

The marginal buyer in equities: http://www.acting-man.com/?p=22909

Modern Money Mechanics:How the Fed Works. Also, view this video: http://www.garynorth.com/public/department29.cfm

Free Resources on Value Investing; Kahneman Podcast on Uncertainty; Apple; Reader’s Questions

I’m sorry, if you were right, I’d agree with you.–Robin Williams


Free Value Investing Course Work here: www.Capatcolumbia.com

Kahneman Podcast on Uncertainty

Professor Kahneman uses a variety of examples to discuss the inside/outside view, statistics and stories and prediction. (1:02:45). This radical pessimist says, “The world makes more sense to us than it really is.”  Excellent Podcast! http://www.thoughtleaderforum.com/default.asp?P=909655&S=945705

Other interesting lectures as well at www.thoughtleaderforum.com

Key takeaway: As a value investor when investing in a franchise with a winner take all market-BE PATIENT.

Federal Reserve Lectures

Bernanke Lectures on the Federal Reserve: http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/other/20120126a.htm

Counterpoint to Bernanke’s Lectures: http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2012/01/march-madness-bernanke-versus-rothbard.html

Austrian Value Investor, Jim Rogers

A value investor who incorporates “Austrian” economics into his investing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Rogers

The State of America Today

Oglala Sioux, Russell Means gives a State of the Union Address. http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2012/01/russell-means-endorses-ron-paul.html  More informative than Obama’s recent address to the nation last week. Forget the Paul endorsement and instead ask as an investor–if change occurs at the margin, does the Patriot Act and Obama’s recent rejection of the Keystone Pipeline (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/obamas-keystone-pipeline-rejection-is-hard-to-accept/2012/01/18/gIQAf9UG9P_story.html) raise the cost of capital for American companies in general (P/E multiples become compressed).

Russell Charles Means (born November 10, 1939) is an Oglala Sioux activist for the rights of Native American people. He became a prominent member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) after joining the organisation in 1968, and helped organize notable events that attracted national and international media coverage. The organization split in 1993, in part over the 1975 murder of Anna Mae Aquash, the leading woman activist in AIM.[1]

Greenwald Student Discusses Apple’s Success

From his email: This is what Greenwald will probably say, which is partly true. But you can put anything to his framework (once successful), and say that is their core competency.

1. Apple’s core expertise is in design, and they extend this design to all products.

2. They don’t manufacture the hardware. They assemble them and wrap it in a much better design. Everything that goes into the hardware, CPU, Hard disks, Memory is not made by them.

3. They do software – some of it, like the OS, etc. They don’t do everything. Even steve jobs says, Focus, Focus, get rid of the things that we don’t want. He gave the Google guys the same advice. Don’t become like Microsoft – don’t try to do a lot of things. Stick to four or five things.

You can also think about Steve Jobs as someone who has come and reduced the inefficiencies. I mean when each person has three/four devices that he can access information from – it will be so much better if someone integrates the content. If you take a picture, and you can seamlessly see it on your iPad, Itouch, Mac, Apple TV (not yet released), customers would benefit. Same applies to email, contacts, etc. (rather than taking a usb stick and moving it around all the time).

They are creating products where there is a need like any entrepreneur.

Reader Question on Real Savings

In “Other Views on Inflation and Stocks” section from this post:http://wp.me/p1PgpH-kz, the Mises links talk about the pool of real savings. What is the author referring to? Does the real pool of savings track real changes in the exchange of goods and services?

My reply: Not exactly……see below. Savings is not the transfer of REAL goods and services being exchanged back and forth, but the postponement of present consumption for the future.

 Why Government Data on Saving is Misleading

The nature of the market economy is such that it allows various individuals to specialize. Some individuals engage in the production of final consumer goods, while other individuals engage in the maintenance and enhancement of the production structure that permits the production of final consumer goods.

We suggest that it is the producers of final consumer goods that fund — that is, sustain — the producers in the intermediary stages of production. Individuals who are employed in the intermediary stages are paid from the present output of consumer goods. The present effort of these individuals is likely to contribute to the future flow of consumer goods. Their present effort however, does not make any contribution to the present flow of the production of these goods.

The amount of consumer goods that an individual earns is his income. The earned consumer goods, or income, supports the individual’s life and well-being.

Observe that it is the producers of final consumer goods that pay the intermediary producers out of the existing production of final consumer goods. Hence, the income that intermediary producers receive shouldn’t be counted as part of overall national income — the only relevant income here is that which is produced by the producers of final consumer goods.

For instance, John the baker has produced ten loaves of bread and consumes two loaves. The income in this case is ten loaves of bread, and his savings are eight loaves. Now, he exchanges eight loaves of bread for the products of a toolmaker. John pays with his real savings — eight loaves of bread — for the products of the toolmaker.

One may be tempted to conclude that the overall income is the ten loaves that were produced by the baker, plus the eight loaves that were earned by the toolmaker. In reality, however, only ten loaves of bread were produced — and this is the total income.

The eight loaves are the savings of the baker, which were transferred to the toolmaker in return for the tools. Or, we can say that the baker has invested the eight loaves of bread. The tools, in turn, will assist at some point in the future to expand the production of bread. These tools, however, have nothing to do with the current stock of bread.

While the producers of final consumer goods determine the present flow of savings, other producers could have a say with respect to the use of real savings. For instance, the toolmaker can decide to consume only six loaves of bread and use the other two loaves to purchase some materials from material producers.

This additional exchange, however, will not alter the fact that the total income is still ten loaves of bread and the total savings are still eight loaves. These eight loaves support the toolmaker (six loaves) and the producer of materials (two loaves). Note that the decision of the toolmaker to allocate the two loaves of bread towards the purchase of materials is likely to have a positive contribution toward the production of future consumer goods.

The introduction of money will not alter what we have said. For instance, the baker exchanges his eight saved loaves of bread for eight dollars (under the assumption that the price of a loaf of bread is one dollar).

Now, the baker decides to exchange eight dollars for tools. This means that the baker transfers his eight dollars to the toolmaker. Again, what we have here is an investment in tools by the baker, which at some point in the future will contribute toward the production of bread. The eight dollars that the toolmaker receives are on account of the baker’s decision to make an investment in tools.

Note once more that the tools the toolmaker sold to the baker didn’t make any contribution toward the present income — that is, the production of the present ten loaves of bread. Likewise, there is no contribution to the total present income if the toolmaker exchanges two dollars for the materials of some other producer. All that we have here is another transfer of money to the producer of materials.

Obviously, then, counting the amount of dollars received by intermediary producers as part of the total national income provides a misleading picture as far as total income is concerned.

Yet this if precisely what the NIPA framework does. Consequently, savings data as calculated by the NIPA is highly questionable.

The NIPA Follows the Keynesian Model

The NIPA framework is based on the Keynesian view that spending by one individual becomes part of the earnings of another individual. Each payment transaction thus has two aspects: the spending of the purchaser is the income of the seller. From this it follows that spending equals income.

So, if people maintain their spending, they keep income levels from falling. And this is why consumer spending is viewed as the motor of an economy.

The total amount of money spent is driven by increases in the supply of money. The more money that is created out of thin air, the more of it will be spent — and therefore, the greater the NIPA’s national income will measure (see Figure 2). Thus, an increase in the money supply on account of central bank policies and fractional-reserve banking makes the entire calculation of the total income even more questionable.

Since this money was created out of thin air, it is not backed by any real goods; income in terms of dollars cannot reflect the true income. In fact, the more a central bank pumps additional money into the economy, the more damage is inflicted on the real income. As a result, money income rises while real income shrinks.

Real Savings mentioned http://mises.org/daily/3640

Is there a glut of real savings? Money is not savings: http://mises.org/daily/1882

Good and bad credit: http://mises.org/daily/3151

From Frank Shostak: Do People Save Money?

Is it true that individuals are saving a portion of their money income? Do people save money?

Out of a given money income, an individual can do the following:

he can exchange part of the money for consumer goods;

he can invest;

he can lend out the money (i.e., transfer his money to another party in return for interest);

he can also keep some of the money (i.e., exercise a demand for money).

At no stage, however, do individuals actually save money.

In its capacity as the medium of exchange, money facilitates the flow of real savings. The baker can now exchange his saved bread for money and then exchange the money for final or intermediary goods and services.

What is commonly called “saving” is nothing more than exercising demand for the medium of exchange (i.e., money). This means that people don’t actually save money but rather exercise demand for it. And, when an individual likewise exchanges his real savings for money, he in fact only increases demand for money. The money he receives is not income; it is a medium of exchange that enables the individual to secure goods. In the absence of final consumer goods, all of the money in the world would be of little help to anyone.

My reply: The extent to which an individual will save is explained by his time preference. Savings is deferred consumption. Deferred consumption allows for resources to be used for longer stages of production which should boost productivity.

Read chapter 14 in Capitalism especially pages: 622-651.

For a graphical discussion of real savings read Man, Economy and State pages: 367 to 451 and 517 to 521.

I will speak to a real Austrian economist this week and ask what are REAL savings and see if I can give you a more concise answer.

Another Reader Question:

Also, let’s say that we have a world currency (dollars) and a world Federal

Reserve. If money is dropped from a helicopter into a jungle and every dollar is picked up by a group of 10 individuals, then those 10 individuals would benefit from essentially receiving free money, correct? Their savings would increase and they could use their new found money to purchase capital goods. Society as a whole would lose because REAL savings and REAL capital goods and services exchange would not increase. There would be more money in circulation chasing the same amount of goods, which would cause prices to rise and/or the value of the currency to decline? Does that sound correct?

My reply: Yes, they would benefit as would any counterfeiter would benefit spending the money first before prices can adjust fully. The gain of the early beneficiaries is matched by the losses in real purchasing power of the people who are the last to receive the money AFTER prices have adjusted.  You are correct that real savings would NOT increase. In fact, the structure of production is thrown off which in the end hurts society (boom and bust) in addition to the unfairness of inflation. The money printing distorts production causing mal-investment which depletes REAL savings.

Frank Shostak comments: Consider the so-called helicopter money case: the Fed sends every individual a check for one thousand dollars. According to the NIPA accounting, this would be classified as a tremendous increase in personal income. It is commonly held that, for a given consumption expenditure, this would also increase personal savings.

However, we maintain that this has nothing to do with real income and thus with saving. The new money didn’t increase total real income.

What the new money has done is set in motion the diversion of real income from wealth generators to the holders of new money. The new money that the Fed has created out of thin air prompts exchanges of nothing for something. Consequently, wealth generators have less real wealth at their disposal — which means that the process of real wealth and savings formation has weakened.

In the helicopter example we have a situation in which, for a given pool of real savings, an increase in nonproductive consumption took place. (By nonproductive consumption we mean consumption that is not backed up by the production of real wealth.) This means that the real savings of wealth generators, rather than being employed in wealth generation, is now being squandered by nonproductive consumption.

From this, we can also infer that the policies aimed at boosting consumer spending do not produce real economic growth, but in fact weaken the bottom line of the economy.

In the NIPA framework, which is designed according to Keynesian economics, the more money people spend, all else being equal, the greater total income will be. Conversely, the less money is spent (which is labeled as savings), the lower the income is going to be. This means that savings is bad news for an economy.

We have, however, seen that it is precisely real savings that pays — i.e., that which supports the production of real wealth. Hence, the greater the real savings in an economy, the more are the activities that can be supported.

What keeps the real economic growth going, then, is not merely more money, but wealth generators — those who invest a part of their wealth in the expansion and the maintenance of the production structure. It is this that permits the increase in the production of consumer goods, which in turn makes it possible to increase the consumption of these goods.

Only out of a greater production can more be consumed.

Can the State of Savings be Quantified?

What matters for economic growth is the amount of total real savings. However, it is not possible to quantify this total.

To calculate a total, several data sets must be added together. This requires that the data sets have some unit in common. There is no unit of measurement common to refrigerators, cars, and shirts that makes it possible to derive a unified “total output.”

The statisticians’ technique of employing total monetary expenditure adjusted for prices simply won’t do. Why not? To answer this, we must ask: what is a price? A price is the amount of money asked per unit of a given good.

Suppose two transactions were conducted. In the first transaction, one TV set is exchanged for $1,000. In the second transaction, one shirt is exchanged for $40. The price, or the rate of exchange, in the first transaction is $1,000 per TV set. The price in the second transaction is $40 per shirt. In order to calculate the average price, we must add these two ratios and divide them by 2. However, it is conceptually meaningless to add $1,000 per TV set to $40 per shirt. The thought experiment fails.

The Real Culprit

Rather than attempting the impossible, as far as calculating real savings is concerned, one should instead focus on the factors that undermine real savings. We suggest that the key damaging factors are central bank’s and government’s loose monetary and fiscal policies.

These policies are instrumental in the weakening of the process of real savings formation through the diversion of real savings from wealth generators to non-wealth-generating activities.

The US economy has been subjected to massive monetary pumping since early 1980 via the introduction of financial deregulations. The ratio of our monetary measure AMS to its trend jumped from 1.17 in January 1980 to 3.5 in July 2009. (The trend values were calculated by a regression model, which was estimated for the period 1959 to 1979, the period prior the onset of financial deregulations).

Likewise, the US economy was subjected to massive government spending. For the fiscal year 2009, US federal government outlays are expected to stand at $3.5 trillion.

The outlays-to-trend ratio (the trend was estimated for the period 1955 to 1979) jumped to 4.1 in 2009, up from 3.5 in 2008 and 1.45 in 1980.

The ever-expanding government outlays are also depicted by the federal debt, which stands at $11.6 trillion thus far into 2009. Against the background of massive monetary pumping and ever-expanding government, we suggest that this raises the likelihood that the pool of real savings could be in serious trouble.

That this could be the case is also suggested by the private sector debt-to-its-trend ratio. This ratio stood at 5.8 in first quarter, against a similar figure from the previous quarter. The ever-rising ratio raises the likelihood that the increase in the private sector debt is on account of nonproductive debt. Real savings, instead of funding wealth generating activities, have been supporting non-wealth-generating activities. This weakens the ability of wealth-generating activities to grow the economy.

We can conclude that, given prolonged reckless fiscal and monetary policies, there is a growing likelihood that the pool of real savings is in trouble. If our assessment is valid, this means that US real economy is likely to struggle in the quarters ahead.

In addition, if the pool of real savings is under pressure, none of the government and central-bank policies to lift the economy is going to work. Note that as long as the pool of real savings is holding its ground, such policies appear to be effective. In reality, though, it is the expanding pool of real savings that drives the economy — and not various stimulus policies.


According to latest US government data, the personal saving rate jumped to 4.6% in June this year after settling at 0.4% in June last year. We suggest that on account of an erroneous methodology, the so-called “saving rate” that the government presents has nothing to do with true savings.

Since early 1980s, the ever-rising money supply and government outlays have severely undermined the process of real savings formation. As a result, it will not surprise us if the US pool of real savings is in serious trouble. If what we are saying is valid then it will be very hard for the US economy to grow, for it is a growing pool of real savings that makes economic growth possible.

Furthermore, the growing pool of real savings is the reason that loose monetary and fiscal policies appear to be working. In reality, however, all that these loose policies achieve is a further depletion of the pool of real savings — thus reducing prospects for a genuine economic recovery.

Inflation and the Stock Market; Alice in Wonderland and the Federal Reserve; Recommended Blogs

Alice in Wonderland

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”
(Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 2)

Inflation and the Stock Market

It appears to me of preeminent importance to our science that we should become clear about the causal connections between goods. –Carl Menger, Principles of Economics.

A Reader asked about why I should be bullish about stocks with inflationary dangers like rising money supply numbers present and the Fed’s zero (0%) interest rate policy.

My reply is that I would rather own franchises that can pass along their costs (inflation pass-through) than just a basket of stocks. In severe inflation the goal is to lose less in real terms than holding other assets like bonds. We all lose as a society with rampant inflation, especially the poor and those on fixed incomes.  Also, in general, the context in which stocks rise is important.  See below.

The Stock Market and Inflationary Depression (page 938 in Capitalism by George Reisman—in VALUE VAULT).

The fact that inflation undermines capital formation has important implication for the performance of the stock market. In its initial phase or when it undergoes a sufficient and relatively unanticipated acceleration, inflation in the form of credit expansion can create a stock-market boom (Now in January 2012 we are seeing a NOMINAL boom not a REAL boom in stock prices). However, its longer-run effects are very different. The demand for common stocks depends on the availability of savings. In causing savings to fail to keep pace with the growth in the demand for consumer’s goods, inflation tends to prevent stock prices, as well as wage rates, from keeping pace with the rise in the prices of consumers’ goods. For a further explanation of this phenomenon go to Man, Economy and State by Murray Rothbard to read about the structure of production: pages 319 to 508 in the VALUE VAULT.  Also, The Structure of Production by Mark Skousen

The same consequence results from the fact that inflation also leads to funds being more urgently required internally by firms—to compensate for all the ways in which it causes replacement funds to become inadequate. At some point in an inflation, business firms that are normally suppliers of funds to the credit markets—in the form of time deposits, the purchase of commercial paper, the extension of receivables credit, and the like—are forced to retrench and, indeed, even to become demanders of loanable funds, in order to meet the needs of their own, internal operations. The effect of this is to reduce the availability of funds with which stocks can be purchased, and thus to cause stock prices to fall, or at least to lag all the more behind the prices of consumers’ goods.

When this situation exists in a pronounced form, it constitutes what has come to be called an “inflationary depression.” This is a state of affairs characterized by a still rapidly expanding quantity of money and rising prices and, at the same time, by an acute scarcity of capital funds. The scarcity of capital funds is manifested not only in badly lagging, or actually declining, securities markets but also in a so-called credit crunch i.e., a situation in which loanable funds become difficult or impossible to obtain. The result is wide-spread insolvencies and bankruptcies.


As a review and emphasis, read Buffett’s take on inflation and stocks: http://www.scribd.com/doc/65198264/Inflation-Swindles-the-Equity-Investor

Let’s take a step back from what you just read. If you know that money functions as a medium of exchange, then you realize in a modern society that money helps support the specialization of production and hence improves productivity. However, inflation—like dollar bills dropped into the jungle—does not per se increase savings and capital goods (stocks are titles to capital goods). Inflation, if unanticipated, artificially boosts stock prices and then eventually causes a decline because of the limited availability of real capital (bricks, trucks, machines) to reinvest (maintenance capital expenditures) into businesses AND, at the same time, consume consumer goods. In a finite world, you have to choose between mending your fishing nets or fishing to eat; you can’t do both unless you have a cache of fish saved.  Perhaps in the delusional world of a Federal Reserve bureacrat you can have your fish and eat it too–just print more.

Do not blindly believe inflation is “good” for stocks.

Other Views on Inflation and Stocks



Alice in Wonderland and the Federal Reserve


“The Federal Reserve, declaring that the economy would need help for years to come, said Wednesday it would extend by 18 months the period that it plans to hold down interest rates in an effort to spur growth.” (New York Times)

Illogic 101: Artificially low interest rates helped produce the crisis. Therefore the Fed will fix the economy by holding down interest rates for the foreseeable future.  (Give the drunk more booze to cure the hangover!)

The article below will help clarify the points made at the beginning of this post.

Interest Rates and the business cycle: http://www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/interest-rates-and-the-business-cycle/

by Glen Tenney • November 1994 • Vol. 44/Issue 11

The cause of the business cycle has long been debated by professional economists. Recurring successions of boom and bust have also mystified the lay person. Many questions persist. Are recessions caused by under consumption as the Keynesians would have us believe? If so, what causes masses of people to quit spending all at the same time? Or are recessions caused by too little money in the economy, as the monetarists teach? And how do we know how much money is too much or too little? Perhaps more importantly, are periodic recessions an inevitable consequence of a capitalist economy? Must we accept the horrors associated with recessions and depressions as a necessary part of living in a highly industrialized society?


New Money Gives a False Signal

Money is primarily a medium of exchange in the economy; and as such, its quantity does not have anything to do with the real quantity of employment and output in the economy. Of course, with more money in the economy, the prices of goods, services, and wages, will be higher; but the real quantities of the goods and services, and the real value of the wages will not necessarily change with an increase of money in the overall economy. But it is a mistake to think that a sudden increase in the supply of money would have no effect at all on economic activity. As Nobel Laureate Friedrich A. Hayek explained:

Everything depends on the point where the additional money is injected into circulation (or where the money is withdrawn from circulation), and the effects may be quite opposite according as the additional money comes first into the hands of traders and manufacturers or directly into the hands of salaried people employed by the state.2 [2]

Because the new money enters the market in a manner which is less than exactly proportional to existing money holdings and consumption/savings ratios, a monetary expansion in the economy does not affect all sectors of the economy at the same time or to the same degree. If the new money enters the market through the banking system or through the credit markets, interest rates will decline below the level that coordinates with the savings of individuals in the economy. Businessmen, who use the interest rate in determining the profitability of various investments, will anxiously take advantage of the lower interest rate by increasing investments in projects that were perceived as unprofitable using higher rates of interest.

The great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises describes the increase in business activity as follows:

The lowering of the rate of interest stimulates economic activity. Projects which would not have been thought “profitable” if the rate of interest had not been influenced by the manipulation of the banks, and which, therefore, would not have been undertaken, are nevertheless found “profitable” and can be initiated.3 [3]

The word “profitable” was undoubtedly put in quotes by Mises because it is a mistake to think that government actions can actually increase overall profitability in the economy in such a manner. The folly of this situation is apparent when we realize that the lower interest rate was not the result of increased savings in the economy. The lower interest rate was a false signal. The consumption/ saving ratios of individuals and families in the economy have not necessarily changed, and so the total mount of total savings available for investment purposes has not necessarily increased, although it appears to businessmen that they have. Because the lower interest rate is a false indicator of more available capital, investments will be made in projects that are doomed to failure as the new money works its way through the economy.

Eventually, prices in general will rise in response to the new money. Firms that made investments in capital projects by relying on the bad information provided by the artificially low interest rate will find that they cannot complete their projects because of a lack of capital. As Murray Rothbard states:

The banks’ credit expansion had tampered with that indispensable “signal”-the interest rate—that tells businessmen how much savings are available and what length of projects will be profitable . . . . The situation is analogous to that of a contractor misled into believing that he has more building material than he really has and then awakening to find that he has used up all his material on a capacious foundation, with no material left to complete the house. Clearly, bank credit expansion cannot increase capital investment by one iota. Investment can still come only from savings.4 [4]

Capital-intensive industries are hurt the most under such a scenario, because small changes in interest rates make a big difference in profitability calculations due to the extended time element involved.

It is important to note that it is neither the amount of money in the economy, nor the general price level in the economy, that causes the problem. Professor Richard Ebeling describes the real problem as follows:

Now in fact, the relevant decisions market participants must make pertain not to changes in the “price level” but, instead, relate to the various relative prices that enter into production and consumption choices. But monetary increases have their peculiar effects precisely because they do not affect all prices simultaneously and proportionally.5 [5]

The fact that it takes time for the increase in the money supply to affect the various sectors of the economy causes the malinvestments which result in what is known as the business cycle.

Government Externalizes Uncertainty

Professor Roger Garrison has noted another way that government policy causes distortions in the economy by falsifying the interest rate.6 [6] In a situation where excessive government spending creates budget deficits, uncertainty in the economy is increased due to the fact that it is impossible for market participants to know how the budget shortfall will be financed. The government can either issue more debt, create more money by monetizing the debt, or raise taxes in some manner. Each of these approaches will redistribute wealth in society in different ways, but there is no way to know in advance which of these methods will be chosen.

One would think that this kind of increase in uncertainty in the market would increase the risk premium built into loan rates. But these additional risks, in the form of either price inflation or increased taxation are borne by all members of society rather than by just the holders of government securities. Because both the government’s ability to monetize the debt and its ability to tax generate burdens to all market participants in general rather than government bond holders alone, the yields on government securities do not accurately reflect these additional risks. These risks are effectively passed on or externalized to those who are not a part of the borrowing/lending transactions in which the government deals. The FDIC, which guarantees deposit accounts at taxpayer expense, further exacerbates the situation by leading savers to believe their savings are risk-free.

For our purposes here, the key concept to realize is the important function of interest rates in this whole scenario. Interest rates serve as a regulator in the economy in the sense that the height of the rates helps businessmen determine the proper level of investment to undertake. Anything in the economy that tends to lower the interest rate artificially will promote investments in projects that are not really profitable based upon the amount of capital being provided by savers who are the ones that forgo consumption because they deem it in their best interest to do so. This wedge that is driven between the natural rate of interest and the market rate of interest as reflected in loan rates can be the result of increases in the supply of fiat money or increases in uncertainty in the market which is not accurately reflected in loan rates. The manipulation of the interest rate is significant in both cases, and an artificial boom and subsequent bust is inevitably the result.


Changes in the supply of money in the economy do have an effect on real economic activity. This effect works through the medium of interest rates in causing fluctuations in business activity. When fiat money is provided to the market in the form of credit expansion through the banking system, business firms erroneously view this as an increase in the supply of capital. Due to the decreased interest rate in the loan market brought about by the fictitious “increase” in capital, businesses increase their investments in long-range projects that appear profitable. In addition, other factors as well can cause a discrepancy between the natural rate of interest and the rate which is paid in the loan market. Government policies with regard to debt creation, monetization, bank deposit guarantees, and taxation, can effectively externalize the risk associated with running budget deficits, thus artificially lowering loan rates in the market.

Either of these two influences on interest rates, or a combination of the two, can and do influence economic activity by inducing businesses to make investments that would otherwise not be made. Since real savings in the economy, however, do not increase due to these interventionist measures, the production structure is weakened and the business boom must ultimately give way to a bust. []

  1. For a detailed discussion of the phenomenon of interest and the corresponding relationship to the business cycle, see Ludwig you Mises, Human Action, 3d rev. ed. (Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1966), chapters 19-20; Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State (Los Angeles: Nash Publishing Corporation, 1970), chapter 6 in Value Vault; and Mark Skousen, The Structure of Production (New York: New York University Press, 1990), chapter 9.
  2. Friedrich A. Hayek, Prices and Production, 2d ed. (London: George Routledge, 1931; Repr. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1967), p. 11.
  3. Ludwig von Mises, The Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle (Auburn, Ala,: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1983), pp. 2-3.
  4. Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State, p. 857.
  5. Richard Ebeling, preface to The Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle by Ludwig von Mises, Gottfried Haberler, Murray N. Rothbard, and Friedrich A. Hayek (Auburn, Ala.: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1983).
  6. Roger W. Garrison, “The Roaring 20s and the Bullish 80s: The Role of Government in Boom and Bust,” Critical Review 7, no. 2-3 (Spring-Summer 1993), pp. 259-276.

Recommended Blogs

Here is an investor who has the guts to put his work in the public domain. This is one way to track your thinking and investment progress.


For those who want to dig deeper, here are notes on Competition Demystified from an “Austrian” Value Investor.


Chanos Testimony on Enron, Slide into Tyranny? Federal Reserve Theft?

“First They Came for the Jews” By Pastor Niemoller

First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

America’s Slide into Tyranny

Or the “Patriot” Act’s stomping on the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments to the US Constitution. Who has ever heard of the Bill of Rights? http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html

When I read this, I puked on new suede shoes. http://lewrockwell.com/goyette/goyette22.1.htmlay

Pay close attention. This is how it happens…

President Obama found a moment of reduced visibility, in an unwatched hour on New Year’s Eve, to sign the latest assault on the Fifth Amendment. In signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 on New Year’s Eve, Obama knew the nation’s attention would be elsewhere, diverted by revelry, football, New Year’s Day, and a Monday national holiday.

In case you haven’t heard, the National Defense Authorization Act allows the government to detain people indefinitely – yes, it includes American citizens who can be taken even on our native soil and imprisoned – merely on the basis of accusations.

The measure is “so radical,” says Human Rights Watch, “that it would have been considered crazy had it been pushed by the Bush administration.” And although Obama appended a signing statement as he put his name to the act, solemnly assuring the nation that the power he insisted on having won’t be used recklessly, it is a political gesture that has no more force of a law than attaching a little yellow sticky note to the bill. If the clear language of the Constitution itself cannot bind the governing classes, it is hard to imagine a post-it note having much effect on the current or future presidents now that the indefinite detention of Americans without trial has been legislatively countenanced.

There you have it in a nutshell, the new American way: Guilty until proven innocent. This is how once-free people slip into state tyranny and slide into martial law.

I ask if any here feel safer?

So Where Does the Federal Reserve Earn the Money?


The Federal Reserve turned $76.9 billion over to the U.S. Treasury last year, close to the record amount transferred to the government’s coffers in 2010, amid a strong profit generated from its expanding portfolio of securities.

Preliminary unaudited results released by the central bank Tuesday showed the Fed had net income of $78.9 billion in 2011 mainly thanks to higher earnings on securities it bought to counter the recession and promote recovery….the Fed’s crisis-lending programs have produced profits. The increase in 2011 income was primarily a result of $83.6 billion in interest earnings from holdings of U.S. Treasurys, federal agency debt and securities held by government-run mortgage finance firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Fed said.

Got that? The Fed printed billions of new dollars and earned a profit after all this nonsense. For the record the money supply (M2) grew in 2011 by nearly $ 850 billion. The total monetary base came in at aprox. $8.5 trillion.

Note: Don’t try this at home. You would get arrested for counterfitting. But do you think you could “earn” a profit of $77 billion, if you printed, over-time, some $8.5 trillion to buy Treasury securities and the like, which means, as part of the circus, you could give the Treasury the money to pay you the interest that you then give back to them and release a press release about your financial acumen?

Quiz: Any guess as to where this money actually comes from? Who loses? 

Enron Case Study Addition

We have discussed Enron in prior posts here:

http://wp.me/p1PgpH-1R Enron so What is it Worth?

http://wp.me/p1PgpH-2U  Analysis of Enron Case Study

http://wp.me/p1PgpH-34 Video of Enron Collapse

An alert reader gave me a heads up to add this to the Enron Case Study:

Full Hearing Testimonies on the Enron Scandal:  http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/107/action/107-83.pdf

Chanos Testimony: http://energycommerce.house.gov/107/hearings/02062002Hearing483/Chanos782print.htm

Please stop me before I post again…..but I had to alert you to the above. Most will enjoy reading the Chanos testimony. Note how he FOUND the idea. From our prior study of this case we know that great businesses do not need to layer on complicated debt to grow. Complexity in financial statments is a RED FLAG.

The Best Blog for Behavioral Investing and Improving Your Thinking

The best blog for improving your thinking: www.simoleonsense.com.  You will learn about your own psychology and how you think—essential knowledge for becoming a better investor.  The material on this blog has excellent links.

New York Times Article on the Khan Academy

As previously mentioned, the Khan Academy is a great learning resources for you and for kids. Brush up on statistics, for example.


Referred to here:http://csinvesting.org/placing-ev-and-ebitda-into-perspective-case-studies/

A Protest at the Federal Reserve

http://www.newschannel5.com/story/16181894/protestors-disgruntled-with-federal-reserve-bank. Expect many more of these protests as our currency debasement continues.

Attack on the Austrian View of the Great Depression

I like to read theories, thoughts, or facts contrary to what I think is correct. You test your thinking and, God forbid, you could be wrong. The Great Depression will help you understand the biggest business cycle and depression of the past two centuries. Read: mises.org/rothbard/agd.pdf (Copy and paste into your browser.)

An article on the Austrian view of the Great Depression and the criticism of that view: http://mises.org/daily/5826/Defending-the-Austrian-Explanation-of-the-Great-Depression-from-an-Internet-Attack

Planning Curriculum

I will start this week planning the curriculum to study strategic logic while developing the building blocks for valuation, then tying the two together.

The Fed and Europe

Update on Value Vault

The gnomes are working overtime to upload the 17 videos and other materials. About 2/3rds completed.

Fed Joins Other Central Banks in Monetary Easing  December 01, 2011

“The Federal Reserve and other major central banks moved on Wednesday to help foreign banks more easily borrow and lend money, seeking to forestall a breakdown of global financial markets and giving Europe more time to wrestle with its debts. The latest round of interventions by central banks, including the expansion of an existing Fed program that lets foreign banks borrow dollars at a low interest rate, reflects growing concerns that Europe’s financial problems are hampering growth.” (New York Times)

In light of the Fed’s record, this should fill us all with confidence.

FEE Timely Classic  “‘F’ as in Fed” by Sheldon Richman (www.fee.org) is a recommended blog to learn about economics.

We have a report card on the entire Fed era that strongly supports the view that we’d be better off without it. At the very least, as the authors suggest, the burden of proof is squarely on those who would retain the central bank.

The report card comes in the form of a working paper from the Cato Institute: “Has the Fed Been a Failure?” by George A. Selgin, William D. Lastrapes, and Lawrence H. White.

The authors state in their abstract:

As the one-hundredth anniversary of the 1913 Federal Reserve Act approaches, we assess whether the nation’s experiment with the Federal Reserve has been a success or a failure. Drawing on a wide range of recent empirical research, we find the following: (1) The Fed’s full history (1914 to present) has been characterized by more rather than fewer symptoms of monetary and macroeconomic instability than the decades leading to the Fed’s establishment. (2) While the Fed’s performance has undoubtedly improved since World War II, even its postwar performance has not clearly surpassed that of its undoubtedly flawed predecessor, the National Banking system, before World War I. (3) Some proposed alternative arrangements might plausibly do better than the Fed as presently constituted. We conclude that the need for a systematic exploration of alternatives to the established monetary system is as pressing today as it was a century ago.

The dollar has lost 95 percent of its value since the Fed came into existence.

More on how debasement destroys economies:


If Germany and France push the ECB to ease and buy (without sterilization) EZ government securities, markets in Europe will be very strong. If announcements along these lines do not occur, the Euro is history.

For those interested in European Stock Markets: http://www.scribd.com/doc/74371203/European-Stock-Market-Valuation

Interesting links….

Michael Burry, the self-taught investor, who shorted sub-prime in the Big Short by Michael Lewis is interviewed here: http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/37453934

Don’t forget a favorite blog: Carl Icahn doing his bidding:http://greenbackd.com/2011/11/28/icahn-bids-for-commercial-metals-company-nysecmc/

A country in collapse (Cuba) where dissidents protest the dual currency system: http://pedazosdelaislaen.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/dissidents-arrested-for-demanding-one-currency/

Placing Europe in perspective: http://scottgrannis.blogspot.com/2011/11/putting-piigs-debt-into-context.html

Meanwhile guess what the Federal Reserve is busy doing?




Would investors be surprised by a “melt-up” in nominal values in the stock market?  I am not predicting this, just thinking where the greatest surprise could be.  Beware of US Treasuries.

Value Investing Newsletters

Value Investing Newsletters

An excerpt from the Fall 2011 issue:

This issue features a trio of legendary value investors, who honored us with their time and sage advice. One thing became crystal clear: there is no single “right” way to practice value investing. Each successful value investor adapts the practice to his or her own style, although Graham & Dodd and their famous disciples remain an inspiration to so many of us.

We start off this issue with Lee Cooperman ’67, founder, Chairman and CEO of Omega Advisors, Inc. Mr. Cooperman reflects on the path of his incredibly successful career, describes how his firm constructs its portfolio, and outlines the theses behind a few of his top investment ideas.

We also had the privilege of speaking with Gabelli Asset Management (GAMCO Investors) founder, Chairman and CEO Mario Gabelli, well-known value investor and alum of Columbia Business School‘s class of 1967. Mr. Gabelli provides his approach to security analysis and discusses his interest in BEAM, National Fuel Gas and The Madison Square Garden Company.

Our third interview is with veteran value investor Marty Whitman, Third Avenue Management’s Chairman and Portfolio Manager, and an Adjunct Professor of Distress Value Investing at Columbia Business School. Mr. Whitman shares his thoughts on some compelling areas of investment opportunity, discusses his approach to company valuation and describes some of his firm‘s most successful investments.


For past issues and a good blog: http://www.grahamanddoddsville.net/

Video Lecture

The Birth of the Federal Reserve by Murray Rothbard–a devastating indictment of the Fed.


We Are the Many–A Ballad

This guy hits the right notes! Hope you enjoy the song. Informative with great visuals. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xq3BYw4xjxE

Working on case studies to supplement the videos……….

Wall Street Protests, Black Death and The Case Against the Fed

Wall Street Protests

On my way home I stopped to speak to several Wall Street protestors. Many seem angry and confused over bailouts for fat cats, banks, and the corporate elite while they struggle to find work, pay off debts, and redress unfairness.  I don’t blame them for their fears and protests. Several told me that capitalism was corrupt. Socialism would work much better instead.  Oh, how people never learn from history.

First, I find it ironic that Cubans are desperate to flee in make-shift rafts across shark infested waters to leave a crumbling socialist state to reach America. Second, how can capitalism fail when we don’t have free markets in the U.S.?  Our cartelized banking system reflects corporatism. If you believe that prices matter in their ability to send signals to freely exchanging participants about how to allocate resources most efficiently and you believe that centralized planning ultimately fails (as shown by countries like Soviet Russia, North Korea, Communist China, etc.), then the Federal Reserve should be abolished.

Some of the protesters remind me of those who burned people alive at the stake to stop the bubonic plaque in the 1300s rather than fight the real cause—fleas on rats. Three minute rap video of the Bubonic Plague of 1347 (“Black Death”) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZy6XilXDZQ

Question Everything

Before I provide an example of why the Federal Reserve’s debasement of the U.S. dollar is devastating to the poor and middle classes which is—I believe—the cause of the protests, I ask that you never accept what I say at face value. Seek out counter-arguments to disprove even your own most cherished beliefs.

I am not saying you should attack yourself like Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar’s bathroom scene:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95CiLobvTj8

Nor will disagreeing without a basis help you find the truth. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dx32b5igLwA&feature=related

I will put forth an Austrian argument of the case against the Fed but here is an article on, Why I am not an Austrian Economist (a critique on Austrian principles) http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/capdebate.htm

A discussion of the above article both defending and attacking Austrian economic theory. http://mises.org/Community/forums/p/3841/52624.aspx

An extensive reading list: http://mises.org/Community/forums/t/762.aspx

Of course, seeking out counter arguments against your investment thesis is critical to improving your thinking process and investing. Stress test your ideas.  Be as astute in laying out the arguments against your idea as for your idea.

The Case Against the Fed

An example of the devastating effects of the Fed’s Dollar debasement on America’s poor and middle-class is excerpted from Murray Rothbard’s
The Case Against The Fed. Found here for free at: http://mises.org/books/fed.pdf  (164 pages). 

In real life, then, the very point of counterfeiting is to constitute a process, a process of transmitting new money from one pocket to another, and not the result of a magical and equi-proportionate expansion of money in everyone’s pocket simultaneously. Whether counterfeiting is in the form of making brass or plastic coins that simulate gold, or of printing paper money to look like that of the government, counterfeiting is always a process in which the counterfeiter gets the new money first.

This process was encapsulated in an old New Yorker cartoon, in which a group of counterfeiters are watching the first $10 bill emerge from their home printing press. One remarks: “Boy, is retail spending in the neighborhood in for a shot in the arm!”

And indeed it was. The first people who get the new money are the counterfeiters, which they then use to buy various goods and services. The second receivers of the new money are the retailers who sell those goods to the counterfeiters. And on and on the new money ripples out through the system, going from one pocket or till to another. As it does so, there is an immediate redistribution effect. For first the counterfeiters, then the retailers, etc., have new money and monetary income which they use to bid up goods and services, increasing their demand and raising the prices of the goods that they purchase. But as prices of goods begin to rise in response to the higher quantity of money, those who haven’t yet received the new money find the prices of the goods they buy have gone up, while their own selling prices or incomes have not risen.

In short, the early receivers of the new money in this market chain of events gain at the expense of those who receive the money toward the end of the chain, and still worse losers are the people (e.g., those on fixed incomes such as annuities, interest, or pensions) who never receive the new money at all.

Monetary inflation, then, acts as a hidden “tax” by which the early receivers expropriate (i.e., gain at the expense of) the late receivers. And of course since the very earliest receiver of the new money is the counterfeiter, the counterfeiter’s gain is the greatest. This tax is particularly insidious because it is hidden, because few people understand the processes of money and banking, and because it is all too easy to blame the rising prices, or “price inflation” caused by the monetary inflation on greedy capitalists, speculators, wild-spending consumers, or whatever social group is the easiest to denigrate.

Obviously, too, it is to the interest of the counterfeiters to distract attention from their own crucial role by denouncing any and all other groups and institutions as responsible for the price inflation. The inflation process is particularly insidious and destructive because everyone enjoys the feeling of having more money, while they generally complain about the consequences of more money, namely higher prices. But since there is an inevitable time lag between the stock of money increasing and its consequence in rising prices, and since the public has little knowledge of monetary economics, it is all too easy to fool it into placing the blame on shoulders far more visible than those of the counterfeiters.

The big error of all quantity theorists, from the British classicists to Milton Freidman, is to assume that money is only a “veil,” and that increases in the quantity of money only have influence on the price level, or on the purchasing power of the money unit. On the contrary, it is one of the notable contributions of “Austrian School” economists and their predecessors, such as the early-eighteenth-century Irish-French economist Richard Cantillon, that, in addition to this quantitative, aggregative effect, an increase in the money supply also changes the distribution of income and wealth. The ripple effect also alters the structure of relative prices, and therefore of the kinds and quantities of goods that will be produced, since the counterfeiters and other early receivers will have different preferences and spending patterns from the late receivers who are “taxed” by the earlier receivers.

Furthermore, these changes of income distribution, spending, relative prices, and production will be permanent and will not simply disappear, as the quantity theorists blithely assume, when the effects of the increase in the money supply will have worked themselves out.

In sum, the Austrian insight holds that counterfeiting will have far more unfortunate consequences for the economy than simple inflation of the price level. There will be other, and permanent, distortions of the economy away from the free market pattern that responds to consumers and property-rights holders in the free economy. This brings us to an important aspect of counterfeiting which should not be overlooked. In addition to its more narrowly economic distortion and unfortunate consequences, counterfeiting gravely cripples the moral and property rights foundation that lies at the base of any free-market economy.

Are you surprised with the government’s and banker’s lust for inflation at the expense of the poor?  Imagine if the Afghanistan and Iraq (undeclared) wars had to be paid for through sur-taxes rather than the hidden taxes of debasement? Think of the lives saved as Americans rebelled against paying for ten years of military conflict.

The status quo press and economists say here in this New York Times article:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/opinion/sunday/worldly-philosophers-wanted.html that “UNFETTERED” capitalism caused the global crisis.  With flawed thinking (logically false premises can not make an assertion true) like that is it any wonder the Fed has the cover of legitimacy?