Tag Archives: freedom

Yesterday I said that Thierry Djanogly (a footballist?) whatever he is called, should have his gates, because in the coming socialist-driven-wished-for-endarkenment, then we all should, as this is “fair”. Here is another idea.


David Davis

Whoops has hit on what I’d say was an unlooked-for advantage of high-rise tower blocks, in the coming Endarkenment.

(Here’s what I said about Thanogly-Djanogly. Perhaps he ought to be a foot ball-ist, with a name like that, not a politician? Look, he needs his gates, ‘coz people don’t like him, or else he thinks they don’t.

But you’d better hope your assaulters have not got artillery of any kind, I suppose. That the lifts might be put out of action by it, is the least of your worries! What if the building falls “at terminal speed”? (Load of pilotsfortruth9/11.org crap). How will you get out?

How about a Motte-and-Bailey castle, or better, a proper one, or even the really really strategically-focussed ones, such as was built by Edward I, like this one? (It’s about two and a half hours down the road from here on Richard Brunstrom’s cameraed-roads.) This was his contracting-engineer.

There’s still time to buy something if you have the dosh. Sell your yacht. Now, and take it in cash, gold or silver bullion (not “money”).

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The Miliplanter and pot plants: what a business, eh? And a rant about leftyism and surly (I meant to type curly)-headed black-haired actors in Georgian jackets…and that’s just the men.


David Davis

First people query your expenses, which you have taken so much trouble to get to be defined as “within the rules”, and then you die.

POT PLANTS…. Jesus H Christ, you really just  __have to__  laugh at these people. The Miliplanter is clearly not serious at all.

It’s a tremendously fun hoot actually – I mean, just look at this prize piece:-

ur files also how Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, over-claimed for both his council tax and mortgage bills.

Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, is revealed to have changed his official “second home” designation four times in four years.Meanwhile, the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, spent so much on pot plants at his constituency home that his gardener questioned whether they were necessary “given [the] relatively short time you’ll be here”.

Meanwhile, as we say ‘ere, ” ‘yer-av-ta-luff”. (Also, “Icelandtalks” seems to have linked to us, somehow, I can’t tell how..but… Hi there, welcome to Gordon Brown’s world of terrorist banks. eh?)

See our earlier today piece about socialists and trough-pigging. I mean, if They-Stalinists would just stick to sex, I would not mind so much. The problem of today is that they try to shyste so much money. Money costs. Sex is free.

Sex is actually quite nice, and nobody gets killed (see Pol Pot) as any self-respecting proper Tory Toff will be able to tell these jumped-up-University-lecturers. You go out, you call in one of the cow-girl-daughters of one of your more taciturn and upright Yeoman-retainers – mind that you choose the one with pretty boobs and hips so it’s quick for you and her and nicer for you (make sure __also__ that she’s the one that won “Miss Best Bum” at the last “harvest-maid-fete”) – you shag her in the 6th upstairs-bathroom while the Lady of the Manor is instructing the Servants Below Stairs on flower-arranging, and you then just tell her to go back to her duties. Quite simple, she’s all right, you’re all right. If she has the brass-neck to produce a child, then you get it “avowed” by one of the young men who live in one of the hovels near hers, and you’re sorted. No money needs to change hands.

Expenses problem solved: there aren’t any.

Socialism, eat your heart out, you never got a system like that did you.

But Karl Marx f*****d his wife’s maid, and their son worked for the Great Northern Railway, blamelessly for many years. Michael Caine says not a lot of people know that.

Perhaps the dude Marx was a Conservative after all.

LEFTIES! D’you really think we live like that? No, I thought not. Then stop the BBC doing those awfully naff Thomas Hardy-type costume-dramas, and selling the twattish rubbish round the planet to traduce us.

Good Economics, Standard Theology


Bruce Porteus

WILL  THERE  BE  A  GLOBAL  ECONOMIC  COLLAPSE,   OR  RECOVERY?

Will there be a global economic collapse, or can the world’s economy be saved from a total
melt-down? Will the current stimulus packages work? Will there be an economic recovery?

These questions are now being asked by many business leaders, politicians and economists
around the world. There appears to be little agreement on what will happen as the unprecedented
economic crisis continues, in spite of optimistic forecasts from some world leaders. This article will
explain the causes of the current economic crisis, and what the outcome will be, in simple,
layman’s terms.

Firstly, let’s look at the causes of the current crisis. For over 30 years the Anglo-Saxon nations
(USA, Canada, Australia, UK, New Zealand) and a few other countries have been spending
considerably more money than they earned from exporting goods and services, accumulating large
current account deficits internally, and massive external debts internationally. To finance these
external debts they have borrowed money from creditor nations, in particular Japan and China. This
has allowed the Anglo-Saxon nation’s financial institutions to have the capital to continue growing
their economies, enabling them to finance costly wars and still import consumer goods to satisfy
their self-indulgent life-styles. They have continued to expand their currency supply in order to
maintain economic growth, but that caused an escalation of property prices, and growth in
borrowings to finance domestic consumption. Up to now they have been fortunate to avoid being
affected by the high inflation that normally follows an increase in the money supply, without a
corresponding increase in productivity. This was, in part, made possible by switching to the
purchase of imported goods and services produced by low-wage countries and paid for with the ever
increasing supply of US dollars.

The problem arises when Federal Reserve Notes (U.S. dollars) accumulate in foreign hands. A
Federal Reserve Note is an I.O.U. and rather unstable as it floats against the arbitrage basket of
international currencies. The only alternative for these nations to avoid being overexposed to
unbacked dollars which might tank at any moment, is to purchase United States Treasury
Certificates which are (so far) considered safer as they are rated (so far)”triple A.” Either way, other
nations are trusting that these I.O.U.’s will one day be useful for the purchase of goods, services or
other more stable currencies. The purchase of these Treasuries (loan certificates) by foreign nations
repatriates the dollars which are then spent domestically or overseas again.a vicious circle.

This inflow of money borrowed by the Anglo-Saxon nations has allowed them to maintain generous
state-funded welfare programs that have directly contributed towards undermining the role of the
family as the foundation of a successful society. This has encouraged people to look to the State
for their needs, rather than the extended family accepting responsibility for other family members,
sapping the drive and willingness of their people to compete in a competitive world. Socialism by
stealth in Western nations has done so much to destroy the family structure, the foundation from
which all successful societies are built. An increasing amount of Western Government revenues are
drained into providing expensive welfare programs such as health care, pensions, benefits for the
unemployed and inadvertently encouraging single parent families, but leaving little money for
investment into infrastructure and provide capital to develop their economies. Asians culture
encourages the extended family to accept responsibility of caring for other family members in times
of misfortune, paying for their education and health care, rather than the State. Most Asians accept
the premise that unless you work, you go hungry – sadly in the West it is expected by many that
the State will provide, regardless if one works or not.

One of the results of the current economic crisis is that the Anglo-Saxon Governments no longer
have revenue to support their expensive welfare programs; just at the time when there are the
greatest financial demands being placed on them. An aging population, escalating health-care
costs, growing unemployment is blowing out government budgets, causing unsustainable deficits.
Meanwhile the Asian countries, not burdened with such extravagant welfare programs, have been
able to use taxation revenue to invest into developing their domestic economies. As a result the
Anglo-Saxon nations have become less competitive in the global market-place than the Asian
economies. Added to this, the lack of domestic savings by the Anglo-Saxon nations has made
them dependent on borrowing from those countries that have large current account surpluses,
causing them to slip further behind in maintaining the standard of living that their people still expect
to enjoy.

The end result has been a gradual break-down of the social fabric of western society till today they
are crime-ridden, diseased, over-indulgent, debt-ridden and self-destructive. The Anglo-Saxon
nations are now so heavily indebted to their overseas creditors, that even an increased amount of
export revenues would not enable them to service their external debts. However with falling exports
and large current deficits, it is only a matter of time before they slide into bankruptcy, unless they
are able to operate with a current account to service and repay their international debts. The flow of
US dollars into Asia has enabled their economies to obtain the capital to finance their domestic
growth and accumulate overseas reserves. In turn, lending their surplus capital back to the
Anglo-Saxon nations has allowed these countries to obtain the financing to purchase more imports
from Asia. This arrangement has worked well up to now for all concerned, but is not sustainable.
However, it is proving very difficult for the Anglo nations to expand exports to the rest of the world
during a global economic recession which is causing a lack of overseas export markets for their
goods and services.

Up to now the USA has been in the fortunate position of having the US dollar as the world’s reserve
currency, and being able to print dollars to finance its deficits, avoiding the need to borrow in other
currencies. As long as the global demand for dollars to finance world trade remains, it has been in
everyone’s interest to continue with this arrangement and retain the US dollar as the world’s reserve
currency. Over the last decade surplus dollars have been recycled back to the American banking
system, creating surplus liquidity in the Anglo-Saxon nations, and encouraging their banks to adopt
loose lending practices to generate paper profits from loans to domestic customers.

The current economic crisis was triggered when American and UK banks accumulated bad debts
from reckless lending, as their customers began defaulting on their loans. This quickly led to a
chain-reaction of banks defaulting and the need for government intervention to bail them out. This
has led to the current global economic crisis we now have.

In an attempt to avoid a total economic collapse, the governments of UK and USA have created
trillions of dollars of credit to inject into their banking system to save their banks from collapsing, as
well as guaranteeing deposits. This was intended to allow the banks to continue lending to prevent
their economies from going into free-fall, and government revenues collapsing. It appears this may
be working, although the banks have still not written off trillions of credit card debts and real estate
loans. The real question is, where has all the money gone that was lent though the bank’s bad
debts which have been written off? This money is still in circulation, but much of it is not
recoverable from those who have defaulted on their loans. What has happened to this money? It
has not just vaporised. Much of this money remains in circulation outside the USA and is now
controlled by foreigners.

Another difficulty faced by the Anglo-Saxon nations is that trillions of dollars have been written off of
their equity and property markets, wiping out much of the collateral from their banking system. Still
not accounted for are the trillions (possibly quadrillions) of dollars involved in the derivatives markets
– a sleeping time bomb ready to explode at any moment. In effect this has resulted in much of the
wealth of Anglo-Saxon nations disappearing, lowering the standard of living, slashing government
revenues, and will inevitably result in widespread poverty.

The Federal Reserve policy of creating new currency to replace toxic bank loans is like putting fuel
on the fire. In the short-term it may prevent the US economy from unravelling, but in the long term it
will be disastrous. It will result in run-away inflation as money looses value. Admittedly the US does
not have much choice – if they had not propped up their financial institutions, the economy would
have unravelled already, collapsing government revenues, and dragging the world into a depression.
They would not have had the revenue to service their national debt. Either way, the economy
collapses. The option of printing currency to inflate the money supply in an effort to stimulate
consumer demand and maintain economic activity is a very risky one, and will eventually lead to
erosion of the fiat value of the currency and uncontrollable inflation. Governments flooding markets
with currency to revive economic growth without increasing goods and services will only result in the
collapse of the currency.

So what happens next? The flood of money that has been injected into global markets may lead to
temporally restoring consumer confidence and spending for a short period. Sadly, the imbalances
that have led to the current crisis have not been addressed. Nothing has been done to correct the
imbalance of global trade between the Anglo-Saxon nations and Asia. The Asian nations continue
to accumulate more and more US dollars from exports and income from their investments. The flow
of capital from the West into Asia to finance imports continues. The outcome can only result in one
thing – a total collapse in the value of the currencies of the Anglo-Saxon nations.

The coming collapse of the US dollar will result in significant readjustment of global economic and
military power. It will result in the end of the Anglo-Saxon nations’ dominance of the global
economy. They will be replaced by two significant economic power blocks (Asia and the EU) filling
the vacuum created by their collapse. It will also be a time of further economic turmoil, followed by
political upheaval. It will lead to the end of many of the democratic freedoms which we have today,
replaced by authoritarian regimes regulating the global economy. Not only will there be a denial of
political, economic and social freedom, but also religious freedom. These institutions will be
replaced by authoritarian institutions regulating how people live their lives, denying much of the
individual freedom that we have come to accept today.

There is general agreement amongst many world leaders that the free-market unregulated
economic model advocated by the USA can no longer continue. In its place they are advocating
what UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown calls a “new world economic order”. What is planned is to
have much greater controls on the movement of money, where and how capital is used – controls on
speculation in futures, derivatives, commodity trading, etc. Technology available today will enable a
single world currency supported by one global central bank, to control both the supply and
movement of money around the world. This is being advocated by Germany and France under the
pretence of controlling tax avoidance and regulating markets, in reality it will go much further than
this – controlling the movement of money and all commercial transactions, with a cashless society
where governments can monitor all commercial and personal transactions.

The Euro is the only currency large and strong enough to replace the US dollar as a world reserve
currency, or a new world currency. Germany is the one country which has sufficient currency
reserves to underpin the confidence in the Euro allowing it to become the new global reserve
currency, having been for years the world’s largest exporter. Increasingly German dominance is now
dictating the direction of Europe – all that is lacking is the leadership.

The EU lacks a leader who can unite the various competing political and nationalistic factions to
enable decisions to be reached to bring about a cohesive economic policy and revive the European
economies. As the economic crisis spreads throughout Europe, unemployment continues to grow,
and political unrest becomes more severe, the need for the appearance of a strong leader will
create a power vacuum into which someone will surely step. Europe now desperately needs a
modern-day Napoleon, Hitler or a revived Holy Roman Emperor who can save the continent from
economic and political disintegration – a strong and commanding personality who can unite the EU
and lead it to economic recovery. Yet unity cannot happen unless the present disparate political
structures that currently exist are reformed, and the proposed new constitution adopted. The
materialization of a single leader that can unite the various European nations into a unified United
States of Europe, who has the ability to revive their economies, and provide the decisive leadership
required to lead them out of this crisis is the obvious necessity.

The fate of the Anglo-Saxon nations now looks extremely bleak. The collapse of their currencies will
be followed by total economic collapse. They will be unable to repay their international debts. They
will slide into bankruptcy. There will be wide-spread poverty, starvation, great suffering of their
people as their nations slide into insolvency. Disease will become wide-spread. Many
drug-dependant people will perish. Crime will spiral out of control, as a total break-down in law and
order develops. Most jobs will disappear. Governments will have no revenue to continue functioning
or pay for public servants or services. They will no longer have the income to maintain their defence
forces.

Throughout history empires rise, declined and collapse. The coming collapse of the Anglo-Saxon
Empire will happen quickly – this group of nations will disintegrate, which will result in the reshaping
of the political and economic landscape of the world. Without the stabilising influence these nations
have had on the world, many of the freedoms we take for granted today will disappear. The
Anglo-Saxon nations originally had a value system based on the Bible, but as they have rejected
the teachings of the Bible and the Law of God, so has their influence in the world declined. Now
these nations are facing total economic collapse, not economic recovery as many hope. They are
now being cursed for rejecting the teachings of the Bible and the Law of God.

Bruce Porteous

Bruceporteous50@yahoo.co.nz

1 May, 2009

Libertarian Alliance Easter Message 2009


David Davis

As we descend yet further into the darkosphere, it’s as difficult to know what to say as it was last time. There’s no point to revisit our woes, as you all know what they have been, will be, and are: and the liberal swearbloggers catalogue them better and with more venom than we can summon up in our busy-ness.

 

Let’s take some comfort in something though. The forces of the Enemy Class remain just as evil, and just as imbued with purposeful and wicked intent as they were yesterday, and last week, and last year, and even before that. So, we know where we are, and all’s right after all: the coping classes are still targeted by the moochers and slairs and GramscoFabiaNazis, for their ability to fund their overlordness and pretend-philanthropy, itself built on a stolen, corrupted and plausible mirror of ordinary people’s real charitable feelings for others. Nothing’s changed, has it. 2009 and we are no further forward.

 

Now, I remember, many many, many, oh so many years ago, when Tony Blair, that great serpent, where is he now (?) talked loudly about “the Forces of Conservatism” and how awful and threatening these were, to a rapturous audience of lobotomo-lanternized watchers of the Wireless Tele Vision, at some conference somewhere.

 

It’s interesting that, although such a groundswell of anger and indignation seems to have been now detected, against the machinations of these shysters, no violent protest – justified though it might even be – is forthcoming. All sensible humans know it would be counterproductive and would only play into the hands of the Enemy Class. Even Leila Deen or whatever she’s called only threw green custard at the Lord Of Misrule, nothing worse (thank goodness.) And then she even walked away.

 

Although the Enemy Class gains power daily, over the minutiae of everyone’s lives, yet it lacks self-awareness, a sense of humour, humanity and perspective – although not a perverse logic. And so we hope that it can proceed to dig its own grave unassisted.

 

Our Easter Message comes down to this: human civilisation will stand or fall to the extent that it recognises Man’s exercise of Free Will, which as we said before is biblical in origin. We have in the end to agree that libertarian ideas and morality did not spring, fully-formed, out of nowhere, out of some formless void. We are libertarians because we specifically elevate Mankind, and a specific conscious individual morality, as being the state people ought to aspire to. Stalin and Mao and Hitler and Allende and Pol Pot and the various Kims and Saddams and Castro-body-doubles rejected that route. The oceans of blood, and the mountains of sorrow, which these buggers have brought forth on the world, are witness to how well their alternatives truly have gone down.

 

Some of us libertarians are religious in a traditional sense, and some are not: religion is not the point. But if libertarianism is based on anything (and as I said it did not just spring out of the earth fully-formed – as if “in one mighty bound man was free!”) then it is based on Judeo-Christian ethics, the Gospels, and the Ten Commandments. If it was possible for it to do that, then it would have happened centuries or even millennia ago. It appeared, and eventually reached a state of concreteness, with a body of literature and some public adherents, in post-Rennaissance Judeo-Christian civilisations only. There are no major publicly-promoted libertarian archives and publishers in, say Mecca, or Peking, or PyongYang, or Havana (a regressor-civilisation) (yet.)

 

If Man has Free Will, then libertarianism is the least immoral way to live, in a society where there are more than about seven people. If he has not, then the slairs and moochers and GramscoFabiaNazis are right, and so we all ought to be directed in all things by those who “Know Best What Is Good For Us”. All we have really to do is decide where we stand.

The Kevin Dowd lecture on free banking | Samizdata.net


Sean Gabb

The Kevin Dowd lecture on free banking | Samizdata.net

The Kevin Dowd lecture on free banking

Johnathan Pearce (London) Globalization/economics

As promised, I have some thoughts following on from the talk given by Kevin Dowd, a professor at the Nottingham University Business School and a noted advocate of what is called “free banking”. He gave his talk at the annual Chris R. Tame Memorial Lecture as hosted by the Libertarian Alliance. (The LA was founded by Mr Tame, who died three years ago at a distressingly young age after losing a battle against cancer.)

Professor Dowd covered some territory that is already pretty well-trodden ground for Samizdata’s regular readers, so I will skim over the part of the lecture that focused on the damage done by unwisely loose monetary policy of state organisations such as central banks, or the moral-hazard engines of tax bailouts for banks.

Instead, I want to focus on those aspects of Professor Dowd’s talk in which he tried to sketch out what a laissez faire, free market banking system would actually look like. This is essential; a great deal of commentary so far – while it is very good – has mainly focused on how we got into this fix and why the fixes being attempted by Western governments are proving so stupid. As PJ Rourke said recently, the attempt by the Obama administration to flood the market with cheap money as a “solution” is a bit like the case of when your Dad has burned the dinner, so you ask the dog to cook it instead. No, what Professor Dowd did this week was lay out three broad areas for reform.

Firstly, he says we should remove many of the existing regulations, government-mandated deposit protection schemes, bank capital adequacy rules and other restrictions on what banks can do and how they work. For example, government support for depositors – who are also effectively creditors to their banks – means that there is a moral hazard problem; the banks have less incentive than they would otherwise have to act prudently if there is always the government, acting like a sort of 7th Cavalry, able to ride to the rescue. That has to go. Professor Dowd also wants to hack away at the morass of rules and regulations that violate client/banker confidentiality, or those rules that force banks to lend to people, as is the case in the US, where banks are forced to lend to certain groups or else violate laws about racial discrimination, etc.

Secondly, Professor Dowd addresses the issue of letting banks fail. At the present, policymakers adopt a sort of “too big to fail” doctrine; this doctrine, while not explicitly laid down in any form of statute or operating manual – as far as I know – is a rule that says that some institutions are so large, and the attendant systemic risks posed by their failure so catastrophic, that they should not be allowed to go out of business. The problem of course is that this rule of thumb is often arbitrary and subject to political horse-trading. To wit: the US government’s decision to let Lehman Brothers go down last September, followed shortly by the $85 billion bailout for AIG, showed a total lack of clear message to the markets, and to bankers, one way or the other.

Professor Dowd believes that banks should be allowed to fail and furthermore, if modern limited liability laws were weakened or abolished completely, then such massive conglomerates would be economically and legally unsustainable in the first place.

As a result, banks would probably be smaller, and there would be a lot more of them, so the failure of any individual bank, while unpleasant for some, would not wreck the system as could happen if a mega-bank goes wrong. Also, instead of wide-ranging and hideously expensive bailouts, Professor Dowd favours putting banks into administration, writing down, in full, the value of their loan books, and getting depositors to exchange their status as creditors for that of an equity holder.

This “debt for equity swap” arrangement, while it would anger depositors who lose money, would come with the promise, and hopefully the reality, of a rise in the capital value of their equity stake in a bank if confidence returns to a more robust banking sector, as the debt/equity swap recapitalisation is designed to achieve. And of course banks are entirely free, as are their clients, to take out deposit insurance in a commercial market.

The third leg of his solution is broader, and more long-term, although there are some immediate measures that could be taken. Professor Dowd is against fiat money – money not backed by actual commodities or real assets of any kind – and in moving to a commodity-based/asset-based system. He is not, by the way, necessarily arguing for the gold standard or some gold-based system, although he points out that in the 200 years up to the First World War, the UK enjoyed a remarkable period of stable prices, with the odd blip. What he is arguing, however, is that the message on a banknote that says “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of X” should be an enforceable legal contract, not what amounts to the jeering joke that it now is.

In the subsequent Q&A session afterwards, one person made the excellent point that a simple reform would be to ban legal tender laws. Such laws currently require a person to accept as legal tender a currency that the state has mandated for a particular region. Instead, if a person wants to refuse to accept sterling and only wants to accept dollars, euros or Swiss francs instead, he can do so. He can also choose to trade in whatever medium of exchange he wants, and with whoever wants to accept it.

Inevitable questions arise. First of all, in thinking about free banking, private monetary systems and the like, the first objection will be is that this will be very messy; there has been no real experience of such monetary systems in the past, etc.

But this is incorrect. Free banking, as defined by Professor Dowd, in fact operated in Scotland, for example, up until legal changes in 1845. South of the River Tweed, the English system had operated under what amounted to state-controlled banking under the Bank of England, set up in 1692. In the 18th and 19th centuries, England saw a number of booms and recessions, such as the 1840s railway boom and the downturn of 1870s. One should remember that the BoE was established by the-then post-Glorious Revolution government as a way to raise money for wars without having to keep asking a fractious public for taxes, and without having to borrow at expensive rates in the money markets. N.A.M. Roger has explained this issue of financing for naval warfare brilliantly. Indeed, it reminds us that state monopoly money systems typically arose in order to finance wars, while the welfarist aspects came later.

There are also current, not just old, examples of banks that operate with unlimited liability partnership structures – Pictet, the Swiss bank, and Lombard Odier, are just two examples. There are dozens of such banks using these structures in Switzerland and by no coincidence; they have avoided the worst of the credit crunch. These banks are typically for the rich but it seems to me that there is no logical reason why such an approach could not be used more widely. So there are different ways of doing banking right now. And do not forget the humble UK mutual building society: they have their limitations, but as a business model they had a lot to recommend them.

Another objection might be that the debt-for-equity swap way of restructuring failed banks under bankruptcy protection laws would be politically unfeasible, since depositors would be hit. I understand that, but Professor Dowd is not trying to imagine what sort of reforms would appeal to David Cameron, say, but what sort of reforms would be workable. That is a rather massive difference, as I am sure readers will agree.

Another objection is that “real money”, as opposed to the state-arranged fiction that we have now, cannot work for as long as governments take such a large slice of GDP. That is probably correct. One of the reasons why so many advocates of Big Government regard “gold bugs” or free bankers as dangerous nutters is that they realise their welfare states would be unworkable under such monetary arrangements. The Ponzi schemes of most welfare states would not be able to function. Even so, as long as governments retain the ability to tax, they have the ability to raise debt in the financial markets in the knowledge that their collateral can be collected at the point of a gun. But a real-money system still hampers such activity considerably.

In the longest run, the best hope of avoiding such financial disasters in the future is to wean the public and policymakers off the seductive delusion that one can create wealth by turning on a printing press. Sooner or later, if you try to fake reality, it bites you hard in the arse. Of course, it is a mark of the kind of man Professor Dowd is that he is too polite to put it as bluntly as that.

I await comments!

Comments

It sounds all very interesting and I really wish now I had been there as the other event I was at did not afford me the opportunity I had hoped to grab my local Oxfordshire MPs and try and sell them my idea for a “Bank of Oxfordshire” using, believe it or not, partnerships and asset based scrip.

I particularly like his ideas about what to do now, practically speaking, because I guess I always focus on the “hereafter” policies of competitive currencies and so on which are probably still a bit far up the Overton window for most peoples’ comfort.

There was an interesting piece about C Hoare & Co in one of yesterday’s newspapers just so people recall that there is at least one UK based bank on an unlimited liability model.

Was any mention made of Gesell, WIR Bank and similar alternative structures that often started up in the Depression and some of which, such as WIR, are still going from strength to strength?

Posted by Jock at March 19, 2009 02:05 PM

Firstly thank you for organising an enjoyable evening and thought provoking talk.

One additional area that will be critical to moving in the direction of free banking is reform of the insolvency laws and procedures. However desirable it may be to put a bank into an enforced reconstruction the law, particularly in England, makes it impossible to complete in a realistic time scale. The timescale for advertising ceditor claims, the lack of sufficient powers of an administrator to cut a deal amongst creditors and make it stick without protracted legal action, and the absence of any legal recognition (in statute or precedence) of priority for the counterparties of many of the new financial instruments mean that any administration process under current law would take months or probably years to resolve. A bank will go under if the uncertainty lasts more than a few days.

Sorting out the legislation and enforcing the current competiton rule to break up the major banks into more managable units will be preconditions of Prof Dowd’s approach.

A further and slightly off topic thought. The Sarbanes-Oxley laws in the US require CEO’s and CFO’s of companies, including banks and other financial institutions, to sign declarations that their organisation has fully effective internal controls, the records are complete and accurate, and that the financial statements can be relied upon. Clearly these representation for AIG, Citibank and other were patently false. Why are there no CEOs and CFOs in handcuffs awaiting trial??

Posted by RobertD at March 19, 2009 02:16 PM

It certainly appears to have been an excellent talk; I look forward to seeing a video of it.

Johnathan’s summary mentions two points which I think could be implemented fairly quickly and do much to improve on the current system: repeal of “legal tender” laws and elimination of deposit insurance. The former is fairly straightforward and explained in the article. The second bears more discussion.

Deposit insurance (in the US, anyway) is an artifact of the Great Depression, installed to prevent catastrophic “runs” on banks, sometimes sparked by mere rumor. It was (and is) a legitimate concern, and while the problem is exacerbated by a fractional reserve system (as I’m sure Paul will interject here at some point), it would also be a problem even without fractional reserve lending. The US’s solution was to create a new federal agency (the FDIC) to run the insurance fund, and (not coincidentally) directly regulate most banks. Therein lies the flaw.

The FDIC is staffed by government bureaucrats with no personal economic stake in the game. They are, by and large, decent and well-meaning people, but they aren’t the “best and brightest” (such people don’t work for bureaucracies) and they are hampered by hidebound rules and a lumbering, ineffecient and inflexible system. Insurance “premiums” are not established on any actuarial basis, but are essentially identical for all banks, however well or badly managed [1], and setting the rate is quite politicized. The proper response should be to use private deposit insurance.

With private deposit insurance, banks could shop around for insurance companies with the best rates and service. The insurance companies themselves would more accurately and carefully assess “risk” than it would ever be possible for the government to do, and would price accordingly. They would set capital levels which make sense given the specific nature of the bank’s business (rather than one-size-fits-all rules), assess the true value of its assets and liabilities (including, where appropriate, off-balance-sheet contingent liabilities), and in general do a better job of assessing the because it is their (and their shareholders’) money which is at risk. If the FDIC misprices, the insurance fund gets depleted and they go to the government for more money. If a private insurance company misprices, its capital gets depleted and shareholders replace the management. Competition among insurance companies would keep any from becoming unduly risk-averse in their regulations or expensive in their pricing. It’s a true free-market solution, and would work.

[1] There has been a move in recent years to incorporate some sort of “risk-adjusted” element to the premiums, but if this has actually been implemented (I’m not sure about that) the differential was essentially nominal.

Posted by Laird at March 19, 2009 04:28 PM

RobertD, you make a good point about the speed of administration process under existing English law. Prof. Dowd made the point that the debt-for-equity swap and recapitalisation of a bank would have to be done very fast, over a weekend. A long delay would be a disaster, in particular, because of the need for businesses etc to make payments and handle invoices, etc.

Laird, thanks for the detail on the insurance angle.

Posted by Johnathan Pearce at March 19, 2009 05:01 PM

I am delighted to see articles like this posted on Samizdata Jonathan – excellent, more in this vein as and when you can please.

Posted by mike at March 19, 2009 05:19 PM

This is the problem I see with insurance: How can an actuarial table be constructed?

Do bank failures follow a known statistical pattern? Clearly not.

I wouldn’t believe any private agency offering deposit insurance. Gold reserves are all that can be believed. At least until an actuarial table can be constructed.

Posted by Current at March 19, 2009 05:23 PM

Two questions:

1. As Laird pointed out above, the bank guarantees were specifically made to avoid panics, wouldn’t the removal of these guarantees necessarily cause panics? With the advent of instantaneous communication available to even the stupidest among us, wouldn’t ‘runs on the bank’ become a regular event?

2. Fiat money v. asset backed currency –
With fiat money there is a good deal of leverage that is not possible with the asset backed. This seems to imply that under a asset backed regime the economy would be significantly less dynamic one, and growth could be curtailed. Yes, a blessing in the possible smoother booms and busts, but it would seem a curse in reducing growth, productivity.

Looking at the historical rates of inflation / deflation it really appears that prior to the 1930’s, this cycle was much more dynamic than after: (UK) Consumer Price Inflation Since 1750(Link)
I realize this study is a reconstruction and I have no way of evaluating the methodologies but it seems relevant.

Posted by Will Anjin at March 19, 2009 07:26 PM

This isn’t life insurance; there are no “actuarial tables”. That doesn’t mean that the risks can’t be rationally assessed. How do you think an insurance company insures any one-time event? Lloyd’s has known how to do this for centuries (even if they’ve fallen off course a bit lately). [I need help here from someone with better knowledge than mine about probability; is this a Bayesian analysis?]

Moreover, the real point isn’t whether there is going to be deposit insurance; that’s a given, after the experiences of the Great Depression. The only question is who provides it, and at what cost? I submit that government is the least qualified entity to do so, for a variety of reasons (some noted in my previous post). In a truly free market each bank would decide whether to offer it or not and the market would reward or punish that decision, but even in a regulated environment the government could simply mandate that banks carry some minimal level of deposit insurance as a condition to maintaining their charter. Banks could choose to carry more than the minimum amount, and again the market would determine whether or not that was a wise decision, but it’s still a market solution. (Probably a market would develop for banks with different insurance levels: minimal for those with relatively small balances wanting cheap banking services, higher for those with more money who are willing to pay a bit more for peace of mind. Let the market sort it out.)

Posted by Laird at March 19, 2009 07:36 PM

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