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Alan Greenspan over goud en economische vrijheid

May 27, 2020
Aanbieding: 

Alan Greenspan (New York 1926) is een zeer invloedrijke voorzitter geweest van de Federal Reserve. Hij werkte hier meer dan 19 jaar tussen 11 augustus 1987 tot en met 31 januari 2006. Hij zag onder zijn bewind vier verschillende presidenten voorbij zien komen: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, en George W. Bush. Alan gaf tot 2005 geen rechtstreekse interviews aan het publiek. De zure vruchten van zijn erfenis plukken we nog steeds; een erfenis die in groot contrast staat met zijn overtuigingen over de rol van goud voor economische vrijheid en de waarborging van eigendomsrechten en vermogensbescherming.

Alan Greenspan’s easy money politiek

ons geld

Het monetaire beleid onder zijn bewind heeft geleid tot verschillende zeepbellen waaronder de Dot-com bubbel en de Amerikaanse hypotheekcrisis die uitliep tot de globale kredietcrisis van 2008. Alan Greenspan heeft de banken de vrije teugels gegeven door o.a. het opheffen van de Glass-Steagall act waardoor de “too big to fail” systeembanken machtiger konden worden, hij verzette zich tegen de regulering van de derivativenhandel en liet de stuurrente laag. Derivaten zijn in de woorden van vermogensbeheerder Warren Buffet financiële wapens voor massavernietiging. Alan Greenspan is verantwoordelijk te houden voor de groeiende macht van Wall Street en de Amerikaanse financiële sector en het fenomeen van moral hazard. Financieel moreel wangedrag doordat de financiële sector geen direct risico loopt voor hun daden. Bankiers komen nooit in de gevangenis terecht voor hun wandaden en hun verliezen worden door bail-outs en steunprogramma’s gesocialiseerd. Krediet werd steeds opnieuw gepompt in het nemen van meer risico’s in het opblazen van zeepbellen (tech-aandelenmarkt, huizenmarkt, inkoop van eigen bedrijfsaandelen, rommelobligaties etc.).

Alan Greenspan als hard money advocaat

Het is merkwaardig te noemen dat Alan Greenspan het easy money fiatgeld systeem zo uit de hand liet lopen. In zijn jonge jaren maakte zijn familie Beurskrach van 1929 mee en maakte de economische depressie het huwelijk van zijn ouders kapot. Alan’s vader was een aandelenmakelaar, het financiële kaartenhuis viel in elkaar. Alan doctoreerde in de economie en was een aanhanger van de ideeën van de Russische filosoof Ayn Rand en het belang van hard money.

alan greenspan

Ayn Rand die in haar jeugd tijdens de Russische revolutie van 1917 de gevolgen van hyperinflatie meemaakte, met de verdere destructie van de middenstand en de verschrikkingen van het communistische bewind; leerde de lessen van welke rol goud kan spelen voor vermogensbescherming. Haar vader had een apothekersbedrijf die uiteindelijk werd onteigend, terwijl het familievermogen door hyperinflatie werd vernietigd en de familie in diepe armoede terecht kwam. Met veel geluk kon ze in 1926 een visa bemachtigen om naar de Verenigde Staten te reizen om vervolgens nooit meer terug te keren naar de Sovjet Unie. Ayn Rand werd een van de meest invloedrijkste denkers in de Verenigde Staten. Inderdaad, Alan Greenspan maakte deel uit van haar filosofieclubje en schreef in de Objectivist nieuwsbrief van dit clubje een goed geschreven artikel over de relatie tussen goud en economische vrijheid.

Dit artikel, Gold and Economic Freedom, werd door Ayn Rand overgenomen in haar boek Capitalism (1967). Dit artikel van Alan Greenspan is de moeite waard om hieronder te lezen. Zeker in het licht dat Alan op een dag een van de meest machtige mannen in de Verenigde Staten zou worden en zijn stempel op het financieel systeem zou drukken. Macht over geld corrumpeert. Een scheiding tussen politiek/staat/bank/mens en geld als apolitieke, objectieve rekeneenheid voor economische transacties en vermogensbehoud is wenselijk. Nu met bitcoin als neutraal gedistribueerd absoluut schaars digitaal basisgeld is dit ook echt mogelijk geworden. Het staat buiten en boven de invloed van de menselijke machtshonger om de geldprinter te bezitten om zodoende naar eigen behoeven geld te scheppen.

Gold and Economic Freedom

                by Alan Greenspan (1966)

An almost hysterical antagonism toward the gold standard is one issue
which unites statists of all persuasions. They seem to sense — perhaps
more clearly and subtly than many consistent defenders of laissez-faire
— that gold and economic freedom are inseparable, that the gold standard
is an instrument of laissez-faire and that each implies and requires the
other.

In order to understand the source of their antagonism, it is necessary
first to understand the specific role of gold in a free society.

Money is the common denominator of all economic transactions. It is that
commodity which serves as a medium of exchange, is universally
acceptable to all participants in an exchange economy as payment for
their goods or services, and can, therefore, be used as a standard of
market value and as a store of value, i.e., as a means of saving.

The existence of such a commodity is a precondition of a division of
labor economy. If men did not have some commodity of objective value
which was generally acceptable as money, they would have to resort to
primitive barter or be forced to live on self-sufficient farms and forgo
the inestimable advantages of specialization. If men had no means to
store value, i.e., to save, neither long-range planning nor exchange
would be possible.

What medium of exchange will be acceptable to all participants in an
economy is not determined arbitrarily. First, the medium of exchange
should be durable. In a primitive society of meager wealth, wheat might
be sufficiently durable to serve as a medium, since all exchanges would
occur only during and immediately after the harvest, leaving no
value-surplus to store. But where store-of-value considerations are
important, as they are in richer, more civilized societies, the medium
of exchange must be a durable commodity, usually a metal. A metal is
generally chosen because it is homogeneous and divisible: every unit is
the same as every other and it can be blended or formed in any quantity.
Precious jewels, for example, are neither homogeneous nor divisible.
More important, the commodity chosen as a medium must be a luxury. Human
desires for luxuries are unlimited and, therefore, luxury goods are
always in demand and will always be acceptable. Wheat is a luxury in
underfed civilizations, but not in a prosperous society. Cigarettes
ordinarily would not serve as money, but they did in post-World War II
Europe where they were considered a luxury. The term “luxury good”
implies scarcity and high unit value. Having a high unit value, such a
good is easily portable; for instance, an ounce of gold is worth a
half-ton of pig iron.

In the early stages of a developing money economy, several media of
exchange might be used, since a wide variety of commodities would
fulfill the foregoing conditions. However, one of the commodities will
gradually displace all others, by being more widely acceptable.
Preferences on what to hold as a store of value will shift to the most
widely acceptable commodity, which, in turn, will make it still more
acceptable. The shift is progressive until that commodity becomes the
sole medium of exchange. The use of a single medium is highly
advantageous for the same reasons that a money economy is superior to a
barter economy: it makes exchanges possible on an incalculably wider
scale.

Whether the single medium is gold, silver, seashells, cattle, or tobacco
is optional, depending on the context and development of a given
economy. In fact, all have been employed, at various times, as media of
exchange. Even in the present century, two major commodities, gold and
silver, have been used as international media of exchange, with gold
becoming the predominant one. Gold, having both artistic and functional
uses and being relatively scarce, has significant advantages over all
other media of exchange. Since the beginning of World War I, it has been
virtually the sole international standard of exchange. If all goods and
services were to be paid for in gold, large payments would be difficult
to execute and this would tend to limit the extent of a society’s
divisions of labor and specialization. Thus a logical extension of the
creation of a medium of exchange is the development of a banking system
and credit instruments (bank notes and deposits) which act as a
substitute for, but are convertible into, gold.

A free banking system based on gold is able to extend credit and thus to
create bank notes (currency) and deposits, according to the production
requirements of the economy. Individual owners of gold are induced, by
payments of interest, to deposit their gold in a bank (against which
they can draw checks). But since it is rarely the case that all
depositors want to withdraw all their gold at the same time, the banker
need keep only a fraction of his total deposits in gold as reserves.
This enables the banker to loan out more than the amount of his gold
deposits (which means that he holds claims to gold rather than gold as
security of his deposits). But the amount of loans which he can afford
to make is not arbitrary: he has to gauge it in relation to his reserves
and to the status of his investments.

When banks loan money to finance productive and profitable endeavors,
the loans are paid off rapidly and bank credit continues to be generally
available. But when the business ventures financed by bank credit are
less profitable and slow to pay off, bankers soon find that their loans
outstanding are excessive relative to their gold reserves, and they
begin to curtail new lending, usually by charging higher interest rates.
This tends to restrict the financing of new ventures and requires the
existing borrowers to improve their profitability before they can obtain
credit for further expansion. Thus, under the gold standard, a free
banking system stands as the protector of an economy’s stability and
balanced growth. When gold is accepted as the medium of exchange by most
or all nations, an unhampered free international gold standard serves to
foster a world-wide division of labor and the broadest international
trade. Even though the units of exchange (the dollar, the pound, the
franc, etc.) differ from country to country, when all are defined in
terms of gold the economies of the different countries act as one — so
long as there are no restraints on trade or on the movement of capital.
Credit, interest rates, and prices tend to follow similar patterns in
all countries. For example, if banks in one country extend credit too
liberally, interest rates in that country will tend to fall, inducing
depositors to shift their gold to higher-interest paying banks in other
countries. This will immediately cause a shortage of bank reserves in
the “easy money” country, inducing tighter credit standards and a return
to competitively higher interest rates again.

A fully free banking system and fully consistent gold standard have not
as yet been achieved. But prior to World War I, the banking system in
the United States (and in most of the world) was based on gold and even
though governments intervened occasionally, banking was more free than
controlled. Periodically, as a result of overly rapid credit expansion,
banks became loaned up to the limit of their gold reserves, interest
rates rose sharply, new credit was cut off, and the economy went into a
sharp, but short-lived recession. (Compared with the depressions of 1920
and 1932, the pre-World War I business declines were mild indeed.) It
was limited gold reserves that stopped the unbalanced expansions of
business activity, before they could develop into the post-World War I
type of disaster. The readjustment periods were short and the economies
quickly reestablished a sound basis to resume expansion.

But the process of cure was misdiagnosed as the disease: if shortage of
bank reserves was causing a business decline — argued economic
interventionists — why not find a way of supplying increased reserves to
the banks so they never need be short! If banks can continue to loan
money indefinitely — it was claimed — there need never be any slumps in
business. And so the Federal Reserve System was organized in 1913. It
consisted of twelve regional Federal Reserve banks nominally owned by
private bankers, but in fact government sponsored, controlled, and
supported. Credit extended by these banks is in practice (though not
legally) backed by the taxing power of the federal government.
Technically, we remained on the gold standard; individuals were still
free to own gold, and gold continued to be used as bank reserves. But
now, in addition to gold, credit extended by the Federal Reserve banks
(“paper reserves”) could serve as legal tender to pay depositors.

When business in the United States underwent a mild contraction in 1927,
the Federal Reserve created more paper reserves in the hope of
forestalling any possible bank reserve shortage. More disastrous,
however, was the Federal Reserve’s attempt to assist Great Britain who
had been losing gold to us because the Bank of England refused to allow
interest rates to rise when market forces dictated (it was politically
unpalatable). The reasoning of the authorities involved was as follows:
if the Federal Reserve pumped excessive paper reserves into American
banks, interest rates in the United States would fall to a level
comparable with those in Great Britain; this would act to stop Britain’s
gold loss and avoid the political embarrassment of having to raise
interest rates. The “Fed” succeeded; it stopped the gold loss, but it
nearly destroyed the economies of the world, in the process. The excess
credit which the Fed pumped into the economy spilled over into the stock
market, triggering a fantastic speculative boom.
Belatedly, Federal
Reserve officials attempted to sop up the excess reserves and finally
succeeded in braking the boom. But it was too late: by 1929 the
speculative imbalances had become so overwhelming that the attempt
precipitated a sharp retrenching and a consequent demoralizing of
business confidence. As a result, the American economy collapsed. Great
Britain fared even worse, and rather than absorb the full consequences
of her previous folly, she abandoned the gold standard completely in
1931, tearing asunder what remained of the fabric of confidence and
inducing a world-wide series of bank failures. The world economies
plunged into the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

With a logic reminiscent of a generation earlier, statists argued that
the gold standard was largely to blame for the credit debacle which led
to the Great Depression. If the gold standard had not existed, they
argued, Britain’s abandonment of gold payments in 1931 would not have
caused the failure of banks all over the world. (The irony was that
since 1913, we had been, not on a gold standard, but on what may be
termed “a mixed gold standard”; yet it is gold that took the blame.) But
the opposition to the gold standard in any form — from a growing number
of welfare-state advocates — was prompted by a much subtler insight: the
realization that the gold standard is incompatible with chronic deficit
spending (the hallmark of the welfare state). Stripped of its academic
jargon, the welfare state is nothing more than a mechanism by which
governments confiscate the wealth of the productive members of a society
to support a wide variety of welfare schemes. A substantial part of the
confiscation is effected by taxation. But the welfare statists were
quick to recognize that if they wished to retain political power, the
amount of taxation had to be limited and they had to resort to programs
of massive deficit spending, i.e., they had to borrow money, by issuing
government bonds, to finance welfare expenditures on a large scale.

Under a gold standard, the amount of credit that an economy can support
is determined by the economy’s tangible assets, since every credit
instrument is ultimately a claim on some tangible asset. But government
bonds are not backed by tangible wealth, only by the government’s
promise to pay out of future tax revenues, and cannot easily be absorbed
by the financial markets. A large volume of new government bonds can be
sold to the public only at progressively higher interest rates. Thus,
government deficit spending under a gold standard is severely limited.
The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare
statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion
of credit. They have created paper reserves in the form of government
bonds which — through a complex series of steps — the banks accept in
place of tangible assets and treat as if they were an actual deposit,
i.e., as the equivalent of what was formerly a deposit of gold. The
holder of a government bond or of a bank deposit created by paper
reserves believes that he has a valid claim on a real asset. But the
fact is that there are now more claims outstanding than real assets. The
law of supply and demand is not to be conned. As the supply of money (of
claims) increases relative to the supply of tangible assets in the
economy, prices must eventually rise. Thus the earnings saved by the
productive members of the society lose value in terms of goods. When the
economy’s books are finally balanced, one finds that this loss in value
represents the goods purchased by the government for welfare or other
purposes with the money proceeds of the government bonds financed by
bank credit expansion.

In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings
from confiscation through inflation.
There is no safe store of value. If
there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as
was done in the case of gold. If everyone decided, for example, to
convert all his bank deposits to silver or copper or any other good, and
thereafter declined to accept checks as payment for goods, bank deposits
would lose their purchasing power and government-created bank credit
would be worthless as a claim on goods. The financial policy of the
welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to
protect themselves.

This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold.
Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold
stands in the way of this insidious process.
It stands as a protector of
property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in
understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard.

Hieronder kun je Alan Greenspan in 2014 aan het woord horen over zijn opvatting over goud:

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