The popular uprising against central banking
The way Ron Paul tells it, his more than 30 years of speaking and writing about money, inflation, and the Federal Reserve System attracted only limited interest outside libertarian and constitutionalist circles. The subject, and Paul as its spokesman, were scarcely to be found in the media, even—or perhaps especially—on the business networks.
But Paul’s 2008 presidential bid changed that. Suddenly the Fed was on the table for discussion for the first time since Congress established it in 1913. With Paul making the evils of central banking and fiat money a theme of his campaign, the issue took on a vigor that few expected. Even calling for the Fed’s outright abolition was [no] longer unheard of on the television news networks.
When Paul first raised the issue in his campaign, he had no idea what he was tapping into. “I didn’t realize people your age knew so much about money and inflation,” he told a rally at the University of Pittsburgh last year. “But it gets the largest applause at college campuses. I figured the first time it happened [at the University of Southern California] it was an accident. … But then at the University of Michigan, they started to burn Federal Reserve Notes.”
To Paul’s surprise, some of his loudest applause lines involved salvos against the Fed. Chants of “End the Fed!” greeted his denunciations of the economic damage the central bank was unleashing. An underappreciated reason for Paul’s fundraising prowess was his outspoken opposition to the Fed, a subject that had long been off limits in American politics. Eventually, a national organization called End the Fed, with local chapters around the country, gave institutional expression to the issue, sponsoring a series of demonstrations against the central bank in 39 cities last November.
This is a new phenomenon on the Right. The libertarian and conservative think tanks that liberally invoke the names of Austrian School economists like F.A. Hayek have tended to ignore these men’s opposition to central banking, a position too politically incorrect even for those who pride themselves on their willingness to defend unpopular positions. The Ludwig von Mises Institute and the Foundation for Economic Education have been among the handful of exceptions to this rule, providing the scholarly infrastructure to convert what was sometimes an inchoate unease about the Fed among Paul supporters into well-honed arguments.
Unlike in the past, moreover, commentators with high media profiles now defend this view of money and central banking. Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital, may be the best known of these. Schiff foretold the crisis before it happened, including the bankruptcy of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. His books Crash Proof and The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets, both of which have sold well, take an Austrian approach to current conditions. A grassroots movement is even trying to draft Schiff, a resident of Connecticut, to run for U.S. Senate against Chris Dodd in 2010.
Schiff isn’t alone. Famed investor Jim Rogers calls for the abolition of the Fed when he’s a guest on business networks. Indeed, he predicts the Fed’s demise sometime in the next ten years. Another Austrian analyst all over television and the print media is James Grant, editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer. Similarly high-profile is Mish Shedlock, whose Global Economic Trend Analysis blog takes a reliably anti-Fed position.
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