Henry Ford once said, “It is well that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”
Are you confused by all the talk about monetary policy, fiat money and inflation? You’re not alone. Bankers and politicians have worked hand in hand for many decades to obscure their activities from the public. They hide behind elaborate structures designed to inflate the money supply while creating the false impression that they are looking out for our best interests.
Inflation is a very simple concept to understand: More money = less value. It may seem contradictory but it’s very straightforward.
For illustration purposes, join me on a brief journey of the imagination. One beautiful morning, you wake up and realize that you own twice as much cash as you had just last night. Magic money elves entered your home and bank account and simply doubled your entire cash assets. You’re now twice as wealthy (or half as poor as the case may be).
But you soon realize that the same thing happened to everyone else in the country. The money supply (total amount of money) has doubled! It’s just a one-time event and your regular income remains the same… you just got lucky this one time. It’s okay to dream, so stay with me.
What happens next? If you’re like most people, you probably start spending. You buy things you always wanted to buy but couldn’t afford. You pay back some debts. You buy stocks. In other words, you put the new money into circulation. So do most other people in the country.
Demand for many products increases because a lot more people can afford them now. Consumers are buying so much stuff that some shortages occur. To protect themselves against these shortages, shops and businesses decide to increase their prices. They know that once prices go up, fewer people will be competing to buy the same products, and the situation will be back to normal.
As a side effect of these higher prices, shop owners start earning higher profits than usual. They have more money in their bank accounts, which allows them to increase their spending. They will invest in new stock or expand their business. They might pay out dividends to their investors and bonuses to their employees, allowing these people to buy more products as well. This additional demand puts even more pressure on other shops to increase their prices.
A few months later, prices of almost everything have gone up. Suppliers and manufacturers are faced with the same threat of too much sudden demand from their clients so they too decide to start charging more.
You went on a one-time buying spree and look what happened! Your income stayed the same, but after a few weeks you can suddenly no longer afford the products you used to buy all the time because all prices in the economy have gone up.
Naturally, you demand a higher salary from your employer. If you’re self-employed or in business, you have to charge your customers more money just so that you can maintain your standard of living. Everyone else is in the same situation. Higher prices keep spreading throughout the entire economy, and it’s getting more and more difficult to make a living.
Can you see how this lucky one-time incident which at first seemed so exciting was extremely harmful not just for you but for the entire country? You briefly had a good time but now you’re worse off than before. In our story there are now twice as many dollars in circulation, but your income remains the same and each dollar you earn is worth only about half as much as it used to be. You’re really hoping for those money elves to come back.
As a matter of fact, some people, companies and banks have managed to develop an inside connection to the “money elves”, allowing them to receive new money into their bank accounts whenever they want to. The money is officially a loan (credit), but they know they never have to pay it back… they just “roll it over”, i.e. take up even more debt. With all that easy money in their accounts, and after hearing on TV that stocks only go up and that real estate prices will continue to rise forever, they tend to get a bit lightheaded and start making bad investment decisions. They know that if anything happens to their investments they will be bailed out by the government, so they do not hesitate to take huge risks with their new found “wealth”.
Let’s stop dreaming and look at the reality of things. What if I told you that these “money elves” do exist and that they spring into action not just once in a lifetime, but every couple of weeks? And that they repeatedly give money to their closest friends, but not to you? That prices are going up because the total amount of money in circulation increases, but that you’re missing out on all the fun?
Well, that’s inflation at work. Who benefits from inflation? Only those who are at the top of the pyramid and receive all that new money directly from the source. As you might have guessed by now, the source is the Federal Reserve, and its recipients include the government which “borrows” a lot of new money each year, without any intention of ever paying it back. Another beneficiary these days are failed banks that are being “bailed out” for the good of the “economy”, or defense contractors that receive money to build up our military so we can have a constant presence all over the world and fight never-ending and unnecessary wars. There was even a huge number of small-time beneficiaries who received consumer loans and sub-prime mortgages they would never be able to pay back.
What, then, is fiat money? It’s exactly what we just talked about: money that can be inflated or increased at the push of a button at the say-so of a powerful person or organization. Nowadays most dollars are just blips on a computer screen and it’s extremely easy for the Federal Reserve to create money out of thin air whenever they want to.
If our money were backed by gold and silver, people couldn’t just sit in some fancy building and push a button to create new money. They would have to engage in honest trade with another party that already has some gold in their possession. Alternatively, they would have to risk their lives and assets to find a suitable spot to build a gold mine, then get dirty and sweaty and actually dig up the gold. Not something I can imagine our “money elves” at the Fed getting down to whenever they feel like playing God with the economy.
As you can see, inflation and fiat money are very seductive and beneficial to those at the top, and very dangerous to everyone else and the nation as a whole. That’s exactly what Henry Ford was talking about. He knew that every country that relies too much on fiat money is ruined sooner rather than later.
There is only one possible solution to the inflation problem: Stop creating money out of thin air. But we’re already in such a mess that the only way to have a real impact on the money supply is to increase interest rates so that people pay back their loans and borrow less money from the banks, which decreases the amount of money in circulation. However, higher interest rates might very well crash the economy. So the Fed’s current “solution” to overcoming inflation is… creating even more of it.
Fiat money is a dangerous addiction. Even if the Fed found a way to stop inflation, as long as the current system persists the temptation will always be there to resume pushing the easy money button. That’s why we need to get back on the gold standard and eliminate the Federal Reserve altogether.
But that won’t happen “before tomorrow morning”, as Henry Ford said, or even this year. Ron Paul believes that the first step towards monetary freedom is to allow open competition in currencies. Once gold and silver are allowed as legal tender and can be sold without sales tax, everyone can use them to store their wealth and to pay for the things they want to buy. The Federal Reserve will finally have a very compelling motivation to stay honest and maintain the value of the dollar because if they don’t, they will simply lose all their customers.
Ron Paul has been an advocate of the gold standard and open competition in currencies for many years. He is the Federal Reserve’s most outspoken opponent in Congress and has frequently questioned Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke about the Fed’s actions.
Join the Ron Paul Revolution and help us put the Fed where it belongs: into the history books and out of our financial lives.
Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson understood “The Monster”. But to most Americans today, the Federal Reserve is just a name on the dollar bill. They have no idea of what the central bank does to the economy, or to their own economic lives; of how and why it was founded and operates; or of the sound money and banking that could end the statism, inflation, and business cycles that the Fed generates.
Dedicated to Murray N. Rothbard, steeped in American history and Austrian economics, and featuring Ron Paul, Joseph Salerno, Hans Hoppe, and Lew Rockwell, this extraordinary new film is the clearest, most compelling explanation ever offered of the Fed, and why curbing it must be our first priority.
In this 1988 interview, Ron Paul talks about money, banking and the Federal Reserve, and predicts the current financial crisis.
Show: American Power Structure
Date: August 1988
Explanation of Fiat Money:
Here’s an amazing introduction to the history of the US dollar:
The American Dream Film:
Ron Paul Money Lecture Series — “What is Money?”