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October 21, 2008

Comments

AC

I just started reading a book entitled "Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse," written by Peter Schiff. Mr. Schiff was one of Congressman Paul's financial advisers during his primary bid for the Republican nomination, and he has some additional insights into the economic hole into which the United States has crept that I think bear repeating here.

I sincerely doubt that the United States government will take the kind of measure you suggest anytime soon because of something you mention in one of your earlier blogs: as the trade deficit and the national debt grow, the federal government has an incentive to devalue the debt by continuing to inflate the currency. Now, it has to conceal these measures(which it does by playing with the CPI and PPI) in order to continue to keep foreign countries lending to us and consumers buying on credit.

But, by endorsing a "sound money" plan, they would both limit their ability to erase debt through inflation, and tip their hand to foreign investment and consumers that we're, in fact, broke. Outside a kind of compulsion that vastly rivals political pressure, like a war or a -ahem- massive market correction -ahem-, they will not ever pursue such a course correction--even one as sound as the one you describe. Those two things are what keep the near-dead United States economy propped up, albeit only temporarily.

As psychologists sometimes say, "no one changes until the pain of change is less than the pain of remaining the same." Right now, there really isn't enough pain out there to motivate the United States to make a radical departure from its failed experiment with monetary and fiscal policy. One day, the world will wake up and realize that we don't manufacture anything anymore; will no longer permit us to export inflation to them by right of our dollar's status as the world-reserve currency; and will no longer lend us American deadbeats any money. That will cause a lot of pain. Will it be enough? You tell me.

Jim Fleming

AC,
I am under no delusions that my suggestion will be taken seriously. (You are correct in your assessment of why.) But I find it a great illustration of what "serious measures" would actually look like. The steady stream of proposals that are just "more of the same" suggests we're not really that desperate, despite all the sound and fury to the contrary.

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