Alan Greenspan's Little Shop of Horrors

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The 1986 re-make of Roger Corman’s 1960 “Little
Shop of Horrors
” still stands as the most improbable musical
comedy of all time. It’s the story of an obscure little man whose
career is going nowhere. Seymour works as an assistant in a skid
row flower shop. He is in love with his co-worker, Audry, but he
has no career prospects, so he doesn’t tell her how he feels. His
boss, Mr. Mushnik, is an overbearing, grasping man who is always
complaining about how bad business is. Seymour is played to a T
by Hollywood’s master of wimpetude, Rick Moranis.

On the day after an eclipse, Seymour buys a peculiar looking little
plant and brings it to the shop. He names it Audry II. For some
reason, the plant attracts visitors into the shop. Both the flow
of visitors and the flow of funds keep increasing. Business soars.
Mr. Mushnik (played by the appropriately named Vincent Gardenia)
is ecstatic, but of course gives Seymour no credit. Yet Seymour
deserves all the credit. When it comes to credit, Seymour is the
source.

But there is a major problem with the crowd-pleasing, publicity-attracting,
money-generating plant. It feeds only on human blood. Seymour at
first uses his own blood, but the plant keeps growing. It needs
ever-larger quantities of blood. Seymour is desperate. The store’s
new-found economic success depends on this plant, as do Seymour’s
economic and romantic prospects, but the plant depends on blood.

The plant talks. It talks only to Seymour. Its message never changes:
“Feed me, Seymour!”

One by one, Seymour finds new sources of supply. One by one, the
film’s characters are written out of the script.

The movie was released almost exactly one year before Alan Greenspan
took over as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve
System. This, I contend, was prophetic. So was the name of the movie’s
director: Oz.

When we think of Oz, what do we think of? The little man behind
the curtain.

ALAN
GREENSPAN (PLAYED BY RICK MORANIS)

Before Alan Greenspan took over as Chairman of the Federal Reserve,
his career looked as though it was headed towards skid row. Murray
Rothbard, who had known Greenspan 30 years earlier when they were
both on the fringes of Ayn Rand’s movement, made this assessment
of things to come in August, 1987, about six weeks before Greenspan
formally took office.

I
found particularly remarkable the recent statements in the press
that Greenspan’s economic consulting firm of Townsend-Greenspan
might go under, because it turns out that what the firm really
sells is not its econometric forecasting models, or its famous
numbers, but Greenspan himself, and his gift for saying absolutely
nothing at great length and in rococo syntax with no clearcut
position of any kind.

As to his eminence as a forecaster, he ruefully admitted that
a pension-fund managing firm he founded a few years ago just folded
for lack of ability to apply the forecasting where it counted
— when investment funds were on the line.

Rothbard spotted the power of Greenspan’s syntax. This has been
the continuing feature of Greenspan’s long career, which is the
opposite of his predecessor’s style, Paul Volcker, who used his
6’7″ frame and cigars to keep Congress intimidated. Instead, Greenspan
keeps Congress off balance. The result is the same: a lapdog Congress.
Rothbard added:

Greenspan’s
real qualification is that he can be trusted never to rock the
establishment’s boat. He has long positioned himself in the very
middle of the economic spectrum. He is, like most other long-time
Republican economists, a conservative Keynesian, which in these
days is almost indistinguishable from the liberal Keynesians in
the Democratic camp. In fact, his views are virtually the same
as Paul Volcker, also a conservative Keynesian. Which means that
he wants moderate deficits and tax increases, and will loudly
worry about inflation as he pours on increases in the money supply.

The first key to understanding Greenspan’s policies is this: “He
can be trusted never to rock the establishment’s boat.” The second
key is his connection to the world of investment banking.

Alan
is a long-time member of the famed Trilateral Commission, the
Rockefeller-dominated pinnacle of the financial-political power
elite in this country. And as he assumes his post as head of the
Fed, he leaves his honored place on the board of directors of
J.P. Morgan & Co. and Morgan Guaranty Trust. Yes, the Establishment
has good reason to sleep soundly with Greenspan at our monetary
helm. And as icing on the cake, they know that Greenspan’s “philosophical”
Randianism will undoubtedly fool many free market advocates into
thinking that a champion of their cause now perches high in the
seats of power.

http://www.mises.org/freemarket_detail.asp?control=267&sortorder=articledate

THE
SELL-OFF: OCTOBER 19, 1987

On that fateful day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 508 points,
down almost 23% for the day. Around the world, other stock markets
fell by a comparable percentage. Greenspan had been on the Board
as Chairman, filling Volcker’s unexpired term, for a grand total
of 8 days.

The next day, October 20, the world’s money markets were on the
verge of a meltdown. A good account of how near to a disaster the
capital markets were is provided in Bob Woodward’s book on Greenspan,
Maestro:
Greenspan’s Fed and the American Boom
(2000). The Washington
Post ran a long excerpt from it.

Greenspan
knew how the financial system’s plumbing worked; an elaborate
series of networks involving regular banks such as Citibank, investment
banks such as Goldman Sachs and stock brokerage firms such as
Merrill Lynch. Payments and credit flowed routinely among them.
The New York Fed alone transferred more than $1 trillion a day.
If one or several of these components failed to make their payments
or to extend credit; or even just delayed payment in a crisis;
they could trigger a chain reaction and the whole system could
freeze up, even blow up.

James Baker, the Secretary of the Treasury, was out of the country.
Howard Baker, Reagan’s Chief of Staff, called Greenspan, who was
in Dallas to give a speech to the American Bankers Association.
Baker sent a military plane to Dallas to fly Greenspan back to Washington.
Here was the problem facing Greenspan:

The
immediate and pressing question was who would finance or give
credit to the banks, the brokerage houses and others in the financial
system that needed money. For practical purposes, the Fed was
already giving credit in the hundreds of millions of dollars at
the current interest rates in routine overnight loans. What were
the limits? Would it pull the plug? Would the Fed’s lending system
be overwhelmed? There were both technical and policy questions.
. . .

They finally agreed on a one-sentence statement. Greenspan issued
it in his name at 8:41 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 20, before the markets
opened:

“The
Federal Reserve, consistent with its responsibilities as the nation’s
central bank, affirmed today its readiness to serve as a source
of liquidity to support the economic and financial system.”

This was the solution: FED-issued money. This is always the solution.
The FED has no other solution. It is only a matter of how to implement
this solution. Woodward continues:

After
all, the Fed was in charge of the sovereign credit of the United
States. It had the legal power to buy up the entire national and
private debt, theoretically infusing the system with billions,
even trillions, of dollars, more than would ever be necessary
to restore liquidity and credit.

In addition, there was an ambiguous provision in Section 13 of
the Federal Reserve Act, the lawyers told Greenspan, that would
allow the Fed, with the agreement of five out of seven members
of the Fed’s Board of Governors, to lend to institutions; brokerage
houses and the like; other than banks. Greenspan was prepared
to go further over the line. The Fed might lend money, but only
if those institutions agreed to do what the Fed wanted them to
do. He was prepared to make deals. It wasn’t legal, but he was
willing to do it, if necessary. There was that much at stake.
At that moment, his job was to do almost anything to keep the
system righted, even the previously inconceivable.

It was not just the banks that were weak links. Even weaker were
the brokerage houses, which enjoyed no government protection, at
least not officially. But unofficially, they did.

We
can’t hold it, [New York Federal Reserve Bank President Gerald]
Corrigan said, with real panic in his voice. It’s falling apart.
There’s not enough trust in the market, and it’s going to melt
down.

He came up with a desperate contingency plan. Instead of just
lending money — guaranteeing liquidity to the banks —
the Fed would directly guarantee the payments between brokerage
firms. But it would be a last, desperate measure. The plan, and
the Fed’s willingness to embrace it, had to remain a deeply guarded
secret. If word got out, banks and brokerage houses would just
seize on the guarantees and use them instead of their own money.
It would give everyone an easy way out. . . .

Then, at about 1 p.m., the Major Market index futures market staged
its largest rally in history. Several major Wall Street firms
bought a mere $60 million in future contracts on stocks, and the
action sent a shock of brief optimism through the market. Because
the buyer of futures contracts had initially only to put up a
small portion of the money, the cost of these transactions was
only a fraction of that $60 million. But the positive movement
apparently triggered a significant number of buy orders in the
underlying stocks. Some big institutions or wealthy investors
had perhaps decided to gamble in order to stabilize or even save
the market. Soon the Dow itself rallied, ending the day up 102
points, a record gain.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A1742-2000Nov11?language=printer

There we have it. This is our financial system, in all of its leveraged
fiduciary glory. It rests on the confidence of trading insiders
and on the promise of the Federal Reserve System to inject credit
money into the economy. It also rests on the highly leveraged futures
market, where those going long — “Who are those guys?” —
can get so much more bang for the buck.

THE
SELL-OUT: OCTOBER 20, 1987

There were numerous conference calls throughout the days of this
crisis, but only the October 20 meeting of the Open Market Committee
(FOMC) has transcripts, says the Federal Reserve. Parts of these
minutes have been posted on-line. They are quite revealing. We discover
the following: (1) the committee, which buys government debt with
the FED’s newly created money, was winging it; (2) there was a possibility
that the FED’s offer of new money would not be accepted by high-level
institutional borrowers, and therefore would not save the payments
system from gridlock; and (3) the international value of the dollar
was not collapsing, which no one could explain clearly.

CHAIRMAN
GREENSPAN. I think we’re playing it on a day-to-day basis. And
in a crisis environment. I suspect we shouldn’t really focus on
longer-term policy questions until we get beyond this immediate
period of chaos.

MR. ANGELL. But I presume that there’s at least an acceptance
by the members of the Committee that the $600 million on borrowings
is not necessarily in place in the coming two weeks as well as
in the reserve maintenance period now ending.

CHAIRMAN GREENSPAN. Yes. Does anybody disagree with Governor Angell’s
comment on this?

MR. STERNLIGHT. Mr. Chairman, I’d like to think that there’s a
particular element of flexibility here because I suspect there
may be some greater reluctance by banks to borrow in this kind
of —

MR. JOHNSON. I agree with Peter on that. I think that one of the
problems we may run into, and we’ve already seen it, is a strong
unwillingness to borrow. And trying to force the borrowing target
in that environment could result in an unbelievable funds rate.

So, I agree with Peter: he needs the flexibility, at least for
a while, to manage that situation. We just don’t know what we’re
up against, at least for a while, in this kind of situation.

What bears repeating is their concern with the financial system’s
unwillingness to borrow. “And trying to force the borrowing target
in that environment could result in an unbelievable funds rate.”

What would be an unbelievable federal funds rate? What it is today:
1.75%, down from 6% in January, 2001. This is what it took to get
the “players” to borrow in 2001.

Then there was the question is the levitating dollar in the midst
of an international crisis.

CHAIRMAN
GREENSPAN. I want to ask Sam Cross if he will explain to us why
the dollar is as strong as it is in this environment.

MR. CROSS. That’s a very good question and I wish I had a good
answer for it. We’ve been asking ourselves and others that, without
any really very convincing response. Certainly, there has been
some liquidating of things abroad as people have brought funds
back into the United States either for meeting their own liquidity
needs or for other purposes.

It is now time to quote the French proverb, “The more things change,
the more they stay the same.” Why is the dollar so high today, when
the FED is pumping in new money (St. Louis FED’s Adjusted Monetary
Base) at over 20% per annum? “That’s a very good question and I
wish I had a good answer for it. We’ve been asking ourselves and
others that, without any really very convincing response.” The agreed-upon
answer was this: foreigner investors were in even worse shape that
American investors were.

CHAIRMAN
GREENSPAN. In part, I think, the issue obviously is that potentially
defaulting investors in dollar securities were drawing funds out
of other currencies. That presupposes that the declines in the
other markets were not doing the reverse, which I assume is where
you come out.

MR. CROSS. Yes. Perhaps reflecting what Peter is talking about.
In our bond market there has been some tendency to move into Treasury
bonds as kind of an attractive place at this point, given the
chaos in so many of the equity markets around the world. But I
think there certainly has been liquidation of overseas positions.

http://www.federalreserve.gov/fomc/transcripts/1987/871020ConfCall.pdf

ALAN
GREENSPAN: BI-POLAR SCHIZOPHRENIC?

On his ninth day on the job, Chairman Greenspan launched his career
as the most famous schizophrenic in American central banking history:
a gold standard advocate who became the maestro of credit money
expansion. First, we read his 1966 survey of the history of money
and the gold standard, “Gold and Economic Freedom.”

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.

He then offered a short history of money in a division of labor
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. . . .

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. . . .

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.

Greenspan then offered a cogent history of fractional reserve banking
and its pitfalls. Commercial banks are innately inflationary, he
said. They, in turn, require a central bank to protect them against
bank runs and to keep credit money coming into the economy.

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.

The problem is, we cannot safely trust central bankers to do the
wise thing. Their ability to inflate the national currency tempts
them to keep alive their credit-money-created economic boom by new
injections of credit money. This is what happened, 1927-29.

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 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.

What central banking is really all about, Greenspan said in 1966,
is the funding of the welfare state. National politicians do not
want to raise taxes in order to fund their forced transfer of wealth,
so they prefer to borrow newly created money. The problem is, the
gold standard thwarts the banks’ creation of new money. This is
why the many defenders of the welfare state hate the gold standard.

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.

(This
article originally appeared in a newsletter called The Objectivist,
published in 1966, and was reprinted in Ayn Rand’s Capitalism:
The Unknown Ideal
.)

http://www.321gold.com/fed/greenspan/1966.html

Fast forward 36 years. Here is Greenspan’s latest version of the
history of money, in a speech delivered in 2002, on January 16.
(That’s right, Randians: January 16. But during the day.) The history
of money is the history of the triumph of the bank note, he now
says. Its success has been made possible by central banks’ ability
to reduce inflation over the past two decades.

The
history of money is the history of civilization or, more exactly,
of some important civilizing values. Its form at any particular
period of history reflects the degree of confidence, or the degree
of trust, that market participants have in the institutions that
govern every market system, whether centrally planned or free.

To accept money in exchange for goods and services requires a
trust that the money will be accepted by another purveyor of goods
and services. In earlier generations that trust adhered to the
intrinsic value of gold, silver, or any other commodity that had
general acceptability. Historians, digging deep into the earliest
evidence of human practice, link such commodities’ broad acceptability
to peoples’ desire for ostentatious gold and silver ornaments.

Many millennia later, in one of the remarkable advances in financial
history, the bank note emerged as a medium of exchange. It had
no intrinsic value. It was rather a promise to pay, on demand,
a certain quantity of gold or other valued commodity. The bank
note’s value rested on trust in the willingness and ability of
the bank note issuer to meet that promise. Reputation for trustworthiness,
accordingly, became an economic value to banks — the early
issuers of private paper currency.

They competed for reputation by advertising the amount of capital
they had to back up their promises to pay in gold. Those banks
that proved trustworthy were able to broadly issue bank notes,
along with demand deposits, that is, zero interest rate liabilities.
. . .

In the twentieth century, bank reputation receded in importance
and capital ratios decreased as government programs, especially
the discount window and deposit insurance, provided support for
bank promises to pay. And, at the base of the financial system,
with the abandonment of gold convertibility in the 1930s, legal
tender became backed — if that is the proper term —
by the fiat of the state.

The value of fiat money can be inferred only from the values of
the present and future goods and services it can command. And
that, in turn, has largely rested on the quantity of fiat money
created relative to demand. The early history of the post-Bretton
Woods system of generalized fiat money was plagued, as we all
remember, by excess money issuance and the resultant inflationary
instability.

Central bankers’ success, however, in containing inflation during
the past two decades raises hopes that fiat money can be managed
in a responsible way. This has been the case in the United States,
and the dollar, despite many challenges to its status, remains
the principal international currency.

[Note:
according to the inflation calculator that is on the Web site of
the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — http://www.bls.gov
— the U.S. dollar has lost almost half of its purchasing power
since 1981. It takes $1,948 today to buy what $1,000 bought in 1981.]

If
the evident recent success of fiat money regimes falters, we may
have to go back to seashells or oxen as our medium of exchange.
In that unlikely event, I trust, the discount window of the Federal
Reserve Bank of New York will have an adequate inventory of oxen.

http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/speeches/2002/200201163/default.htm

Seashells! Discount windows! He’s got a million of ‘em! Jokes, I
mean. Not seashells.

This system won’t work until there is a commodity futures market
for seashells. Otherwise, it will take too many seashells for the
unidentified buyers to prop up the system when the inevitable sell-off
begins.

When I compare his 1966 history of money with his 2002 history of
money, I conclude that this man is in desperate need of ideological
lithium. He has a bi-polar ideology. Well, not really. It only seems
this way. Rothbard warned of this back in 1987.

As
an alleged “laissez-faire pragmatist,” at no time in his prominent
twenty-year career in politics has he ever advocated anything
that even remotely smacks of laissez-faire, or even any approach
toward it. For Greenspan, laissez-faire is not a lodestar, a standard,
and a guide by which to set one’s course; instead, it is simply
a curiosity kept in the closet, totally divorced from his concrete
policy conclusions.

Thus, Greenspan is only in favor of the gold standard if all conditions
are right: if the budget is balanced, trade is free, inflation
is licked, everyone has the right philosophy, etc. In the same
way, he might say he only favors free trade if all conditions
are right: if the budget is balanced, unions are weak, we have
a gold standard, the right philosophy, etc. In short, never are
one’s “high philosophical principles” applied to one’s actions.
It becomes almost piquant for the Establishment to have this man
in its camp.

FEED
ME, ALAN!

From October 11, 1987, until today, Alan Greenspan has presided
over a debt-based money system that keeps coming perilously close
to the abyss, ever more frequently: the Asian crisis in 1997, the
near default and bail-out of Long Term Capital Management in 1998,
the collapse of the NASDAQ in 2000, the crisis of September 11,
and the bankruptcy of Enron. He is indeed the maestro. He has us
all trapped in a fiat money world in which it’s either maestro or
maelstrom.

The economy survives, but only by means of ever larger injections
of the FED’s credit money. Debt increases at every level in every
sector. Aggregate debt never gets repaid; it constantly increases.
It has to increase; otherwise, the economy could go into gridlock,
in which debtor A cannot pay debtor B because debtor C has not paid
him. (Debtor C is incorporated in Barbados and cannot be located.)
Greenspan has called this scenario “cascading cross defaults.” This
phrase appeared in his Congressional testimony a few weeks after
the LTCM crisis.

http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/testimony/19981001.htm

Like Audry II, America’s debt-fed, equity-sucking, fiat money economy
cries out, “Feed me, Alan!” By now, Alan is way beyond what the
FED alone can supply. He has to find new donors. Government Sponsored
Enterprises (GSE’s), especially those that supply money for residential
mortgages, are the main donors today. But they are reaching the
limits of their ability to locate credit-worthy first-time home
buyers and home owners who are willing to re-finance. The words
of Mr. Johnson echo down the halls of the FED.

I
think that one of the problems we may run into, and we’ve already
seen it, is a strong unwillingness to borrow. And trying to force
the borrowing target in that environment could result in an unbelievable
funds rate.

We’ve got that rate today. What comes next? When the beast calls
out once again, “Feed me, Alan,” who will supply the next meal?

We should not be like Mr. Mushnik. We should give Greenspan —
our very own Seymour — full credit. After all, he gives the
rest of us full credit. And for as long as we accept his offer,
the system will continue, devouring all available equity caught
in its path.

CONCLUSION

In the original director’s cut of “Little Shop of Horrors,” the
plant ate Seymour and Audry, and then escaped into the world. This
ending upset pre-release audiences, so a less threatening ending
was substituted. We all like happy endings.

I wish I could think of a happy ending for Alan Greenspan. So do
the script writers, of whom he is chief. This script is being re-written
daily. Now, more than ever, what Mr. Johnson said of Alan Greenspan
on October 20, 1987, rings true.

He
needs the flexibility, at least for a while, to manage that situation.
We just don’t know what we’re up against, at least for a while,
in this kind of situation.

March
11 ,
2002

Gary
North is the author of Mises
on Money
. To subscribe to his free
investment letter (e-mail), click here.

©
2002 LewRockwell.com

Gary
North Archives

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