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Geithner and Summers Want More Debt Bubbles: The Result Could Be Catastrophic

The Geithner/Summers plan seems to hinge on reinflating the debt bubble. The outcome will be inflation, a more serious crash, or both.

"Everything predicted by the enemies of banks, in the beginning, is now coming to pass. We are to be ruined now by the deluge of bank paper. It is cruel that such revolutions in private fortunes should be at the mercy of avaricious adventurers, who, instead of employing their capital, if any they have, in manufactures, commerce, and other useful pursuits, make it an instrument to burden all the interchanges of property with their swindling profits, profits which are the price of no useful industry of theirs."

--Thomas Jefferson letter to Thomas Cooper, 1814.

Are we standing at the edge of a Great Inflation (like Weimar Germany), a second Republican Great Depression, or a return to the middle class prosperity of the Roosevelt/Eisenhower New Deal era? Until Americans understand the difference between "money" and "debt," odds are its going to be one of the first two, at least over the next few years.


"Money" is a convenient replacement for barter in an economy. Instead of my giving you five pounds of carrots, so you wash my car, then you trade the carrots for a new shirt, and the clothing store then trades the carrots to a trucker that brings them their inventory, we all just agree to use a ten-dollar bill. Because a nation's money supply represents that nation's "wealth" -- the sum total of goods, services, and resources available in an economy/nation -- it needs to have a fixed value relative to the number/amount of goods, services, and resources within the nation.

As an economy grows -- more factories, more goods, more services -- the money supply grows so one dollar always represents the same number of carrots. (And with a fractional reserve banking system like we have, that growth is created mostly by banks lending money and creating it out of thin air in the process.)

If the money supply contracts, or grows slower than the economy, then we experience deflation -- the value of money increases, goods and services become less expensive (fewer dollars to buy the carrots), but because the value of money has increased it becomes harder to get. When this happens quickly, because of its economically destabilizing influence (businesses and people can't get current money -- cash -- or future money -- credit -- because money is more valuable), it's called a Depression.

On the other hand, if the money supply expands or grows faster than the economy, there are more dollars than there are goods and services so the number needed to buy a pound of carrots increases. This is inflation, and when it happens suddenly and on a large scale, it's called hyperinflation.

Therefore, one of the most important jobs overseen by Congress and executed by a Central Bank (or the Treasury Department if we were to go with the system envisioned by the Founders and Framers of the Constitution) is to "regulate the value" of our money (to quote Article I, Section 8.5 of our Constitution) by making sure the number of dollars in circulation always steadily tracks the size of the overall economy. If the economy grows 2%, then that year there should be 2% more dollars put into circulation. More than that will create inflation; fewer will create deflation.


"Debt" is not money. Instead, it's a charge against future money. But even though it's a charge against future money, it can still be spent as if it was today's money -- except that it must be repaid with interest. And therefore debt must have some sort of a balanced relationship to the total size of the economy -- albeit the future economy -- for it not to be destabilizing.