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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 9/3/15

Quantitative Easing for People: The UK Labour Frontrunner's Controversial Proposal

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The Bank of Japan has been printing for years and only recently ramped that up to try to lift its economy out of decades of perma-recession. The European Central Bank has cut its deposit rate to minus 0.2 per cent to try to force savers to invest. That means savers have to pay the bank to mind their money. . . .

China has blown $310 billion propping up a stock market that has fallen at least 43 per cent from its peak. It pushed the Chinese yuan lower and spent another US$200b to stop further falls.

This week the People's Bank of China cut its main lending rate to 4.6 per cent and loosened lending rules for banks.

Yet there is no sign of the threatened hyperinflation:

All this rate-cutting and money printing has made it attractive to buy stocks, property and bonds that produce a regular income greater than the near-zero interest rates. . . .

But, curiously, all this money printing and 0 per cent interest rates have yet to unleash the inflation dragon, at least for goods and services. Asset prices are pumped up and juicy, but goods manufactured in factories and in cloud services are firmly in deflationary mode.

Why? According to conventional economic theory, increasing the money in circulation has only one effect: when the quantity of money goes up, more money will be chasing fewer goods, driving prices up. Why hasn't that happened with the massive rounds of QE now gone global?

A Flawed Theory

Conventional monetarist theory was endorsed until the Great Depression, when John Maynard Keynes and other economists noticed that massive bank failures had led to a substantial reduction in the money supply. Contradicting the classical theory, the shortage of money was affecting more than just prices. It appeared to be directly linked to a massive wave of unemployment, while resources sat idle. Produce was rotting on the ground while people were starving, because there was no money to pay workers to pick it or for consumers to buy it with.

Conventional theory then gave way to Keynesian theory. In a March 2015 article in The International New York Times called "Keynes Versus the IMF," economist Dr. Asad Zaman writes of this transition:

Keynesian theory is based on a very simple idea that conduct of the ordinary business of an economy requires a certain amount of money. If the amount of money is less than this amount, then businesses cannot function -- they cannot buy inputs, pay labourers or rent shops. This was the fundamental cause of the Great Depression. The solution was simple: increase the supply of money. Keynes suggested that we could print money and bury it in coal mines to have unemployed workers dig it up. If money was available in sufficient quantities, businesses would revive and the unemployed labourers would find work. By now, there is nearly universal consensus on this idea. Even Milton Friedman, the leader of the Monetarist School of Economics and an arch-enemy of Keynesian ideas, agreed that the reduction in money supply was the cause of the Great Depression. Instead of burying it in mines, he suggested that money could be dropped from helicopters to solve the problem of unemployment.

And that is where we are now: despite repeated rounds of QE, there is still too little money chasing too many goods. The current form of QE is merely an asset swap: dollars for existing financial assets (federal securities or mortgage-backed securities). The rich are getting richer from bank bailouts and very low interest rates, but the money is not going into the real economy, which remains starved of the funds necessary to create the demand that would create jobs. To be effective for that purpose, a helicopter drop of money would need to fall directly into the wallets of consumers. Far from being "undisciplined fiscal policy," getting some new money into the real economy is imperative for getting it moving again.

According to Social Credit theory, even creating more jobs won't solve the problem of too little money in workers' pockets to clear the shelves of the products they produce. Sellers set their prices to cover their costs, which include more than just workers' salaries. Chief among these non-wage costs is the interest on money borrowed to pay for labor and materials before there is a product to sell. The vast majority of the money supply comes into circulation in the form of bank loans, as the Bank of England recently acknowledged. Banks create the principal but not the interest necessary to repay their loans, leaving a "debt overhang" that requires the creation of ever more debt in an attempt to close the gap. The gap can only be closed in a sustainable way with some sort of debt-free, interest-free money dropped directly into consumers's wallets, ideally in the form of a national dividend paid by the Treasury.

As Keynes pointed out, price inflation will occur only when the economy reaches full productive capacity. Before that, increased demand prompts an increase in supply. More workers are hired to produce more goods and services, so that demand and supply rise together. And in today's global markets, inflationary pressures have an outlet in the excess capacity of China and the increased use of robots, computers and machines. Global economies have a long way to go before reaching full productive capacity.

Running Afoul of the EU

A more challenging roadblock to Corbyn's proposal may simply be that there are rules against it. Peter Spence writes:

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Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling WEB OF DEBT. In THE PUBLIC BANK SOLUTION, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and (more...)
 

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