My comment on an article in The Tyee about our federal government’s latest throne speech by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/09/24/Throne-Speech-Stew/).
The idea that a sovereign nation can never run into trouble financially because it can create its own currency is certainly the dominant narrative amongst government and ‘mainstream’ economists/bankers. After all, who benefits the most from this storyline?
But is it in fact true?
Scratching below the surface of this ‘experiment’ suggests it is not.
If printing one’s own money were a panacea, then nations like Venezuela, Zimbabwe, or the German Weimar Republic (and countless other nations throughout history) would never have experienced the hyperinflation and/or currency debasement that they have. They would be the richest nations ever to have existed.
One could counter that this is because they had to use their debased currency to import goods. True, but if one is debauching one’s currency through exponential ‘printing’, then this may be true for any nation dependent upon imports, which almost every nation is in our globalised, industrial world.
The solution that nations have rested upon given this reality is that the central banks collude to all print at relatively the same rate, so currencies don’t fall/rise too drastically compared to their trading partners.
Fine, but what does endless money/credit creation due to the purchasing power of this fiat currency created from thin air?
Previous trials in this approach indicate that it totally debases/debauches the currency, significantly reducing the ‘wealth’ of the people holding/using it because of the inflation that it creates.
Here’s what John Maynard Keynes had to say about this: “By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”
And while it’s interesting to note ‘official inflation’ is subdued, the manipulation that goes into creating this gauge of price inflation makes the official number meaningless to people’s real-world experience (look up hedonic adjustments to get a sense of how manipulated these numbers are; and then compare your experience in price increases to official numbers — my family’s utilities, food, health, housing, transportation, insurance, education, etc. expenses far, far outpace ‘official’ inflation; by several times).
Then there’s the whole issue of continuing to chase the infinite growth chalice and pulling substantial growth forward through debt/money creation. We live on a finite planet despite hopium narratives to the contrary and all this push for growth does is get us further and further into overshoot by quickening our exploitation of finite resources. There is no consideration whatsoever of the limits imposed upon us. There is only more growth to try and address our dilemmas that are created by us pursuing growth in the first place.
Despite the story that these policies are being used to solve our problems and help people, the reality is that they are very much probably doing the exact opposite. In fact, a good argument could be made that the ‘all in’ aspect of this is further evidence that the planet is reaching the endgame of overshooting our natural carrying capacity and the fallout is quickening towards its obvious conclusion: collapse of the complex systems we have come to depend upon. To paraphrase Canadian economist Jeff Rubin in his book Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: things are going local and simpler, whether we want them to or not.