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More gesture politics

An old book, "Storage and Stability" is worth reading. Here's from a website about the book:

"When Benjamin Graham wrote Storage and Stability in 1937, the world was in the midst of the Great Depression. Written as a blueprint for economic recovery, the book was designed to spur both governments and the public to greater financial awareness. Based upon years of research and economic modeling, Graham's new theories focused on the inherent importance of supply and demand, production and consumption, and their inherent influences on value investing."

Well, that was in the 1930s. In the 1990s, Fed governor Wayne Angell hoisted a similar flag. Angell, now a Columbia professor, is no longer on the Fed. He has enjoyed similar political success in marginalizing even professional economists like Joseph Stiglitz, once a World Bank economist).

Here's a typical professional (Stiglitz) opinion:

"If we (World Bank) had seen a governance structure that corresponds to our Federal Reserve System, we would have been yelling and screaming and saying that country does not deserve any assistance, this is a corrupt governing structure". Stiuglitz's comments drew neither official recognition nor response.

And here's Martin Harris' opinion: Whether the Fed is internally corrupt or not-and that includes its documented history of tweaking monetary policy to please the in-power administration-matters less than whether it accomplishes its assigned mission, to regulate the value of the currency. It has failed at that mission. Could a commodity based dollar driven by mathematical formula, not professional judgment, perform any worse than 95-year/95 percent-devaluation failure? You decide. But probably it doesn't matter.

That's because gesture politics-the legislative branch's proposed kabuki-play enactment of Fed-audit-contemplates none of the following: 1.review of the Fed's 95-year performance history, 2. review of the Fed's policy-tweaking political-campaign-support pattern, 3. The Fed's role in enabling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to fund a trillion dollars worth (actually, worthless) of sub-prime mortgages, and 4. the academic argument for a more mathematical monetary policy, closer to the workings of a currency board regulating domestic currency to balance. Such a revision to present Fed authorization would replace skilled judgment (which has proven decidedly unskilled) with a more robotic formula.

You might call this a gold standard without the gold. But gesture politics will doubtless dominate, so the legislative branch's review will focus on-drum-roll, please-emergency lending rules.

More next week.

Martin Harris is a retired Vermont architect and an observer of all things strange and political.

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