Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Banks are the Biggest Threat

With the mess of the U.S. economy, the European economy, and many other economies worldwide, I believe the biggest problem and the biggest threat to our standard of living is the banking situation.  Of course, it is the governments of the world, working hand in hand with the major banks, that have created this problem.

There is no question that government debt, central bank inflation, government spending, and regulations are a huge detriment to the economy and our standard of living.  These things will continue to create massive problems going forward.  But I see the major banks as the hardest problem to solve.

I have written about the FDIC before here and here.  There has been moral hazard created on a grand scale.  The crazy thing to me is that few libertarians will address this issue.  I think the reason is because it is almost impossible to address it while still sounding like a libertarian.  The government has created such huge problems that it will probably take the government to get out of it.  (Already, I can't address this subject without sounding like I'm compromising my libertarian principles.)

If you became president and had a libertarian congress that would go along with you, what would you do to solve the banking problem from a libertarian perspective?

Moody's just recently downgraded the rating status of several major banks.  I'm convinced that one significant event could trigger another scenario like we saw in 2008.  Most of the major banks are on the verge of insolvency.

I believe that is why the Fed has been holding back on QE3.  It has kept the monetary base fairly steady since the end of QE2, almost one year ago.  The Fed is keeping its powder dry until it really needs it.  Bernanke and company are not going to start QE3 just because the Dow Jones went down a few hundred points.  They are going to save QE3 for a major downturn and for another bank bailout.

Of course, if the government were to do things right, we would be in a far better situation today.  Let's say that in 2008 the government and Fed bailed out the banks and other financial institutions just as they had.  But let's also say that they withdrew all of the troops from around the world, saving hundreds of billions per year.  Let's say they eliminated major departments like education and agriculture.  Let's say that raised the age of Medicare and Social Security.  Let's say they actually balanced the budget.  Let's say there was no stimulus plan and no Obamacare.  If all of that government cutting had been done in tandem with the bank bailouts in 2008, we would at least be in a much better situation today and be in a better position to handle another banking crisis.

The FDIC and the Fed have created a moral hazard on an unprecedented scale.  I am clueless as a libertarian on how to get out of this without compromising libertarian principles.  Maybe the bad banks do need to be nationalized one time and then be sold off in parts.  Maybe the Fed needs to create just enough money to get all of the banks to 100% reserves and then set a 100% reserve requirement, both of which I am against for a free market.  Again, none of these are good libertarian solutions, but it is hard to come up with something better.

I suppose a true libertarian solution is to let the banks fail and not have the Fed or FDIC step in.  But even libertarians understand that this would be a complete disaster, particularly with the U.S. dollar being the only form of money used in most situations in America.  That means your checking account at the bank would be wiped out if you don't get there in time.  I don't think this "solution" would sit well with most Americans.

The one very libertarian thing that I am in favor of that would help this problem in the long run is to repeal legal tender laws.  It would put a check on Bernanke and the Fed from inflating too much.  And if they did inflate too much, at least people would have the choice of using another form of money.  If there ever were a hyperinflation scenario, at least there might be some kind of an alternative at that point.  As far as banking goes, maybe some banks would actually deal in gold and silver and would be less susceptible to a banking crisis.

In conclusion, the banks are in bad shape and the Fed knows it.  The major banks will be bailed out again if necessary.  At this point, I can't even come up with a principled libertarian solution that will solve the problem without having a complete disaster.  If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.

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