financialsense.com / By Detlev S. Schlichter / January 30, 2013
I am usually inclined to encourage the inquiry of the fundamental aspects of money and banking. This is because I tend to believe that only by going back to first principles is it possible to cut through the thicket of widely accepted but deeply flawed theories that dominate the current debate in mainstream media, politics and the financial industry. From my own experience in financial markets I can appreciate how convenient and tempting it is in a business context, where quick and easy communication is of the essence, to adopt a certain, widely shared set of paradigms, regardless of how flimsy their theoretical foundations. Fund managers, traders and financial journalists live in the immediate present, preoccupied as they are with what makes headlines today, and they work in intensely collaborative enterprises. They have neither the time nor inclination to question the body of theories – often no longer even perceived as ‘theories’ but considered accepted common wisdom – that shapes the way they view and talk about the outside world. Thus, erroneous concepts and even outright fallacies often remain unquestioned and, by virtue of constant repetition, live comfortably in the bloodstream of policy debates, economic analysis, and financial market reportage.
This goes a long way in explaining the undeserved survival of a number of persistent modern myths: deflation is the gravest economic danger we face; Japan has been crippled by deflation for years and would grow again if it only managed to create some inflation; lack of ‘aggregate demand’ explains recessions and must be countered with easy monetary policy; and money-printing, as long as it does not lead to higher inflation, is a free lunch, i.e. we can only expect good from it. None of these statements stand up to scrutiny. In fact, they are all utterly absurd. Yet, we can barely open a newspaper and not have this nonsense stare us in the face, if not quite as bluntly as stated above, than at least as the intellectual soil from which the analysis or commentary presented has sprung. Deep-rooted misconceptions can only be dismantled through dissection of their building blocs and a discussion of basic concepts.