Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.China Crash, Greece Collapse, Harbingers of Stock Market Apocalypse Forecast 2015? - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Gold Price Awaiting Outcome of Greece Crisis - Clive_Maund
3.Gold Price Peculiar 6 Month Cycles - Rambus_Chartology
4.Gold Price Just a Little Bit More - Bob_Loukas
5.8 Unprecedented Extremes Indicate a Stock Market Bubble in Trouble - EWI
6.Gold And Silver – Without Either, You Will Be Greeced - Michael_Noonan
7.Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics - James_Quinn
8.China Crash, Greece Crisis Harbingers of Stocks Bear Market? Video - Nadeem_Walayat
9.Gold and Silver Record Shorting - Zeal_LLC
10.Markets Big Deflationary Downwave Quick Reference Guide... - Clive_Maund
Last 5 days
Stock Market Reluctant Primary Wave IV? - 2nd Aug 15
Power and Compassion - 2nd Aug 15
Preparing for The Stock Market Crash - Inverse ETFs and Puts Timing... - 2nd Aug 15
Commodity Prices Slump Signals Slow Economic Growth Outlook - 2nd Aug 15
BSE Sensex Stocks Bear Market Underway - 2nd Aug 15
What Microsoft’s Dismal Earnings Report Really Tells You - 2nd Aug 15
Gold And Silver Charts Are The Compelling Story. Fundamentals Do Not Apply - 2nd Aug 15
The Fed Can't Stop the Commodity Bear Market - 1st Aug 15
Meet the Leader Who Turned Google Into a “Buy” - 1st Aug 15
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion - 1st Aug 15
Gold’s Amazing Resiliency - 31st July 15
Silver – A Century of Prices - 31st July 15
Demand for Gold Bullion Surges – Perth Mint, and U.S. Mint Cannot Meet Demand - 31st July 15
Reasons Why the Greek Crisis Will Only Get Worse - 30th July 15
The War On Cash: Why Now? - 30th July 15
Greece - The IMF Experts Flunk, Again - 30th July 15
Threat Of Cyber Warfare the “Other Reason To Own Physical Gold” Warns Rickards - 30th July 15
The 5 Biggest Myths and Lies about the Middle East - 30th July 15
Greece, Diversion, and the New World Order - 30th July 15
Ibuprofen Warning - The Pain Killer that can Kill You! - 29th July 15
More Ritholtz on Gold, and Another Response - 29th July 15
Crude Oil Price Is Lower – and You’re Richer - 29th July 15
U.S. Home Sales Market Is Dead – This Chart Proves It - 29th July 15
Greece- What Happens When Economists Talk Politics - 29th July 15
The Gold - U.S. House Prices Ratio As A Valuation Indicator - 29th July 15
Will Crude Oil Price Decline Continue? -Video - 28th July 15
Gold & Silver Money Has Devolved Into Debt and Plastic - 28th July 15
Buy and "Own Gold Krugerrands" Says Money Expert Jim Grant, Very Bullish on Gold - 28th July 15
How to Protect Yourself from China's Crashing Stock Market - 28th July 15
Quantum Geopolitics - 28th July 15
Gold Mining Stocks to Weather the Storm - 28th July 15
Stock Market Bulls Beware! - 28th July 15
Will Chinese Stock Market Crash Affect the US? - 27th July 15
Crude Oil Price Under $48! - 27th July 15
Are We Seeing a Trend Reversal with U.S. Interest Rates? - 27th July 15
How to Know When the Gold Bear Market is Over - 27th July 15
Gold Bear Market Phase III - 27th July 15
Silver Bull Hammer Buy Signal - 27th July 15
Gold Cracks Support and Plunges to New Lows - How Low Will Price Go? - 27th July 15
Commodity Markets Breakdown Of 2015 Is Now A Fact - 26th July 15
Gold Price at a Five-Year Low: Here’s What to Do - 26th July 15
Stock Market Primary III Inflection Point - 26th July 15

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Stock Market Bubble in Trouble

U.S. Government War on Cash

Politics / Fiat Currency Mar 25, 2012 - 09:36 AM GMT

By: Joseph_T_Salerno

Politics

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleUnder cover of its multiplicity of fabricated wars on drugs, terror, tax evasion, and organized crime, the US government has long been waging a hidden war on cash. One symptom of the war is that the largest denomination of US currency is the $100 note, whose ever-eroding purchasing power is far below the purchasing power of the €500 note. US currency used to be issued in denominations running up to $10,000 (including also $500; $1,000; $5,000 notes). There was even a $100,000 note issued for transactions among Federal Reserve banks.


The United States stopped printing large denomination notes in 1945 and officially discontinued their issuance in 1969, when the Fed began removing them from circulation. Since then the largest currency note available to the general public has a face value of $100. But since 1969, the inflationary monetary policy of the Fed has caused the US dollar to depreciate by over 80 percent, so that a $100 note in 2010 possessed a purchasing power of only $16.83 in 1969 dollars. That is less purchasing power than a $20 bill in 1969!

Despite this enormous depreciation, the Federal Reserve has steadfastly refused to issue notes of larger denomination. This has made large cash transactions extremely inconvenient and has forced the American public to make much greater use than is optimal of electronic-payment methods. Of course, this is precisely the intent of the US government. The purpose of its ongoing breach of long-established laws regarding financial privacy is to make it easier to monitor the economic affairs and abrogate the financial privacy of its citizens, ostensibly to secure their safety from Colombian drug lords, Al Qaeda operatives, and tax cheats and other nefarious white-collar criminals

Now the war on cash has begun to spread to other countries. As reported a few months ago, Italy lowered the legal maximum on cash transactions from €2,500 to €1,000. The Italian government would have preferred to set a €500 or even €300 maximum limit but reasoned that it should permit Italians time to adjust to the new limit. The rationale for this limit on the size of cash transactions is the fact that the profligate Italian government is trying to reduce its €1.9 trillion debt and views its anticash measures as a means of cracking down on tax evasion, which "costs" the government an estimated €150 billion annually.

The profligacy of the Italian ruling class is in sharp contrast to ordinary Italians who are the least indebted consumers in the eurozone and among its biggest savers. They use their credit cards very infrequently compared to citizens of other eurozone nations. So deeply ingrained is cash in the Italian culture that over 7.5 million Italians do not even have checking accounts. Now most of these "bankless" Italians will be dragooned into the banking system so that the notoriously corrupt Italian government can more easily spy on them and invade their financial privacy. Of course Italian banks, which charge 2 percent on credit-card transactions and assess fees on current accounts, stand to earn an enormous windfall from this law. As controversial former prime minister Berlusconi noted, "There's a real danger of crossing over into a fiscal police state." Indeed, one only need look at the United States today to see what lies in store for Italian citizens.

Meanwhile the war on cash in Sweden is accelerating, although the involvement of the state is less overt. In Swedish cities, cash is no longer acceptable on public buses; tickets must be purchased in advance or via a cell-phone text message. Many small businesses refuse cash, and some bank facilities have completely stopped handling cash. Indeed in some Swedish towns it is no longer possible to use cash in a bank at all. Even churches have begun to facilitate electronic donations from their congregations by installing electronic card readers. Cash transactions represent only 3 percent of the Swedish economy, while they account for 9 percent of the eurozone and 7 percent of the US economies.

A leading proponent of the anticash movement is none other than Bjorn Ulvaeus, former member of the pop group ABBA. The dotty pop star, whose son has been robbed three times, believes that a cashless world means greater security for the public! Others, more perceptive than Ulvaeus, point to another alleged advantage of electronic transactions: they leave a digital trail that can be readily followed by the state. Thus, unlike countries with a strong "cash culture" like Greece and Italy, Sweden has a much lower incidence of graft. As one "expert" on underground economies instructs us, "If people use more cards, they are less involved in shadowy economy activities," in other words, secreting their hard-earned income in places where it cannot be plundered by the state.

The deputy governor of the Swedish central bank, Lars Nyberg, gloated before his retirement last year that cash will survive "like the crocodile, even though it may be forced to see its habitat gradually cut back." But not everyone in Sweden is celebrating the dethronement of cash. The chairman of Sweden's National Pensioners' Organization argues that elderly people in rural areas either do not have credit or debit cards or do not know how to use them to withdraw cash. Oscar Swartz, the founder of Sweden's first Internet provider, a supporter of the phasing out of cash, argues that without the adoption of anonymous payment methods, people who send money and make donations to various organizations can be "traced every time." But, of course, what the artless Mr. Swartz does not see is that this is the whole point of a cashless economy — to make even the most intimate economic affairs of private citizens transparent to the state and its fiscal and monetary apparatchiks, who themselves hate and fear transparency like vampires do sunlight. And then there are the benefits that accrue to the government-privileged banking system from the demise of cash. One Swedish small businessman shrewdly noted the connection. While he gets charged 5 kronor (80¢) for every credit-card transaction, he is prevented by law from passing this on to his customers. In his words, "For them (the banks), this is a very good way to earn a lot of money, that's what it's all about. They make huge profits."

Fortunately, the free market provides the prospect of an escape from the fiscal police state that seeks to stamp out the use of cash through either depreciation of central-bank-issued currency combined with unchanged currency denominations or direct legal limitation on the size of cash transactions. As Carl Menger, the founder of the Austrian School of economics, explained over 140 years ago, money emerges not by government decree but through a market process driven by the actions of individuals who are continually seeking a means to accomplish their goals through exchange most efficiently. Every so often history offers up another example that illustrates Menger's point. The use of sheep, bottled water, and cigarettes as media of exchange in Iraqi rural villages after the US invasion and collapse of the dinar is one recent example. Another example was Argentina after the collapse of the peso, when grain contracts (for wheat, soybeans, corn, and sorghum) priced in dollars were regularly exchanged for big-ticket items like automobiles, trucks, and farm equipment. In fact Argentine farmers began hoarding grain in silos to substitute for holding cash balances in the form of depreciating pesos.

As has been widely reported recently, an unlikely crime wave has rapidly spread throughout the United States and has taken local law-enforcement officials by surprise. The theft of Tide liquid laundry detergent is pandemic throughout cities in the United States. One individual alone stole $25,000 worth of Tide detergent during a 15-month crime spree, and large retailers are taking special security measures to protect their inventories of Tide. For example, CVS is locking down Tide alongside commonly stolen items like flu medications. Liquid Tide retails for $10–$20 per bottle and sells on the black market for $5–$10. Individual bottles of Tide bear no serial numbers, making them impossible to track. So some enterprising thieves operate as arbitrageurs buying at the black-market price and reselling to the stores, presumably at the wholesale price. Even more puzzling is the fact that no other brand of detergent has been targeted.

What gives here? This is just another confirmation of Menger's insight that the market responds to the absence of sound money by monetizing highly salable commodities. It is clear that Tide has emerged as a subsidiary local currency for black-market, especially drug, transactions — but for legal transactions in low-income areas as well. Indeed police report that Tide is being exchanged for heroin and methamphetamine and that drug dealers possess inventories of the commodity that they are also willing to sell. But why is laundry detergent being employed as money, and why Tide in particular?

Menger identified the qualities that a commodity must possess in order to evolve into a medium of exchange. Tide possesses most of these qualities in ample measure. For a commodity to emerge as money out of barter, it must be widely used, readily recognizable, and durable. It must also have a relatively high value-to-weight ratio so that it can be easily transported. Tide is the most popular brand of laundry detergent and is widely used by all socioeconomic groups. Tide also is easily recognized because of its Day-Glo orange logo. Laundry detergent can also be stored for long periods without loss of potency or quality. It is true that Tide is somewhat bulky and inconvenient to transport by hand in large quantities. But enough can be carried by hand or shopping cart for smaller transactions while large quantities can easily be transported and transferred using automobiles.

Just like the highly publicized war on drugs that the US government has been waging — and losing — for decades, it is doomed to lose its surreptitious war on cash, because the free market can and will respond to the demand of ordinary citizens for a reliable and convenient money.

Joseph Salerno is academic vice president of the Mises Institute, professor of economics at Pace University, and editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He has been interviewed in the Austrian Economics Newsletter and on Mises.org. Send him mail. See Joseph T. Salerno's article archives. Comment on the blog.

© 2012 Copyright Joseph Salerno - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2015 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Biggest Debt Bomb in History