March 18, 2012
Submitted by Chris Martenson
Marc Faber: The Perils of Money Printing’s Unintended Consequences
Marc Faber does not mince words. He believes the money printing policies of the Federal Reserve and its sister central banks around the globe have put the world’s currencies on an inexorable, accelerating inflationary down slope.
The dangers of money printing are many in his eyes. But in particular, he worries about the unintended consequences it subjects the populace to. Beyond currency devaluation, it creates malinvestment that leads to asset bubbles that wreak havoc when they burst. And even more nefarious, money printing disproportionately punishes the lower classes, resulting in volatile social and political tensions.
It’s no surprise then that he’s feeling particularly defensive these days. While he generally advises those looking to protect their purchasing power to invest capital in precious metals and the equity markets (the rationale being inflation should hurt equity prices less than bond prices), he warns that equities appear overbought at this time.
First of all, I do not believe that the central banks around the world will ever, and I repeat ever, reduce their balance sheets. They’ve gone the path of money printing and once you choose that path you’re in it, and you have to print more money.
If you start to print, it has the biggest impact. Then you print more – it has a lesser impact unless you increase the rate of money printing very significantly. And, the third money printing has even less impact. And the problem is like the Fed: they printed money because they wanted to lift the housing market, but the housing market is the only asset that didn’t go up substantially.
In general, I think that the purchasing power of money has diminished very significantly over the last ten, twenty, thirty years, and will continue to do so. So by being in cash and government bonds is not a protection against this depreciation in the value of money.
On His Love for Central Bankers
Basically the U.S. had a significant increase in the average household income in real terms from the late 1940s to essentially the mid-1960s. And, then inflation began to bite and real income growth slowed down. Then came the 1980s and in order not to disappoint the household income recipients you essentially printed money and had a huge debt expansion.
So if you have an economic system and you suddenly grow your debt at a very high rate, it’s like an injection of a stimulant of steroids. So the economy grew at a relatively fast pace, but built on additional debt. And this obviously cannot go on forever and when it comes to an end, you have a problem. But the Fed had never paid any attention.
The Fed is about the worst economic forecaster you can imagine. They are academics. They never go to a local pub. They never go shopping — or they lie. But basically they are a bunch of people who never worked a single day in their lives. They’re not businessmen that have to balance the books, earn some money by selling goods, and paying the expenditures. They get paid by the government. And so these people have no clue about the economy.
And, so what happens is they never paid any attention to excessive credit growth — and let me remind you, between 2000 and 2007, credit growth was five times the growth of the economy in nominal terms. In other words, in order to create one dollar of GDP, you had to borrow another five dollars from the credit market. Now this came to an end in 2008.
Now the Fed never having paid any attention to credit growth, they realized if we have a credit-addicted economy and credit growth slows down we have to print money. So that’s what they did. But believe me it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that if you print money you don’t create prosperity. Otherwise, every country would be unbelievably rich because every country would print money and be happy thereafter.
On The Unintended Consequences of Money Printing
In the short term, it has been working to some extent in the sense that equity prices are up and interest rates are down. And, so companies can issue bonds at extremely low rates. But every money printing exercise in the world leads to unintended consequences at a later point. And, this is the important issue to remember. We don’t know yet for sure what the unintended consequences are.
We know one unintended consequence, and this is that the middle class and the lower classes of society, say 50% of the U.S. has rather been hurt by the increase in the quantity of money in the sense that commodity prices in particular food and energy have gone up very substantially. And, since below 50% of income recipients in the U.S. spend a lot, a much larger portion of their income on food and energy than to say the 10% richest people in America and highest income earners, they have been hurt by monetary policy. In addition, the lower income groups, if they have savings, traditionally they keep them in safe deposits and in cash because they don’t have much money to invest in the first place. So the increase in the value of the S&P hasn’t helped them, but it helped the 5% or 10% or 1% of the population that owns equities. So it’s created awider wealth inequality and that is a negative from a society point of view.
Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with Marc Faber (runtime 40m:45s):