Citigroup’s Chief Economist Joins the Cash Ban Bandwagon

We have discussed the views of Citigroup’s chief economist Willem Buiter previously in these pages (see “A Dose of Buiternomics” for details), on occasion of his coming out as a supporter of assorted monetary cranks, such as Silvio Gesell, to name one. Not to put too fine a point to it, Buiter is a monetary crank too.

Buiter is always shilling for more central bank intervention, and it seems no plan can ever be too silly or too extreme for him. In fact, he seems to have made the propagation of utterly crazy ideas his trademark.

Buiter has now joined one of his famous colleagues, Kenneth Rogoff, another intellectual enamored with central planning, in clamoring for a cash ban (for our discussion of Rogoff, see “Meet Kenneth Rogoff, Unreconstructed Statist”). Both Buiter and Rogoff want to make it impossible for citizens to escape the latest depredations of central bankers, such as the imposition of negative interest rates. This is to be done by forcing them to keep their money in accounts at fractionally reserved banks.

 

web1_WSOP-FINAL-TABLE_111114DB_020_6If Buiter gets his way, there won’t be a WSOP final table with piles of cash anymore.

Photo credit: David Becker / Las Vegas Review-Journal

 

As Bloomberg reports:

 

“The world’s central banks have a problem. When economic conditions worsen, they react by reducing interest rates in order to stimulate the economy. But, as has happened across the world in recent years, there comes a point where those central banks run out of room to cut — they can bring interest rates to zero, but reducing them further below that is fraught with problems, the biggest of which is cash in the economy.

In a new piece, Citi’s Willem Buiter looks at this problem, which is known as the effective lower bound (ELB) on nominal interest rates. Fundamentally, the ELB problem comes down to cash. According to Buiter, the ELB only exists at all due to the existence of cash, which is a bearer instrument that pays zero nominal rates. Why have your money on deposit at a negative rate that reduces your wealth when you can have it in cash and suffer no reduction? Cash therefore gives people an easy and effective way of avoiding negative nominal rates. Buiter’s note suggests three ways to address this problem:

  1. Abolish currency.
  2. Tax currency.
  3. Remove the fixed exchange rate between currency and central bank reserves/deposits.

Yes, Buiter’s solution to cash’s ability to allow people to avoid negative deposit rates is to abolish cash altogether. (Note that he’s far from being the first to float this idea. Ken Rogoff has given his endorsement to the idea as well, as have others.)

Before looking at the practicalities of abolishing currency, we should first look at whether it could ever be necessary. Due to the costs of holding large amounts of cash, Buiter puts the actual nominal rate at which the move to cash makes sense as closer to -100bp. So, in order for a cash abolition to become necessary, central banks would need to be in a position where they wished to set nominal rates much lower than that.

Buiter does not have to go far to find an example of where a central bank may have wanted to set interest rates much lower to -100bp. He uses (a fairly aggressive) Taylor Rule to show that Federal Reserve rates should have been as low as -6 percent during the financial crisis.”

 

(emphasis added)

As mentioned above, no meddling by a central bank is ever too extreme or too crazy for Mr. Buiter. Here is his ridiculous “Taylor rule” chart (the conclusions of which by the way would be vehemently disputed by none other than Mr. Taylor himself).

 

Ridiculous Buiter chartBuiter’s ridiculous chart asserting that a “negative interest rate of 6% would have been needed” in 2008-2010, via Citigroup, Bloomberg.

 

This nice gentlemen who wants to either “abolish cash” or “tax currency” for the good of us all, is a typical example of the modern-day viciously statist intellectual (h/t, Hans-Hermann Hoppe), who constantly pines for the authorities to implement social engineering on a grand scale. As long as they implement his plan, everything will be great.

 

Not Bothered by Concerns

Bloomberg tells us that “Buiter is aware that his idea may a bit controversial”. What a relief. He even lists the disadvantages of abolishing cash, only to dismiss them out of hand. With the exception of one crucial point, he is mainly erecting straw men.

 

“Buiter is aware that his idea may be somewhat controversial, so he goes to the effort of listing the disadvantages of abolishing cash.

  1. Abolishing currency will constitute a noticeable change in many people’s lives and change often tends to be resisted.
  2. Currency use remains high among the poor and some older people. (Buiter suggests that keeping low-denomination cash in circulation — nothing larger than $5 — might solve this.)
  3. Central banks and governments would lose seigniorage revenue.
  4. Abolishing currency would inevitably be associated with a loss of privacy and create risks of excessive intrusion by the government.
  5. Switching exclusively to electronic payments may create new security and operational risks.

Buiter dismisses each of these concerns in turn, finishing with: In summary, we therefore conclude that the arguments against abolishing currency seem rather weak.

Whatever the strength of the arguments, the chances of an administration taking the decision to abolish cash seem vanishingly small.

 

We are surprised by the optimism expressed by Bloomberg that “the chances of an administration taking the decision to abolish cash seem vanishingly small”. We believe that governments all over the so-called “free world” are working feverishly to make a ban of cash currency a reality.

Naturally, we couldn’t care less about the “seignorage” revenue of the State. In our opinion central banks shouldn’t even exist, and “seignorage” is nothing but a euphemism for outright theft. It’s a nice touch that Buiter also doesn’t want to “throw seniors under the bus” and gives a brief thought to the poor as well. Why would any of them ever need anything more than a $5 note?

That someone like Buiter doesn’t find it difficult to dismiss the concern that “abolishing currency would inevitably be associated with a loss of privacy and create risks of excessive intrusion by the government” is no surprise, but it is indeed a legitimate concern. Under the cover of the “war on drugs” and lately the even bigger government-sponsored racket known as the “war on terror”, financial privacy has been all but eradicated already.

 

BuiterWillem Buiter, shill for statism and central planning, here seen at the Council for Foreign Relations. Did we mention that we believe he’s an atrocious economist?

Photo credit: Bloomberg

 

Needless to say, we dispute the idea that central banks should ever impose negative interest rates. This policy is revolting economic nonsense that greatly harms the economy. As we have previously pointed out, given that the natural rate of interest can never be zero or negative, it is an inescapable conclusion that any imposition of negative market rates will end up destroying scarce capital and leave society poorer.

Lastly, Buiter fails to list one counterargument that we believe is extremely important. Since he works for a charter member of the world’s most powerful banking cartel, this is no big surprise either. We will make up for his oversight.

The 2008 crisis has not shown that anyone needs “negative interest rates” as Buiter erroneously claims. It has mainly shown how rickety and de facto insolvent the fractionally reserved banking system really is. If not for the introduction of an accounting trick (under immense political pressure, the FASB allowed the banks to dispense with mark-to-market accounting, which suddenly made them “whole” again), a huge taxpayer bailout and money printing by the central bank on an unprecedented scale (in the post WW2 era), several of the biggest banks would have gone the way of Lehman.

It was a good reminder that although fiduciary media – deposit money that is not backed by standard money – are part of the money supply in the broader sense, their main characteristic is that they exist only in the form of accounting entries. Hence, fractionally reserved banks are at all times insolvent, since they cannot possibly pay all demand deposits on demand. This obvious violation of what once used to be a bailment contract has been sanctioned by the courts in the 19th century under the influence of banking interests. If one considers how deposit money is multiplied under this system, it should be obvious that the scheme is fundamentally fraudulent. It goes against the grain of legal traditions that have been well-established in Western culture since antiquity.

If cash were to be banned, people could no longer opt out from this system. Bank runs would no longer be possible at all. While a bank run these days only gives one government scrip that is itself an irredeemable liability of a central bank, it is at least slightly more “real” than the accounting entry known as deposit money. Most importantly, cash can insure one against a bank going under, or the breakdown of the entire banking system, which is always a potential danger. Banks would obviously love a cash ban – quite possibly they are the only ones who would love it even more than governments.

 

1212cash

 

Conclusion

We keep being bombarded by moves to restrict the use of cash and demands to ban it altogether. These demands seem to mainly revolve around two arguments: one is that “only criminals need cash”, which is on a par with the absurd assertion that we should all be fine with Stasi-like ubiquitous government surveillance “if we have nothing to hide”. The other one is that a cash ban would make life easier for the central planners who are actively undermining the economy with their policy of debasement. We would argue that central banking and fiat money have done more than enough harm already and that the eradication of financial privacy has gone way too far. Money and banking should be freed from the clutches of government-directed monopolization and cartelization and should be returned to the free market.

 

Addendum:

One of our readers has sent us a few links concerning recent examples of the war on cash waged by governments the world over, which we reproduce below. Indeed, there is little cause for optimism on this score. Given this increase in attempts to restrict the use of cash, the danger that possession of gold will one day be declared illegal again can no longer be so easily dismissed either.

 

Louisiana bans use of cash to buy second-hand goods

Banks urged to call cops on customers trying to withdraw more than $5,000

Cash transactions restricted in Spain

Italy restricts cash transactions

France introduces most rigorous cash transaction restrictions in Europe

Greece makes all large cash transactions illegal

From our own archives: Sweden discusses cash ban and an update on Sweden.

There are also restrictions in place in Mexico, Argentina, the UK, Russia and Belgium. It is only a small step from “restriction” to “outright ban”.

 

 

 

Emigrate While You Can... Learn More

 


 

 
 

Dear Readers!

You may have noticed that our so-called “semiannual” funding drive, which started sometime in the summer if memory serves, has seamlessly segued into the winter. In fact, the year is almost over! We assure you this is not merely evidence of our chutzpa; rather, it is indicative of the fact that ad income still needs to be supplemented in order to support upkeep of the site. Naturally, the traditional benefits that can be spontaneously triggered by donations to this site remain operative regardless of the season - ranging from a boost to general well-being/happiness (inter alia featuring improved sleep & appetite), children including you in their songs, up to the likely allotment of privileges in the afterlife, etc., etc., but the Christmas season is probably an especially propitious time to cross our palms with silver. A special thank you to all readers who have already chipped in, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Regardless of that, we are honored by everybody's readership and hope we have managed to add a little value to your life.

   

Bitcoin address: 12vB2LeWQNjWh59tyfWw23ySqJ9kTfJifA

   
 

2 Responses to “Another Shill for Statism and Central Planning Demands a Cash Ban”

  • VB:

    Does anyone have a link to the original paper (as opposed to Bloomberg’s interpretation of it)? I’m curious how the actual “solutions” look like.

    “Abolish cash” is obvious but the most difficult thing to do in practice. You can put severe limits on how much you can pay with cash, you can stimulate and make electronic transactions easier, but eliminating cash completely is just impractical.

    “Tax currency” is easier and more straightforward – but how do you implement it in practice? Taxing bank deposits is trivial and Australia is about to do it already – but how do you tax cash? Impose a tax on cash transactions, maybe?

    Also, what does he mean by the third “solution”? Most people have no clue what “bank reserves” are and how an exchange rate on them would affect their everyday life. Does he mean e.g., if you have $1000 in deposit, allow to pay $1000 electronically, but give you only $500 if you want to withdraw it in cash?

  • No6:

    Once cash goes Gold will be in great demand, so this too will need to be banned. I think this is where Silver has a real advantage over Gold and may well prove the peoples saviour.

Your comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Most read in the last 20 days:

  • The Federal Reserve is a Barbarous Relic
      The Sky is Falling   “We believe monetary policy is in a good place.” – Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, October 30, 2019.   The man from the good place. "As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn't there. He wasn't there again today, Oh how I wish he'd go away!" [PT]   Ptolemy I Soter, in his history of the wars of Alexander the Great, related an episode from Alexander’s 334 BC compact with the Celts ‘who dwelt by the Ionian...
  • Incrementum 2019 Gold Chart Book
      The Most Comprehensive Collection of Gold Charts Our friends at Incrementum have just published their newest Gold Chart Book, a complement to the annual “In Gold We Trust” report. A download link to the chart book is provided below.   As of late 2019 an ounce of gold will get you 115 liters of beer at the Munich October Fest – a 7-year high. Cheers!   The Incrementum Gold Chart Book is easily the most comprehensive collection of charts related to or relevant...
  • The Golden Autumn Season – One of the Most Reliable Seasonal Patterns Begins
      The Strongest Seasonal Stock Market Trend Readers may already have guessed: when the vibrant colors of the autumn leaves are revealed in all their splendor, the strongest seasonal period of the year begins in the stock market – namely the year-end rally.   Will Santa wake up this year? Last year he was clearly missing in action – but that is actually the exception, not the rule [PT]   Stocks typically rise in this time period. However, there are questions, such...
  • Riding the Type 3 Mega Market Melt Up Train
      Beta-driven Fantasy The decade long bull market run, aside from making everyone ridiculously rich, has opened up a new array of competencies. The proliferation of ETFs, for instance, has precipitated a heyday for the ETF Analyst. So, too, blind faith in data has prompted the rise of Psychic Quants... who see the future by modeling the past.   Gandalf, quant of Middle-Earth, dispensing sage advice. [PT]   For the big financial outfits, optimizing systematic –...
  • Maybe the West Should Adopt Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Policy
      The Rise of Total War Prior to the modern age, when war was engaged in, combatants, for the most part, acted by a code of conduct which attempted to minimize civilian deaths and the destruction of non-participants’ property. With the onset of the democratic age and the idea of “total war” such modes of conduct have tragically fallen by the wayside, the consequence of which has made warfare far more bloody and destructive.   Iranian Seiji-2 missile. Of course, we...
  • Is the Fed Secretly Bailing Out a Major Bank?
      Prettifying Toxic Waste The promise of something for nothing is always an enticing proposition. Who doesn’t want roses without thorns, rainbows without rain, and salvation without repentance?  So, too, who doesn’t want a few extra basis points of yield above the 10-year Treasury note at no added risk?   The yield-chasing hamster wheel... [PT]   Thus, smart fellows go after it; pursuing financial innovation with unyielding devotion.  The underlying...
  • Bitcoin Moonshot - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Bitcoin Gets Juiced The prices of gold and silver were up $19 and $0.48 respectively last week. But that’s not where the massive inpouring of groceries went.   When Friday began (Arizona time), Bitcoin’s purchasing power was under 75 grocery units (assuming a grocery unit is $100). By evening, speculators added 25 more grocery units to the same unit of bitcoin.   Bitcoin, daily – shortly after breaking below an obvious lateral support level, Bitcoin did an...
  • Maurice Jackson Interviews Brien Lundin and Jayant Bhandari
      Two Interesting Recent P&P Interviews Our friend Maurice Jackson of Proven and Probable has recently conducted two interviews which we believe will be of interest to our readers. The first interview  is with Brien Lundin, the president of Jefferson Financial, host of the famed New Orleans Investment Conference and publisher & editor of the Gold Newsletter – an investment newsletter that has been around for almost five decades, which actually makes it the longest-running...
  • Targeting nGDP Targeting – Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Everybody Has a Plan Not too long ago, we wrote about the so called Modern Monetary so called Theory (MMT). It is not modern, and it is not a theory. We called it a cargo cult. You’d think that everyone would know that donning fake headphones made of coconut shells, and waving tiki torches will not summon airplanes loaded with cargo. At least the people who believe in this have the excuse of being illiterate.   A few images documenting cargo cults on the island of...
  • Volatility Galore - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Fun and Regret Ex Nihilo The price of gold dropped last week, but not calamitously. From $1514 to $1459, or -$55. The price of silver dropped. Calamitously. From $18.08 to $16.75, or -$1.33. -3.6% vs -7.4%. Once again, silver proves to be volatile relative to gold.   Silver jumped off a cliff again last week – the chart formation nevertheless continues to look corrective. [PT]   In standard vernacular, the metals lost purchasing power this week. Purchasing power can...

Support Acting Man

Austrian Theory and Investment

j9TJzzN

The Review Insider

Archive

Dog Blow

THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

Realtime Charts

 

Gold in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Gold in EUR:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Silver in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Platinum in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

USD - Index:

[Most Recent USD from www.kitco.com]

 

Mish Talk

 
Buy Silver Now!
 
Buy Gold Now!