04/15/2019

Counterfeiting Money Is A Crime — Whether Done By The Fed Or A Private Individual

Patrick Barron, Mises Institute

A few years ago, shortly after the 2008 subprime lending disaster, the Fed sent a public relations team around the country to conduct supposedly "educational sessions" about how the Fed works and the wonderful things it does. The public was invited, and there was a question and answer session at the end of the presentation. One such session was held in Des Moines, Iowa. At the time I was teaching a course in Austrian economics at the University of Iowa, so I lusted at the prospect of hearing complete nonsense and having a shot at asking a question. I was not disappointed.

The educational part of the session lasted about an hour, and it became clear to me that the panel of four knew almost nothing about monetary theory. They may even have been hired especially for this grand tour, because all were relatively young, well scrubbed, and very personable--let's face it, not your typical Fed monetary policy wonks or bank examiners! The panelists discussed only one of the Fed's two remits--its remit to promote the economic advancement of the nation. Its other remit is to safeguard the monetary system. However, the panelists did touched upon the Fed's control of interest rates and ensuring that money continued to flow to housing and other high profile areas of the economy.

Finally, at the end of the presentation, those with questions were asked to form a queue and advance one at a time to a microphone. I was last in a line of about a dozen. Here's my recollection of what followed:

Me: You say that you (the Fed) have the power to increase the money supply. Is that right?

Fed: Yes.

Me: And you have indeed increased the money supply. Is that right?

Fed: Yes.

Me: And the money that you create was generated out of thin air. It wasn't there before, but it's there now. Is that right?

Fed (Getting nervous): Yes.

Me: And you say that creating this money out of thin air is beneficial to the economy. Is that right?

Fed (Now nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof): Yes.

Me: Then why do you prosecute counterfeiters?

(The audience, after a few seconds' delay,: Yeah, why DO you prosecute counterfeiters?)

Fed: This meeting is closed.

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