Elizabeth Warren's Other Cherokee Scandal: Her Fight Against Tribal Sovereignty

Elizabeth Warren's Other Cherokee Scandal: Her Fight Against Tribal Sovereignty

10/18/2018Tho Bishop

Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential aspirations may have ended before they began this week thanks to her team’s bizarre decision to proudly broadcast the results of a DNA test that shows she may have had a relative 10 generations removed that was of indigenous American heritage. As Senator Warren was once promoted as “Harvard Law School's...first woman of color,” the results seem to only confirm that she misrepresented her ancestry in her past career as a law professor.

Not only has the decision been met with a blistering condemnation from the Cherokee Nation, but it has once again made her the butt of President Trump’s jokes.

Lost in the laughing at Warren’s expense however, is a larger issue exists over how American politicians continue to treat tribal sovereignty.

After all, if Warren had used her position as senator to serve as an advocate for the Cherokee Nation’s right to self-determination, her history of misrepresenting her genetic connection to the tribe would perhaps be more excusable. Say what you will about Rachel Dolezal, she at least cared enough to be an advocate for the African American community. Instead, Warren’s political record is one that has regularly promoted the continued imperial rule of Washington on land that is tribal in name only.

Though never officially serving as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Warren has been widely credited as being the guiding force behind the creation of the agency. The CFPB was created as part of the Obama Administration’s response to the financial crisis, a powerful financial regulator that lacks the traditional checks of other executive agencies. Under the lead of former director Richard Cordray, the CFPB went to work becoming a heavy handed regulator in its fight against "unfair, deceptive and abusive” practices.

Soon, various tribal financial services businesses found themselves in the cross hairs of the enthusiastic CFPB. The result is that the agency has been described by Dr. Gavin Clarkson, a tribal finance expert, as “the most hostile federal agency towards Indian tribes since Indian Affairs was in the War Department.”

One example is a variety of short-term lending operations that various tribes started up to try to capitalize on the growth of e-commerce. In theory, tribal sovereignty should have given these ventures a competitive advantage over other US lenders who had to deal with the Washington red tape. Unfortunately Obama’s Justice Department decided these operations represented a “national security risk” and worked with the CFPB to shut them down as part of Operation Choke Point – in spite of pleas from tribal advocates that doing so would be economically devastating.

While it would be unfair to blame Elizabeth Warren for any and all actions taken by the CFPB and DOJ, she served as a primary defender of Operation Choke Point when legislative pressure mounted to end it.

Similarly, she has been the chief voice in the Senate attacking the pay day lending industry, which became a point of particular emphasis under the Cordray CFPB. This has put the Warren-Cordray camp into ongoing legal conflict with various tribes over whether federal financial regulation should apply to tribal land, leading the CFPB to sue various tribal lenders.

While the Supreme Court refused to take up the case, which could have provided a legal precedent in favor of tribal sovereignty, the suit was eventually dropped earlier this year after Mick Mulvaney took over as the CFPB’s acting head. Warren wrote a letter to Mulvaney criticizing the decision.

Warren’s indifference to the cause of tribal sovereignty appeared again this year with a vote on the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act.  

The issue here was whether tribal-owned businesses should be forced to follow federal labor laws on collective bargaining. The issue has been a major one for a number of American tribes, upset that tribal governments are subjected to labor laws that state and federal governments are exempt from.

As Jefferson Keel, the President of the National Congress of American Indians, wrote in The Hill:

Sovereignty means tribes should be allowed to make their own decisions about their own workforce policies. The truth is that many tribal nations openly welcome labor unions into the businesses that they own; others choose not to. And a growing number have designed and enforce their own labor regulations. But the NLRB ignores all of this and, instead, forces tribal governments to adhere to the NLRA. Just us. No one else. This is a plain violation of our inherent rights as sovereign nations and governments.

Unfortunately Senator Warren’s loyalty lay with labor unions over tribal sovereignty, and she joined with 41 other Senators to successfully kill a vote on the bill.

While Warren has made it easy to laugh at about “fauxocahontas” and 1/1024th memes, her political contempt for tribal self-sovereignty is what should make her false claims to Cherokee heritage truly insulting.

Elizabeth Warren and her fellow progressives believe Native Americans are better off following her rules, rather than granting tribes the political self-determination to make such decisions for themselves. It’s a form of ideological imperialism, driven by their own belief in their moral superiority and the belief on “the right side of history.” The progressive person's burden is to use to the power of the state to impose social justice, regulate “fairness” in the market, and impose egalitarian social norms

This is precisely why it’s important for those who recognize the dangers of federal overreach and political centralization should take the issue of tribal sovereignty so seriously. The goal for a more civil and free society should not be the aim of some grand universal political order, but a respect for political self-determination. To that end, a respect for tribal rights is just as important as any other fight in favor of political decentralization.

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Government Schools Use Covid as an Excuse to Tighten Totalitarian Grip

While the recent clamp-down on power from public universities has mainly been in the realm of speech and expression, like almost every other government institution, they have used covid-19 as an opportunity to control students further. Much to my dismay, this week I learned that my alma mater, Indiana University, has instituted a “COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement,” their website stating:

With the ultimate goal of returning our campuses to normal operations, beginning with the fall 2021 semester, all Indiana University (including IUPUI) students, faculty and staff will be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine and be fully vaccinated before returning to campus.

I was shocked that this was mandatory, as opposed to a mere recommendation, but slightly further down the page, it is abundantly clear—comply or leave:

If you choose not to meet the requirement

IU has outlined strong consequences for those who choose not to meet the COVID-19 vaccine requirement and do not receive an exemption. Everyone is strongly encouraged to get the vaccine as soon as possible not only for your own health and safety but for those around you as well.

For students, they will see their class registration cancelled, CrimsonCard access terminated, access to IU systems (Canvas, email, etc.) terminated, and will not be allowed to participate in any on campus activity.

Faculty and staff who choose not to meet the requirement will no longer be able to be employed by Indiana University. Working remotely and not meeting the COVID-19 vaccine requirement is not an option.

While forced vaccination is completely totalitarian, the argument could be made that new students were made aware of the university’s vaccine requirements and could make a voluntary decision to attend or not, given the information. What really strikes me is the nerve the university has forcing the vaccine on students already attending.

Suppose a student has spent three years of his life working toward his degree. Entering his final year, he doesn’t wish to receive the vaccine. Then what? His choice is to get a vaccine he doesn’t want so that he can finish his degree, or leave. This violates fundamental concepts of contract law. When the student undertook the education at the university three years ago, he was not aware that a new vaccine would be imposed on him in the final year of his education. With this knowledge, he might have chosen to attend a different university, or none at all. Of course, he may have gone to the university anyway, but he would have had this knowledge beforehand, and voluntarily agreed to those terms. Enforcing a new requirement unilaterally upon these students is an audacious power grasp, even for these institutions. One would expect to see a plethora of lawsuits in the future, but we all know how well the court system has prioritized essential liberties during the covid era.

Further down the page, Indiana University makes the same sales pitch that the vaccine is “safe, effective, and free, as is seen in TV ads and elsewhere that we are endlessly bombarded by. It is downright creepy that they are trying to convince students of the veracity of something they don’t have a choice to get. Another Orwellian aspect of the policy is the “COVID-19 vaccine report form.” Through the porthole, students can apparently login through their account and submit documentation proving they’ve received the vaccine and complied with all university requirements.

Indiana University isn’t alone in these requirements; the Chronicle of Higher Education indicates that more than three hundred colleges will require a covid vaccine. More are expected to follow.

So Much for Informed Consent

The Nuremberg Code (1947) states that legal capacity to give consent involves the ability “to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion.” Students are coerced with the threat of being dismissed from the universities if they do not receive the covid vaccine—a clear violation of the Nuremberg Code.

It is no surprise that government schools are such heavy proponents of the agenda promulgated by the federal government and the pharmaceutical industrial complex, using their authority to indoctrinate a generation to not question authority—even when it comes to some of the most personal decisions an individual makes, such as essential health decisions.

Hopefully, students will resist the tyranny of having personal health decisions dictated to them. If enough refuse, administrations will be forced to change their policies. Enrollment numbers decreasing in these indoctrination stations as a result would be even better yet. One thing is for certain, without a clear repudiation of measures like mandatory covid vaccination, government schools will continue to tighten their totalitarian grip on young minds, creating more easily controlled subjects of the state.

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Government as the Ultimate Cause of the Tragedy of the Commons

06/01/2021Patrick Barron

A good definition of the tragedy of the commons is that "resources that are unowned and/or unownable will be plundered to extinction." Consider the fish in the seas, especially those that migrate, such as whales, or may be found beyond any nation's territorial waters. No one owns them and it may be impossible to own them. Therefore, fishermen are incentivized to take them before other fishermen take them. Overfishing results. Catches shrink. The size of the fish shrinks. Treaties among fishing nations may mitigate the problem, as long as all sign the treaty and poachers are controlled.

It has been estimated that in nineteenth-century America hunters killed 40 million buffalo and trappers took 200 million beaver. The buffalo were hunted almost to extinction, and some scientists claim that the water shortage and erosion problems of the American West are a result of the overtrapping of beaver, nature's premier water conservationist.

Privately Owned Resources Are Capitalized, Ending Their Plunder

A solution to the problem lies in private ownership of the resource. Private owners manage natural resources to maintain their capital value. Scientists and economists have pointed out that the annual and apparently never-ending forest fires of the American West are partly due to the fact that they occur on government-owned land. But government ownership is not the same as private ownership. Government has little incentive to protect the trees in order to harvest them over long periods of time. Governments' main objective seems to be simply fighting forest fires once they have begun, a policy that doesn't seem to have worked very well. Radical environmentalists would not tolerate selling the land and forests to private companies. A pity, because that is exactly what would stop their destruction.

Notice that the main problem that results from the tragedy of the commons is resource depletion. It is true that the first to grab the resource benefits, but this is a one-time grab. Privately owned forests, fisheries, oil wells, copper mines, fertile farmland, etc. will yield their bounty to perpetuity, whereas a plunderer leaves nothing for the future. In other words, plunderers eat the seed corn.

This describes the state of government today. Through its money-printing monopoly, government has the ability to plunder resources without limit, leaving nothing for future growth. Austrian economists call this high time preference, as opposed to low time preference. Those with high time preference prefer the satisfaction of short-term wants at the expense of long-term wants. The ant versus the grasshopper fable is the perfect illustration of the principle. The ant works hard to save for the future, while the grasshopper plays in the summer sun. But the ant has food and shelter through the coming winter, while the grasshopper freezes and starves. Politicians have high time preference, because they occupy their positions of power for a limited time. They have constituents and supporters to placate. They want action and they want it now. They want free fill in the blank.

The Soviet Union was the poster child of this syndrome. Prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917, Russia was a highly industrialized nation that was a worthy competitor in world markets. After the revolution, it embarked on a one-time grab of all the nation's resources as it attempted to impose a completely socialist, state-directed economic model. Within a few years the Russian people were starving. Only Western aid, the sale of its vast natural resources, and the plunder of Eastern European nations after the Second World War allowed the Soviet Union to survive as long as it did. When asked if the US would help restore the Russian economy after the fall of communism, President George H. W. Bush insightfully said that there was not enough capital in the entire world to do that.

The Solution Is Private Money, but the Temptation for Plunder Is Too Great

Under a gold standard, government cannot spend more than it taxes and borrows honestly in the bond market. Gold is a finite medium of exchange, perfectly suited for trading finite goods and services. But government can manufacture fiat money in unlimited amounts. So we have finite resources exchanged by fiat money with no limit. The temptation for government to use this power to accomplish its high–time preference goals is too great for the politician/grasshoppers to ignore. Thus, all economies are being plundered by the ultimate expression of the tragedy of the commons—fiat money in the hands of profligate governments. There seems to be nothing that can prevent the disaster, since every citizen benefits in some way from government spending and no one is willing to give up his handout. In fact, the demand for handouts keeps increasing.

Conclusion: Consumer Spending Consumes Capital

In conclusion, we may say that the real tragedy of the commons is not that the plundered resources are claimed by a minority, but that the resources can never be capitalized to provide benefits into perpetuity. Government may plunder an economy only once. Western economies have a lot of accumulated capital resources, so it may seem that multitrillion-dollar budgets and deficits are sustainable. But they are not. What Keynesians call a postcovid boom, due primarily to pent-up consumer spending fueled by helicopter money, probably is capital decumulation. We are eating our seed corn. Fun, fun, fun … while it lasts.

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The "Woke" Fed

06/01/2021Ron Paul

President Joe Biden has ordered the Financial Stability Oversight Council to prepare a report on how the financial system can mitigate the risks related to climate change. The Financial Stability Oversight Council was created through the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform act and is supposed to identify and monitor excessive risk to the financial system. The council is composed of the heads of the major federal financial regulatory agencies, including the Federal Reserve.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is no doubt pleased with Biden’s order. Powell has been pushing for the Fed to join other central banks in fighting climate change. Among the ways the Fed could try to mitigate the risks related to climate change is by using its regulatory authority to “encourage” banks to lend to “green” businesses and deny capital to “polluters.” The Fed could also use “quantitative easing” to give green industries an advantage over their non-green competitors. Another way the Fed could “fight climate change” is by committing to monetizing all federal debt created by legislation implementing the Green New Deal.

Climate change is not the only area where the Fed is embracing the agenda of the “woke.” Some Federal Reserve Banks have taken the lead in a series of events called “Racism and the Economy” that are concerned with dismantling “systemic racism.” The Fed’s commitment to ending systemic racism could lead the central bank to requiring that banks and other financial institutions further relax their lending standards for minorities. The role the Community Reinvestment Act played in the 2008 housing meltdown shows that when government forces financial institutions to give loans to otherwise unqualified applicants, the recipients of those loans often are unable to make their payments, lending to foreclosures and bankruptcies.

Racial justice arguments could also justify an easy money, low interest rate policy on the grounds that curtailing money creation slows economic growth, disproportionately harming minorities.

The Fed may court favor with the Biden administration and its congressional allies by going woke. However, it will face a backlash from those who oppose expanding government power to address nonexistent threats of climate change and to promote the lie that free markets are causing systemic racism. This backlash will be fueled by rising anger over widespread price increases. This will increase the already strong public support for the Audit the Fed legislation. A complete

Federal Reserve audit will provide to Congress and the American people the truth about the Fed’s conduct of monetary policy, including how politics affects the Fed’s actions.

The use of the woke agenda as an excuse to further politicize the allocation of capital and continue to expand the Fed’s easy money, low interest rate policy will hasten and deepen the next economic crisis. This crisis will either be precipitated by or result in the rejection of the dollar’s world reserve currency status. It will also likely result in the collapse of the entire Keynesian welfare-warfare system. Unfortunately, there is a likelihood that the current system will be replaced with a government even more authoritarian than the current one. But, if those of us who know the truth can educate enough people about liberty, we can make sure the next economic crisis leads to a rebirth of limited government, free markets, and individual liberty.

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The Federal Reserve’s Ballooning—and Risky—Balance Sheet

05/28/2021Bill Bergman

The Fed has embarked on a massive expansionary quest in recent years. In 2020, total Reserve Bank assets rose from $4.2 trillion to $7.4 trillion amidst the pandemic and related government lockdown and fiscal “stimulus” policies. That was roughly three times the extraordinary growth in the consolidated balance sheet for the Reserve Banks in the 2008-2009 financial crisis. And in the latest weekly “H.4.1” release, total assets were up to $7.8 trillion – rising about a hundred billions dollars a month so far this year. 

In banking, rapid growth isn’t hard to achieve, if you are willing to assume risk. In fact, rapid growth should always be questioned as a sign of possible undue risk taking. How about the Federal Reserve Banks? How much risk are they taking, and on whose dime? 

To answer these questions, we first have to identify the accounting principles on which the Fed’s balance sheet is based. 

In the United States, there are “Generally Accepted Accounting Principles” (GAAP) – but there are different strokes for different folks. Private sector companies follow accounting standards set by the FASB – the Financial Accounting Standards Board. State and local governments follow a different set of “generally accepted” rules that are set by the GASB – the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. The federal government of the United States follows yet another set of “generally accepted” principles, set by the FASAB – the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board.

Put aside for now the question whether “generally accepted accounting principles” can even exist in a world where there are more than three sets of them, including international accounting standards. Who sets the accounting standards for the Federal Reserve?

There are two main parts of the “Federal Reserve.” The Federal Reserve Board of Governors is an independent regulatory commission, a government agency, and it follows the standards for the federal government set by the FASAB. But the Federal Reserve Banks are another story: they follow accounting standards set by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors! Those standards are not GAAP.  

One way the Fed’s principles for the Reserve Banks differ from GAAP matters for understanding material risks facing the Reserve Banks, and in turn, the U.S. Treasury.

The Reserve Banks’ assets include trillions of dollars of bonds, most of them government or government-backed bonds. Like any bond portfolio, those investments are subject to interest rate risk. When interest rates go up, bond prices go down (and vice versa).

Under the Board of Governors’ accounting standards for the Reserve Banks, “unrealized” losses in bond investment value do not immediately find their way into the financial statements. Only when losses are “realized” (for example, when the bonds are sold) does loss enter the financial statements.

Today, short and long-term interest rates on government bonds rest near historic lows, important in part because the Fed massively expanded its purchases of government bonds. But low interest rates can’t be taken for granted, particularly if we get significantly higher inflationary expectations -- which appear to have begun to sprout in recent weeks.  

If we get significantly higher interest rates for that reason, the Reserve Bank balance sheet impact from losses on securities assets would arrive if the losses become “realized” – a realistic prospect if the Federal Reserve  reverses course and starts selling off securities as a means of conducting monetary policy amidst higher inflationary expectations.

This impact, and risk, is higher for entities with significant financial leverage. And the Reserve Banks are some of the highest-leveraged banks on the planet. On the 2020 balance sheet, which reported $7.4 trillion in assets, Reserve Banks reported “only” $40 billion in total capital – a capital/asset ratio of one-half of one-percent.

For a given percentage change in the value of assets, highly leveraged entities will see a greater percentage decline in the value of capital. In this case, Reserve Banks would begin reporting negative capital after losses amounting to just one-half of one percent of their total assets.

That is, if they were required to post the losses. Under current standards set by the Board of Governors, they won’t begin to do that until the losses are realized in sales on the open market. And even then, the Reserve Banks won’t show a negative capital amount because the Fed sets its own accounting standards, a least for the Reserve Banks, and changes them as it sees fit.

Back in 2011, after the first spike upward in Reserve Banks’ balance sheet with the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors changed the accounting standards for the Federal Reserve Banks. These changes limited  the possibility that the Reserve Banks’ capital account could ever turn negative. And more recently, some have argued that the Fed’s control over its own accounting principles could allow for even more creative ways of cushioning the blow from any investment losses.

But a free lunch for the Fed isn’t necessarily a free lunch for the rest of us.

The problem (and risk) facing the Treasury (and the rest of us) is compounded by the Fed’s legally dubious new practice of paying interest on reserves that banks maintain with the Reserve Banks. If short-term interest rates rise amidst heightened concern about inflation, under current policy, the Fed would pay higher interest on the massive multi-trillion dollars worth of reserve balances currently at the Reserve Banks.

Introducing its own balance sheet, a balance sheet with about $6 trillion in assets against nearly $33 trillion in (understated) liabilities, the federal government gives us the following comforting words:

There are, however, other significant resources available to the government that extend beyond the assets presented in these Balance Sheets. Those resources include stewardship PP&E in addition to the government’s sovereign powers to tax and set monetary policy.

In other words, we should be comforted that our government will be able to take our money away, or inflate the value of the dollar away, to pay off its debts. 

Maybe we shouldn’t be comforted by these assertions, especially because they arrive in a document theoretically providing  accountability of the government to the real sovereign in the United States – the people.

The Federal Reserve has returned earnings regularly to the Treasury for decades. And the government appears to see the Fed and monetary policy as its ace in the hole. But this is not  necessarily an ace in the hole for the people.

When justifying the fact that the Fed sets its own accounting standards, Fed leaders regularly assert that the value of central bank independence warrants this state of affairs. But how independent is the Fed, really, under current law and policy?

Back in 2010, the opinion of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the financial statements of the U.S. Government began including a cautionary note about the risks of the Fed’s ballooning balance sheet to the Treasury. The GAO opinion letters stopped including these notes in 2015. Now that the Fed’s balance sheet is ballooning again, these issues deserve greater scrutiny.

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Robert Wenzel, RIP

05/27/2021David Gordon

I am sorry to have to report that Bob Wenzel has passed away. He was the editor and publisher of the popular websites Economic Policy Journal and Target Liberty and also published an investment newsletter. I met Bob many years ago at a Mises Institute conference and was immediately impressed by his enthusiasm for Austrian economics and libertarian theory.  He would throw himself into things with unmatched tenacity; he always wanted to find the inside story on events and usually succeeded in doing so. In my many conversations with him, his quick intelligence was apparent. His interests ranged from the fine points of the Non-aggression Principle to the fallacies of Modern Monetary Theory. He was one of the leading opponents of Covid-19 masks and of compulsory vaccinations.  In my last conversation with him, he mentioned a story he was pursuing about a well-known libertarian activist. His final words, “Wow, wow, wow!” echo in my ears. I will miss him.

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Per Bylund: The Austrian School of Economics: Past, Present, and Future

05/26/2021Per Bylund

In a 30 minute lecture for the Research Platform on Economic Thought, Dr. Per Bylund looks at the history of the Austrian School and its future prospects in academia and beyond. 


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1970s Inflation: The Narrative versus the Lie (Pt. 2)

05/26/2021Robert Aro

Part 1 of this article raised issues with the “Great Inflation” narrative as recalled by several experts. Various problems exist with trying to understand just how bad the price increases were 50 years ago, whether statistical or anecdotal evidence are used. Despite several issues, the point of contention is the idea of the Fed being responsible for resolving (price) inflation of the 70’s.

The first chart is the Consumer Price Index (CPI), not seasonally adjusted since 1913. Over a hundred years later the index has increased by nearly 3,000%.


Save for a few minor blips, the CPI has never decreased and the 1970’s looks little different than all the decades following.

Using seasonally adjusted data for the same CPI but on a shorter time frame shows similar results:


To be certain, observe the same seasonally adjusted data again but from 1960 to 1990:


The victory over inflation can hardly be celebrated because prices only increased after the 70’s.

Perhaps that’s why the annual percentage change in the CPI from the prior year, instead of the CPI level itself, stands as the best argument in support of a Fed victory:


The CPI percentage change had an upward trajectory throughout the 70’s until it topped in 1980, after which a downward trajectory ensued ever since. In 1980 the annual percentage change was 14%, then in 1981 it was “only” 10%, then “only” 6%, followed by 3% in 1983. Even though the percentages decreased, the compounding effect fell by the wayside on our central planners, and is seldom, if ever noted. This “compounding inflation,” is the reason the CPI only ever increases.

The only way inflation could be defeated would be if periods of “negative inflation” existed. Unfortunately, this rare occurrence has only been for negligible amounts. It’s fair to say anyone alive today has only experienced perpetual price increases their entire lives.

The last chart brings together the CPI percentage change from the prior year (green) as well as the effective federal funds rate (blue):


The idea that Fed rate hikes should take credit for the changes to CPI is revealed as an untenable position to hold. If we looked at the correlation coefficient between the two sets of data (+0.76) and concluded interest rates dictate inflation, this would be faulty as we could also conclude inflation dictates interest rates, having the same minimal level of proof to substantiate our claim. In either case, causation between the two cannot be found; so the Fed’s credit remains undeserved.

To negate this, insisting the Fed dictated the CPI leads to an absurdity, especially when observing long-term trends. It was the Fed who raised rates from the 50’s until the start of the 80's. The CPI percentage change was also upward trending, so we’d have to conclude it was this raising of rates for three decades which caused inflation to increase! Conversely, CPI’s percentage change began its downward trajectory once rates peaked. We’d also have to conclude it was the Fed who continually fought inflation since the 80’s through low rates…

Contrary to the narrative, the Great Inflation of the 70’s was never won. There has never been a “great deflation,” nor any deflation for that matter. Prices in 1982 were higher than prices in 1981, which were higher than 1980, and so forth. How it can be said the Fed fought price increases (when prices have only increased while the dollar’s purchasing power only decreased throughout the 80’s just like they have since inception of the Fed) is anyone’s guess. To claim a victory against 1970’s inflation sounds foolish at best, deceptive at worst.

Understanding the Fed never really solved a price inflation problem from the 70’s allows us to reconsider economic history, as well as allows us to anticipate what might be in store for our future. Time will tell. But if large price increases are on the horizon, whether sooner or years down the road, be prepared. Our central planners might look to raise interest rates until the CPI becomes manageable, according to them. The proof would be that everyone knows the Fed has tools to control inflation and it worked in the 70’s. But we know this to be false. When we’re talking about the Federal Reserve, the proof is in the platitude.

Of course, any significant rate hike seems unfathomable given current debt levels. But that’s a story for another day...

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1970s Inflation: The Narrative versus the Lie (Pt. 1)

05/24/2021Robert Aro

In the field of economics, any narrative overly vague, poorly defined, or which cannot be substantiated is probably untrue. The current narrative garnering ever increasing media attention goes something like this:

“Inflation was extremely high in the 1970’s so the Fed raised rates and controlled inflation.”

Specifically, they credit the Fed with taking action which supposedly reigned in or defeated (price) inflation. Like all urban legends, the story changes depending on who tells it. According to Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, in a letter to a US Senator, he wrote:

We understand well the lessons of the high inflation experience in the 1960s and 1970s, and the burdens that experience created for all Americans. We do not anticipate inflation pressures of that type, but we have the tools to address such pressures if they do arise.

Powell, who was 17 years old in 1970, includes the 1960’s in the high inflation experience, noting (price) inflation was both high and burdensome. The lessons learned are not specified, but he’s referring to Fed intervention, which, as the story goes, includes raising interest rates.

Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman of the New York Times also has a take. Just last week he said:

This doesn’t look at all like 1970s stagflation redux; it looks like a temporary blip, reflecting transitory disruptions…

Unfortunately, he too refers to an entire decade, while also managing to include the word “transitory,” or the notion that price surges are acceptable if they occur over a short period of time. Of course, this forgets that without an offsetting transitory “deflation,” all increases to prices remain permanent.

Financial services firm Charles Schwab also recently weighed in:

With commodity prices soaring, money supply growth exploding, and government spending surging, there is a palpable fear of a return to 1970s-style inflation.

The author goes on to say that it was in the late 60’s and into the 70’s the Fed “let” inflation rise, until 1979 when newly appointed Fed Chair Paul Volcker made the “move to squash inflation.” According to legend, the Fed increased rates until the effective federal funds rate hit an all-time high of over 19% in 1981, and this is what helped to put inflation back into the bottle.

When asked if we should be nervous over the prospects of inflation, Federal Reserve Bank President, Neel Kashkari told CBS:

Right now, I'm not concerned about a repeat of the 1970s.

It’s not only America who remembers how bad things were 50 years ago. The Government of Canada’s wholly owned news channel, the CBC suggests to:

find someone, maybe a grandparent, who witnessed the onset of serious inflation in the 1970s and 1980s…

Should someone be lucky enough to have a 71 year-old grandparent who can remember the price of a View-Master, a typewriter or what they called a “Wall Telephone,” in short order it will be clear prices on goods and services of that era are difficult to discern. Technological changes, wages, and shifts in consumer preferences are just some of the problems encountered when trying to compare life then versus now.

Even if the price of more relatable items like tuition or automobiles can be recalled, it would require some calculation, like the purchasing power of the dollar, to understand the experience of the 70’s; that doesn’t take into consideration inherent problems such as bias and data gathering. Unless grandpa lived an “average” life, which adequately represented the nation’s experience as a whole, conveying the difficulties of the decade will prove to be an onerous, if not impossible task, whether anecdotal or statistical methods are applied.

The exact time frame of the inflation also remains elusive and dependent on one’s perception of the experience. Yet, despite pointing out the difficulties in trying to conceptualize how unbearable the inflation era was, that is not what is in dispute. We can accept the narrative that throughout the 70’s, most prices increased year over year in unimaginable ways, caused by countless factors, including an oil crisis. The topic of dispute is the Fed’s response to said crisis. We’ve been told it was the Fed’s diligent action of raising rates to all-time highs which alleviated the burden of inflation. Herein lies the problem.

Fortunately, we can use the Fed’s own data to see how they fought inflation, right? Surely they should be able to substantiate this claim. Now more than ever this becomes of paramount importance as more experts allude to a possible repeat of 70’s inflation; they will undoubtedly look to repeat the supposed solution. This is problematic because few seem to know how the Fed actually solved the crisis.

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The Benefits of "Price Gouging"

05/20/2021Connor Mortell

With the recent lack of availability in gasoline, Joe Biden came out with a clear message against price gouging stating:

I also want to say something to the gas stations: do not, I repeat, do not try to take advantage of consumers during this time. I’m going to work with governors of the effected states to put a stop to price gouging wherever it arises. And I’m asking our federal agencies to stand ready to provide assistance to state level efforts to monitor and any price gouging at the pump. Nobody should be using this situation for financial gain.

In Human Action, Ludwig von Mises left us with the perfect response to this:

Economics does not say that isolated government interference with the prices of only one commodity or a few commodities is unfair, bad, or unfeasible. It says that such interference produces results contrary to its purpose, that it makes conditions worse, not better, from the point of view of the government and those backing its interference.

This has been explained by some of the most simple and well known economics that have been explored in the link above by Mises, as well as by almost all other economists. The price system operates largely in response to supply and demand. As supply and/or demand shifts, the price shifts in response. In a natural market this current gas crisis would be resolved by allowing the price to the market forces at play. A pizza delivery guy may be willing to pay more to access gas as his particular conditions lead him to more highly value it immediately and will chose to take the hit in exchange for continued payment at his job. A job that has nothing to do with driving, however, will give that individual the option to potentially wait to get gas for a week or so while the supply builds up because that individual would find the cost of walking to work for a few days less in their own subjective value than the price of gas for the moment. As well, this would deter panic buying as the heightened price would ward off those buying more gas than they deem they need. Lastly, a free flowing price would lead to higher prices in states where it is needed most, encouraging suppliers to sell gas their more urgently, thus resolving the problem faster. However, in a world where we prevent price gouging, we see the results that we are seeing now: shortages.

The economics of this are fairly simple, however, the politics of price gouging get a little more murky. Even among those who agree with all of what I’ve set out already, it is not uncommon to see proponents of anti-price gouging laws. This is because the majority of instances in which price gouging enters into the conversation are in response to some kind of emergency. It is very rare that someone is concerned about the newest pair of shoes on the market being price gouged because they aren’t considered necessities. Whereas when hurricane season starts - or even more urgent, when a hurricane is actively detected on its way in – and prices start to rise sharply for water and batteries, the average individual is much more concerned that people will find themselves without necessities during an emergency. While the economics still hold and that option is still preferable to shortages, there is some political capital in convincing the people that you’re advocating for their ability to have low priced goods when they need them most. In addition to the economic principles listed above, this argument can be easily dismantled by taking it to its logical conclusion: if lower priced goods during an emergency are both preferable and possible, why stop at a dollar per water bottle or batteries? Why not drop to 50 cents? A quarter? Free? And if free is possible – why stop during an emergency? Why not provide that same thing all the time? Inevitably the logic of price controls has to break.

However, this particular situation leaves free market economists with a window of opportunity on which we should capitalize: this is not an emergency. Don’t get me wrong, this is in fact a very serious problem. However, houses are not collapsing, people are not starving en masse, rioting is not taking over. While it is the result of nonnormal circumstances, the effect on a day to day citizens is not much different from just a failure in supply chain. As a result now would be the perfect opportunity to finally demonstrate the benefits of the price system without the risk that would be inherent in an emergency situation. While I’d advocate for freedom in the price system under all circumstances, the standard claims against it are completely absent during this event. There has never been a better time to normalize so called price gouging. 

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Fauci and the Fed: America's Technocratic Frauds

05/18/2021Tho Bishop

This past March, Dr. Anthony Fauci sparred with Dr. Rand Paul over any public health benefit that came from wearing a mask if one had developed immunity to the virus. In dealing with both a democratically elected senator and a medical doctor, Dr. Fauci was dismissive and condescending. He demonstrated the degree to which he held himself higher than the Senate.

Dr. Fauci was also wrong.

A medical expert in Dr. Fauci’s position losing a debate on the science to an ophthalmologist—even one of Dr. Paul’s great reputation—would itself be enough to declare them a fraud.

But Dr. Fauci is much worse than a fraud; he is a technocrat. He doesn’t see himself as simply someone to explain “the science” of the virus but appointed himself a covid czar. He leveraged the corporate press’s personality cult and used it to manipulate the public to behave the way he wanted them to behave.

He prioritized control over presenting the science.

He also has no shame in doing this. He has repeatedly boasted about it to his devoted followers in the media.

For example, this morning, Fauci explained on ABC that his wearing masks indoors was about optics—not science.

I didn’t want to look like I was giving mixed signals but being a fully vaccinated person, the chances of my getting infected in an indoor setting is extremely low.

This is not the first time Fauci has given himself the authority to act beyond "the science." Last December, Fauci started changing his claims about the necessary rates of vaccination to achieve a state of postcovid normality. The original aim of 70 percent was moved as high as 90 percent. As Fauci explained to the New York Times:

When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent…. Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, "I can nudge this up a bit," so I went to 80, 85. We need to have some humility here…. We really don’t know what the real number is. I think the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90 percent. But, I'm not going to say 90 percent.

America has subjected itself to a lost year of economically devastating, mentally abusive policies—all based on the authoritarian impulses of a learned ignoramus.

This has also become the norm for Washington’s imperial federal government.

While Fauci’s thirst for the camera has made him an easy target for ridicule, most of the true power of the federal government rests in the hands of similar unelected “experts.” For all the arguments that can be made against democracy, it is in these unelected institutions of power that we have seen the most aggressive expansions of state power in pursuit of the most radical policies.

Take the institution most challenged now by the success of Fauci-ism: the Federal Reserve.

Though he doesn’t make enough television appearances to earn his own progressive prayer candle, Jay Powell has received his own fawning praise from the slice of the corporate press that follows the Fed. Senate Democrats have even begun to push for Biden to keep Powell on board when his term comes up next year.

Outside the Beltway, however, Americans are feeling the impact of inflation. Google searches for “inflation” hit record highs in March, long before the 4.2 percent reported increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Perhaps an American consumer seeing their paycheck buy less and less would be comforted by the fact that inflation is precisely what the Fed has been explicitly calling for.

Of course, the consequences of the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented monetary policy go beyond simply the devaluation of money. The Fed’s low interest rate policy has massively increased risk in the financial system by depriving investors—both large and small—of safe, conservative investment options. Doing so has been great for large corporations, which have seen stock prices soar since 2008, both richly rewarding CEOs and subsidizing attempts to purchase smaller potential competitors. Those Americans who just wanted to simply save money, avoid debt, and avoid the volatility of the stock market have been less lucky.

At least they can look forward to funding the bailouts when the collapse of a stock market bubble ends up designating Facebook a systemically important company.

Even better, the Federal Reserve continues to give itself greater and greater authority to expand its mission far beyond monetary policy, with policy aims such as “greening the financial system.”

These bold and aggressive power grabs come in spite of the fact that the Fed’s own actions have repeatedly demonstrated that it has no idea what it is doing. Examples include not only the inability to identify the financial crisis in 2008 but its failure to reverse quantitative easing (QE)—as it repeatedly claimed it could do—and its repeated inability to forecast economic growth. The Fed has gone from one crisis to another, expanding its power, creating new tools for itself, and without any clear or coherent vision or economic theory.

Just like Fauci and the other parts of America’s technocratic class.

As the Trump era showed, the problem of these unelected policy czars is not solved simply by a presidential election. They are embedded deep within the structure of the federal government. To reign them in, we either need systemic change or pressure from the states.

Ultimately, what forced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to break itself from the propaganda of Dr. Fauci were the counterexamples offered by Florida and other open states, which were grounded in science rather than a personality cult. While it is easier for a state to nullify public health guidelines than it is to separate a state from America’s central bank, we have seen states like Wyoming and Texas take legislative action to promote alternatives to the Fed.

Hopefully, the example of Dr. Fauci will help kill some of the faith in “policy experts” that government schools spend so much time instilling in the public.

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