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Vatican document discovers disease and then recommends more disease

The Vatican document on the world economy, as issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, is very puzzling. It seems to dabble in Austrian business cycle theory, naming credit expansion and loose money as the source of the problem.

In recent decades, it was the banks that extended credit, which generated money, which in turn sought a further expansion of credit. In this way, the economic system was driven towards an inflationary spiral that inevitably encountered a limit in the risk that credit institutions could accept. They faced the ultimate danger of bankruptcy, with negative consequences for the entire economic and financial system

After World War II, national economies made progress, albeit with enormous sacrifices for millions, indeed billions of people who, as producers and entrepreneurs on the one hand and as savers and consumers on the other, had put their confidence in a regular and progressive expansion of money supply and investment in line with opportunities for real growth of the economy.

Since the 1990s, we have seen that money and credit instruments worldwide have grown more rapidly than revenue, even adjusting for current prices. From this came the formation of pockets of excessive liquidity and speculative bubbles which later turned into a series of solvency and confidence crises that have spread and followed one another over the years.

A first crisis took place in the 1970s until the early 1980s and was related to the sudden sharp rises in oil prices. Subsequently, there was a series of crises in the developing world, for example, the first crisis in Mexico in the 1980s and those in Brazil, Russia and Korea, and then again in Mexico in the 1990s as well as in Thailand and Argentina.

The speculative bubble in real estate and the recent financial crisis have the very same origin in the excessive amount of money and the plethora of financial instruments globally.

Whereas the crises in the developing countries that risked involving the global monetary and financial system were contained through interventions by the more developed countries, the outbreak of the crisis in 2008 was characterized by a different factor compared with the previous ones, something decisive and explosive. Generated in the context of the United States, it took place in one of the most important zones for the global economy and finances. It directly affected what is still the currency of reference for the great majority of international trade transactions.

Promising! But then the same document goes on to call for a world central bank administered by a world political authority. This is about as naive as those who favored the creation of the Fed because they imagined that the Fed would control the expansion of credit in the banking system. Actually, it is worse than that because we’ve had a full century of experience to know that central banking does not lead to responsibility, regulated credit flows, and sound money but precisely the opposite. This is the doctor who calls for poison to fix poisoning, who administers heroine to stop a cocaine addiction.

It’s good at the Vatican listen to the Austrian-like message on discovering the problem. The people who wrote this document should have sat through some more seminars before they put pen to paper, because their solution is guaranteed to make the problem worse rather than better.


Contact Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Editorial Director of the American Institute for Economic Research. He is author of It's a Jetsons World: Private Miracles and Public Crimes and Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo. Send him mail.

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