Central Banks & Complexity

Federal Reserve Text


QUESTION: Why do you seem to be the only analyst who understands central banking? My son got an internship at one of the major banks in New York during the summer. I won’t say which bank, but he asked a senior-level guy there about you and the interest rates, explaining I had been following you for years. He said you were the only one with international experience and who has ever advised multiple central banks. Is that the answer?


ANSWER: Perhaps in part. But there is a massive gap between the experience of those of us who have dealt at high levels internationally and domestic analysts who always seem wrong calling the shots based on the headlines they read.

Understanding Currency capital flows

The number one problem is this fiction that the dollar is a fiat currency when, in fact, currency from the beginning of time has ALWAYS been valued NOT by its pure metal content but by who issued it. There has historically always been a premium to the currency of the dominant economy.

Lydia Debasement

Tiberius Aureus Genuine India Imitation

When Cyrus the Great conquered Lydia, he continued to strike coins of their design because they were highly regarded in international trade. We see the same with Roman coinage imitated in India when they, too, could have issued their own designs, but the Roman coinage carried a premium.

Valens AR Siliqua Genuine Gothic Imitation

Even when the Barbarians were on the Northern frontier of Rome, they too took silver and struck imitations of Roman coins because they were worth more than the metal content. In 260AD, when emperor Valerian the Persians captured him,  there was a Financial Panic of 260AD where bankers suddenly did not know if Roman coins would still be worth anything when there was no emperor.



Rain Money QEWhile everyone claimed hyperinflation would engulf the world because of Quantitative Easing (QE), I warned there would be no such inflation. Indeed, with QE, there was no inflation, and people then developed the Modern Monetary Theory, claiming that they could increase the money supply and it would not result in inflation.

The entire problem rests with the fact that these people not only did not understand the role of money but also failed to grasp international capital flows and how they play into the world economy. Because you can now buy US TBills and place them as collateral to trade with at a brokerage house, the debt is simply money that pays interest. BEFORE 1971, it was illegal to borrow against government bonds. For you see, if you could borrow against the bonds, that meant the bonds were part of the REAL money supply.

Once debt became cash that paid interest, that changed economics forever. I have said over and over again the Fed is NOT the problem, and it can not stop inflation with interest rates. The REAL money supply is the national debt, so if the Fed buys-in 30-year bonds and creates cash to do so, it is NOT increasing the money supply; it is increasing the liquidity – that is all. Swapping cash for bonds does not change the balance sheet. If you buy a house for $100,000 and pay cash, then you have merely converted your cash into an asset.

Now, it all depends upon the buyer. If I have a building and sell it to a fellow American for $10 million, it does NOT alter the domestic money supply. However, if I sell it to Brit, he brings in cash to buy the property, and that DOES INCREASE the money supply BECAUSE he has imported $10 million that did not previously exist within the domestic system.

This is a very complex topic that only those of us in international finance ever encountered. I helped the Japanese reduce their trade surplus for political reasons. I had them buy gold in New York, export it to London, and sell it there. The trade statistics only count dollars in and dollars out – not the product. Buying gold and exporting it reduced the trade deficit, and nobody understood anything.

Dow Jones Earnings Book Value 1937 1982

Martin Armstrong Margaret ThatcherI handled a lot of the Takeover Boys during the 1980s when they made the movie about Wall Street. They never understood what I was doing. The stocks were way undervalued when you could buy a company, sell its assets, and double your money. I took it to another level. I ran the model on currencies, and we would then buy like all the Courage Pubs in England but borrow in Swiss in a currency that would decline against the asset. We were making 20% on the currency moves besides the asset values. I was restructuring companies selling assets in one currency to buy assets in another to create balance hedge portfolios. That’s how I became friends with Maggie Thatcher. She wanted to know who this guy was sending companies into Britain.

Maggie was one of the few world leaders who grasped what I was doing. She kept Britain out of the EU because she understood what and how I was restructuring multinational companies. They staged a coup against here to take the pound into the Euro, then Soros attacked the overvalued pound in the ERM, and John Major had to reverse the entire mess, making Soros very rich in the process.

I will get around to doing my memoirs. I understand what I was doing set the stage for the world economy post-1971 Bretton Woods. That’s why Milton Friedman bothered to listen to my lecture about currencies in Chicago.



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