Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Monetary Depreciation

How about the text below? How do you understand this passage? And why is its message relevant for our time? 
"But the motive for recent experiments in depreciation has been by no means fiscal. The gold content of the monetary unit has been reduced in order to maintain the domestic wage-level and price level, and in order to secure advantages for home industry against its competitors in international trade. . . . In this case, however, Great Britain began by abandoning the old gold content of the pound. Instead of preserving its gold-value by employing the customary and never-failing remedy of raising the bankrate, the government and parliament of the United Kingdom, with bank-rate at 4.5 per cent, preferred to stop the redemption of notes at the old legal parity and so to cause a considerable fall in the value of sterling. The object was to prevent a further fall of prices in England and above all, apparently, to avoid a situation in which reductions of wages would be necessary."

"The example of Great Britain was followed by other countries, notably by the United States. President Roosevelt reduced the gold content of the dollar because he wished to prevent a fall in wages and to restore the price-level of the prosperous period between 1926 and 1929."
(Source: The Theory of Money and Credit, p. 16) 


In the above text, Ludwig von Mises continued his explanation about monetary depreciation as the unavoidable outcome of government's utility of inconvertible notes. Here, he indicates that the government's intention in depreciating the currency is not primarily fiscal, that is, not related to the increase of tax collection and to the increase of spending ability. The motive says Mises is threefold: to influence the level of workers' salary, to maintain the prices of goods and services, and to protect local industry from its foreign competitors. The last is the essence of protectionism and a favorite tool of an interventionist government. This shows that a country that practice this does not really have a free market economy. This reminds me of Hitler's style, the other face of socialism. 

Currency devaluation during Mises' time was done through the reduction of gold content in monetary unit. In our time, it's different since as far as I know, no existing currency is backed up by gold since 1971 when President Nixon disconnected the USD from this precious metal. However, the act of monetary depreciation remains. The external form of this depreciation is different, but the essence of the act stays the same. 

I think the text is relevant to our time for we are facing the same issue in today's monetary system. As England depreciated its sterling/pound in the past, the US has been depreciating the dollar for so long. I think we are touching the root of the existing crisis in global economy. Since money is the lifeblood of the economy, it is difficult to see the solution to the present problem economic as long as both governments and central banks of the world are committed to currency devaluation.