Ron Paul Q&A: Audit the Fed, Then End ItSubmitted by cooper11 on Thu, 09/17/2009 - 05:26
September 16, 2009, 11:00 AM ET
For three decades, Rep. Ron Paul has waged a lonely battle in Congress to abolish the Federal Reserve. But he has more foot soldiers across the nation today, particularly after the financial crisis, who are leading the drive for wider congressional audits of the central bank. (See today’s Journal story for more on their movement.)
In his new book — “End the Fed” — released today, Rep. Paul walks through his critique of the central bank and lays out a strategy (briefly) for eliminating it. We sat down with the congressman to hear his views on a money system backed by gold, the Fed’s challenge of withdrawing its stimulus and his legislation to audit the central bank. Excerpts of the interview:
What would a world without the Fed look like?
You’d go back to the day that if you wanted to borrow money to build a house, somebody would’ve had to save some money. You wouldn’t have zero savings and all the credit in the world. That’s just a total distortion of capitalism. Capital comes from savings. The part you don’t use for everyday living which you have left over, you reinvest and you save or you loan it out. We were living with something absolutely bizarre that had nothing to do with capitalism. We had no savings whatsoever yet there was all the credit in the world.
So without the Fed, there wouldn’t be as much credit.
Yeah, it would be different. If you were selling me a car and the car was worth $10,000 and I didn’t want to pay cash, you could take credit from me. You’ve got to have something to measure it by. What is a dollar? We don’t even know what a dollar is. There’s no definition for a dollar. There’s never been a time in law that said a Federal Reserve note is a dollar. That’s the basic flaw. There’s no definition for money. We’ve built a worldwide economy on a measuring rod that varies every single day. That’s why it was fragile, and that’s why it collapsed. There was no soundness to it. So that’s why you have to have a stable unit of account.
If you live in a primitive society, you’d trade goods. And if you wanted to advance, then you would trade a universal good, which would be a coin. But we’ve become sophisticated and smart and say, ‘Oh, you don’t have to go through that. We’ll just print the money. And we’ll trust the government not to print too much, and distribute it fairly.’ That’s often just a total farce. People are realizing that it is.
Don’t you think the Fed has moderated the business cycle over the past century?
Yes, I think they did smooth things out. The market’s always demanding the correction of the malinvestment and the excessive debt. … Since Bretton Woods broke down, I think every recession has been moderated by the Fed. That’s why the trust kept being built. That’s all a negative. You have to get rid of the mistakes. Moderating it means that we have slowed up the correction. The fact that they have been successful is probably the worst part about it. They’re moderating the rapidity of the crash and the correction by holding the mistakes in place.
What if, years from now, we see that the Fed has returned its balance sheet to its old size and pulled that money back from the system? Would that not be a validation of its approach?
There has only been one time that I know of where they have done that significantly, to withdraw anything of significance. That was after the Civil War. They withdrew greenbacks to a degree, they quit printing greenbacks, and they balanced the budget. I don’t think you can find any other time in our history and probably the history of the world. Because it’s an addiction, and the withdrawal is always much more serious than the continuation. The immediate problem of continuing the inflation is always more acceptable than withdrawal symptoms. Politically there will be continued inflation until it self-destructs.
So you don’t think it’s possible to pull it off?
They might try a little bit. With a weak economy, they’ll say it’s better for the economy to have low interest rates. If we didn’t have a Federal Reserve today, interest rates might be market driven. A lot of people would go bankrupt, but it would benefit the people who save. Capitalism is supposed to benefit the people who save. Even though they’re cheating the people who save, they’re cheating those on fixed income and the elderly, they will not quit inflating. The pain will be too great. They’re smart enough to know? They weren’t smart enough to know when they printed. They created the bubble. All of a sudden they’re going to get smart enough to know when to withdraw this? There’s not one chance in a million that’s going to happen.
But if the Fed were to pull this off and return its balance sheet to a normal size, where would that leave you?
If they were able to shrink their assets by 50%, to a trillion dollars or so … I would say it would challenge a lot of people. But I think the economic laws are in place. It’s only going to be temporary. It’s not going to happen. The only way you could do that is what I’ve been advocating for these last several years. You’ve got to cut spending, you’ve got to balance the budget, you’ve got to stop fighting these wars, you’ve got to bring our troops home, you’ve got to quit expanding the welfare state here at home … But I just don’t think the conditions exist. In theory you could, but if you do that without shrinking the size of the government and shrinking the deficit, it will be disastrous. It won’t work.
How would an audit lead to ending the Fed?
It’s a stepping stone. I think what’s going to lead to the next step is the destruction of the dollar, just like economic events moved further ahead than my legislative process. I wasn’t getting anywhere. But the economic events demanded that we look into it. So even if this bill passes and we have more information and we’re talking about monetary policy reform, I don’t think that’s the way this system is going to be ended. I think it’ll be ended when it’s a total failure and then it’ll have to be replaced by something. It could be replaced with a more authoritarian government, a more socialistic government.
Do you think the Fed will be abolished during your career?
I always thought the day would come… This economy is going to get worse and this dollar is going to get a lot worse. It’ll take care of itself. My real goal is educating people to the nature of money so that when this system fails, that they’ll know what to do and not just say ‘Well, we need a better manager.’