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The Web of Debt Paperback – March 10, 2010
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EXPLODING THE MYTHS ABOUT MONEY. Our money system is not what we have been led to believe. The creation of money has been privatized, or taken over by a private money cartel. Except for coins, all of our money is now created as loans advanced by private banking institutions -- including the private Federal Reserve. Banks create the principal but not the interest to service their loans. To find the interest, new loans must continually be taken out, expanding the money supply, inflating prices -- and robbing you of the value of your money. Web of Debt unravels the deception and presents a crystal clear picture of the financial abyss towards which we are heading. Then it explores a workable alternative, one that was tested in colonial America and is grounded in the best of American economic thought, including the writings of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. If you care about financial security, your own or the nation's, you should read this book.
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I would be persuaded to have assigned two stars were it not for the sloppy editing. Thomas Jefferson was not the second President of the United States. Cromwell's battle against Charles I was not the "Glorious Revolution," and Lincoln did not free any slaves. Perhaps I am making too much of a trivial thing, but when I see a pattern of errors that I can easily identify, I start to question how many errors are buried in the material that is new to me. To add insult to injury, there are spelling errors in some of the web links that make it difficult to audit some the author's references.
As mentioned above, the core theme - that discount banking is an evil of great magnitude - is spot on and there is a lot of information regarding the extent of that evil that is worthwhile. However, it is untenable to portray free trade as merely a tool of British Imperialism the fact that free trade, like banking, can be abused notwithstanding. Likewise, the advantages of commodity money are too readily discarded in order to support fiat money and crank Keynesian theories. How we can trust politicians with our money system any more than we can the bankers is not clear to me; it seems that we would be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. The author reaches out to former Presidents and Founding Fathers to support this concept but fails to present the whole truth. There is not room in this review to enumerate these defects, but I would caution any reader to proceed with caution, many a conclusion is based on half-truths and shallow analysis culminating in a call for bigger government with fewer controls.
People who never deduced fractional reserve lending or the fiat interest paradox are often blown away by learning about this scam, and tend to give anything that reveals it high marks, but other works do this with greater clarity and more thorough scholarship.
It is cool that the Wizard of Oz was a money allegory, but the constant references to Oz grow strained, and consume probably 5 - 10% of the book before all is said and done.
Couple examples of the errors:
There is a difference between a gold exchange standard and a gold standard, but this distinction is not made. The gold exchange standard which Brown repeatedly refers to as a gold standard did not fail because nations "ran out of gold" (as she claims in some form at least a dozen times), it failed because nations comitted fraud by printing more "gold backed" paper notes than they had gold reserves. That doesn't mean the gold standard is perfect or the ultimate solution, but how can one take an author who misses such a basic point seriously?
Brown deplores the fact that a gold standard causes gold to flee a nation that is importing more than it exports. That is what it is supposed to do! In such a system, nations that produce little but consume much go broke, as any individual should and would. The solution is to import less or export more, and correct the imbalance, but this elementary solution is not even mentioned.
The old "there isn't enough gold and silver" myth is repeated. An ounce of gold can be worth a car or can of coke, and society will prosper either way, as long as the free market is allowed to set the price. The problem arises when the monetary unit is rapidly inflated, and this is difficult to do with gold (or any commodity) because it must be dug out of the earth (or produced with real labor). Brown considers this the chief failure of gold, but it is its chief virtue.
When a government raises ALL revenue by printing money, that is not "no taxes," as she states numerous times. It is government funded via the inflation tax. A government with "no" tax revenue either does not exist or is borrowing continually and won't exist long. While some money printing can be absorbed in an economy that isn't redlined, Brown consistently and naively overestimates the capacity of the economy to absorb newly printed money without causing price increases. You fund a government as large as ours almost entirely from creating new money, there will be price increases. It is either extremely stupid or extremely dishonest to pretend otherwise. Yes, Pennsylvania in the 1700s funded government totally from this method, but they didn't have Social Security, Medicare, Welfare, an Empire, etc.
Brown's ultimate solution is gobley-gook socialism. A bungling, corrupt government should be trusted with full money printing powers, allowed to control banking, mortgages, scientific R&D, give universal sustinence wages, etc., and then all will be better and prosperity will of course ensue. This view is pitifully naive. The history of money teaches one bedrock lesson: the power to print it out of thin air will ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS be abused. The solution is not to take the power from corrupt bankers and give it to equally corrupt politicians who will simply engage in the same abuses, but to abolish the fraud completely by abolishing the power completely. It is mind blowing that Brown identifies the fraud, identifies the corruption in government and banking, charts they way bankers and politicians collude to shaft the people, and then advocates turning the inflation power over to the politicians she just identified as being as corrupt as bankers.
Somewhere in all the OZ metaphors and newspaper clippings she includes, a tenth grade understanding of the origin of money is neglected, or perhaps lost. People accept money in the first place because it has intrinsic value as a commodity, and is a commodity. Real commodities can't be created out of thin air the way paper or "computer" money is. Commodities require real labor to produce. When working stiffs are forced to accept money which can be produced without real work, they get shafted when it is produced and spent by those who do no work and produce no real commodities. Politicians fall in this category, yet Brown suggests giving them a blank check that the money creation power represents.
Brown believes government can be trusted to use this power benevolently, but this belies a fundamental miscalculation about human nature. Leaders with the integrity of Franklin are the exception, not the rule. She believes that eliminating bond printing by the Fed, and allowing government to print money would eliminate a huge wealth transferral to the rich. It couldn't be that corrupt politicians in bed with bankers would just print five times as much money to make up for the lost bonds and interest payments, and then give this money to the elite for endless boondoggles. . .
The same quotes are used repeatedly, and the same points repeated. . .repeatedly. It was tiresome, especially since the errors were so eggregious.
Some sections are well written, useful, and balanced, but the most fundamental conclusions were erroneous, and fanciful. Just abolish the income tax. Love to, but ask anyone who's spent five minutes in DC how politically difficult that would be. Brown naively endorses a socialist government that provides housing, sets wages, targets full employment, gives food--all funded by endless money creation that will produce no inflation. Puh-lease.
Government is the problem, not the solution. The answer is not more government. What about those who actually want to take responsibility for their own lives? What about a limited government that just gets out of people's way and let's them be free, merely preventing crime and enforcing contracts? Maybe a tax levied in ways besides money printing is better, so I always know how much is taken, rather than wondering how many trillions of dollars the government printed out of thin air this year? The inflation tax is the most insidious form of taxation there is, and it should be abolished completely. Brown's solution is no solution at all because it misses this glaring point.
In spite of all the conspiracy nonsense out there, the Fed, and any central bank for that matter, is nothing but an instrument of the state for generating inflation. All governments love and are absolutely committed to inflation and credit expansion, by the way. The Fed is rather a "partnership" between the private banks and the state. It is a symbiotic relationship from which both parties benefit at the expense of normal citizens.
In my opinion the only real solution is not to have the state issue fiat money directly, as the author suggest, but to return to sound and honest money instead, that is, a gold standard with 100% reserve requirements. It is the fractional-reserve practice (institutionalized fraud) and credit expansion which are the root of all monetary evil.
I don't want to end this review without quoting Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Austrian economist) on Keynes and his interventionist/inflationary economic system: "Here we have Keynes, then: the twentieth century's most famous "economist." Out of false theories of employment, money, and interest, he has distilled a fantastically wrong theory of capitalism and of a socialist paradise erected out of paper money."
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