Introduction: Mr. Griffin is a distinguished film producer, author and political lecturer. He is the founder of Freedom Force International, a libertarian-oriented activist network focused on advancing individual freedom. First released in 1994, Mr. Griffin's best-selling financial book, The Creature from Jekyll Island, is a no-holds-barred look into the inner workings of the Federal Reserve banking system, or cartel if you will. Mr. Griffin peels back the layers of obstruction to rational analysis and leads the reader on a wonderfully researched, although disturbing, journey from the very beginning, when the Fed was still in the planning stages, up to the present, where it is now struggling to survive. For many years, the editors of the Daily Bell have been avid readers of Mr. Griffin's tremendous literary contributions on free markets and personal liberty. His insights are especially noteworthy given the validity of his vision and the exciting and troublesome nature of the times in which we live.
Daily Bell: Has the stimulus helped? Why or why not?
Griffin: Has the stimulus helped? I guess the question is has the stimulus helped whom? Or What? The general idea is that the stimulus is supposed to stimulate the American economy and help the American people and in that I don't believe that there is any reason to think that it has helped at all. I don't think it was really designed to do that at all. It was designed to be sold that way but I don't think that anyone in Washington thought that it would actually accomplish the end objective. Now I suppose that some people did think so, I would have to backtrack on that, there are some collectivists that believe the government can solve all problems, that the government can take everything from the citizens and redistribute it back to them in a more efficient manner. There are people like that out there and they thought the stimulus package would help. Surely everybody understands that the money that is being spent is coming out of the pockets of the very people it is supposed to help.
Daily Bell: From the central banking mechanism?
Griffin: Yes, the government doesn't have this money. The government is spending this money but they don't have this money, and the paradox there is that they are not collecting it from taxes but they are just creating it out of nothing. They are using the Federal Reserve mechanism to create this money out of nothing, push it into the economy and then that results in inflation. The cost of it is born by everybody but it is usually born mostly by the people at the bottom of the economic scale who will feel the effects of inflation the most.
Daily Bell: Modern governments are supposed to take care of the poor, but often it doesn't work that way.
Griffin: The very wealthy don't suffer too much from the effects of inflation and the upper middle class get by OK, but the bottom part of the middle class and those who are on limited incomes have a real tough time with inflation. So I am saying the cost of all these stimulus packages are falling on the very people who are supposedly to be helped and not only that, the benefit is not going to those people at all but to the politically favored class, those who are in government jobs or government contracts with the government. It is going to the banks, going to the insurance companies, the big corporations – all who have strong lobbying influence with Washington. The money is coming from the middle and lower class and going to the politically favored class. So is it helping? It is helping the politically favored class a lot, it is helping the politicians a lot because they can posture and grandstand and say we are doing something, we are taking charge here. So it is helping them. But as for helping the economy or the people at large, it is a miserable failure.
Daily Bell: Are we headed toward price inflation?
Griffin: I think we are going to see some continued deflation in the economy, particularly in the bubble sectors. These markets had a long way to contract and I don't think they are finished. However, it is inevitable that we are going to see price inflation and lots of it. Probably hyper-inflation because the only thing these people in Washington know is how to print more money which almost inevitably leads to higher prices.
Daily Bell: Isn't price inflation already in the system?
Griffin: Of course it is, particularly in cost of living sectors – food, education and healthcare. Things people have to deal with every day. We are already are seeing price inflation there.
Daily Bell: Price inflation, which inevitably results from the printing of money. …
Griffin: What is interesting when you have a complete understanding about this, is to realize that while they are creating tremendous amounts of money out of nothing and pouring it into the economy through the politically favored class, as I mentioned earlier, at the same time a tremendous amount of money is dropping out of the system at the bottom because of the collapse of real estate values, the loss of savings, the writing off of bad loans, mortgages or writing off a $20k or $30k credit card bill or whatever the debt is. And eventually they go into bankruptcy court and they are cleared of that debt, that money literally goes out of existence.
Daily Bell: So inflation – which is actually the quantity of money – is evening out for the moment?
Griffin: With the fiat money system, money comes in and out of existence and people sometimes forget that fact. So in these economic downturn times, a lot of money is disappearing and at the same time is appearing at the top. The thing to keep your eye on is where the money is going out of the system. It's coming out of the middle class. These are the people that have lost their savings, have lost the equity in their homes. They have lost all the money that they thought they had in the way of assets, a lot of it anyway. So we see there is money going out and at the same time there is money coming in. It is a transfer of wealth. The wealthy, because of the political connections, are making more and more money and the middle class is literally being squeezed. These guys at the top hope to squeeze these middle guys out of existence.
Daily Bell: Is the power elite running scared?
Griffin: I wouldn't say they are running scared. I think they are cautious. I think things are unfolding pretty much the way they had anticipated all along. I think these people are smart enough to realize that as we come closer and closer to their New World Order, as they like to call it, the system is becoming more and more a command economy rather than a free market.
Daily Bell: But aren't people waking up?
Griffin: There is a lot of upheaval going on. I think there is anticipation that there is a lot of waking up going on. But I think they have been preparing for that. I think they are cautious, but I think they fully expect to contain that or possibly turn it to their advantage. For example, if they could encourage rebellion, revolts and riots, that would provide the excuse for martial law. I think the motivation behind their equipping police forces and national guard units with crowd control weapons and the reason they have been building these massive FEMA concentration camps all around the country, is their anticipation of the need for a final crackdown.
Daily Bell: Has the Internet contributed to elite setbacks?
Griffin: I think the Internet has been the most powerful force to set back the plans of the power elite. They hate the Internet, they hate the free exchange of information. You can see the impact all around the world. The totalitarian systems are moving heaven and earth in order to regulate and restrict the free use of the Internet. They want to control it. They can control it. And they are working very hard as we speak to maneuver the legislation so that they will control it.
Daily Bell: How are they going about it?
Griffin: They are trying to sell it to the average person as a good move for the public. They are trying to convince people that if the government doesn't control the Internet then we will have pornography, people will have their privacy stolen, children will be abused. A lot of people don't really understand the real issues. They say "oh yeah, naturally we need more and more regulation on the Internet."
Daily Bell: This is being done independently by governments?
Griffin: Actually, there is a movement afoot for the United Nations to control the Internet. The idea is that international control would be fairer than what we've got now, which is a good deal of American control. Of course, most countries don't make any pretense of respecting individual rights or free-speech. They are totalitarian in nature. The whole world is filled with dictatorships of one kind or another, and these people have no respect for human rights or freedom of speech. You can be sure that if the United Nations winds up in control that the free exchange of information that the whole thing will come to a shuttering stop!
Daily Bell: Not a pleasant thought. But meanwhile, the power elite has other things to occupy itself with. Is it fair to say that the fiat money system is broken beyond repair?
Griffin: No, the fiat money system is all that the world has right now. Of course, it is not working well at all and thus there has been talk of a new monetary system – one that might possibly be backed a little bit by gold or silver. But that's what they always say to sell it in the early stages. If you look at the people who are making these statements, the Western world leaders, they are enemies of gold and silver. They love fiat money. They want to control it because it's a means of strengthening their hand over the people. Fiat money is not dead by any means.
Daily Bell: Is there more unrest in the West than the mainstream media suggests?
Griffin: Good question, I don't know that I am qualified to answer that. My contacts indicate that there is a lot of unrest when you get out beyond informed groups to the people who make up the bulk of the population. But it's unrest that is not knowledgeable; it's not based on information.
Daily Bell: What is the trigger, then?
Griffin: It's based on emotion and envy and anger and I am afraid that that kind of unrest can be used to bring about the very opposite of what we need in this world. If you can manipulate the mobs into being angry, say for example, at capitalism, then you can end up with something even worse.
Daily Bell: Yes, that's why change has to be non-violent.
Griffin: And it has to be knowledgeable. It's not knowledgeable to say the banks are failing and therefore capitalism has failed, so let's try socialism. What's left out of that argument is that the banks are not functioning within a free-market system. The banks in the world today are a prime example of collectivism. They are in bed with the government. They couldn't exist without government favoritism and government monopoly. The banks and the government are practically one in the same. That's not capitalism, that's not free enterprise competition. But the masses have been told that that is capitalism. So when the collectivist system goes belly up, as it periodically does, then those who are misled can get angry at capitalism, which is the wrong target. I worry about that kind of rising resentment and anger in the world because it is not based on facts.
Daily Bell: Yet understanding of free-markets has taken off in the last decade, thanks to the Internet in large part.
Griffin: Funny, I am thinking that there are two parts in my brain fighting against each other at the moment. On the one hand I want to say something very positive and encouraging because there certainly are strong signs of a growing movement for the free market. But when you look at who is still in charge of the world's governments and institutions, it's still a very small component of the larger scene.
Daily Bell: But it is growing? …
Griffin: Yes, it is definitely growing and I believe it has a solid base to it. In fact, I get a great deal of encouragement from that. We just have to keep the fire under it and I think as more and more people become upset with the collapse going on around them, they will honestly start looking for a new way. And thanks to the Internet, many are starting to realize that we haven't had free-enterprise capitalism, we haven't had free markets for many years. I'm encouraged by that, but we still have a long way to go.
Daily Bell: We compared the Internet to the Gutenberg press and said the results would be similar. Do you think so?
Griffin: I think that is a good analogy. The Gutenberg press made information available to the masses and the Internet has done the same. Good analogy, yes.
Daily Bell: We've spoken about some general threats to the freedom of the Internet. Will the current American administration be able to crack down on the Internet and censor its messages about free-markets and freedom in general?
Griffin: The current administration can do anything it wants to do. That is the answer to the question. They have the political power, the military power and the economic power. They own the economy and they control the military. And the media goes along with everything they want to do. I think they want a crack down, and will try, but they are going to need some kind of an excuse. They are going to need some kind of a major event to justify it.
Daily Bell: Will Ron Paul and his free-market message have an increasing impact on American politics?
Griffin: I believe he will, but I don't know if it will be because of his personal involvement or this thing that we might call the Ron Paul phenomenon. Ron Paul generated this phenomenon because of his astoundingly excellent position on so many policies and because he ran as a candidate of a major political party which gave him visibility, which he would never have had, particularly with young people. Once that is started, it can't be stopped really. Once the bell is rung it can't be un-rung. So I think, even if Ron Paul is not personally involved in any more political movements, that the Ron Paul phenomenon is going to continue to grow.
Daily Bell: We think the conservative movement is desperate to co-opt the libertarian message and has launched a number of artificial candidates to do so including notably Sarah Palin. Agree?
Griffin: I agree that that is a strategy they have considered and would execute if they could. When it comes to particular candidates, I don't know enough about them. Sarah Palin is very hard to pin down. I don't know what her political philosophy is. And that worries me, because if someone is offering themselves for leadership, especially in these troubled times, they have to stand up and say what it is they believe in. I am talking about real principles and not just in terms of whether we should or shouldn't drill oil. That's an issue, and an interesting issue, but what are the principles, what is the ideology, what is the yardstick that will be used, the guidelines that will be used to make all the decisions that come down the line.
Daily Bell: She comes off as free-market oriented in some ways but not in others. Most notably her ongoing support for the military industrial complex is problematic.
Griffin: I don't know what her philosophy is. But I have a feeling that what you said is absolutely correct, that they are going to package her as a quote "conservative" whatever that means. Certainly, they are going to package her as a constructive alternative to Obama. Yet when it comes to the real issues like the loss of American sovereignty, the abolition of the Federal Reserve System, important issues like that, we don't know where she stands.
Daily Bell: We think the American intel establishment is launching more and more conspiratorial and pro-war Internet sites – ones that nonetheless feature free-market rhetoric – in order to confuse the public. Agree?
Griffin: I am not aware of them but it sounds like something they should do. If I was running their strategy, that is exactly what I would do. I don't know what sites you would be referring to but I would expect that to be the case.
Daily Bell: Will the American establishment media ever get to the bottom of 9/11?
Griffin: The American establishment media will never get to the bottom of 9/11 because they are controlled by the same financial and political forces that seem in some sense responsible for 9/11. I am talking about that cluster of personalities on the Council of Foreign Relations and the people that circle around them. They are the ones that are really calling the shots, not only in the government, but also in the media, educational systems, foundations, etc. The media is as much a part of that group as the government. So I don't expect to see the media break step with the official position of the government.
Daily Bell: Why did John Farmer, the 9/11 Commission lead litigator, recently come out with a book that basically accused the entire American military, political and industrial structure of lying about what happened on that terrible day?
Griffin: I don't know, I have not read the book but I am guessing that it might be a kind of decoy to lead people away from the real issue. I suspect that it is part of a decoy. Make a half confession instead of a fuller one.
Daily Bell: Did you ever believe this sort of free-market movement would exist – as it evidently does – within your lifetime?
Griffin: I never questioned whether there would be a free market movement – I was determined to be part of it. That is much of the focus of my work. Yes I did expect to see it.
Daily Bell: Can you list some of your own notable accomplishments – outside of writing one of the best books ever on the Federal Reserve – in aiding this trend?
Griffin: As far as my own work is concerned, others would be better to evaluate how effective that was. I just keep chugging away as best I can.
Daily Bell: What do you believe will happen within the next ten years? Are you optimistic for free markets and freedom in the West and in particular in America?
Griffin: I divide my view into the short view of history and the long view. I have to be honest and say in the short run that I am very pessimistic. I believe that the forces that brought us to this situation are firmly in control of the systems of the world right now. I don't think we are going to see a turn around in the short term.
Daily Bell: You are speaking of governmental forces?
Griffin: No, I'm not just talking about the political structures, but about the media centers and the educational systems and the labor unions, the church organizations. All the great power centers where people have their leaders and derive their opinions. Those are now all firmly in the hands of collectivists who have this single goal of establishing a new world order based on the model of collectivism.
Daily Bell: You see it as very pervasive.
Griffin: They are in charge. Anyone who thinks we are going to turn that around quickly, well, I don't think he or she is being realistic. But that does not mean that the long view cannot be favorable. I'm much more optimistic in the longer term. There's no way to stop this thing in my view. They can stop some of us, but they can't stop all of us. The ideas cannot be stopped. Once people understand the truth, they are not ever going to easily forget it.
Daily Bell: You've done a great deal to help with that effort.
Griffin: All of us together are building a movement where an understanding of free-enterprise and free-markets is reaching the point of critical mass. People are passing the word. Books are being written. DVD's are being distributed. Outside of the mainstream media, the Internet is having a powerful impact. The overall flow of information is pretty strong right now. It is going to take about two generations, in my opinion, but in the long run I see total victory for free markets and for personal freedom. I feel really good about that.
Daily Bell: From our point of view, the Middle Eastern wars are intended to spread Western-style collectivist democracy to the Islamic world. Has the West stumbled in its war against the Muslim religion (failure in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, etc.)?
Griffin: Have they stumbled? In my view, the conflict between the Western world and Islam is largely manufactured. There is no question that there are extreme groups within Islam, but my own research leads me to the conclusion that those are the very groups that have been fronted, aided and abetted by forces within America because they wanted to create an enemy – a dreaded foe to justify all the other schemes.
Daily Bell: The BBC, in a program last year came to a similar conclusion.
Griffin: Without an enemy, they cannot fight a war. Without a war, they cannot justify being in the Middle East. If they are not in the Middle East, they can't control the oil and on and on you go.
Daily Bell: So … it's at least partially manufactured?
Griffin: The war against Islam is manufactured and is actually a war that need not be. Did they fumble the war? No they created it! They created it and it is just a meme. They don't want to win the war! They want to fight the war for ten years, twenty years, thirty years. They are not fumbling it. It is exactly what they want. It is not a question of winning or losing, it's a question of just having it, prolonging it and using it as a means of scaring the daylights out of the American people and conditioning them to accept the loss of their freedom at home.
Daily Bell: Homeland Security is a dangerous institution in our opinion and one of the prime outcomes of 9/11. Do you see it being rolled back?
Griffin: I do not see it being rolled back under the present regime. It is not there because the American people wanted it, it is there because rulers wanted it and we still have the same rulers. I don't see any reason why they would roll it back. They might try to tidy it up a little bit, so far as public relations are concerned. But I would be very surprised if they cut its budget, cut its staff, cut its powers or anything like that. I think it is going to continue to expand, all aspects of it.
Daily Bell: We had a polite but public argument with the savvy Ellen Brown. Can you give us a further response to Ellen Brown's (Brownian) perspective on nationalizing banks since they, rather than the Federal Reserve, are responsible in her view for banking abuses?
Griffin: Well I am not aware of that debate, but I am certainly able to address the issue of nationalizing banks. There is no reason in my mind for the banking system, or for that matter, the automobile industry, the motion picture industry, housing or any other part of American life to be run by the government. I don't see any reason for the hospitals or medical clinics to be run by the government either.
Daily Bell: Good point.
Griffin: The idea that whenever there is a problem the solution is for the government to go in and take control is one of the most absurd and childish concepts I have ever heard of. The idea that the government can do anything better than the free market is just based on complete absence of understanding how the free market works. The only thing I think the government can do better than anybody else is to fight a war. The only thing a government can do better is to kill and destroy, and that is what it is good at. If war is used to kill and destroy in defense of a nation, in defense but not as an aggressive act, and it is used to defend the lives, liberty and property of its citizens then war performs a proper function, in my view.
Daily Bell: So you see a need for some kind of limited government, practically speaking.
Griffin: It is tragic that we have to defend ourselves. But history shows if you cannot defend yourself then you become a slave to someone who moves in and takes over. So we need to have the killing machine, but that's about all.
Daily Bell: But not the banking system?
Griffin: The idea that government should be running the banks is absurd. The American government has been in the banking business since 1913 when the Fed was founded. The solution is not to get more into the banking business but to get the government out of it completely. So I would say no, let's get the government out of the banks completely and then make the banks follow the rules and regulations that any other business must follow. Give them no favoritism, no subsidy, no bailouts. Make them honor their contracts and if they fail then they fail. Let new banks come into existence.
Daily Bell: How long has gold and silver been used as money? We think silver anyway is a substance that has been used in commerce for up to 10,000 years of human history, not 2,000 as certain monetary authorities suggest.
Griffin: I would have to get my notes out on exact dates but it doesn't really make any difference if it's been 2,000 years or 10,000 years. The real issue is not how long but how well it has performed in that function. When you look at the historical record, there is nothing that has done as well as gold or silver as a medium of exchange because it has all of the essential qualities required of money. It is not perishable, it's divisible, it has great value and it can be precisely measured. People have used just about everything for a medium of exchange but nothing has worked as well as gold and silver for thousands of years. The record is clear on it. That is what history has chosen over and over again. Why do we have to go looking around for something else? I don't understand that.
Daily Bell: Do you have any other comments to make regarding where we are at this point in the 2000s rather unique history?
Griffin: The only comment I would like to make is that it is an exciting time in which to live. I am glad I am living at this time. I am glad because, for me or anybody else who is a free-market thinking person and one who cares about the future, it gives us an opportunity to make a difference in the world. I think it is a wonderful time to be alive.
Daily Bell: Thank you, Ed. You continue to make a huge difference. It is always a pleasure and an honor to speak to a free-market legend in his own lifetime!
What can we say about this remarkable man and the remarkable and honest answers he has provided us? Ed Griffin has fought for freedom throughout his life and his famous book on the Federal Reserve has in one way or another inspired millions to question their assumptions about money and the reality of their lives in modern society.
Ed Griffin is an achiever for freedom and he has continuously made an effort to advance its cause. We don't have any explanation for what makes Ed Griffin go. He obviously does what he does because he has to do it. We're just glad he's around.
If we had any quibble with this interview (how can we, really?) it would be in the area of pessimism – even short-term pessimism. We know Ed was just explaining his viewpoint as honestly as possible, but we think, generally, that pessimism probably expends negative energy that would be better spent doing positive things.
And Ed, despite his views about the elite and their controlling ways, has quite obviously never let pessimism slow him down. He went out and wrote a tremendous book (one of a number he has written) that literally changed people's lives and perceptions of their culture.
Additionally, Ed is very active in the peaceful fight for freedom in America. He may be pessimistic, short term, but he is the most active pessimist we know. Every day he gets up and does his part, his share, to fight collectivism and to try to gain back some ground for the American Constitution.
For us, Ed is a great inspiration – as a leader, as a fighter in a peaceful revolution of ideas and as a person who has created a life based on an inspiring and important belief structure that he obviously built up on his own. Ed, by the way, lived much of his life in a pre-Internet era. Much of his adult work was conducted pre-Internet, which makes it all the more noteworthy.
For us, of course, as we have often reported, the Internet is something of a game-changer. We look at what the Internet has allowed people to accomplish in terms of supporting freedom, and we begin to believe that the changes that have been made by the Internet are "already in the pipeline."
Yes people's minds have already been changed. Now, Ed Griffin believes it may take another two generations to show overwhelming results. But maybe not. There is, as Ed himself agrees, a foundational freedom movement in America, and we see one growing in Britain as well. There are setbacks in all things, and cyclical turnings as well. But people like Ed Griffin and Ron Paul inform us through their actions and intent that there are always two sides at work – and at least two stories being told simultaneously. And maybe, ironically, Ed's own efforts may contribute to speeding things up. Freedom, real freedom, may not take two generations to achieve.
We want to end by observing that Ed Griffin-a man who certainly ought to know – sees many positives in the world today and in the Internet as well. What we'll take away from this interview is the energy it exudes, and the excitement that Ed obviously has about the future of freedom, even as he acknowledges, realistically, the challenges ahead.
Thanks again, Mr. Griffin, for all you've done and have yet to do.