STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Ellen Brown Controversy Continues
By Staff News & Analysis - October 08, 2009

The following are just a few, selected emails we have received about Ellen Brown (pictured left) and her modern economic thought.

Posted by Jerry Ackerman on 10/6/2009 3:13:12 PM

Hopefully (no, I hate that word!) enough armchair pundits will consider the merit in the bills introduced in Congress by Kucinich to place the money-creating monopoly within the US Treasury. Four previous presidents that understood how vital this move really is were assassinated. Private ownership of central banks means that the elected government does not control the economy on behalf of the people. Stiglitz and others have outlined the true costs of war. Missing from their analyses is the interest portion — all of which accrues to the private banking system. e.g. the USA since 1913.This explains the ongoing addiction to militarism with its manufacture of "rogue states" gigantic Pentagon budgets and endless debt that will never be repaid.

Posted by Henk-2 on 10/6/2009 6:34:08 PM

The expression 'free market' is very popular all of a sudden. But who explains what it means? Gary North says that it means barter subject to a legal contract. Do we really want to change all human interaction to legal contracts? Later he states that it is a free exchange where nobody is hurt. If true, why do we have rich and poor? Nobody, Creationists or Evolutionists, has ever explained why we have rich and poor. Buy silver and gold. Yes, I'll go and buy a few kilo's of each out of my 'below the living standard' Australian pension.

Posted by Jere L Hough on 10/6/2009 10:21:27 PM

I support the monetary position of Dr. Brown. It appears that the disagreement is, as always, on the nature and definition of "money". Once that is agreed upon, then discussion on what is or is not "hard" or "honest" money can begin to have real meaning. As used here, the terms are meaningless. Dr. Brown covers all these essential terms in her book, especially chapter 37 on the "Goldbug" solution. The subject is thoroughly discussed in her articles, blog, and Web of Debt forums. There are literally thousands of articles, posts and comments on these matters. In particular, gold, silver, and other precious metals or gems are commodities, not money. They are forms of wealth. Money, on the other hand is an official (legal or fiat) substitute or proxy for wealth, and can be coin, paper, deposit receipts, or ledger entries – paper or electronic. Money is made money by law, and by its stamp. Commodities are valued by weight and market price. In summary, Einstein said (paraphrased) the solution to complex problems will not be found on the same level of thinking that created them. Our current economic woes going back to the great depression all took place or were launched by using a so-called "gold standard". Is that really what we wish to return to? And where would governments get all the gold to do this? Would they not have to buy it? And what would they use to buy it? And who now owns the lion's share of all above ground gold? Is it not the central bankers? Why does no one from the Austrian schools ever address these issues in any meaningful way? I hope to get some answers to these questions. But I've been asking them for years, and am still waiting.

Posted by William on 10/6/2009 11:32:39 PM

The IMF is the international version of the US Federal Reserve. Like the Federal Reserve, it was formed by and for the private bankers cartel to make sure they get paid on loans they create out of thin air. The IMF is famous for draconian repayment conditions imposed on the populace of countries sold out to the cartel by their respective governments. This cartel is the true power in the world by default of governments giving monetary powers to it that rightly only belong to governments. Read Ellen Brown's "Web of Debt" for the details including how we can end this servitude.

Dominant Social Theme: The State knows best.

Free-Market Analysis: As we continue to receive passionate and sophisticated emails regarding Ms. Brown and her economic thinking (see her Daily Bell interview, etc.), we are amazed by the fervency she inspires. We have been studying economics and money metals for decades and Ms. Brown's thought and the perspectives of her legions of fans are both edifying and gratifying. Economic opinion on a popular level IS making a comeback. We think the Internet has a lot to do with that.

Ms. Brown, like other inspired minds, seems to have created out of whole cloth, much as the Austrian free-market scholars did, a new way of thinking about economics. We did not appreciate the profundity of her approach until we interviewed her and subsequently realized how wide her following is and how persuasive her thought has become.

It is a truly remarkable journey that Ms. Brown has taken from the wife of an overseas US government employee (in some sort of classified endeavor?) and part time health care writer to a worldwide pundit on some of the most complex economic issues of our time.

Most people need backing of some sort to break through and capture a share of the public mind, but Ms. Brown has seemingly accomplished this all by herself, without funding of any kind. It almost defies comprehension. If we wore a thousand hats, they would all be doffed in respect to Ms. Brown's courageous and apparently independent intellectual journey.

We are impressed enough with Ms. Brown's approach to award her a title all her own, in fact. There are in our opinion, in modern economic thought, now Keynesians, Austrians and Brownians.

John Maynard Keynes famously described economic downturns as eras when consumers ceased to spend. His prescription was for governments and central banks to spend more in order to make up the difference. Free-market Austrians believe that central banks CAUSE recessions and depressions by printing too much money, thus fooling the market into creating booms that then become busts.

Now there are Brownians who evidently believe that private banking itself is the major cause of economic trouble and that banking, or at least money itself, must be taken out of the hands of "banksters" and put back into the hands of the people via the democratic process. Brownians do not believe gold or silver is money stuff per se, apparently, but believe, as one Brownian emailed us, that only the "sovereign" has the power to make or coin money. Gold and silver are basically commodities, Ms. Brown apparently writes.

We find Ms. Brown's thought both subtle and (more than occasionally) difficult, so we invite Brownians to correct us if we get it wrong, either in the main or in the details (surely they will). Apparently, Brownians would like local and perhaps national governments to issue out non-debt-based money instead of "private" banks and central banks; the money-stuff itself would not come, perhaps, with initial interest. In fact, the private market with its issuance of debt money is seen as the main cause of money troubles.

Brownians want local or regional control over non-debt based money, though we are not sure if Brownians care one way or the other whether central banks exist or wither and die, per se. In fact, Brownians apparently don't consider central banks a major part of the problem as they do not actually put money directly into the economy for the most part.

Brownians also point out that money-stuff is the property of governments throughout history and that back in the depression of the early 20th century, there was a move to take away money issuance from central banks and put it in the hands of localities under democratic governance.

So what do we make of these claims? Well, frankly, we are Austrians, even Misesians. We note that Ms. Brown's analysis seems to go back about 100 years, just as we have noted in the past that the pro-military, pro-empire, pro-free market stance of American and British conservatives (with all the contradictions inherent in such a perspective) goes back about 300 years. We like longer-term perspectives and are comfortable with the idea that free-market Austrian thought goes back about 3,000 years, and actually a lot farther than that. Maybe 10,000 or 20,000 years. We could even make a case for 40,00-50,000 years. In fact, in the past we have.

But let us take some of these issues and unpack them.

First, is money stuff the natural province of the sovereign? We don't think so. Human beings can only interact seriously with about 90 people at a time according to anthropological reports we have read. Thus we figure tribes for thousands of years numbered about 90 people and were largely familial. Yet we are just as sure these tribes used money – beads, salt, copper, silver and gold – as a store of value. Also, please consider modern humanity is perhaps about 50,000 years old. For about 40,000 of those years, urban existence – which demands a sovereign – was perhaps non-existent. Familial tribes were on the move. They certainly used gold and silver as money and they used it without sovereign approval in our opinion. The state did not create money. The family-based marketplace did.

Second, are private banks to blame for the current economic mess? Again, we don't think the fault primarily rests with private banking. Ms. Brown's analysis goes back to the Depression apparently, but you have to look back at least 1,000 years, to Venice and beyond, to see how private banking really worked as it evolved within a Western context (and certainly one could go back a lot farther than that). Private banks were actually warehouses that people brought gold and silver to for storage. Eventually, the owners of these warehouses began to issue out receipts for the gold and silver in their storage. As others accepted the receipts in lieu of the actual gold and silver, paper money was born. (There is nothing in this history to indicate that such money was initially debt-based. That only evolved alongside central banking in our opinion.) Again, we can see that it was a private market process that created paper money, and that to begin with the private marketplace was beneficial as private transactions always must be (each side of the transaction seeking to gain what is most useful).

Third, are local, democratic, governments equipped to issue money and would this be a better system? We are not sure what Brownians want here, as current governance in the West is an absolute mess. The only form of public governance that works at all (and faintly) is republican in nature and minimal in its ambitions, in our opinion. Most Western governance is now democratic, which basically means mob rule. If Brownians are suggesting that DEMOCRATIC governments issue out money, we would propose that this is a recipe for chaos and corruption – along the lines we have now with the quasi-private, quasi-public debt-based money of modern Western states.

So … we've done our best to summarize some Brownian thinking, as we understand it. If we boil it down, we must conclude that Brownians are apparently anti-private market from a monetary standpoint, want private banks out of banking, and believe government, even winner-take-all governments, have the right (and need) to create and control money stuff, and to issue non-debt-based money into the public domain as they choose, based on voter interactions.

Thus far, our conclusion (fair or not) is that Ms. Brown's message is actually, and surprisingly, a fairly radical and pro-statist one. The Brownian perspective uses free-market rhetoric to damn (private) banking, which makes it confusing. In truth the Brownian point of view and rhetoric in some aspects may even outdo the old socialist warhorse himself, John Maynard Keynes. Maybe this is unfair to Brownians and Ms. Brown, but that is the perspective we are coming away with after reading emails we've received on the subject and, of course, writings of Ms. Brown herself.

How is this so? Ms. Brown's erudite and passionate message seems to draw on the monetary history of the past 100 years. Maybe that's unfair, but we would submit that to truly understand money, you have to examine the entire history of the human interaction with money stuff, which is more like 40,000 or 50,000 years than 100.

Again, we hope we have not done a disservice to Ms. Brown's complex, passionate and intriguing message. She has certainly had an impact on current economic thought and we have thoroughly enjoyed learning about her savvy and considered monetary perspectives. But we think we disagree with much of what is apparently concluded.

After Thoughts

From our point of view, and from our reading of history, money is gold and silver. It evolved privately in a private marketplace competition over tens of thousands of years. Other points of view (excluding Ms. Brown's, of course) smack of the same kind of sophistry that attempts to substitute modern conservatism, with its 300-year old pedigree, for the meaningful and hard-won republican tradition and evolution of the past 5,000 years. We live apparently in a sophist age, as did the ancient Romans as their empire decayed. And of course the Greeks once past their "Golden Age." Where is such erudite, popular and well-funded sophistry coming from? It truly is astonishing in our humble estimation. It is so well thought out and so misleading that it is almost frightening. And excluding Ms. Brown, we do have our suspicions.

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