Something Wicked Comes This Way
By Staff News & Analysis - December 26, 2012

A Banking System We Can Trust … Turn all financial firms into mutual funds. A Banking System We Can Trust – Turn all financial firms into mutual funds. Before throwing more money at Wall Street, let's understand what our financial system was supposed to deliver, what it did deliver and what price it charged. The system was supposed to channel our hard-earned savings into the best real investments: new homes, offices, factories, equipment and research. And it was supposed to correctly price our assets. It did neither. Instead, Wall Street morphed into a vast gambling enterprise, generating massive trades of existing securities without, in fact, raising the investment rate or growing the economy. Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Edward Leamer – Forbes

Dominant Social Theme: If the smartest people in the world were simply allowed to organize it properly, we'd all live in a Nirvana and never have to make any decisions on our own.

Free-Market Analysis: Fascism – the idea that certain people in power should organize society's manifestations for everyone else – is what modernity calls a "trending topic."

Here, in an article posted at Forbes, we are impressed once again with people's dogged certainties. Doctors Kotlikoff and Learner have decided that they are qualified to reorganize the world's banking system so that it will never again threaten the world's prosperity.

They want to do this by creating mutual funds that offer banking style activities but with the important proviso that these funds will be reflective of risks from a lending and investing standpoint. Here's how Wikipedia describes the scheme (paragraphing, ours):

Kotlikoff's proposed reform of the financial system is called Limited Purpose Banking, [and] transforms all financial companies with limited liability, including incorporated banks, insurance companies, financial exchanges, and hedge funds, into pass-through mutual funds, which do not borrow to invest in risky assets, but, instead, allows the public to directly choose what risks it wishes to bear by purchasing more or less risky mutual funds.

Limited Purpose Banking keeps banks, insurance companies, hedge funds and other financial corporations from borrowing short and lending long and leaving the public to pick up the pieces when things go south. Instead, it forces financial intermediaries to limit their activities to their sole legitimate purpose—financial inter-mediation.

Limited Purpose Banking substitutes the vast array of extant federal and state financial regulatory bodies with a single financial regulator called the Federal Financial Authority (FFA). The FFA would have a narrow purpose namely to verify, disclosure, and oversee the independent rating and custody off all securities purchased and sold by mutual funds.

Now, like many schemes, this one sounds just fine. But we're sure it is NOT … because no man, however intelligent, can structure a market scheme that will work adequately over time. These schemes have to evolve and are created in the crucible of competition. No man can simply declare, Godlike, that this strategy or that will work properly.

As times become more difficult, we are seeing a plethora of these plans, including those advanced by neo-National Socialists who likely will not rest until all central banks are public and printing great gouts of money on behalf of the "people." Interest is to be banned.

These grand schemes will never do what they are said to do because it is simply impossible to predict outcomes, as human beings are not predictable and will often do the opposite of what is forecast. This inconvenient behavior has been called "human action" by Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises.

It is one of the world's most merciful insights – and one might suggest it ranks right up there with Christ's Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount challenges people to be generous and charitable to others. Most critically, it asks that people adopt this behavior of their own free will and not because they are incentivized or otherwise coerced by the state.

What Mises – and others who had come before him – understood was similarly incandescent. It was the idea that each individual is an actor unto himself and must participate in society willingly and without mass coercion. Leviathan, Mises proclaimed, would never provide a palliative. Every item of its agenda must eventually be found out by human action.

State planning won't work. Bureaucracy doesn't make things better. Taxation is not the solution. Even the most generous agendas will not yield up positive results. Ban something and people will merely do it in a different way. Eventually the state grows more impatient. Jails are filled up. Criminals are invented. The last stage is genocide.

A faint stench wafts around such schemes. They sound reasonable. But who will implement them? Who will play God? Here's some more from the Forbes article:

During the dot-com bubble, Wall Street funded all manner of silly businesses, and during the housing bubble, it put millions of people in homes they couldn't afford. This "expertise," which cost one-tenth of our output, was delivered by the best and brightest, with half of Harvard's graduating classes becoming high-class croupiers.

As for pricing assets, the stock market's been on a five-decade roller coaster, notwithstanding a relatively stable real economy. The market rose dramatically from 1950 through the mid-1960s. It then spent the next decade and a half falling through the floor. Then it rose like crazy in the late '90s, crashed, soared and crashed again.

We need a financial sector but not one like this. Nor do we need Wall Street hitting us up for its gambling debts. What we need is Limited Purpose Banking (LPB), which would transform all financial corporations, including insurance companies and hedge funds, into mutual funds. They would, henceforth, be called banks.

Under this system, banks would never fail for a simple reason. They'd never hold any financial assets and they'd never borrow except to finance their mutual fund operations. Instead, they'd be limited to their legitimate purposefinancial intermediation. Under LPB, people, not companies, bear risk as their mutual funds do well or poorly. supervise custody, disclose and clear all securities purchased, held and sold by LPB mutual funds. Private rating companies could stay in business, but no one would need to trust them ever again.

Banks would initiate personal and business loans (including mortgages), send them to the FFA for processing and then sell them to mutual funds, including their own. Loans would activate when sold, so no bank would ever have an open position.

All mutual funds would break the buck with one exception: cash mutual funds. These funds would strictly hold cash and be valued at $1 per share. Owners of these funds would write checks against their balances and never have to worry about a bank run. Fractional reserve banking and the FDIC would be history.

Critically, so far as we can tell, this scheme does NOT address central banking where all the trouble starts. We could even venture that these suggestions attack the symptoms rather than the problem. You see, central bankers are in charge of the money supply and do not know how much money a given economy needs. They guess … and almost always they print too much money. If they remove money, they usually throw society into a great recession or depression.

One doesn't have to design a new system for banking. One simply has to remove central banking and allow the market itself to create money via gold, silver and generalized monetary competition. It is central banking and money creation that creates the problems not the commerce of banking. But these two gentlemen talk around this point from what we can tell.

Of course, in a larger sense, we do not mean to pick on either of these two, as their hubris is merely a sign of a larger societal dysfunction. The rhetoric of the modern age is endlessly regnant. It is a time of sweeping prescriptions for maladies that are evidently and obviously self-inflicted.

It is what we call the power elite that is behind much of the world's current chaos, in our view, and wishes to create world government. A global currency is likely in the offing and in the meantime we shall be subject to many suggestions on how to "fix" what the top banking elites are purposefully inflicting.

This is one such suggestion. There are many more. Their plethora is a sign of the times.

After Thoughts

A wicked one …

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