The graveyard of discarded fiat currencies: Heaps of Soviet-era rubles decompose in a landfill. Chances are the fraudulent instrument of debt called the "dollar" will soon reach the same destination.
For decades, the American ruling establishment has enjoyed the privilege of exporting inflation.
This has been done, acknowledges Ben Steil of the Council on Foreign Relations (a group I'm not in the habit of quoting favorably), by compelling other governments around the world to print huge mounds of their own currencies to prop up the dollar by buying Treasury Notes.
Thus when the Fed inflates, central banks world-wide follow suit, thereby driving up consumer prices for those ruled by satraps of Washington's global empire. Not surprisingly, at least some of those on the unfavorable end of this equation are getting restive, which is why the Gulf Cooperation Council has been making noises about removing the "dollar peg" that holds this corrupt arrangement together.
He just can't leave wretched enough alone, can he? The execrable Alan Greenspan at an investment conference in Saudi Arabia, urging the region's petro-oligarchs to abandon the dollar.
Oh -- and wasn't it cute of Alan "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" Greenspan, addressing an investors' conference in Jedda, to advise GCC governments to drop the dollar peg in order to protect them from the consequences of his own inflationary policies?
Foreign purchases of our debt bonds started to taper off three years ago. If the GCC governments act on Greenspan's advice, it will probably provoke a world-wide flight from the dollar and, in short order, the end of our status as a First World nation. I wouldn't blame the GCC or anybody else for bailing on the buck, of course. But it is indigestibly rich to see Greenspan wielding the pin that may be used to pop the dollar bubble he so diligently inflated during his term as Fed Commissar.
To understand the likely consequences of the course Greenspan now prescribes, a different metaphor is called for.
For decades, the fiat dollar has been the world's reserve currency, issued by the world's largest debtor. The results of this unprecedented combination were entirely predictable: Washington has generated a flood tide of inflation that has inundated more or less the entire world.
A tide is a reciprocating phenomenon -- if it goes out, it must come back in. But how do we describe what happens when a relatively small stretch of coastline suddenly has to absorb the impact of every returning tide from all the world's oceans all at once? "Tsunami" is an entirely inadequate term.
Well, in economic terms, we're going to find out, and probably sooner than any of us will admit. And auguries of this potentially apocalyptic development abound.
For instance: "Euros only" signs have sprung up on the streets of Manhattan. No, this doesn't mean proprietors of small shops would flatly reject FRNs (Federal Reserve Notes) if offered in sufficient quality. It does mean, however, that with the inversion of the exchange rate in favor of the European Union's flavor of fiat currency, and the corresponding influx of European tourists, at least some small businessmen in New York -- particularly those who have traveled to Europe recently, and learned just how little a dollar will buy on the Continent -- are trying to avoid the hassle and stress of converting currencies.
"I need euros," one street vendor from Niger explained to the Washington Post. "The dollar's going down. I don't want to change it before I go home."*
We'd better get used to that kind of thing. In fact, it would be a good idea for Americans to study what's happening to another dollar, the Zimbabwean variety. The regime led by the demented Marxist thug Robert Mugabe will admit to an official inflation rate of 100,580 percent in January, up dramatically from a more, ahem, modest rate of 66,212 percent last December. But unofficial -- which is to say, more reliable -- estimates put the rate at around 150,000 percent.
A millionaire street beggar in Zimbabwe displays bundles of that nation's increasingly worthless fiat currency. He has an endearing and radiant smile now, but the history of hyperinflation suggests this young man is in for incredibly hard times. Say a prayer for him.
The typical Zimbabwean is a multi-millionaire: The country's per capita gross domestic product is $9 dollars (U.S.), or about 70 million of that country's dollars. But then again, a kilo of chicken goes for 15 million Zimbabwean dollars.
While Zimbabwe's "millionaires" starve, its ruler and his posse feast. Amid chronic shortages of gasoline, food, and other essentials, the sub-cretinous hordes who compose that nation's ruling elite recently raised 3 trillion Zim-dollars to celebrate the Dear Leader's 84th birthday.
Of course, we're not suffering Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation, at least not yet. But here's the cold, unyielding reality: As measured by our current account balance (which is not the sole definitive measure of an economy, I hasten to point out), our country is poorer than Zimbabwe, at least according to the CIA's World Factbook (a fact brought to my attention by the diligent folks who run the Freedom's Phoenix newssite). Of the 163 nations on the CIA's list, Zimbabwe is 95th. The United States is dead last.
Our nation is broke in a way no country has ever been broke before. And as households, Americans are about to grow much poorer.
William Lapp of Advanced Economic Solutions recently told participants a the USDA's Outlook Forum that a wave (there's that image again) of "real food inflation" is about to reach consumers. His assessment was seconded by Larry Pope of Smithfield Foods, the nation's largest pork processor: "I think we need to tell the American consumer that [prices] are going up.... We're seeing cost increases that we've never seen in our business." (Emphasis added.)
Joseph Glauber, the USDA's chief economist, took note of a fact that should be obvious to anybody who's shopped for breakfast cereal recently: The price of wheat has surged dramatically, and stands at nearly $20 a bushel, an increase yet to be fully factored into consumer prices.
As Lapp soberly pointed out, we're just at the beginning of this trend. And the kind folks at the United Nations, who never met a problem they couldn't transform into a crisis, or a crisis they couldn't nurture into a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe, is reportedly drawing up plans for food rationing in urban areas should commodity price inflation go hyperbolic and food riots ensue.
Of course, this kind of thing would only happen in desperately impoverished countries without the means to meet the obligations imposed on them by their governments, and whose populations can't afford to buy food. You know, countries like Zimbabwe today ... and perhaps the United States in the near future.
Liberty in Eclipse is on sale now at The Right Source.
*I experienced a moment of mild and bitter amusement reading this observation in the Post story: "U.S. currency is the only legal tender money in the United States, but parties can agree to satisfy a debt by other means."
Oh, really? Well, what if the parties agreed to an exchange of goods for Liberty Dollars, which are either made of, or fully redeemable in, the only constitutionally permissible money -- gold and silver? The Feds regard an equitable transaction between fully informed parties that involves real money to be a species of "forgery." What the Post meant to say, apparently, is that parties are free to conduct transactions using other fiat currencies.
Dum spiro, pugno!