Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Old Money, New Money

The following are excerpts from a great article by Dan Eden that everyone should read:

What Is Money?

At the dawn of civilization, the earliest way to get something that you needed was called barter. I give you a cow and you build me a hut to live in. But what if I want a tiny hut? Do I give you half a cow? Placing a standard value on goods and services was first achieved through the use of currency, or money. Almost every culture has money. Ancient cultures used everything from sea shells and beads to huge circular stones to buy and sell. Eventually, precious metals were used and more recently the standard currency has been based on gold.

The value of precious metal is determined by its weight. Instead of carrying chunks or nuggets of gold and silver, early empires made standard "coins" of the metals and set a standard value in the marketplace. Coins were great for most transactions, but they were heavy and wore out your pants pockets quickly. Soon a new idea, paper money, was invented.

The original idea behind paper money was convenience. Each piece of paper represented a specific weight of a precious metal, usually silver or gold, that was kept somewhere in a treasury. If an individual wanted to, he could exchange the paper money for the gold or silver that it represented. It was all based on trust and a promise. In fact, the early paper money in America was called a "promisary note."

If you can find old dollar bills, you will read the promise written on each note. You will also notice that the notes are numbered. In this way, each note is unique and represents a corresponding weight of silver or gold in the US Treasury vaults.


On a global scale, when someone in America bought something from a foreign country, they would pay in US dollars. The foreign company would then go to their local bank and exchange the dollars for their local currency. When foreign banks had a surplus of US dollars, they would then exchange them for gold. This meant that the US Treasury was always needing to acquire more gold to replenish its vaults and maintain the "gold backed" dollars in circulation.

Prior to 1971 the dollars of the US were trusted all over the world. Each dollar was based on 1/35th ounce of gold, held in the US Treasury. The value of gold was fixed by law at 35 dollars = 1 ounce, so the value of each dollar was very stable. This made the dollar attractive as an international currency. But in 1971 this all changed.



The Nixon Legacy -- fiat money

The Vietnam War was a painful time for America. We're still paying for the sins of our past leaders -- quite literally. The war was so expensive (estimated at $500 Billion) that America didn't have sufficient dollars in print to pay the bills for the disaster (The gold reserve only had about 30 Billion). But Nixon had a plan. Why not just print more dollars? Never mind that there isn't enough gold on reserve to back each note. Just print as much as you need to pay the bills.
To do this he needed to change the law. So he did. The new system is called "fiat money" and is defined as follows: "Definition: Fiat money is money that is intrinsically useless; is used only as a medium of exchange." He ended the system of "promisary notes," ended the fixed value of gold and allowed the system of "supply and demand" to set the value of both gold and American currency. But wait! There's more!

Enter Oil: Black Gold

Back in the early 1970's, America produced most of the oil it needed. Texas oil fields were active and a far cry from the rusted rigs you can still see there today. We imported a fixed amount, about 25%, from foreign countries, but our thirst for oil was getting stronger. Nixon knew that America and every developing nation in the world would need more oil in the future. He also knew that OPEC, the handful of countries that produced foreign oil, wanted the limits of American imports lifted so they could sell more. So he cut a deal.

The cap on 25% imported oil was lifted in exchange for the agreement that oil, purchased from any country in the world, would be bought only with American dollars. OPEC agreed and almost immediately there was a strong demand for dollars throughout the globe. This demand was not based on the value of gold but on the value that each dollar had in the marketplace. Since anyone who wanted oil had to have dollars, the dollar remained strong.

Another thing that helped pull this scheme off was the fact that gold, held by the US Treasury, went from its fixed value of $35/ounce to its present value of over $600/ounce. Of course a cup of coffee was once 5¢ and now my Starbucks Latte-Macchiato-double-Skim is close to $5!

Coffee, Automobiles and Computers: The Plot Thickens

Oil is a big import but not the biggest. Americans buy so many things from foreign countries that it is staggering to imagine. In 1973 the US sold more goods to foreign countries than it bought. But in each successive year the tables have turned.

All of these goods are bought with "fiat dollars," meaning that the currency itself is worthless since it can never be exchanged for gold or silver. Of course, a foreign country could exchange it for something else -- something that was produced by America, like... hmm... (anyway). As the chart above shows, American exports, although representing 1.25 million dollars every two seconds, are insignificant.

Fiat dollars remain in circulation mainly because they are needed to buy oil. For this reason lots of countries keep huge supplies of dollars in their reserves. It has become a way of storing their national wealth. The fact that US dollars represent foreign national wealth adds to their value.

Good Is Bad: Bad Is Good

This kind of system turns traditional logic on its head. Like, a trade deficit is supposed to be a bad thing, right? Wrong. It's actually good for the dollar! Imagine what would happen if everyone started using their dollars to buy things from America. The US would be flooded with dollars which would cause inflation and, besides, we don't have enough goods and services to exchange for all those foreign US fiat dollars! In fact, America is technically, as of last year, bankrupt!

And what about higher oil prices... bad? No way. That keeps those pesky foreign flat US dollars "out there" and in high demand. It's very good for the dollar. Globalization, Nafta and Free Trade? Yep, they're also good for the dollar since they perpetuate the demand for greenbacks.

The whole system is kept running smoothly by global central banks who monitor the supply and demand for dollars on a daily -- even hourly -- basis. If there are too many dollars "out there" in the world, the US buys its own currency to create a scarcity. If there are too few, it sells more dollars or buys more foreign goods to replenish the supply.

If this is beginning to sound like a classic "pyramid scheme," you're starting to get the picture. But sooner or later, someone has to pay.

Houston, we have a problem!

Imagine what would happen if the oil producing countries in OPEC decided to sell oil in some other currency besides US dollars! What if they changed the system to use the Euro, the Franc or the Yen? What would happen if no one needed US dollars anymore? Hang on tight, it's already started.

Iraq

On November 6, 2000, Saddam Hussein switched the oil currency from the US dollar to the Euro. Two years later the Euro was rising in value while the dollar was sinking so low that the International Monitary Fund warned of the dollar's imminent collapse. The solution: Iraq was invaded on the pretext of developing weapons of mass destruction, the oil fields were seized and the newly installed government returned to the US dollar standard on March 19, 2003. Other nations, who held large dollar reserves, joined the coalition and contributed troops to pull this off.

Venezuela

Hugo Chavez has recently announced plans to nationalize the country's oil industry. Although Venezuela is a major oil producer and a member of OPEC, they have sold their oil to Cuba and other regional countries without the use of dollars and often in a barter exchange for domestically produced products. In 2001, Venezuela's ambassador to Russia announced that Venezuela was considering switching to oil sales in the Euro. Within one year the American government was seeking a regime change and America has been accused by Chavez of attempting to assassinate him in a failed coup attempt backed by the CIA.

Russia

Since June 8, 2006, Russia's Putin has been selling its reserves of US dollars. This has been done slowly to diminish any dramatic effect on the global supply, but it represents a decision of Russia to divest itself of a dollar reserve. The world market has taken notice.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Libya

Other oil producing countries have already stated that they will begin moving from the dollar to the Euro. Indonesia, Malaysia and Lybia have already started this transition. Other countries like China and Japan are also beginning to convert a portion of their reserves to the Euro.

Iran

The US buys no oil from Iran following the hostage crisis in the 1970s. But Iran is a major global oil producer and, therefore, a major player in the "fiat dollar" scheme. In 1999 Iran announced plans to sell its oil in Euros. It actually started doing this in the spring of 2003. Iran sells about a third of its oil to European countries, the remaining share is largely bought by China. Following the announcement by Iran, the country was called an "axis of evil" by Bush and is currently the target of threats over its development of nuclear energy. At this writing, the US Navy has a large fleet in the Persian Gulf with contingency plans for an attack. Undoubtedly the desired outcome is regime change and re-establishment of the fiat dollar scheme.

What Does It All Mean?

Oil and dollars have become the blood of our present civilization. A collapse of this fiat dollar system will not only destroy America's economy and lifestyle but it will have devastating impact throughout the entire planet. Since virtually all wealth is based on this dollar-for-oil scheme, a collapse of the system will send the entire world into an economic depression. This is what the politicians and decision makers are trying to avert. But the collapse is predictable and inevitable.

17 Comments:

At 8:06 AM, July 10, 2007 , Blogger skip sievert said...

Good piece.
It has some good practical information.
The clock is ticking...
Within 48 hours of a meltdown,(oil going to $100 to 200 dollars a Bbl.), a panic will occur.
Massive unemployment, and the breakdown of the infrastructure will follow.
Mass desertion of the outer suburban ring (Exo-burbs) will follow, because of lack of ability to get anywhere without a car.
A breakdown of civil society and massive deaths then from lack of resources that are currently provided by our high energy out put civilization will occur.
Then we will be a state of emergency.

Then things really get interesting, because we will either be forced into a system that is very different than we have (Technocracy) in order to survive, and survive in style, or we will go into a death spiral, that will destroy our civilization, and we will become an overall slave society, while we just have partial but major elements of being a slave society now.

All this is cause and effect.
That can be determined scientifically by the concept of the 'next most probable'.

"The injection of monetary concepts into all discussions of natural wealth and income, wholly confuses the people as to the actual issues at stake. Furthermore, it serves as a handy screen behind which, with a little word juggling, the business/political operators of this Price System can continue their profitable activities without being too greatly embarrassed by outside interference." --- Howard Scott.

We do have an alternative, and it is possible to have a 'good' society, based on Science.
Money would not play a part in that society.

 
At 4:19 PM, July 12, 2007 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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info
SPOT MARKET IS OPEN
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Bid/Ask 666.50 - 667.30
Low/High 661.00 - 669.30
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Whats wrong with this picture ?

 
At 11:36 AM, July 13, 2007 , Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

Bush has good reason to create a state of emergency, since May 9th when he signed his infamous executive order giving himself, by his own authority, nearly infinite and interminable power. You'd think there would be rioting in the streets, but no, the Dow is up and everyone thinks things are fine. They are fine if you're a multinational corporation or the CEO of one.

When Bush invades Iran, that will be an emergency on many levels, and not just on the economic scene.

The Dow goes up on news that isn't particularly good for most people - like higher unemployment, nor is it an indication of economic health.

Today's reports of increased consumer confidence don't indicate that mental health is widespread either, but that's just my opinion.

What's really expanding is the consumption of ridiculous items - like the $125,000 bottle of wine Christies will soon be auctioning. That's more than some people I know make in a day. For some, the economy is indeed booming, for others, who work two jobs and have disbled family members and no medical insurance, it's not.

Of course I see any hope there might be in an end to the dynamic duo Bush 'n Cheney - not too nice and not too brainy. We were getting along just fine without them.

 
At 2:45 PM, July 13, 2007 , Blogger skip sievert said...

I see it more as a systemic problem that does not have a whole lot to do with those two jokers, but the way the system operates.

Today is Friday the 13th. and gold went to 666 for the close ?

I ain`t superstitious, but a black cat just crossed my trail. Ha ha.

 
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