The United States Should Abolish the Federal Reserve
R2: Opening Arguments (no rebuttals)
R4: Defense & Conclusion (no new arguments)
I accept this challenge and thank The_Commander for posing the question. I look forward to a stimulating and interesting discussion. Peace!
My burden in the debate is to defend that the Federal Reserve (Fed) should not be abolished. This does not mean that I have to defend everything the Fed has ever and/or currently does, so long as I can show the US should keep the Fed, even if it is for only 1 policy.
My arguments will essentially boil down to the fact that the economy would be worse off without the Fed, and therefore it should be maintained.
One of the Fed’s primary roles is to set the interest rates. (1) Lowering the interest rates is typically done to bring growth into a sluggish economy, while raising interest rates is typically done to fight inflation in a rapidly growing economy, so the economy won’t overheat. (1) The reason lower interest rates stimulate growth is simply because there will be more money around and everything will be cheaper. Of course, excess inflation is also bad because things might get too expensive as well. Both lowering and raising interest rates, when conducted properly, will in the long run help the economy more than the absence of them.
Many Americans may recall the economic booms that existed throughout most of the 1980s and 1990s. What not everyone may remember is that both booms were preceded by recessions, “the Early 1980s Recession” and “the Early 1990s Recession”, respectively, which lasted 16 and 8 months, respectively. (2) Although there were many factors, it is generally agreed that one of the most important reasons the 80s recession was put to an end, was because the Fed lowered the rates, which then allowed continuous growth throughout most of the decade. (3, 4) In contrast, although the 90s recession was short, an economic boom did not occur immediately after and unemployment remained high. (5) Clearly, the economy needed more stimulation for rapid growth to occur. For this reason, the Fed kept lowering the Federal Funds Rate after the recession ended in early 1991 and didn’t stop dropping them until the end of 1992. (6) Sure enough, the 90s economic boom proceeded.
One may argue that the Fed dropping the interest rates was insignificant in both these booms. However, we can observe situations made much worse due to a central bank’s inability to have much effect on the interest rates. For example, most countries use to back their currencies with gold, meaning the value of the currency was tied to the price of gold, which in turn means a central bank would have trouble changing the interest rates. (8) Everyone knows that for much of the world, including the US, the 1930s marked the worst economic downturn in history, the Great Depression. However, did it need to drag on for as long as it did or be nearly as severe as it was? The answer to that is no. This is based off the fact that many countries which didn’t use or quickly abandoned the gold standard, did not suffer the effects of the Depression, at least not to the magnitude countries like the US did. (8)
Of course, as explained above sometimes the central bank needs to raise the interest rates. The 90s economic boom was obviously never going to last forever, so as a result the Fed began raising the interest rates in 1999. (6) Naturally, economic growth slowed down as the rates were raised, but not significantly. (7) Unfortunately, following the 9/11 attacks the situation got much worse, and a recession did occur anyways, but even so it was a brief and mild recession because the Fed took the necessary action to raise the rates. (7) Another time the Fed showed the importance of being able to raise interest rates was when it ended the inflation that ran rampant throughout the 1970s. (9) The Fed then raised interest rates to artificially, unusually high levels in the early 1980s. (6) Although it did help cause a recession (mentioned above), it was necessary to respond to the inflation of the 70s and overall was brief and allowed inflation to stay low throughout most of the 80s growth. (4)
Overall, it is clear that the Fed’s ability to change the interest rates is needed for a strong economy, so it can stimulate sluggish growth or cool down rapid growth or inflation.
Another important role of the Federal Reserve is to supervise and regulate banks. The Fed does this in many ways, such as requiring a set reserve amount and making sure that banks have adequate capital, safe assets, good management, earnings, liquidity, and how they make decisions, via “stress tests”. (10)
Unfortunately, the Fed didn’t start stress tests until after the 2007-08 Financial Crisis. The lack of regulation in this period was one of the main causes of it, because banks were giving out so many bad loans, which were unlikely to be paid back. (11) It got so bad, that many major banks such as the Bank of American needed to be bailed out, the whole housing and stock markets crashed, and the US fell into its worst economic period since the Great Depression. In contrast to this (and the situation in the rest of the G7), Canada saw none of its major banks fail and it was hit less severely by the recession. The main reason was because Canadian banks were much better regulated than American banks. (12, 13)
Therefore, had the Fed been regulating banks like it does now throughout the 00s, the whole Financial Crisis likely would have been avoided or a lot less severe.
First I would like to thank The_Commander for his opening argument. I appreciate his perspective and will address his points specifically in the next round as was agreed in the structure.
The Federal Reserve should be abolished for many reasons, and I do not intend to outline all of them here because that could take a book's worth of pages. I intend to cover three main areas in which the Federal Reserve causes more harm than good. First the Federal Reserve wields an immense amount of power and has no oversight. Secondly the Federal Reserve intensifies and prolongs the business cycle, also known as the boom and bust cycle. Finally the Federal Reserve actually devalues our currency. For these reasons, which I will examine in the body of my argument, the Federal Reserve should be abolished.
C1. The Federal Reserve wields an immense amount of power and has no oversight.
The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 during the Progressive Era when the Income Tax and many new government institutions were created. Businesses in this time period were obsessed with forming cartels as a way to ensure profits for a select few while socializing any losses they would incur. The Banks of the time were no exception and were looking for a way to have a "lender of last resort" to bail them out in times of crisis. Since the Civil War the government worked tirelessly to defend the gold standard. This was troublesome for the banks because it prevented their ability to expand credit without limit. Gold was stable, from 1833-1913 the price of gold was almost constant, fluctuating between $18.90 and $18.98 per troy ounce. Because of this reason, gold functioned like a regulator of the banking industry because it made the risks real for the banks, it prevented them from expanding credit beyond reasonable limits. If a bank faced bankruptcy it had nowhere to turn so its lending practices had to be responsible. The fact of the matter is that by having the central bank as a "lender of last resort" while also having them manage the interest rates means that the banking industry can profit off of the expansion of credit through loans and then when the bubble eventually bursts they can get bailed out by the Fed, socializing their losses.
In November of 1910 high ranking members of banking's elite met at the Jekyll Island Club off the coast of Georgia with Nelson Aldrich, a close friend of John D Rockefeller to discuss this new central bank, discussion that led to the Federal Reserve. To clarify, the men who drew up this plan were 2 related to JP Morgan, 2 related to Rockefeller, 1 from an incredibly influential investment firm Kuhn, Loeb and Co and one economist. The beginning of the Fed was powerful bankers, powerful government backers and an economist to give a veneer of legitimacy of their work to centralize the monetary system of the United States. These corrupt beginnings lead into this very day where there is absolutely no oversight for the Federal Reserve. It answers to no one, not even congress. Timothy Geithner, former Federal Reserve Bank of New York president, is now president of Warburg Pincus, an investment firm on Wall Street. Former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke now works for Citadel, a hedge fund. Money is the most important tool of a civilization and it can cause them to rise and fall. We have entrusted ours with a shadowy quasi-public organization that serves the big banks at the expense of the people. They have the ability to print money at will, and manipulate the interest rate making credit cheap to fuel runaway expansions of credit. All of this power and no oversight. This is a dangerous combination and the people of the United States currently have little control over the organization's actions.
C2. The Federal Reserve fuels the Business Cycle.
Recent memory shows us that a boom of investment can cause disastrous consequences, especially if the areas of investment are risky. The “Great Recession” had caused the second highest unemployment rate (10%) and the highest long term unemployment rate (4.4%) of all recessions since 1948. The business cycle, or boom and bust cycle, is greatly influenced by the availability of credit and money. In the most general terms the business cycle is generated by an unsustainable and excessive expansion of credit to business and individuals by the banking system. This creation of credit makes it appear as though loanable funds have increased because of increased savings which isn't the case, it is newly created money and credit. This incentivizes longer term and higher risk investments.
The Federal Reserve has a huge role to play in the business cycle as it is the central clearinghouse for money, it sets interest rates, and it governs monetary policy. It does not cause the business cycle, it intensifies it by lengthening the amount of time that fractional reserve banks can continue credit expansion. It essentially makes our lives worse by increasing the pain of market corrections by artificially increasing the size of the bubble before it bursts and expanding it from isolated bubbles to system wide bubbles. When interest rates were low banks lent money to any person for the purpose of buying houses. These are called subprime mortgages. Because credit was cheap, housing prices soared. The majority of subprime mortgages were adjustable rate mortgages, meaning the interest was variable. As interest rates rose so did foreclosures. Despite only accounting for 6.8% of all mortgages outstanding in the third quarter of 2007, ARM’s accounted for 43% of all foreclosures. As homes were repossessed the inventory of homes became greater than the demand and housing prices dropped, making it impossible for those struggling to pay their ARM’s to refinance at a lower rate, intensifying the crisis. By May of 2008 25% of adjustable rate mortgages were 90 days delinquent. The housing crisis, fueled by cheap credit, was the main cause of the “Great Recession.” Other causes were the massive increase in consumer debt, commodity price gains and overproduction coupled with low demand. All of these causes are directly related to the business cycle and the Federal Reserve.
C3. The Federal Reserve devalues the US Dollar.
The Federal Reserve has the power to print money and control the supply of money to the fractional reserve banking system beneath it. Some might argue that this is a necessary function of Government, they would be wrong. Money is incredibly powerful because it makes up one half of every transaction in an economy. The fact that our money is built on paper is a problem in and of itself. Many great minds before us have criticized the role of a central bank and of paper money. Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet Common Sense was instrumental in spurring the country to revolution, had the following to say about paper money:
“As to the assumed authority of any assembly in making paper money ... a legal tender, or ... a compulsive payment, it is a most presumptuous attempt at arbitrary power. There can be no such power in a republican government: the people have no freedom—and property no security—where this practice can be acted.”
Thomas Jefferson famously opposed a national bank, claiming that the constitution does not grant the government the ability to establish one. The fact that this organization which is not technically a government organization has a printing press is tantamount to counterfeiting. See Ben Bernanke's comments about using the printing press:
"The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost. By increasing the number of U.S. dollars in circulation, or even by credibly threatening to do so, the U.S. government can also reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to raising the prices in dollars of those goods and services. We conclude that, under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation."
The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine, Philip Foner, ed. (New York: Citadel Press, 1945), pp. 405ff.
Remarks by Governor Ben S. Bernanke before the National Economists Club, Washington, D.C., November 21, 2002.
Pro spends most of the contention discussing the history of the Fed. It’s mostly irrelevant today and therefore pointless to the debate, but I will address it since it’s extremely misleading and a lot of his statements have no actual proof. Plus, I’ll address the Fed’s oversight.
Pro says the Fed was created to be “lender of last resort”. I agree with this statement. Pro then says, “If a bank faced bankruptcy it had nowhere to turn so its lending practices had to be responsible.” The problem is, they weren’t even close to being responsible. There were 8 banking crises in the US in the time period between the end of the 2nd Bank of the United States and the creation of the Fed (77 years), which almost always led to recessions. (1) In fact, half of the banks at the time failed and commercial banks lasted on average about 5 years. (2) This would have hurt the people, just as much as the banks as they were the ones putting their money into these banks. One of the reasons recessions at the time were frequent and brutal.
Pro also doesn’t seem to realize that having banks lend money to people (likely to pay it back, hence bank regulation) helps everyone. The banks get to collect interest on the debt, while the people lending money get to purchase houses, college education, etc. when they often otherwise would be unable to do so. However, if everyone is charging the banks demanding gold, banks won’t be able to do anything. Then everyone loses their money, because the bank closes. Of course, some regulation is important, but severely lacking a bank’s ability to lend hurts everyone.
Pro then talks about the meeting at Jekyll Island as if it’s suppose to be some sort of proof of his case. It’s not, he makes up his own conclusions that these men acted in this matter due to corruption, with no actual proof. In reality, it was because of they realized how bad the banking crises had been for the economy, specifically the Panic of 1907 and its following recession. (3)
Before I address the actual point of the contention I’d like to address Pro talking about where Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke work now. This doesn’t matter, but it’s worth pointing out. Their expertise is in economics and finance, obviously they’re going to work in a related field.
Now, the actual point of the contention, the power of the Fed and its lack of oversight. The Fed does act independently for the most part, because they want the Fed to avoid political pressures. (4) However, the Fed is still controlled by the government. The Fed was started by Congress, and Congress can amend its charter if they see fit. (5, 8) This is why bills like the Federal Reserve Transparency Act are introduced to Congress (the Senate just has no interest in passing it). (7) Plus, the Senate and the President select the chairman, vice chairman, and some of the board of governors. (6)
I’d like to remind voters that I don’t have to defend every action the Fed had ever done, if I can show a reason it should be maintained. This fact essentially makes Con’s 2nd argument worthless, and if anything just strengthens my 2nd argument.
Pro’s argument essentially boils down to the fact that low interest rates are harmful because they create bubbles. He critiques the Fed helping to start the housing bubble, which was a major cause of the Great Recession. And yes, interest rates were low for much of the decade, when they really should have been higher. However, as I mentioned in my 2nd argument, the banks weren’t being regulated enough either, which would have been a much bigger factor. Pro admits, “banks lent money to any person for the purpose of buying houses”. Obviously, this means people who the banks should have assumed weren’t going to pay it back would have been receiving bank loans. These people would have been the main causes of the housing bubble, because obviously they’re the ones who would have put banks in trouble by not repaying their loans. All that does is strengthen my argument about the Fed’s role in regulating the banks. Plus, the government itself also was a huge factor in getting more people to buy homes, primarily started through polices due to Bill Clinton’s “everyone deserves a house” rhetoric. (9) Then some of the blame also has to go to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who were suppose to prevent an event like the Housing Bubble from occurring. (10) Clearly, it’s absolutely ridiculous to try and put the blame for the housing bubble on the low interest rates alone, which was really a minor factor overshadowed by government policies and most of all unregulated banks, making the Fed seem more important.
Also, even if we accept Pro’s argument that low interest rates were a large part of the housing bubble, it still doesn’t matter one bit, for the purpose of the debate. I’ve already shown numerous times in the previous round how the Fed has managed interest rates effectively and proven that they need to be able to do that. Like I mentioned, I don’t need to justify everything the Fed has ever done. If there’s a bad president, we don’t abolish the presidency.
Pro begins this contention by saying we shouldn’t be using paper money. He fails to offer any alternative, however, so it already severely hurts his argument. He explains that the Fed’s ability to produce money is counterfeit. He also tries to account inflation to theft, which are both ridiculous as I’ll explain.
Pro tries to say the ability to print money is counterfeit, his reasoning being, “The fact that this organization which is not technically a government organization has a printing press is tantamount to counterfeiting”. It’s almost as if he was saying, if he considered the Fed a government organization then it’d be fine. It just so happens the Fed is a government organization, just as independence to operate. (5, 8) That pretty much defeats this part of the argument.
Now the actual point of the contention (which links to the other arguments he made) is that the Fed devalues the US dollar. It is true that typically the Fed targets the inflation rate to be about 2% per year. Personally, I think it should be about 1%, but it makes sense to keep an inflation rate. It makes sense when you consider how bad deflation is. Many of the US’s worst economic meltdowns were deflationary periods, such as the Panic of 1837, the Long Depression, and the Great Depression. (11) The Great Recession could have been that way as well (and become much worse) had the Fed not stepped in, but I’ll get back to that. One of the main problems with deflation is the deflationary spiral:
It’s quite simple to understand. If everyone’s dollar’s are worth more, things cost less. In turn, less money is coming into companies, they can have less workers, less workers means less purchases, there is more supply than demand, and the cycle continues. This isn’t the only problem with deflation, however. If the value of the dollar increases, than so do people’s debt. This hurts the lower and middle classes the most, as pretty much all Americans need debt for houses, cars, and education. (12) However, I’m not making this up, this has occurred many times throughout history (like I mentioned earlier it ran rampant in some of the US’s worse economic downturns). This also happened in Japan in the 90s, commonly known as the “Lost Decade” for the Japanese economy. Deflation had hit the Japanese and the deflationary spiral started, and Japanese banks suffered greatly. (13)
The horrors associated with deflation began occurring in the US, in 2008 as mentioned earlier. (14) If we look at Pro’s chart we can see at the time of recessions the amount of dollars increased dramatically. That was due to the Fed enacting quantitative easing, which had been done before in Japan. As I’m sure everyone knows, prices didn’t shoot up dramatically like that, but why not? Investopedia writer Adam Hayes, explains it like this (14):
“The monetary base, or M0, is what most people think about when it comes to the amount of money in circulation, but banks are in the business of making loans with the deposits on hand. The money from those loans are then deposited back into the banking system and re-loaned, over and over again. This is the so-called money multiplier effect. If the multiplier is 10x, for every $100 deposited into a bank up to $1,000 of new credit money is created through this mechanism. The M2 measure of the money supply, which includes the effects of fractional reserve banking and credit, was actually quite stable during this period.”
Here is the graph Hayes is referring to, which you can see was indeed much more stable:
Most of the money the banks actually used was to fix their balance sheets and much of that money is going back to the Fed. (14) That’s a much different story than Pro painted saying, “This is troubling because the majority of this money is sitting in bank vaults waiting to be lent out.“
Finally, I will address Pro’s concerns regarding the dollar losing 96% of its value. That may seem like a huge deal, but there a few problems with that. First of all, most people don’t just keep paper money, they put it in a bank where it can collect interest (which prior to the Recession would have often seen rates above 2% inflation), many put it in the stock market through 401ks which often grow faster than inflation, or they could even buy gold if they wanted. Plus, wages have also kept and surpassed inflation since 1913, per purchasing power. (15) This pretty much defeats Pro’s whole argument.
To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm. - F.A. Hayek The Pretense of Knowledge
Con made many arguments for keeping the Federal Reserve. There are many flaws in these arguments, some of them arising from ignoring the problems that the Fed causes and only talking about supposed solutions. He spent much of his argument touching on two recessions, the recession in the 1980s and the recession in the 1990s. Note, he does not talk about the recessions themselves only the booms that followed. First let's look at how this ignoring of the role of the Fed in creating these recessions was passed over, even in his sources.
1. For his citation #3 he provides a link to UC Berkley's Bancroft Library. In the summary for this very source it says the following:
"Between 1980 and 1982 the U.S. economy experienced a deep recession, the primary cause of which was the disinflationary
monetary policy adopted by the Federal Reserve."
Nothing to see here, move along. We can't talk about only the good things that the Fed does and ignore the bad. My opponent speaks of booms as if they are the greatest thing in the universe. The problem is akin to a drunk. Being intoxicated is fun and it's a party while your living the good life, but there is always a hangover. There are two ways you can handle a hangover: Take it as the punishment for your over indulgence, or you can start drinking again, the so called "Hair of the Dog." The economy is similar. When the investment is expanding and times are good consumption increases and people are allowed to live beyond their means. But malinvestment can only last so long and eventually there needs to be a correction. Cheap credit causes the inflation of bubbles by malinvestment. This continues as long as the Fed keeps pumping money into the system. As soon as they cut off the tap a recession becomes inevitable. This happened between 1981 and 1992. The Fed increased the money supply an average of 9.6% while GNP only expanded 2.6%. The Fed cut the tap off in 87 when the money supply expanded 4.1% to only 2% GNP growth. This planted the seeds for the early 90's recession. The reason for this touches on my next contention.
2. Con argues that the Fed's manipulation of interest rates is in the best interest of the economy.
This ignores the fact that the economy uses interest rates as a signal between consumers and producers. The Neutral Interest Rate is the rate at which savings matches investment. In other words the market coordinates time with interest. All decisions that are made are intertemporal. The decision to put off utility now (immediate consumption) in favor of future consumption (savings) signals to entrepreneurs and investors that demand in the future is higher, thus allowing them to confidently invest in longer term investments, longer production processes. Consumers save money more when interest rates are higher because their rate of return outweighs the benefit of spending the money in the short term. When the Fed lowers interest rates it has two effects. 1. It sends false signals to investors that future demand is high so long term investments are wise and 2. It discourages savings by consumers because the return on their savings isn't as beneficial as their short term utility. It should be clear that there is an inconsistency here. Consumers are not saving for future consumption and producers are preparing for a future demand that wont be there. Furthermore spending over resources begins a tug of war between consumers and producers that increases prices.
For this reason the "efficiency" that the Fed brings is illusory. It isn't efficient to pit consumers and investors against one another. "Instead of a transfer of resources between savers and investors, the credit (financed investing) prompts competition over resources between consumers and producers" This inconsistency is not beneficial for the markets because it breaks down the lines of communication between the consumers and producers. Note that investors will have increased output in the future because of longer production processes but consumers have shifted their consumption forward, and because of this will want to consume less in the future not more. This is the inconsistency that the federal reserve brings and sows in the economy. The eventual market corrections hurt the consumer more than business.
3. The Fed is needed for a strong economy.
Furthermore if my opponent is correct in his assertion that the Fed can fine tune the economy by raising and lowering interest rates, then it should be possible for the Federal Reserve to bring an end to the business cycle. They should be able to make it so that investments never get too large to cause a bubble if his conclusions about being able to control the market simply by manipulating the monetary system are correct. He even goes so far as to say:
Overall, it is clear that the Fed’s ability to change the interest rates is needed for a strong economy, so it can stimulate sluggish growth or cool down rapid growth or inflation.
This assertion ignores the history of the Fed. Since its inception it has not made the economy more stable. Recessions of the 20th century according to the National Bureau of Economic Research are:
1918–1919, 1920–1921, 1923–1924, 1926–1927, 1929–1933, 1937–1938, 1945, 1948–1949, 1953–1954, 1957–1958,
If the Fed's ability to change interest rates is needed for a strong economy why then do we see so many periods of economic contraction and suffering? Why didn't it control rapid growth to prevent these recessions? Why didn't it shorten them to months instead of years?
4. The Federal Reserve Ended the Depression
My opponent also makes the assertion that there is consensus on the cause of the Great Depression. This is untrue. There are many different explanations for what caused it and for what brought us out of it. Murray Rothbard had the following to say:
"We have also seen that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York effectively set the call rates for loans to the stock market, in cooperation with the money committee of the New York Stock Exchange, its policy being to furnish any funds necessary to enable the banks to lend readily to the market. The Bank, in short, used Wall Street banks to pour funds into the stock market.
Alarmed at the burgeoning boom, and at the stock prices that rose about 20 percent in the latter half of 1927, the Fed reversed its policy in the spring of 1928, and tried to halt the boom. From the end of December 1927, to the end of July 1928, the Reserve reduced total reserves by $261 million.
...the Fed bought over $300 million of acceptances in the last half of 1928, thus feeding the boom once more. Reserves increased by $122 million, and the money supply increased by almost $1.9 billion to reach its virtual peak at the end of December 1928. At this time, total money supply had reached $73 billion, higher than at any time since the inflation had begun."
The Federal Reserve actually fueled the boom that led to the stock market crash. It stopped expanding the money supply by the end of 1928. It remained flat until June of 1929. Rothbard contends that from the end of 1928, as soon as the Fed's inflation ended, a depression was inevitable to adjust the economy. Furthermore the end of the Depression, some contend, was actually signaled by the end of WW2 and the cuts to military spending. Prosperity, they contend, cannot be measured with weapons of war but only by useful goods for consumers.
5. The Fed could have prevented the Housing Collapse
Finally my opponent says that the Fed acts as a regulator of the banks. It is not the job of the Federal Reserve to regulate how or to whom banks lend out their loans. It is true that the Fed regulates reserves and gives guidance on issues relating to bank assets. However most banks and thrift organizations are actually regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of Currency. Furthermore the recession was caused by more than just banks, but by investment firms purchasing mortgage backed securities. In fact a source that my opponent cited places the blame partially on the Fed. Investors, in the age of low interest, sought out the higher rates of returns associated with CDO's. These, as we would later find out, contained many subprime mortgages. Because institutional investors now owned these mortgages they were much quicker to process foreclosures, increasing the inventory and decreasing housing prices which intensified the problem. His source goes on:
"Low interest rates created an incentive for banks, hedge funds and other investors to hunt for riskier assets that offered higher returns. They also made it profitable for such outfits to borrow and use the extra cash to amplify their investments, on the assumption that the returns would exceed the cost of borrowing."
The issues that led to the great recession were not due to lack of regulation, but to cheap credit incentivizing bad investments as this source points out. Budget outlays for the SEC (the regulator of the stock market) increased 76%. The OCC saw an increase in staff between 2000 and 2008. The primary regulator of the banks, the Department of the Treasury, saw its annual average of new rules proposed increase from 400 in 1990 to 500 in 2000. This clearly shows that regulations and regulators increased in the years leading up to the crisis.
Here, Pro responds to the 2 recessions I brought up (early 80s and 90s). He essentially blames the Fed for causing them, but I’ll prove why this extremely misleading, and even if it is true, why it’s insignificant, on balance.
Starting off with the 80s Recession, Pro says that the Fed pumping money into the economy is what eventually caused the “bubble” to burst. He doesn’t actually provide any evidence, beyond a quote from my source, which stated: “Between 80' and 82' the U.S. economy experienced a deep recession,the primary cause of which was the disinflationary monetary policy adopted by the Federal Reserve.” If you reread my whole argument I very clearly did admit that was the main reason for the recession. However, one might say the Fed caused the inflation in the first place. I’ll admit right now the Fed was partly at fault for the inflation, but I’d like to also say that there is no way that could ever happen again. Why is there no chance that could happen again? Because the Fed was still using simple Keynesian models created in the 30s, which have since been improved specifically the Phillips Curve; so the great inflation of the 70s couldn’t occur again. (1) Simply, the Phillips Curve stated that as unemployment decreases, inflation naturally increases. (2) However, in the 70s that was disproved through evidence as the US experienced rapidly increasing inflation, with increasing unemployment. When you also factor in the oil crisis that occurred during the 70s, which quadrupled the price of gas (a commodity which everyone who had a car purchased) (3) Plus high levels of gov't spending early on in Vietnam also put pressure on the economy. (3) By the time the 80s came, the Fed finally countered the inflation and laid the foundation for what was at the time, the greatest period of US economic growth in history.
As for the 90s Recession, perhaps rates were too low for too long. Although one cannot deny foreign implications such as, the Gulf War and increases in gas prices or other factors the Fed doesn’t control such as taxes being raised would be a major factor as well. (4) However, looking at a little perspective, between the years of 80-00, the US was in recession for 6 of them. The other 14 years were spent in some of the most successful periods of American economic growth. If a minor recession, which perhaps could have been avoided if not for war, rising gas prices, and tax increases is the cost for US’s most successful period of economic growth any sane person would take that. Especially when you look at what happened without a Central Bank (I address in my defense of A3). Pro made no effort to deny dropping the rates helped the economy grow in the 90s, because it’s undeniable. Pro is choosing to focus on the bad, despite the fact the good greatly outweigh the bad in the case of the 80s/90s economies.
For his rebuttal here Pro simply chooses to ignore any evidence I provided to the contrary and just talk in abstract terms.
Restating what I said from the first round, “lowering the rates is done to bring growth into a sluggish economy”. It’s that simple. If there is a lack of spending in the economy (stock market, products, etc.) low rates will give incentive towards that. As mentioned in my opening arguments that’s what occured in the 80s and 90s, the facts are there. Pro made no efforts to address those directly, instead focussing on the minor recessions preceding them and talking about theory with no evidence. Pro also didn’t address the fact I brought up that countries without a gold standard were hit a lot less severe by the Depression, since their central banks could do more to revive their economies (more on that in argument 4). Silence is concession, so Pro accepts that banks need to be able to drop the rates.
It’s obvious that if rates are held low for too long then bubble will form. However, the Fed also has the ability to raise the rates too. Like I showed in the opening arguments about the late 90s, early 00s. The Fed cushioned the fall and would have completely avoided recession, if not for the 9/11. Pro dropped this argument, and therefore conceded to it.
Voters, this whole argument/contention must be ignored and Pro should be stripped of his conduct point, here’s why:
By accepting this debate, Pro accepted that the last round round was for rebuttals only. However, Pro claims I made “the assertion that there is consensus on the cause of the Great Depression.” I never once did this. What I said, was the GS made it impossible for central banks to respond to the Depression. Now I did call it a deflationary period (which he wasn't suppose to respond to anyways), but I did not once address the cause of it. Pro also mentions the end of the Depression. I didn’t address that either.
Since Pro is introducing an argument in a round meant for rebuttals and lying, I urge voters to give Con conduct and ignore this argument.
Pro responds to a claim I never directly made about the burst of the Housing Bubble, by primarily using red herrings.
Pro begins making a useless comment mentioning that the OCC regulates banks. Just because the OCC regulates banks, doesn’t mean other places shouldn’t as well. In fact, Pro’s source directly mentions that the Fed regulates banks as well. As for it not being the job of the Fed, you can go right to their website where it says some of the roles of the Fed are to supervise and regulate the banking and financial systems, as well as maintain the stability of the financial system due to the risk factor. (5) Therefore, it is the Fed’s role to regulate banks as well.
I already accepted that interest rates were perhaps too low for the 00s (I don't have to defend everything). However, it’s also ridiculous to assume that if stress tests were being ran, the crisis would have been as severe. This is where he relies completely on a red herring. He doesn’t attack any of my claims about the importance of stress tests. All he says is that low rates helped fuel the Bubble. Pro inserts this quote into his argument, “Low rates created an incentive...to hunt for riskier assets”. The problem lies in the foundation that banks were able to do this. Pro accepts that risky assets were a huge part of causing the Bubble, but fails to make the connection that stress tests could help prevent this from happening. If banks risk being shutdown for hunting risky assets, they will be a lot more careful. This is part of what stress tests examine. (6) As mentioned with my example in Canada last round, none of their banks failed, because their banks were being much better regulated by their central bank than US banks were. (7)
Finally, Pro says banks were being regulated more throughout the 00s. Once again, this is a red herring. Pro still fails to address the importance of stress tests, which was my argument. Not all regulations are equal, if the proper regulations aren’t being pursued then it doesn’t matter how much regulations there are.
Pro ignoring the core of this argument should be enough to win me the debate. Pro did not adequately disprove the need for stress tests (and if anything helped prove why they’re needed), which is one of the Fed’s role, meaning he did not prove that the Fed should be abolished.
I’ll address the recessions Pro brought up, but the history of no central bank has been much worse in the US, so if we use apply Pro’s logic here, we can therefore see a central bank is preferred.
This should be enough to rebut Pro’s claim, since I used his logic, but I’ll address the recessions he mentioned too.
Since Pro failed to rebut that the GS made it harder for the Fed to change the rates, you can eliminate any recessions that occurred before 1971 (the year the Us was pulled off it). Then as I explained, there were many international events and bad economics that existed in the 70s, so those recessions can be cut (plus the ones in the 80s responding to this). Plus, I mentioned the 01 recession wouldn’t have occurred if not for 9/11 (with no response from Pro). Finally, I showed how, the Great Recession, wouldn’t have been as severe if stress tests were being enacted on banks. For this reason, the Fed’s importance is undeniable.
According to the rules R4 is for Defense and Conclusion with no new arguments. Since Con did not define these specifically I will assume that I am free to defend my arguments from all attacks. In light of his conduct thus far, and his attacks on my character I will be responding to both his rebuttal and his defense/conclusion.
First let's take a look at his plea that the voters disregard my Rebuttal 4. Con makes the argument that Round 3 was not to have new arguments and that I am lying by responding to his claims about the length and severity of the depression. For the record the rules do not state no new arguments in R3. Only R4. Secondly my response was well within the bounds of the debate because he claimed that the Gold Standard prevented the Fed from handling the depression properly. I was providing an alternate explanation to rebut his assertion that the gold standard limited the Fed's ability to respond to the crisis. My argument against the Fed stands and is valid. If his assertions about "silence is concession" are to be believed he concedes this point, and the Fed hurts the economy and caused the Great Depression.
If we follow his line of reasoning then we must also strip him of his conduct point. I direct you to my use of the Monetary Base (MB) in my original argument. He rebutted by quoting Adam Hayes in relation to M0, which is not the same as MB. MB=M0+Reserves. Since I didn't address M0 and he did, by his reasoning, this should be excluded because it is a "new argument."
Now I don't argue that this should be excluded, just it should be noted that he doesn't understand the difference between M0 and MB.
On to other, more important topics.
History is important, despite his claims to the contrary. It offers context and meaning. Half of his arguments against free market banking RELY on history. But when I use it to show the foundation of a banking cartel he claims that it is irrelevant. Let me provide some clarification. Rockefeller and Morgan were notorious historical rivals. Morgan was huge in the banking community and Rockefeller was the majority owner of Chase Manhattan Bank. Kuhn, Loeb & Co. was JP Morgan Co's primary rival as they owned many competing industries. Westinghouse for example was directly in competition to General Electric. It is important to note that these competitors gathered together to form an organization that would control the supply of money and credit. A cartel forms to control prices and increase profits. The Fed is a banking cartel because it was founded by members of banking's elite to enable them to borrow money at incredibly low rates and then lend that money out at high rates and risky returns. In the end if they fail they would always be bailed out by the public, meaning they keep all profits private and spread the cost of failure out to the public.
Furthermore Con does not understand the fundamentals of my argument, instead preferring to selectively read my arguments. He also says that I am silent on matters when I am not. So rather than typing a large response I will post quotes to show how he is wrong. My words in BOLD his words in ITALICS. All of these quotes can be found in the previous rounds.
"Silence is concession, so Pro accepts that banks need to be able to drop the rates."
"Between 1980 and 1982 the U.S. economy experienced a deep recession, the primary cause of which was the disinflationary monetary policy adopted by the Federal Reserve."
Note, disinflationary monetary policy is part of increasing rates. My entire argument has been that manipulating interest rates sows discord in the market.
"When the Fed lowers interest rates it has two effects. 1. It sends false signals to investors that future demand is high so long term investments are wise and 2. It discourages savings by consumers because the return on their savings isn't as beneficial as their short term utility."
Again, see the argument against manipulation of rates.
"The Fed cushioned the fall and would have completely avoided recession, if not for the 9/11. Pro dropped this argument, and therefore conceded to it."
See for reference:
"The Federal Reserve actually fueled the boom that led to the stock market crash. It stopped expanding the money supply by the end of 1928. It remained flat until June of 1929. Rothbard contends that from the end of 1928, as soon as the Fed's inflation ended, a depression was inevitable to adjust the economy."
Note, I am saying that manipulating rates doesn't "cushion" falls, but makes them inevitable.
Again he tries to say that I haven't addressed this:
"This also means since the next round is only for defense, he cannot attack my opening arguments again so he has accepted that the Fed’s inability to drop the rates if needed makes situation’s worse stands and Pro conceded this point."
See my point above on the "Disinflationary" policies of the Fed. When they end inflation they ensure recession.
In his original argument he says:
"The lack of regulation in this period was one of the main causes of it, because banks were giving out so many bad loans, which were unlikely to be paid back."
To this I replied that regulation increased leading up to the housing crisis. Then he changed his tune saying that he didn't say lack of regulation was the problem, but that they didn't have the "right" regulations.
"Not all regulations are equal, if the proper regulations aren’t being pursued then it doesn’t matter how much regulations there are."
Again, I feel compelled to say that I addressed his original point that there was a "lack of regulation" by showing that regulations increased. He mentioned nothing about the "quality" of the regulations in his original statement.
Simply parroting words that you have learned are "logical fallacies" doesn't discredit arguments automatically. Con failed to show that these "stess tests" are somehow better than all other regulations that currently exist. He has only said that they will magically prevent banks from abusing the system. All these stress tests do is examine the capital capabilities of the banks during times of economic turmoil. They do not regulate what types of mortgages the banks can originate, or to whom the banks can loan.
I did address the ineffective nature of regulations, which is what a "stress test" is supposed to be. I showed that increased regulations and regulators did nothing to prevent the housing crisis. I adequately addressed his arguments, he changed them in his R4.
My opponent goes on to claim that the so called "free banking" era was a lot more volatile. A seemingly crushing argument. But he, once again, ignores history. The so called "free banking era" when banks were not regulated, never actually existed. That is to say there has never been a time in the history of the US that banking has been unregulated. Getting a charter was very difficult and in 1837 starting a bank in most territories west of the Mississippi was illegal. Michigan passed a "free banking" law that allowed banks to bypass votes by state legislatures to incorporate. Every free banking law featured two common elements. They prevented the opening of branches which would have allowed thm to diversify their risk and required them to secure their notes using specific securities. Free banking was over regulated and that is what caused the massive failure rates. As a matter of fact:
"According to Matt Jaremski, whose 2010 Vanderbilt U. dissertation is the most careful study to date, the bond-deposit requirements of antebellum free-banking laws “seem to be the underlying cause of the free banking system’s [sic] high failure rate relative to the charter banking system. While bond price declines were significantly correlated with free bank failures, they were not correlated with the failure rate of charter banks.” Moreover, it wasn’t the general level of bond prices that mattered, but only the prices of specific securities that banks were legally obliged to purchase."
Clearly it isn't as cut and dry as Con makes it out to seem. My argument was that if his assertion that the Fed's control of the economy is so important and straightforward that they SHOULD be able to end all recessions by simply fine tuning the machine. Rather than addressing that, he tries to show that the Fed has made the economy more stable. I am not arguing that it hasn't prolonged periods of expansion. In fact I am arguing that it has. That the booms are longer under the Fed. It should be no surprise that there is more time of perceived prosperity and wealth creation.
Note my opponents inability to lay blame on the Fed for anything. He selectively removes recessions by blaming them on other factors such as war. Wartime spending increases GDP and economic output. In Con's eyes the Fed can do no wrong. It is like his petulant little child whose actions he defends by blaming others. I have adequately shown how the Fed's policies ensure recessions by fueling the boom and bust cycle, despite his claims to the contrary. One need only to read my original arguments.
Unfortunately there are limits on what I can respond to so I have responded to Con's most egregious misrepresentations. I have adequately shown that the Fed's manipulation of rates is harmful to the economy by fueling the boom and bust cycle. I have also shown that regulation does not protect against economic ruin. I have shown the corrupt beginnings of the Fed as a banking cartel, and the fact that they have no oversight. I have shown that the Fed devalues the currency, making our money worth less. For all these reasons it is important to abolish the Federal Reserve. For these reasons you should vote Pro.
Thanks for reading guys, and despite his conduct thanks to Con for the debate.
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