The Next Maestro

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“I’m making records, my fans they can’t wait
They write me letters, tell me I’m great” – Joe Walsh

The perceived economic prosperity of recent decades is largely the result of political expediency. Those in charge of monetary policy have repetitively failed to act in the best interests of the public in an effort to either avoid criticism or preserve their individual status. While often ignored, this dynamic is crucial to understand to form longer term expectations for asset prices.

The modern day printing of digital dollars from thin air, literally from nothing, brings to mind a Latin phrase “ex nihilo, nihil fit” which means out of nothing, nothing comes. If that statement is true, and a moment of reflection surely produces the logical conclusion that it is true, then what do central bankers hope to accomplish by means of conjuring currency from, well, nothing? What does it further say about setting interest rates at less than nothing?

If nothing can come from nothing then there is no solution in the idea that by printing dollars and inflating asset prices you can create something (a durable organic recovery). Although the net result for the economy will be nothing, the net result of those actions for individuals appears to be a redistribution of wealth in the economy. In the end, it becomes clear that the purpose of and reason for the exercise is not the good of the general public but rather advocacy of large financial institutions, political expediency and hubris. If that were not the case, then why would the Federal Reserve need to hire a veteran lobbyist (former Enron and Clinton administration employee) in navigating the use of their powers in the months following the financial crisis?

Hilltop houses and 15 cars

There is something god-like in the idea of creating something out of nothing – especially money – that fits with the progression of status among Federal Reserve (Fed) members. The idea that their stature and judgement is beyond reproach has been in play for some time.

Alan Greenspan: The absurd notion of central bankers as rock stars was popularized by Alan Greenspan. He achieved celebrity status by advancing the interventionism of the Federal Reserve in ways never before seen. Some of his handiwork includes engineering a rapid recovery of the stock market following the Black Monday crash in 1987, the notoriety of uttering the term “irrational exuberance” in 1996, the front man on the cover of Time magazine as a member of “The Committee to Save the World,” having his name on a key market term – The Greenspan Put, and of course having a book published about him by the iconic Washington Post reporter and author Bob Woodward well before his tenure as Fed chief ended. These are things now to which every Fed chairman aspires – indeed, to which every central banker aspires.