Will Higher Interest Rates Tame Inflation?

We know many people think we are beating a dead horse, but this horse is far from dead. Instead, she’s in the middle of one of the most important races of her life. What we have been talking about – and will keep talking about until we think Americans understand it – is monetary policy and the Federal Reserve.

Ludwig von Mises once said that the value of money is at least as important to a society as its Constitution. The value of money should be sacrosanct, and Government, if that’s who’s in charge of it, has a responsibility to keep it stable. Fourteen years ago the Federal Reserve completely changed the way it manages the value of our money when it shifted monetary policy from a “scarce reserve” model to an “abundant reserve” model, and we believe there is a direct connection between these actions, and the dramatic decline in the value of our money the likes of which we haven’t seen in 40 years. Inflation undermines work, living standards, investments and is a nightmare for future planning. The Fed has failed.

In a scarce reserve model, the Fed can add or subtract reserves from the banking system and through this mechanism push the federal funds rate (FFR) up or down. Banks compete for these reserves and, through a market of bids and asks, set an interest rate for reserves. In an abundant reserve model, there are so many excess reserves that banks don’t need to compete for them. The FFR is essentially zero because only in very special situations do banks need to borrow reserves. So the Fed created an interest rate that it pays on excess reserves (the IOER), which acts as a floor for interest rates, and that rate is whatever the Fed decides it is.

In other words, while under the old system the market was involved in setting interest rates, today, the Fed now artificially sets interest rates. And as you might deduce, if the government sets interest rates, they likely set them lower than they would be if markets decided what interest rate was correct.

The Fed declares success when market rates move with its rates. But this is a test with a determined outcome. If the Fed grew five trillion bushels of corn, and corn was so plentiful that the price per bushel was essentially zero, then no private farm could sell corn for more. If the Fed then raised the price of its corn to $1/bushel, farmers could then sell theirs for 99 cents/bushel, but it’d be a completely manipulated market.