THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Who Owns the Federal Reserve?

Aside from the fact few people seem to understand just what it's supposed to do, nobody seems to know exactly who "owns" the Federal Reserve System. As a central bank, it's supposed to be separate from the government to prevent the State from using the Federal Reserve's money creation powers to finance government deficits. In theory, the Federal Reserve is owned by its member banks . . . who have absolutely no control over the institution to which they presumably hold legal title. (Ownership is control in all codes of law, as Louis Kelso pointed out in his 1957 article in the American Bar Association Journal, "Karl Marx the Almost Capitalist.")

To make matters worse, the Federal Reserve was established in conformity with something called the "Real Bills doctrine," which (to oversimplify) means that money can be created as needed if all new money is used only to finance capital investment that pays for itself in a reasonable period of time, and that this will not cause inflation. Unfortunately, the Keynesian economists currently in charge of the Federal Reserve as well as those charged with setting monetary and fiscal policy for the United States and much of the rest of the world reject the Real Bills doctrine. (They don't really give reasons, they just say it has been "discredited.")

The bottom line is the Federal Reserve is a tool designed specifically to operate in accordance with the Real Bills doctrine . . . but is being used as if the Real Bills doctrine doesn't work. It's like using a saw to try and drive nails. Not only will the nail not go into the wood, you'll ruin the nail, the wood, the saw, and probably inflict serious bodily harm on yourself — just as we see the component parts of our economic system being ruined today through misuse of our financial tools.

Because of this lack of clarity as to the purpose of the Federal Reserve, who owns it, who controls it, what it's supposed to do, and so on, many concerned people believe that the Federal Reserve should either be abolished, or put under the direct control of the Treasury. This would probably be a mistake.

First, if we are ever to achieve a stable, non-inflationary currency that expands and contracts with the needs of the private sector (not government), we have to restore the Real Bills doctrine. (We won't go into why Keynes was wrong in rejecting it, but the proof of Keynes' fallacy can be found in Dr. Harold G. Moulton's 1935 classic monograph, The Formation of Capital.)

Second, we need to ensure that every American citizen and legal resident has an equal opportunity to gain access to the money creation powers of the Federal Reserve. We don't mean that the Federal Reserve should just print money or create demand deposits and hand out the cash. No, we mean that anyone who can come up with a financially sound, self-liquidating proposal to purchase capital should have the same right to borrow the same amount as everyone else in the country. Money should only be created in response to actual, feasible, financially sound capital projects, not just brought into being in the vague hope that "if you create it, the investments will come."

Finally, here's a truly radical idea. Since the Federal Reserve is, in a very real sense a natural resource, part of the common heritage of America, take the pseudo ownership of the Federal Reserve away from the commercial banks, and vest it in each and every citizen and legal resident of the United States by issuing every one who meets the minimum qualification of citizenship or legal residence and who is a living, natural person a single, fully voting, fully participating, non-transferable share of stock in the Federal Reserve System. Considering the fact that virtually everyone has a Social Security Account or is kept track of in one way or another, keeping the records for such an ownership structure shouldn't be too onerous, especially since everyone would be absolutely equal in that respect, with one share per person, and one dividend and one vote per share.

It's something to think about, at least.