Why The Fed is Clueless… Or Worse
Posted May 15, 2023
The year is 1912.
You walk into your local bank to get a loan.
Upon entering, you're greeted by the jingle of a brass bell above the door, and the smell of well-oiled wood and crisp paper money mingles with the faint scent of the bank manager's pipe tobacco.
“What should the interest rate be?” you wonder to yourself.
It’s an age-old question with no easy answer.
It’s an easy question, with only one answer.
To borrow from the wisdom of a savvy 1912 banker, a certain Mr. Jenkins (whom you’ll meet in a moment), the answer is as simple and as complicated as this: "It depends."
Hold on to your hat, because today we're about to dive into why Mr. Jenkins is on the money, and why our modern-day central banking system is floundering like a fish out of water.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, first things first…
In a mere blink of time, about two days from now, our colleague Jim Rickards is pulling up a chair with Danielle DiMartino Booth, a veteran of the Federal Reserve's inner workings.
Together, they'll be diving headfirst into the murky waters of economic risk and market shenanigans forecasted for the remainder of 2023.
And where, you might ask, is this meeting of great minds occurring?
None other than the historically infamous Jekyll Island, Georgia -- the proverbial "ground zero," where the cream of the banking and political crop conspired in 1910 to birth the Federal Reserve.
Keep in mind:
This monumental event is less than 48 hours away - 1:00 p.m. EDT this coming Wednesday, to be exact. And the best part? You're invited.
You can join us through our live webcast.
Signing up is a cinch - just click here and let us know you’re coming.
And now, picture this.
The tellers are busy behind their wrought-iron grills, attending to a line of customers.
You approach the mahogany counter, your worn but clean boots clicking on the marble floor. "Good morning, sir," you say, tipping your hat to the bank manager, Mr. Jenkins, a man of middle age.
"Good morning," he replies, recognizing you as the owner of the local general store on 5th and Main. "How can I assist you today?"
"I'm looking to expand my general store, Mr. Jenkins," you explain, "I need a loan to add more inventory and possibly a second story for additional storage."
Mr. Jenkins nods. He's familiar with your reputation in the community. "Let's discuss this in my office," he suggests, leading you to a corner of the bank adorned with a sturdy oak desk, leather chairs, and shelves full of ledger books.
After you've laid out your plans to the banker, there's a moment of silence.
Mr. Jenkins is twirling his mustache, deep in thought, no doubt weighing the risks and potential of your proposal. Then, with a decisive nod, he opens a hefty ledger, pulls out a fountain pen, and starts scribbling away – calculating, considering.
"Given your established business and good standing in our community," he begins, "I can offer you a loan at an annual interest rate of 4%. Given the circumstances, this rate is reasonable and should provide us with adequate compensation for the risk involved."
And that’s how it was in those times…
Before the establishment of the Federal Reserve.
Interest rates were the domain of the individual bank, set based on the risk associated with the loan, the bank's current reserves, and the overall economic climate.
Thousands of bankers twirling their mustaches -- that’s how interest rates were once determined.
Now, hop into the DeLorean with me.
Let’s travel to the future.
"What should the interest rate be?" they ask in chorus.
But instead of thousands of mustache twirlers, there are only a few deciding their fate.
Picture a gaggle of central bankers in their stiff suits, huddled around a table cluttered with an array of graphs, charts, and reports. The air is thick with the musk of old books and the scent of black, stale coffee.
To complicate matters further, money has now been untethered from a limited commodity. Money is no longer finite. It's become an artist's canvas, rife with potential and unbounded in creation.
And, of course, central bankers are the ar-teests, sometimes dabbing delicately like Vermeer, capturing the subtle nuances of the economy. Other times, slapping on the paint with wild abandon, like Jackson Pollock on a bender, flinging fiscal policy in a chaotic binge.
Neither time are they hitting the mark.
Now, in their defense,
Determining the 'right' interest rate is a bit like trying to nail Jello to a wall.
You probably often hear, “I don’t envy Jay Powell!” ... and … “I wouldn’t want his job!”
The reason for that is simple.
Pinning down the correct interest rate for an entire economy is legitimately impossible, up there with other legitimately impossible jobs like invisible art curators, unicorn trainers, and reverse psychologists.
Interest rates are influenced by a plethora of factors - inflation, employment levels, political stability, international trade, to name just a few.
And each of these factors is as stable and predictable as a cat on a hot tin roof.
That’s why the proper interest rate is an elusive, slippery beast, vanishing just when they think they have a firm grasp. It’s a task so daunting, it makes finding a needle in a haystack look as easy as finding hay in a haystack.
Out of necessary oversimplification, central bankers treat the economy like a machine, but it’s more like a teenager going through puberty - moody, unpredictable, and full of surprises. It has its ups and downs, its growth spurts and its awkward phases.
And just like parents trying to understand their teenager's latest mood swing, central bankers are left scratching their heads, trying to understand the whims and caprices of the economy.
So, the next time you hear
About central bankers deliberating over interest rates, spare a thought for these brave -- nay, foolhardy -- souls.
They're not just number-crunchers in suits. They're modern-day fortune tellers, trying to read the tea leaves of the economy.
Even with all their expertise and sophisticated tools, they're still, at best, making educated guesses. And, at worst? Rigging the whole shebang, tipping the scales in a specific direction.
In the future, perhaps central bankers will be treated in the same way we treat fortune tellers today.
We might keep them around, but they no longer have access to the wheel.
But, of course, we defer to the experts, especially those who have seen the insides, like Danielle DiMartino Booth.
Again, don’t miss our explosive event.
You’ll learn everything you need to know to survive and thrive in the hot mess ahead.
It’s less than 48 hours away - 1:00 p.m. EDT this coming Wednesday, to be exact.
Click here to grab your e-seat.
See you there?