This is a concept I’ve been working on since 2012 because it is the only solution I can think of to the zero bound problem that kept Ben Bernanke awake for his entire career at the Federal Reserve.
To preface, the zero bound problem “is a macroeconomic problem that occurs when the short-term nominal interest rate is at or near zero, causing a liquidity trap and limiting the capacity that the central bank has to stimulate economic growth.”
Monetarists believe that as long as the central authority continues to buy government bonds, then you’ll continue to have policies that expand GDP while promoting Keynes’s virtuous circle, but only under one condition: You must pay interest on a massive accumulation of reserves in order to prevent inflation.
There is one unfortunate side-effect: commercial banks will not leverage the public as a way to beat the Fed rate. This means commercial banks will not lend to you because they don’t have to. The Fed is paying all of the interest itself, so the commercial banks end up with massive cash reserves as well. Today, the Federal Reserve has a total reserve of $4.4 trillion. (To drive home the point, review their history of total reserves and see that this technique was recently embraced. )
And it is paying interest on this pile of money as their only way to suppress inflation.
Let’s depart from the technobabble and break this down in plebspeak.
In 2008, The Federal Reserve (the people in charge of all of the dollars you have to accumulate to pay your bills) performed a massive asset swap. They gave major banks cash in exchange for their toxic mortgage assets.
At nearly the same time, Federal Reserve also started quantitative easing, its long-term policy of purchasing US government bonds.
These two efforts should have most certainly caused inflation (causing gold prices to spike as a hedge, a position I was telling friends to get into in the early days of the 2008 crisis) but the Fed, under the guidance of the monetarists, preemptively positioned one policy as the foundation for the New Normal: they started paying interest on their reserves… two years before the crisis of 2008.
This means that, when a commercial bank takes a loan from the Federal Reserve, they have to pay nearly zero interest on that loan. This is because the Federal Reserve is paying that interest as was authorized by law in 2006.
This means that commercial banks have no reason to even lend that money out to you to help them beat a near zero rate. This means both the Federal Reserve and the commercial banks stockpile money since the motivation to involve with the public via interest rates are being handled centrally.
In short, the Federal Reserve is playing Atlas, holding up the world. And while Krugman only argues from the perspective of the Group of 30 and only sees a liquidity trap, I argue from the very different perspective: The Federal Reserve is caught in a confiscation trap: assets are first rescued, then increasingly borrowed, then finally outright taken as the only way to reduce the inflation caused by Atlas’s own passing.
In response to this, the world is placing their bets that Atlas will shrug one day. The Greenspan Put has been met with two outcomes: Putin Short and the Drone Long.
When left unchecked, the confiscation trap eventually has to promote social policies of direct dehumanization, typically achieved through identity politics. This provides the political will to target marginalized identities with additional asset confiscation. This generally results in civil war if executed too quickly, however, never before in history have central authorities been able to create a non-human confiscation force. When weaponized drones are paired with fairly simple object detection, then Atlas can raise a considerable confiscation force without drafting a single soul or importing a single mercenary. And who will build these drones? A public that has been systematically smoked out of its opportunity potential by the Federal Reserve playing Atlas. A public that will gladly build such things in exchange to even a pittance of the massive assets held by both commercial banks and the Federal Reserve. So, yes, it is different this time around. This is an investment position I call the Drone Long.
Another valid response to the confiscation trap is what I am calling the Putin Short, named after Vladimir Putin. His investment position is to embrace what I have long called petrocurrency mercantilism; a national policy of smoothing out risk to the reserve currency (The money created by the Federal Reserve) by way of exporting domestic energy to growing nations. Vladimir Putin himself is not a novel personality per se, but he’s just the first to be overtly vigorous in his establishment of this policy. I call this a short position because its gains are only realized during reserve currency instability. If Atlas shrugs and the reserve currency is ultimately undone, this framework rapidly descends into nations racing their monetary policies to the very, very bottom to promote energy exports, making nationalist warfare a very attractive means of wealth accumulation especially when it is conducted by an nearly-autonomous confiscation force.
As of today, the former Chief Economist of President Obama, Jared Bernstein, has written an article for New York Times, effectively asking to accelerate the world to embrace petrocurrency mercantilism by dethroning the dollar’s reserve status. With the removal of the reserve currency, nations will have no choice but to manage their own relations and investments, both of which can be perceptibly solved via the Drone Long (the purchasing of nearly-autonomous security) and the Putin Short. (the exporting of energy to afford said nearly-autonomous security)
When freedom is achieved (The information revolution) the monopoly on force will reposition itself accordingly. (From financial to military in this case) I have no clever, clickbait-friendly way to summarize this other than by saying the cycle of human suffering will continue well into the foreseeable future.