Ron Paul and The Political Economy of Money


You might have noticed journalist (and Giuliani foreign policy advisory team member--not too hard to guess what that advice mostly consists of--"end evil, boss!") David Frum accusing Ron Paul (and Huckabee, another opponent of his boy Rudy) of being an ignorant nimrod when it comes to monetary policy in the National Post. An excerpt:

Just a little lower down in the polls is a libertarian candidate named Ron Paul. Paul is best known for his vehemently isolationist foreign policy views. But his core supporters also thrill to his self-taught monetary views, which amount to a rejection of everything taught by modern economists from Alfred Marshall to Milton Friedman.

Huckabee and Paul have not the faintest idea of what they are talking about. The problem is not that their answers are wrong -- that can happen to anyone. The problem is that they don't understand the questions, and are too lazy or too arrogant to learn. But say that aloud and their partisans will shout back: Elitism!

Actual economist Peter Boettke takes on Frum on this issue at the Austrian Economists blog. An excerpt:

Friedman and the gold standard advocates share a fundamental bond ---- inflation is destructive to an economy and ultimately to a civilization. Good policy must fight inflation.

Pundits like Frum believe that economic policy can be designed to avoid the unpleasant side effects of previous policy errors. But there isn't any silver bullet here to provide a quick and easy fix to decades of monetary irresponsibility. As I said before, we don't need government intervention, we need market correction. Market forces, if allowed to operate freely, will work quickly to reallocate labor and capital and shift resources to higher valued uses………As Milton Friedman said, we have been misled by false teaching in economics to believe that there is a trade-off between inflation and unemployment. This dichotomy is false. The choice is not between inflation and unemployment, but between high unemployment as a result of inflation, or unemployment as a temporary side-effect of the cure for inflation. Playing the policy game of always pushing off market corrections through easy money, is as Hayek warned like holding a 'tiger by the tail'.

Right at the time that David Frum is ridiculing Ron Paul's for holding economic ideas that have been rejected from the time of Marshall to Friedman, we learn that the European Central Bank is injecting $500 billion into the banking system to ease the market corrections that must result from the previous credit expansion. That tiger is getting awful hard to hang on to!!!

And, Mr. Frum should look up the various Nobel Prize winners in economics, starting with Hayek, who have been concerned with government monetary policy and looked to a commodity backed money as a viable alternative. The 'self-taught' economics of Ron Paul (whatever other problems I might have with him and his presentation of these ideas) is grounded in sound scientific economics. An understanding of the logic of human action, the coordinating capacity of the market economy, the problems with bureaucracy, the special pleading of interest groups, and the destructive capacity of inflation are fundamental to his economic policy message. I hope my students learn those lessons from reading Adam Smith, David Hume, J. B. Say, F. A. Hayek, and James Buchanan. None of these names are on the 'crackpot' list of economists.