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Why Not Print Your Own Money?

In case ye faithful (I live in hope!) readers hadn't noticed yet, I am all for innovative ideas on solving old problems. I am all for innovative ideas. Period. So here's one for you: Let's scrap the globally imposed "state monopoly" on money and allow a truly free currency market - in the classical Keynesian sense, with demand regulating supply.

In other words: Print your own money! If anybody buys it, accepts it as currency for goods and services, you're in business. And watch out, dollar, pound or euro! You got competition.

Impossible, you say? Let's just think this one through.

We claim - at least since the fall of communism - that we live in world of free markets. Your more fundamentalist capitalist never tires in pronouncing that "the market regulates all", if you only let it. If you don't interfere; if you don't impose "state monopolies" on sections of the market that override the natural market forces.

That's why all these cosy government monopolies and private cartels had to be broken up and disempowered over these past decades.

So why then, in a world that has written "free trade" into its capital credo are we globally forced to accept only one state-controlled currency for every country? Doesn't that sound like Communism?

Why can't you or I or Siemens or Deutsche Bank or the city of Verona go along and print their own money? Let the free market decide whether it's worth the number that's printed on a piece of paper. Let's face it, in most cases the dollar, euro or pound are not worth the number printed on their piece of paper either.

That's the theory behind the calls for an "end of the state monopoly" on money. And in theory it all sounds rather compelling. The moment you abandon the idea of a real, tangible value, like the gold standard, standing in lieu of the actual amount of money you are printing, that moment your currency - be it dollar, euro or anything else - really all becomes Mickey Mouse money.

Its value is utterly virtual and dependent on the (perceived) credit-worthiness of the government or central bank printing it. And we all know how quickly that can change!

Greece isn't in trouble because of its high deficits or because it "can't possibly pay back their debts" - nobody can! The US, UK or Germany no more than Greece; no, Greece is in trouble because from one day to the next the fickle markets decided they no longer believed it could pay back their debts. Currencies are about believing, not about knowing.

The argument of those "abolitions" (of the state monopoly on currency) is that whenever there is a monopoly that cuts out the free market, you get bad value. And because governments can basically print as much as they like (see the Fed and the first, second and counting iterations of quantitative easing) and the consumer has no choice but to go from one state monopoly to another; free market forces cannot develop.

As a consequence, we are rolling and rolling with an ever bigger asset-price-inflated snowball down the hill. From one financial crisis into the next without ever solving the actual problem, because, unlike virtually everywhere else in our economies where we permit the market to develop its own forces of equilibrium, we cut out the free market.

If you really believe in the all-healing forces of a free market, the freedom of printing private money would be the logical consequence.

"What money is and what it's worth is determined by demand and supply", argued Thorsten Polleit, chief economist at Barclays Capital in Germany. "Only money that is accepted as good value will be in demand, and only such monies will stay in the market. Like any other product."

Norbert F. Tofall, who teaches money theory at the Europa-Universität Vladrina in Frankfurt/Oder goes even further. He reckons the abolition of a state monopoly on money would be "absolutely necessary" to break up the existing interdependence of so-call "system-relevant" (too big to fail) banks and the banking system as a whole.

"Once there is no longer a government monopoly on currency, the collapse of a bank or banks no longer automatically threatens the whole system of money transfers," said Tofall.

This argument is logical, but is it practical or even remotely feasable? I wonder. But, by all means, go ahead - print your own dollar, liras or drachmas!

Note to my editor-in-chief: Don´t even think about palming me off with payment in "CNBC ducats".

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