Why Are We Printing Money?

It’s a simple question.

You’ll hear different simple answers depending on the politics of the speaker. Talking heads on the news will usually say it’s to stimulate growth or to create jobs.

It’s also a big clue.

Large scale money printing has been tried many times in history and it never ends well.  We can expect modest inflation at best, high inflation, social unrest, and war at worst. We’ve been printing full steam for 5 years. They must know it’s risky. They must have a good reason. What’s the real reason?

Could it be?

1) The government is unable to borrow sufficient funds to cover their large deficit without causing interest rates to rise, which would force large cuts in services, and so makes up the shortfall with printed money.

2) The government is worried that if they stop printing the stock market will fall because it has become dependent on easy money. And they don’t want the stock market to fall because then people feel less wealthy and spend less.

3) The government wants to encourage retirement accounts to switch from low risk interest bearing investments to high risk equities, thus stimulating the stock market and increasing investment in companies that might create growth.

4) The big banks are in trouble and are dependent on money printing from which they skim fees and carry trades to rebuilt their reserves.

5) The government wishes to debase the currency to improve export competitiveness.

6) The government seeks to cause inflation as a means of reducing real levels of public and private debt because they know the underlying economy is struggling to service its high debt level.

7) There is little or no real growth which means the money supply is not growing fast enough to cover interest owed on existing debts, and given high debt levels, a large deflationary collapse would occur without a continual injection of new printed money.

There may be some truth in all 7 possibilities, but I discount the first 5 because we’ve had government cutbacks, high interest rates, stock market crashes, bank failures, and competitiveness problems in the past, and we recovered just fine.

I also discount 6) because inflation will cause interest rates to rise which will be a very big problem for governments with high debt.

That leaves 7) which I think is the main reason.

We’ve bumped up against limits to growth.

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