(Originally published by Bitcoin Magazine on the 28th of July, 2021)
What do Saddam Hussein and Bitcoin have in common? According to the government, they both have ties to terrorism. In reality, both threaten the United States Dollar (USD) and its global hegemony.
“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” – Gerald Seymour
Throughout this article, we are going to peel back the layers of inflationary monetary policy to be able to answer these three questions:
- Why does the Federal Reserve target inflation?
- What do the military and counter-terrorism have to do with protecting the inflation narrative?
- How come Bitcoin sees such strong opposition from certain individuals within the government?
Before we can answer these questions thoroughly, we must take a step back and delve into the world of money. This will give us the building blocks to better examine why the government does what it does. To do so, we must first ask the question: What is money?
The broad definition of money tends to revolve around “an economy’s generally accepted and recognized medium of exchange that is used to facilitate trade for goods and services.” In layman’s terms, money is the store of value intermediary between transactions. If money did not exist, trade would become significantly more challenging. A trade would require both parties to have the exact goods that each other needs. For example, John is a fisherman and Michelle is a carpenter. What’s to say Michelle needs fish at the same time that John needs a table? Additionally, how much fish is this table worth?
Money allows individuals to swap resources or services for a store of value, regardless of whether we have an immediate use for it. This has allowed our civilization to expand and grow much more efficiently than it otherwise would have, as both domestic and international trade becomes almost impossible without money.
For the average person, there are two methods to obtain money:
- We must expend time and energy in return for money (i.e. work, labour, services)
- We must trade goods or resources in return for money. However, to obtain these goods or resources, we must have previously had to expend time and energy.
Therefore, in both scenarios, to obtain money, we must expend time and energy. With this, we can conclude:
Money = Time + Energy
With this simple equation in mind, we can better understand the inner workings of the monetary system.
Our Monetary System
Our economy operates on a centralized monetary system, where at the top we have the Federal Reserve (the Fed). The role of the Fed is to regulate the US monetary and financial system through monetary policy. This gives the Fed the ability to control the money supply. This ultimately influences whether we are in an inflationary or deflationary environment, regardless of what should naturally occur.
Although the Fed was created as a private entity, we don’t have to look much further than the board of governors to realize that it is just an extension of the government. The board of governors, which guides decision-making, is at the heart of the Federal Reserve and is a government agency. Therefore, although the Fed appears to be independent and impartial, the government has a significant influence over the Fed’s decision-making and, subsequently, monetary policy direction.
Considering the Fed’s role in regulating the US monetary system, one could conclude that it would strive for the USD to maintain sound money characteristics. However, since the introduction of the Fed, the idea of sound money has slowly but surely been undermined and destroyed, with a complete break occurring when the US departed from the gold standard in 1971. Rather than the dollar being somewhat backed by gold, it is now backed by debt. Therefore it becomes relatively easy for the US to expand the money supply1. The Fed uses four key levers to control the money supply:
- a) Open Market Operations (OMO): The Fed has the ability to purchase short-term treasury bonds from the open market. In doing so, the commercial banks who sell these treasury bonds receive payment in the form of increased bank reserves. This serves two purposes. First, this artificial demand for short-term treasuries decreases short-term interest rates. Secondly, with increased bank reserves and lower short-term rates, commercial banks tend to lend more freely. This results in an increase in the money supply since banks operate on a fractional reserve system, whereby they only need to hold a fraction (generally 10%) of their total deposits/loans in reserves. Therefore, a $1 increase in reserves can result in a $10 increase to the money supply2.
- b) Quantitative Easing (QE): QE is usually only reserved for times of economic stress, otherwise it is very similar to OMO. The main difference is that with QE, the Fed targets long-term, instead of short-term, treasury bonds. This causes an artificial suppression of longer-term interest rates, as well as a potential increase in the money supply.
- c) Discount Rate: The Fed has the ability to adjust the discount rate. By lowering the discount/interest rate that commercial banks have to pay on short-term loans, the Fed makes borrowing more favourable, and as borrowing increases, so does the money supply. As explained above, banks do not have to have 100% collateral-backed loans. Therefore, any loan created has the potential to cause an increase in the money supply.
- d) Modifying Reserve Requirements: The Fed has the ability to modify reserve requirements. This modification refers to the amount of reserves a bank must hold against deposits in bank accounts. By lowering the reserve requirements, banks have the ability to create more loans, which can result in an increase in the overall money supply.
In all three examples, when a dollar is created through monetary expansion, it is backed by nothing but a liability. Therefore, an increase in the money supply is either an expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet or a liability on behalf of the bank that has lent out the money.
In addition to the many levers the Fed has in its arsenal, the Fed openly targets a 2% year-over-year inflation rate. “The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) judges that inflation of 2 percent over the longer run, as measured by the annual change in the price index for personal consumption expenditures, is most consistent with the Fed’s mandate for maximum employment and price stability.”3 In layman’s terms, the Fed seeks to achieve a 2% annual increase in the price of goods and services alongside maximum employment and price stability.
If we intuitively think about what the Fed is saying, something doesn’t seem to add up. First, it doesn’t make sense that the Fed is targeting stable prices. We live in a world where we constantly strive to get more for less by increasing efficiency and productivity. For instance:
- Cars were invented to reduce time spent travelling
- Mass production was introduced to reduce the cost of goods to the consumer
- The internet was born to aid communication and increase information-sharing and consumption
- Spotify was created to consolidate music into one easy-to-access space
- Netflix was founded to allow anyone access to movies without having to travel to the movie store
And the list goes on. At no point has human ingenuity been used to get less for more, with the exception of inflation targeting.
Although it is possible to see prices rise (natural inflation) through structural demographic changes or supply and demand imbalances, prices tend to fall in the long run. However, by targeting inflation, the Fed is actively aiming for a steady increase in prices over time. They are able to achieve this through monetary expansion, which creates a slow decay in the purchasing power of the currency, and in turn, an increase in the cost of goods, services and assets. This is not natural. Instead, as technology advances and we see increased productivity, prices should naturally decline, and the currency should strengthen, allowing us to buy more for less.
Additionally, is unemployment such a bad thing? With a strengthening currency and decreasing cost of goods and services, the cost of living should also decline. In turn, we should be able to work less with a greater output. This ultimately allows us to achieve a higher standard of living. Under this lens, unemployment may not be the bad egg it is made out to be. Instead, we should view decreasing prices alongside reduced work hours and a slow increase in unemployment as a potential sign of a healthy, happy economy. So, what are the effects of inflation, and who is it benefiting?
What are the effects of inflation?
As explained above, the Fed, through its arsenal of tools, has the ability to influence the money supply with the goal of hitting specific inflation targets. However, this targeting comes at a cost. As mentioned above, monetary expansion to reach inflation targets negatively affects purchasing power, causing an increase in the cost of goods, services, and assets. However, as this destruction of purchasing power occurs incrementally over time, it can be difficult for the average person to grasp inflation’s adverse effects. Irrespective of the societal and economic impacts*, the four main monetary side effects of inflation are:
- Dilution: Creating more dollars backed by debt does not add value to the economy. Instead, it dilutes the currency that is already in circulation. For example, if a pizza is cut into four slices, doubling the money supply would not be equivalent to doubling the amount of pizza. Instead, it would be equivalent to cutting those four slices in half to create eight slices. We have not gained any additional pizza. We just have more slices.
- Interest: As explained above, to increase the money supply, a liability must be created. When this is done, there has to be interest paid on this liability. For example, when the Fed increases bank reserves for commercial banks, it pays interest on excess reserves (IOER). Therefore, in addition to the dilution of the currency, a liability with interest payments is created. Not only has inflation diluted our existing currency, we now have to divert productive capacity to pay down debt + interest.
- Loss of Accurate Measurement: Currently, we measure assets, wealth, goods, services, income etc., in dollars. The challenge with using the USD as a medium of measurement is that as inflationary monetary policy destroys purchasing power, we see a change in the value of the dollar. This inadvertently inhibits our ability to use the USD as an accurate measuring stick. The USD would be a great form of measurement if its supply was stable and consistent. However, this is unfortunately not the case. Using the dollar as a medium of measurement is like trying to build a house using a ruler, where the measurements on the ruler keep changing unexpectedly and unpredictably. I doubt the house would be structurally sound.
- Distortion of Economic Indicators: The USD is a crucial indicator for economic decision-making. However, by performing inflationary monetary policy and masking economic stress through monetary expansion, we hinder our ability to obtain insightful economic information when analyzing the USD. Consequently, we are impeding the economy from error-correcting accurately, and in turn, hampering its ability to adapt, evolve, and innovate effectively.
* For a more detailed breakdown of societal and economic impacts of inflation, check out “When more isn’t better: inflation in the 21st century”4.
With these side effects of inflation in mind, it can be difficult to look favourably at inflation. Additionally, it makes us question that if our dollar’s purchasing power is slowly decaying over time, is an increase in wealth in dollar terms all that it is made out to be? One way to view the reality of our situation is to change the medium of measurement. For instance, below is a chart of the S&P500 versus the S&P500 divided by the Fed’s Balance Sheet. This alternate measurement takes into account monetary expansion, rather than just relying on the dollar.
Equity Growth Reality Chart56
As we can see, the 175%+ growth in the S&P500 over the last 12yrs is, in reality, more likely a significant loss when we account for monetary expansion. However, it should be noted that many of these dollars created on the Fed’s balance sheet may never reach the public domain, and therefore, it is difficult to determine the exact impact on the purchasing power of the dollar. This may mean the loss is not as drastic as -65%; however, the difference is still a far cry from negligible.
Why does the Federal Reserve target inflation?
If we distill everything up to this point, it can be tough to understand why the Fed would target inflation when it has such adverse side effects. However, if we dig into the two main benefactors of inflationary monetary policy, we can better understand why we see such policies:
As the Fed implements inflationary monetary policy, the general population and businesses start to spend and borrow, causing an increase in debt consumption. With an increase in debt, we see money supply expansion and a reduction in purchasing power. Usually, with increased demand for borrowing, we would see a rise in interest rates. However, as previously mentioned, the Fed has a couple of tools in its arsenal that allows it to suppress interest rates. Additionally, by working alongside the US Treasury the US is able to implement what is called financial repression.
A concept introduced in 1973 by Stanford economists Edward S. Shaw and Ronald I. McKinnon, financial repression7 is the suppression of interest rates below that of inflation, which allows the government to borrow money at extremely low rates to fund operations. This greatly benefits debtors and is disadvantageous to creditors, aligning with the fact that the US is the largest debtor nation with a total government debt of $28.1 trillion8.
This suppression of interest rates is not natural and allows the Treasury to obtain capital to fund operations through the issuance of treasury bonds at rates below that of inflation. This indirectly passes on the cost of borrowing onto the creditor, which in this case ends up being the economy. In essence, financial repression is a stealth tax on its currency holders in two ways:
- When the Fed artificially suppresses interest rates, it negatively impacts savers (i.e. pension plans, savings accounts, fixed-income investments). Under normal interest rate environments, savers would be rewarded in the form of reasonable interest rates (i.e. they would get significantly more return on their capital). Instead, savers are punished with suppressed interest rates and this difference in performance is passed onto the government to fund its debt.
- To suppress interest rates and drive inflation, the government has to perform OMO, QE and other inflationary monetary policies. In all three instances, we see an increase in monetary expansion. This monetary expansion causes a destruction of purchasing power, which directly impacts savers and fixed income investors, while benefiting the debtors as it reduces their debt burden.
You may wonder why someone would ever lend money at interest rates below that of inflation. Unfortunately, this is not something that the population has much say over. The government puts such measures in place as:
- Reserve requirements. For example, international bank regulatory standards (Basel III) encourage banks to hold government debt by giving it preferential treatment for satisfying capital requirements.
- The capping of interest rates to prevent interest rates from rising above certain levels (i.e. yield curve control9).
- Increased regulation of capital movement between countries. This restricts capital from flowing out of the US to more favourable options.
These tactics and regulations ensure the continual flow of capital into treasury bonds, allowing the government constant access to cash to fund operations, and direct it to wherever they feel necessary.
Overall, the government benefits in two ways from inflation and, more specifically, financial repression:
Through inflationary monetary policy and financial repression, the government no longer has to act in the best interest of its population. This is because it is able to fund itself regardless of whether or not it collects enough capital to fund operation through taxation. It is able to fund itself in the following ways:
- a) The US treasury issues government bonds to obtain capital to fund its operations. Under normal operations, commercial banks and other entities purchase these bonds and, in return, collect the interest on the money lent to the government. However, through OMO and QE, the Fed can purchase these treasuries off the commercial banks. So, in effect, the government is funding itself by issuing and selling treasury bonds to itself and using the big commercial banks as intermediaries10.
- b) Through financial repression’s stealth tax, the government is able to borrow capital at rates below that of inflation, forcing the borrowing costs to be passed onto the creditor. Ultimately, this reduces the government’s debt burden and allows it to fund itself without explicitly taxing its population.
Reduction in the Deflationary Effects of Debt
The government has spent more than it has made through taxation and other forms of income in 19 out of the last 21 years11. Since it has been running such huge deficits to fund operations, it has accumulated a vast amount of debt. As the debt burden grows, so does the deflationary pressure. Financial repression via monetary expansion and the lowering of rates allows the Fed to reduce the deflationary effects of debt.
When the government implements an inflationary monetary policy, the second biggest benefactor is the banks. As explained above, under our fractional reserve banking system, banks do not need to be fully collateralized (i.e. they only need to have a portion of their liabilities in reserves). When the Fed lowers interest rates, we see an increase in demand for borrowing. With this increased demand, banks are able to expand the money supply by increasing the number of loans they create. In turn, they profit as they collect interest on these loans. Where it gets confusing is that this money did not exist on the bank’s balance sheet prior to the loan being created12. When a new loan is created, the money supply expands as new money is created to facilitate the loan. It is important to highlight that most of the money in our economy is created this way and not, as most people assume, by Jay Powell at the Fed hitting the print button.
Additionally, when the Fed performs measures such as QE13, this gives the banks greater reserves to create more loans, allowing greater expansion of the money supply. Essentially, banks today, under the fractional reserve system, are able to create revenue from lending money that they never had in the first place. They are creating money out of thin air, and so, just like the government, they too are benefitting by diluting the currency.
You may be wondering, why are the banks given so much power? The banks are the government’s means of dispersing capital into the economy. When the Fed lowers interest rates, it is the banks that create loans and disseminate capital, which aids productive capacity, allowing further capitalization of the economy by the government in the form of inflation. In short, banks play a pivotal role in the government’s ability to capitalize off its population and the currency holders.
However, disbursement of capital isn’t the only benefit banks give to the government. The financial sector is one of the largest contributors to political campaigns and lobbying. During the 2020 election, Wall Street banks and financial services spent $2.9 billion14 in lobbying and contributions. Therefore not only do the banks aid in the disbursement of newly created capital, but they also provide a substantial income stream for politicians. It is for these two reasons that the banks are given so much power.
Additionally, if we’ve learnt anything from US politics, it is that lobbying has a considerable impact on regulation and the legislative process15. By lobbying, banks can influence legislation to ensure regulation is put in place, protecting their position within the financial system (i.e. strict anti-competition regulation, which reduces competitors).
From everything we have discussed, it is evident that the government no longer needs to act in the best interest of its population to receive funding (i.e. income tax, sales, tax, corporate tax). It can effectively fund itself through hidden taxation in the form of monetary expansion or financial repression without its population or the currency holder’s consent. This is why the government consistently pushes the inflation narrative and continues to target increased economic productivity. The more productive a country is, the more demand there is for that country’s goods, services and currency. This increased demand leads to a strengthening of the currency. The stronger the currency, the greater the amount of monetary expansion that can be performed before its population starts to feel the adverse effects.
However, inflation is a double-edged sword. Although the government and the banks benefit immensely from inflation, alongside inflation comes debt. As mentioned previously, whenever the money supply increases, so does the debt burden. This creates a negative feedback loop whereby to service the debt, more money has to be printed. This further impacts the currency holders in two ways:
- In order for the government to continue to fund itself and keep the deflationary pressures at bay it must further expand the money supply. This continual expansion destroys the purchasing power of the currency.
- As the debt burden increases, the house of cards that is the financial system becomes ever more unstable. When interest rates do inevitably rise, the consequences will be catastrophic (such as that of the Asian debt crisis or Japan’s lost decade) and it is nearly always the public which pays the price as losses are usually socialized.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to stop the government from continuing to do anything it can to ensure that the inflation narrative continues.
Let us delve deeper into this non-consensual taxation through monetary policy. We know from above that money = time + energy. Therefore, as inflation creates a loss in purchasing power and financial oppression is the suppression of interest rates and the transfer of borrowing costs onto the creditor, if this has been done without the consent of the currency holders, then this is theft of their time and energy. Although it has been banned since 1865, inflation under this light sounds eerily similar to slavery, which is also the theft of time and money.
Slavery is when an entity benefits off someone else’s time and energy, at their expense and without their consent. It doesn’t matter whether or not the person knows. The government prefers to use the term inflation as it hides their underlying intent and allows them to appear to be doing what is best for the population.
This claim of slavery may sound asinine. However, in 1862, a confidential letter, circulated by English capitalists amongst American bankers, aptly described a monetary system uncannily similar to the monetary system we use today. The letter is below:
“Slavery is likely to be abolished by the war power, and chattel slavery destroyed. This I and my European friends are in favor of, for slavery is but the owning of labor and carries with it the care of the laborer, while the European plan, led on by England, is capital control of labor by controlling wages. THIS CAN BE DONE BY CONTROLLING THE MONEY. The great debt that capitalists will see to it is made out of the war must be used as a measure to control the volume of money; to accomplish this the bonds must be used as a banking basis.” – Charles Hazard, Hazard Circular, 186216
It is apparent that long before the current monetary system came to be, the immense control someone could wield, if they had authority over money, was well known. For if you control the monetary system, you control the economy, or as Mayer Amschel Rothschild famously said, “permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”
Robert Breedlove explores this further with his insightful article “Masters and Slaves of Money”17 where he compares monetary expansion and its equivalent in labour hours worked. Ultimately, he concluded that the expansion of the M2 money supply between 1981 – 2020, divided by the US average hourly (assuming that the average US worker works 2000 hours per year) equates to the US running 11.7 million people for forty years straight. He then expands further, “time stolen by The Fed since 1981 is 341% more per year than the trans-Atlantic slave trade. With 23.4B hours stolen annually, The Fed could (in theory) build 2.3 Great Pyramids each year. In terms of absolute human time stolen per year, fiat currency is the largest pyramid scheme and institution of slavery in human history.”
“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
If every other ordinary individual and business has to add value to society to earn money to pay its bills and operate, why shouldn’t the government? Regardless of whether or not one would classify inflation and financial oppression as slavery, most would agree that having the ability to fund oneself removes true supply and demand and therefore entitles the holder of that power to act in their own self-interest as opposed to the interests of others. Additionally, when that self-funding comes at the expense of the population, it can become a slippery slope to detrimental authoritarian regimes. For example, a monopoly corporation in a small town has overarching control of its people as it is the primary source of jobs for the community. It can therefore create hardship through layoffs or boost morale through hiring and wage increases. This control over employment and wages cultivates conformity and prevents people from speaking out in fear of losing their jobs or being ostracized from the community. Along this same vein, any entity that controls the money supply can create economic hardship with a restriction of capital or the illusion of economic prosperity through monetary expansion. This allows for population control since when the population starts to gain independence, or the entity’s power is infringed upon, they can create economic hardship through a monetary contraction. Alternatively, they can give the illusion of economic prosperity via monetary expansion, which additionally aids the facade that they are doing what’s best for the population and thus rebuilds the population’s confidence. At no point is the entity required to offer legitimate value to society.
To clarify, as long as the government is offering a service that provides value to its population and uses proceeds from taxation with the population’s interests at heart, taxation under traditional measures such as income tax, sales tax, corporate tax is by no means theft. Instead, taxes are a necessary part of the economy as it is through taxation that the government can obtain capital to operate and survive.
Where taxation issues arise is when we have financial repression and inflationary monetary policy in addition to traditional taxation. In this scenario, not only are we paying tax in the form of income tax, sales tax, corporate tax to name a few, but we are subject to currency debasement and supporting the government’s debt burden without our consent. This is effectively double taxation and allows the government to fund itself without having to offer a beneficial service to its population.
It is fair to play devil’s advocate and recognize that this information can be construed in a multitude of ways. In this instance, it may have been skewed to paint the government in a negative light. Additionally, one could argue that there are benefits to inflation such as:
- allowing the government to obtain capital to fund social, medical, welfare programs etc.
- providing capital to the economy, which can aid economic growth.
- giving the Fed the ability to dampen economic stress.
- reducing the deflationary effects of debt.
These are fair points, so let’s dig deeper to see if the government has kept its population’s interests at heart. The old adage, “do not listen to what they say, look at what they do”18 seems appropriate.
Below is a table that looks at government spending directed towards mental health and drug addiction in relation to government spending directed towards counter-terrorism. It then compares the total deaths and the dollars spent per death. As we can see, if the government was concerned about the wellbeing of its people, we would assume that they would direct spending towards the areas which need it most. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case. Additionally, if we look at the military versus healthcare spending, the US spends 450%19 more on the military than healthcare.
The Truth Behind Government Spending Table202122
Why might the government be spending so much on counter-terrorism and the military?
Before we can understand why the government spends so much on its military and counter-terrorism, we must first dig into the USD and its world reserve currency status.
Prior to 1971, the USD operated on the Bretton Woods system, a sort of gold standard. Under Bretton Woods, many foreign countries agreed to maintain a fixed exchange rate between their currencies and the dollar. In return, the US agreed that every dollar in circulation was backed by and could be exchanged for its weight in gold. This agreement is what gave the USD value. However, in 1971 the US dropped the Bretton Woods system and transitioned to the fiat standard, which we use today. The difference is that instead of the dollar being backed by gold, it is now backed by nothing but debt. Internationally, this decision was not well received, and over the coming years, the dollar struggled23. The US urgently had to find a way to maintain its reserve currency status as the dollar was now under threat.
Through the middle of the 1970s, the US found a way, through bilateral agreements with Saudi Arabia24 (the largest Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil producer at the time) to influence OPEC to standardize the trade of oil, ensuring transactions were facilitated in USD. The petrodollar was born25.
Two benefits the US has over every other country:
World Reserve Currency: Since the USD holds the global reserve currency status, most trade is made in USD. With this being the case, there is a vast amount of USD denominated debt as countries have to obtain dollars to fund global trade operations. This constant demand for dollars to maintain/pay down USD denominated debt and trade results in an artificial strengthening of the USD.
The petrodollar: This agreement with OPEC in the 1970s, ensuring that most oil trade was now priced in dollars, has provided tremendous benefits to the US. With oil being the preeminent global energy source, the need for oil is immense. Just like the world reserve status, the OPEC agreement has created a universal artificial demand for dollars, strengthening the dollar. Additionally, there is one other huge advantage the US has over other countries. As oil is the preeminent global energy source, not only does the US have a considerable influence over the price of oil, the US can now purchase oil through the printing of dollars. These petrodollars are then recycled back into the US via the sale of US treasury bonds to petrodollar nations. Ultimately, this allows the US to fund itself. This system is called petrodollar recycling.
With both the petrodollar and the world reserve currency, the US benefits greatly as there is this constant demand for dollars resulting in a strengthening of the currency. The US government can then capitalize off this increased currency strength through monetary expansion and fund its operations. This grants the US an extraordinary advantage over any other competing country as it can fund itself at the expense of another country. Any government which wants to compete globally is at the whim of the US. First, they have to obtain USD to purchase oil and trade. To do so, they must sell their currency in exchange for USD, which tends to devalue their currency. Second, the US can capitalize off this USD currency holder through monetary policy by expanding the money supply for its own benefit. Ultimately, not only has the competing country had to devalue its currency in the purchasing of dollars, it now holds dollars that can be devalued for the benefit of the US.
What do the military and counter-terrorism have to do with protecting the inflation narrative?
As I am sure is now apparent, the purpose of the military and counter-terrorism is not to protect the people of the US. The military and counter-terrorism are there to aid the US in its global hegemony and protect the government from any people or entities that infringe on its ability to capitalize off its currency holders.
Therefore, the best way to protect the US’ global positioning is to fund the military and counter-terrorism. This will ensure global control and allow the US to continue to push the inflation narrative. This explains the imbalance between mental health/drug addiction spending and counter-terrorism in the chart above. It also explains the significant imbalance when we look at global military expenditure, where globally, the US has the highest military spending budget. The US spends 308% more than China in second place and more than the subsequent ten countries combined.
2020 Military Spending By Country Chart26
If the US were to lose its monopoly on oil trade, we would see a significant drop in demand for the USD. This would most likely threaten its reserve currency status. If this were to play out, the US could no longer capitalize off its global positioning, and it most definitely couldn’t expand the money supply to the same extent, without major repercussions and destruction of the USD’s purchasing power. Just to drive the point home one more time, this is why the US is so highly incentivized to protect the petrodollar. The petrodollar helps ensure global reserve currency status, hugely enhancing its ability to continue legal theft/slavery through monetary expansion.
Where does this military spending go?
With the positioning of the USD, it is clear that they are incentivized to challenge anyone who attempts to interfere with their power. With this in mind, let’s dig into how and where exactly the US directs their immense global authority and military power.
Although first, we must detour so that we understand how the US accrues power. This will allow us to understand why the US does what it does when it comes to the military, a coup d’état (removal and seizure of a government and its powers), revolutions, etc.
The US tends to operate in a three stage process27 when it comes to maintaining and growing their global powerhouse:
- Economic Hitmen: The big conglomerates and corporations within the US send economic hitmen (EHM) into developing nations with large energy reserves. The goal is to “altruistically” offer to lend these nations money and help develop and build energy infrastructure, allowing these nations to capitalize off their natural resources. These proposals are usually under the pretense that the country will prosper and see an increase in living standards. However, there is an ulterior motive to these “altruistic” loans. EHM will overemphasize the returns of these energy projects, encouraging the targeted nations to take on significantly more debt than they’re able to support. These nations will struggle and eventually default under the debt burden. As a consolation, these US-backed corporations will offer to take control of the natural resources, military and/or political decision-making capacity. If they succeed, the US will expand its global resources and power (we see China pursuing a similar path with their Belt and Road initiative28). If not, they move onto stage 2.
- Jackals: When these indebted nations refuse to play ball, the Jackals move in. These are CIA-sanctioned entities in charge of staging coups, revolutions, murder, abductions and assassinations29. Examples of this are the coup against Chile’s President Salvador Allende30, the coup against Brazil’s President João Goulart31, and the coup to overthrow Iran’s Premier, Mohammad Mosaddeq32, all supported by the CIA. To the average person, these events seem like domestic unrest, although when we dig deeper, there tend to be more sinister underpinnings. Usually, these events ensure that the US can continue to capitalize on the nation’s resources or its global positioning.
- Military: Finally, if all else fails, the US military moves in. The goal is to use brute force to ensure that the US can continue to operate in its monopolistic ways. Military intervention is a way for the US to wipe clean the current political party and put in place someone who aligns with US foreign policy. Proposals for military movement tend to be under the facade of humanitarianism or counter-terrorism. This quickly gains the backing of the general population, the congressmen and the politicians and ensures that the US can continue running its global powerhouse at the expense of the global population.
Within these three stages, the US is able to enforce its authority globally and ensure that foreign nations comply. This may seem outlandish; however, all we need to do is watch the daily news to see global events such as these occur, time and time again. The following are examples of US intervention:
Fact33 – Iraq is in fifth place for largest known oil reserves, with 8.7% of the total known global reserves.
In October 2000, Saddam Hussein announced that Iraq was going to transition to selling oil in euros. By February 2003, they had sold 3.3 billion barrels of oil, totalling 26 billion euros34. In March 2003, the US, along with the UK, invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam. Three months later, Iraq was back to selling in dollars.
The US has claimed they invaded Iraq to promote human rights as they had deep ties to terrorists such as al-Qaeda and held weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, as there have never been any verified links between Saddam and al-Qaeda35, nor any evidence supporting WMDs in Iraq, it looks more likely that their intention was to protect the petrodollar.
Fact36– Venezuela has the largest known oil reserves, with 18.2% of the total known global reserves.
Since Hugo Chávez was elected president of Venezuela in 199937, he consistently threatened that Venezuela would stop selling oil to the US38. In addition, Chávez regularly talked about raising oil prices, taxes and royalties so that Venezuelans could benefit from oil revenue instead of the US39. Chávez did not believe that oil prices should be suppressed and that due to increasing oil demand, there’s room for increased prices. However, an increase in oil prices will only benefit the oil producers, ultimately hurting the oil importers (i.e. the US). Chávez aimed to use excess revenue generated by increased oil prices, taxes, and royalties to be reinvested into various South American countries in a bid to increase the prosperity of Venezuela and other South American countries.
April 2002, President Chávez was removed from office in a coup supported by the US government40. He was then forcefully asked to resign. After he was removed from office, he was kidnapped and finally replaced by Pedro Carmona, the head of Venezuela’s business confederation, Fedecamaras. This event was followed by mass protests by the Venezuelan people and certain army sectors until Chávez was returned and reinstated as president. Although there were many threats up to Chavez’s death, the US was never cut off from Venezuelan oil.
Fact41 – Libya is home to Africa’s largest oil reserves42 and is in ninth place for largest known oil reserves, with 2.9% of the total known global reserves.
In 2009 Gadhafi proposed the idea of the gold-dinar43 to the states of the African continent, a currency backed by gold and facilitated by the transition from selling oil in dollars to selling oil for gold. The gold-dinar would be a way to divert oil revenues towards state-controlled funds and away from the US.
In October 2011, a NATO airstrike targeting Gadhafi loyalists forced him and his inner circle to flee. While fleeing, he was captured by Misrata-based militias and ultimately executed44. As expected, with Gadhafi’s death, also came the death of the gold-dinar. Today the majority of Libyan oil is priced in dollars.
Again, US intervention reasoning was under the pretence of humanitarian interventionism45. However, not only could human rights foundations46 not find any evidence to support this, in 2015 Wikileaks47 released a US Department of State document emailed to Hillary Clinton in March 2011, which detailed that Gadhafi’s government held 143 tonnes of gold intended for the establishment of the gold-dinar. The US knew about Gadhafi’s plans for the gold-dinar. Therefore, what seems more likely is that they recognized that the petrodollar was under threat of attack, and they needed to react.
With the US displaying a lot of concern for human rights and terrorism, one must find it strange that they haven’t chosen to take on:
- Saudi Arabia: There have been links between Saudi Arabia and terrorism, including connections between the Saudi Royal Family and al-Qaeda48. There has even been evidence showing that the country’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, directly approved the murder of Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi49. However, neither presidents Trump nor Biden have shown any intent to go after Saudi Arabia.Instead, whenever Saudi Arabian oil is under threat, the US supports them. Why does the US not want to take action? As explained above, the US and Saudi Arabia have a deep bilateral relationship where the US is not incentivized to go on the offence. Instead, the US will do whatever it takes to protect the Saudis. Saudi Arabia has agreed to sell its oil in dollars, and in return, the US has agreed to give them access to US arms and military protection. Saudi Arabia supplies the US with 1/3rd50 of its oil, and between 2015-2019, Saudi Arabia alone purchased 1/4 of all US arms exports51.
- North Korea: In 2014, the Human Rights in North Korea Report by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry concluded that “the government committed crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, and other forms of sexual violence, and forced abortion.”52 Additionally, North Korea has publicly stated that it has WMDs53. The US could easily build a solid humanitarian case to infiltrate North Korea, as it did with Gadhafi. However, just like Saudi Arabia, the US shows no signs of intervening. One reason the US may be disinterested could be that North Korea has no proven oil reserves54 and therefore does not pose a threat to the US.
As should now be evident, “do not listen to what they say, look at what they do”55 can give us a great deal of insight into the government’s agenda. We can now more easily understand why the US seems significantly more interested in directing its government spending and military efforts towards protecting the petrodollar and its world reserve status than protecting human rights and the people of the US. Until we see a shift away from centralized monetary systems, this will, unfortunately, continue to happen.
Behind the altruistic curtain
Although we may never be able to answer with certainty why the US went to war with Saddam and Gadhafi or chose to support the coup against Chávez, we can gain a great deal of information from their approach. Do you think it would be easier for the president to rally Congress and the general public under the altruistic premise that:
- the US needs to go to war on humanitarian and anti-terrorism grounds to defend its people
or under the more legitimate rationale:
- to protect the petrodollar and its world reserve currency status, ensuring that the US can continue to capitalize off its population and foreign currency holders
Unfortunately, the former seems most likely. Hussein, Gadhafi and Chávez were directly attacking the petrodollar and the ability of the US to capitalize off its currency holders. The most effective way for the US to challenge them is to use its incredible global power to create a narrative relating to humanitarian/terrorism grounds, painting the so-called enemy in a negative light. This will ensure the backing of congress and the American public, and with this backing and support, they can do what’s needed under the pretence of humanitarian interventionism/terrorism.
This misleading humanitarian/terroristic war narrative will continue as long as the petrodollar exists. In the eyes of the US, any threat on the petrodollar warrants a response, and no narrative supports the response better than altruism or defending one’s country. The US will do anything to ensure its position is not encroached upon as a loss of the petrodollar or world reserve currency status would severely impact the US and its ability to capitalize off its currency holders. This is why we see so much funding being directed towards counter-terrorism and the military, even though there is empirical evidence56 showing that military spending is detrimental to economic productivity and growth. The dollar depends on a strong military, and the military depends on a strong dollar57. Without either, the US is unable to continue its inflationary narrative.
Where does Bitcoin stand in all of this?
* This piece is not so much about Bitcoin and its benefits but rather about how the US operates and why Bitcoin is under threat. Therefore I won’t go into too much detail about Bitcoin’s well-known benefits. For more information on the benefits of Bitcoin, check out: https://bitcoinmagazine.com/culture/bitcoin-illusion-of-reality
Bitcoin has the potential to give power to individuals, capitalize off stranded energy, increase economic productivity and boost innovation58. We could therefore assume that this new exponentially growing technology would be adopted with open arms. However, although we have seen incredible adoption from certain areas of the general population and forward-thinking individuals, this is not true for the government. Like Hussein, Gadhafi, and Chávez, Bitcoin directly threatens governments’ ability to capitalize off its currency holders. If Bitcoin were to become adopted as the world reserve currency, it would be a significant threat to the US and its ability to operate an inflationary monetary policy for these three reasons:
Fixed Supply: For the first time in history, Bitcoin offers an accurate measuring stick with which to view the world. As Bitcoin cannot be manipulated, it will always maintain a 21 million coin supply cap. Therefore, Bitcoin offers the potential to give accurate insight into supply and demand information. As we know, when we hit periods of economic stress, we are given feedback in the form of economic indicators (i.e. interest rates, equity prices, GDP). When we inflate the money supply to capitalize off the currency holders or dampen the underlying economic stress, we distort these economic indicators as we mask true supply and demand. This prevents the economy from accurately error-correcting. Bitcoin, due to its lack of manipulation, does not allow any entity to capitalize off its currency holders or for the masking of stress through inflation. Instead, governments must offer value to society and solve underlying economic issues directly. This would allow one to see the world as it really is instead of one distorted by monetary expansion. With this in mind, Bitcoin would expose the inflationary narrative for what it is, a way for the government to self-fund and capitalize off its currency holders.
Additionally, as individuals we want our economic productivity to benefit us and those around us. With Bitcoin, this increased productivity would accrue in the form of increased currency strength, which would allow the holders, rather than the government, to benefit. This is the case for the USD when they extract this increased productivity through inflation.
- Decentralized: Bitcoin is a monetary system governed by rules, not rulers59. No single entity has authority or control over Bitcoin. With Bitcoin’s decentralized nature, it doesn’t matter whether you are the president, an unbanked asylum seeker, or a private doctor. Everybody has to play by the same rules. This would prevent influential figures from controlling monetary policy at the expense of the currency holders.
- Self-Custody: Bitcoin is the first asset that allows the holder the ability to self custody easily and securely. Doing so transfers power from the government and the third parties that custody our assets to the currency holders. This ensures that governments, banks and corporations act as service providers with their population and customers best interests at heart, rather than the overbearing, controlling entities that they are today.
How come Bitcoin sees such strong opposition from certain individuals within the government?
Although Bitcoin is a technology that offers excellent benefits, we can see from the three benefits detailed above that Bitcoin is at great odds with the current structure of our economy. Bitcoin directly impacts the government’s ability to capitalize off its population and currency holders as it undermines the US and its currency monopoly. Therefore, it is evident why we see such opposition within the government.
Even after many rigorous studies disproving all major false narratives, Bitcoin still regularly comes under fire. One study by the ex-deputy director of the CIA concluded60 that “the broad generalizations about the use of Bitcoin in illicit finance are significantly overstated”. Since 2016, only around 0.5% of Bitcoin’s total transaction volume has been used for illicit activity. In comparison, within traditional finance illicit activity makes up between 2-4% of GDP. This is a stark difference to how Bitcoin is portrayed in the media, yet we continue to see misleading statements such as that by US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, “I see the promise of these new technologies, but I also see the reality: Cryptocurrencies have been used to launder the profits of online drug traffickers; they’ve been a tool to finance terrorism.” It appears that the people in power are not interested in the truth. Instead, they are set on constructing the most damning narratives so that Bitcoin is deemed detrimental to the economy in the eyes of the public.
Therefore, it does not matter that Bitcoin is trying to solve financial oppression through monetary inclusion and equality. Bitcoin directly interferes with the government’s agenda by allowing individuals to opt out of inflation taxation, and so for this reason alone, Bitcoin is portrayed as a threat to the US.
One may argue, why do we need Bitcoin? Or, why not put someone in power who wants what’s best for the people? It is evident from history that people inherently want to protect their bloodline, wealth, and power in society. Therefore, anyone in charge of a currency will usually end up abusing their power, and if the present person in power doesn’t, it’s just a matter of time before one will. Bitcoin removes this monetary temptation and creates an even playing field for all. Without temptation, political figures can focus on what’s best for society instead of what benefits them. Additionally, Bitcoin allows the currency holders to have a say in monetary policy and ensure that any change is up to general consensus instead of those in power.
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” – James Madison, Federalist Paper No. 51
Many decades ago, Milton Friedman famously said, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Those words still hold true today. As shown below, no nation in history has ever maintained its global hegemony indefinitely (this is known as the Triffin Paradox61). As the global reserve currency, the US cannot maintain its reserve currency status, grow its manufacturing base, and preserve its sovereignty.
Rough Estimate of Relative Standing Great Empires Chart62
With the US directing all its energy and resources into protecting the petrodollar in order to maintain its reserve currency status, we inevitably see sacrifices when it comes to health care, infrastructure, and domestic manufacturing. In time, these sacrifices will end up being the demise of the US and its global hegemony. It will then become clear that its attacks on Bitcoin and other entities that infringed on the government’s ability to capitalize off its currency holders were just the US’ desperate final attempts to defend its global positioning.
However, until this day comes, Bitcoin will most likely continue to be seen as a threat by the US. Therefore, it does not matter that Bitcoin may be one of the most ingenious and economically productive inventions to date, or that it has an incredible ability to channel human ingenuity, transfer power and spur on the construction of a true decentralized free-market capitalist system. While the US holds its global hegemony, Bitcoin interferes with its ability to self-fund and push its inflationary narrative. Therefore, under the lens of the government, Bitcoin does not aid economic productivity and, just like Hussein and Gadhafi, will be tarnished by the people in power and be positioned as a threat to society. As an advocate for equality and an investor in Bitcoin, this attack on Bitcoin can be disheartening. However, we must keep in mind:
- a) The powers that be are incentivized to prevent the adoption of Bitcoin as it impacts their ability to self-fund and continue their inflationary narrative. However, they cannot maintain this hegemony indefinitely.
- b) Bitcoin paves the way for a new paradigm in monetary inclusion, equality and reduced financial oppression. It concurrently brings increased economic productivity, as it channels ingenuity and encourages innovation.
- c) Bitcoin is a monetary system governed by rules, not rulers63.
Considering these points, one can more easily look through the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) and advocate for a world of equality, where the population’s best interests are at heart, and where decision making is by consensus rather than power.
We should not let a fear of the US and its overbearing nature dictate our decision to demand global monetary equality. Instead, we should embrace it. Let this fear be the fuel that stokes the fire of change. Bitcoin is attempting to transfer many millennia of centralized power through currency to the people. Of course, there will be hurdles, and of course, there will be pushback, but that’s a small price to pay on the road towards freedom and equality.
Just like China, the Netherlands and the UK, which all succumb to the Triffin paradox, so too will the US. But as with any global change in reserve currency comes opportunity, which brings up the important question: who will pick up the mantle?
“I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” – Thomas Jefferson
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