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The Humphrey-Hawkins testimony

- den 16 februari 2000

Texas Congressman Dr. Ron Paul:
- We have concentrated here a lot today on prices, and you talk a lot about the price of labor, labor costs. And yet that is not the inflation according to sound money economics. The concern a sound money economist has is for the supply of money. If you increase the supply of money, you have inflation.
    Just because you are able to maintain a price level, (a) certain level that because of technology or for whatever, this should not be reassurance because we still could have our malinvestment, we can still have our excessive debt and borrowing. And it might contribute even to the margin debt and these various things.
    So I think we should concentrate, especially since we’re dealing with monetary policy, more on monetary policy and what we’re doing with the money. It was suggested here that maybe you’re running a policy that’s too tight. Well, that – I’d have to take exception to that, because it’s been far from tight. I think that we have had a tremendous growth in money. The last three months of last year might be historic highs for the increase of Federal Reserve credit. In the last three months the Federal Reserve credit was increasing at a rate of 74%. It is true, a lot of that has been withdrawn already. But this credit that was created at the time also influenced M3, and M3 during that period of time grew significantly, not quite as fast as the credit itself. But M3 was rising at a 17% rate.
    Now, since that time, of course, a lot of the credit has been withdrawn, but I have not seen any significant decrease in M3. And I wanted to just refer to this chart that the Federal Reserve prepared on M3 for the past three years. And it sets the targets. And for three years you’ve never been once in the target range.
    You know, if I set my targets and I perform like that as a physician, my patient would die. I mean, this would be big trouble in medicine. But here it doesn’t seem to bother anybody. And if you extrapolate and looked at the targets set in 1997 and carried that set of targets all the way out, you only missed M3 by $690 billion. I mean, that’s just a small amount of extra money that came into circulation. But I think it’s harmful. I know Wall Street likes it, and the economy likes it when the bubble’s getting bigger. But my concern is, what’s going to happen when this bursts? And I think it will unless you can reassure me.
    But the one specific question I have is will M3 shrink? Is that a goal of yours, to shrink M3? Or is it only to withdraw some of that credit that you injected for the non-crisis of Y2K?

Mr. Greenspan:
- Let me suggest to you that the monetary aggregates as we measure them are getting increasingly complex and difficult to integrate into a set of forecasts. The problem that we have is not that money is unimportant, but how we define it.
    By definition, all prices are indeed the "ratio of an exchange of a good for money." And what we seek is what that is. Our problem is we used M-1 at one point as the proxy of money, and it turned out to be a very difficult indicator of any financial state. We then went to M-2 and had the similar problem. We have never done M-3 per se because it largely reflects the extent of expansion of the banking industry. And when in effect banks expand, in and of itself, it doesn’t tell you terribly much about what the real money is.
    So our problem is not that we do not believe in sound money. We do. We very much believe that, if you have a debased currency, that you will have a debased economy. The difficulty is in defining what part of our liquidity structure is truly money. We have had trouble ferreting out proxies for that for a number of years. And the standard we employed is whether it gives us a good forward indicator of the direction of finance and the economy.
    Regrettably, none of those which have been able to develop, including MZM – has not done that. That does not mean that we think that money is irrelevant. It means that we think our measures of money have been inadequate. And, as a consequence of that, we, as I have mentioned previously, have downgraded the use of the monetary aggregates for monetary policy purposes, until we are able to find a more stable proxy for what we believe is the underlying money in the economy.

Dr. Ron Paul:
- So it’s hard to manage something you can’t define?

Mr. Greenspan:
- It is not possible to manage something you can’t define.


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