Friday, May 21, 2010

O'Grady on Greece and Venezuela

The WSJ has a good article by Mary O'Grady on the state of monetary mayhem created in Venezuela by its Bolivarian leader, Hugo Chavez:

Critics of the euro seem to think the Greek tragedy vindicates their view that each country should have its own currency and monetary policy. But that wouldn't solve a thing. Let's face it: If Greece weren't today's Argentina, it would be Venezuela. In that country, which has sovereign money—the bolivar—and no monetary rule to prohibit the central bank from financing the government, inflation is now spinning out of control. ...

The lesson here is that without political will, fiat money in any form—be it in a monetary union, anchored to a reserve currency or run by the sovereign—is unreliable. As Messrs. Steil and Hinds note, "money untethered to a commodity gives rise to inflation when managed by corrupt, irresponsible or incompetent rulers," thereby covering Greece, Argentina and Venezuela in one breath.

Harkening back to the wisdom of a 15th century Spanish canon lawyer, the authors capture today's fiat currency problem: "The ruler's power to create value from the valueless by designating it 'money' was bound to lead to inflation."

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