The Tragic Consequences of Quantity Theory

by Jeffrey P. Snider
Alhambra Partners

On July 21, 2009, then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke wrote an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal seeking to allay any fears over balance sheet expansion. This was all relatively new, and at that time the recovery seemed a good bet and appeared to be underway in many places. Bernanke’s goal was to soothe any fears that “inflation” would get out of control because of the FOMC’s actions in QE1 and other expansionary programs.

But as the economy recovers, banks should find more opportunities to lend out their reserves. That would produce faster growth in broad money (for example, M1 or M2) and easier credit conditions, which could ultimately result in inflationary pressures—unless we adopt countervailing policy measures. When the time comes to tighten monetary policy, we must either eliminate these large reserve balances or, if they remain, neutralize any potential undesired effects on the economy.

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