Jul

18

When newly Great Britain was saved from its war debts by Henry Pelham and his brother, the cost to be paid was simple: the markets and not the Bank of England would determine the rates of exchange between foreign and domestic money and the price of borrowing - i.e. the interest rate. A note from the Bank of England and other banks of issue would be measured against specie; and no bank could risk having its paper being priced at any discount. (Given the convenience of paper, notes normally enjoyed a slight premium over gold and silver coin.)

The debt - sold to finance the Churchill family adventures in the Lowlands - would have no maturity but would be what Alexander Hamilton wanted our Federal debt to be - a permanently sound fund where people could park their wealth when they were not using the cash for speculation. Its price would determined by how much people wanted to spend cash instead of sitting on it. When times were dull or worse, the interest rate would fall because people had no better place for their cash. When interest rates were "high", it would be a sign of how much people wanted to speculate, not a measure of how fearful they were that the Crown would default. (A decade earlier, when Bonnie Prince Charlie's men had come as far South as Derby, the first "Black Friday" in the history of English-speaking finance, the quote of 3% debt had fallen below 50.)

The world may have given up on what the Pelhams considered to be the only effective restraint of government spending - the requirement that the Bank of England and everyone else's notes be redeemable in coin at par. But we do seem to be back in their world of consolidated finance as far as interest rates on government debt are concerned and our betters will no longer have to worry about what those pesky speculators think.

July 14 – Bloomberg (Toru Fujioka and Keiko Ujikane):

Etsuro Honda, who has emerged as a matchmaker for Abe in corralling foreign economic experts to offer policy guidance, said that during an hour-long discussion with Bernanke in April the former Federal Reserve chief warned there was a risk Japan at any time could return to deflation. He noted that helicopter money — in which the government issues non-marketable perpetual bonds with no maturity date and the Bank of Japan directly buys them — could work as the strongest tool to overcome deflation, according to Honda.


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