Politics & Policy

Dollar Suicide

We're doing it to ourselves.

It wasn’t Colonel Mustard in the library with the candelabra. And contrary to recent press reports, it wasn’t Prince Alwaleed in the desert with a cartel. It was, in fact, Dr. Bernanke in the temple with the printing press. And since Dr. Bernanke is, in effect, the dollar incarnate — the walking embodiment of the soundness of our currency — if the dollar does die, it will not have been murder. It will have been suicide.

Funeral services are already being held for the dollar, and to be fair, they are a bit premature. The dollar is not dead yet. It hasn’t even reached the point of no return. Today it’s in the ICU, and if the bleeding is staunched, it will pop right out of bed and begin traveling the world as it has in the past — bearing heavy burdens, storing value, and moving with great velocity into every nook and cranny of our lives.

The problem is the bleeding. Our government’s excessive spending depends on a world that accepts our rivers of red ink. If and when the world does not, our central bank becomes the lender of last resort to our own government. And that means gushers of new money supply.

We’ve added roughly $1 trillion to the banking system across the financial crisis. And dollars are just like works of art: The more copies there are relative to demand, the less each one is worth. As with Monet, so with money — only Monet has remained scarce and valuable. As the U.S. money stock has continued to explode, the exchange value of the dollar has tumbled.

I’ve heard that the difference between a genuine suicide attempt and a “suicidal gesture” is in the cutting. If a man slashes deep into his wrists, he really means it, and if he merely scratches the surface, he’s only crying out for help. In the case of Dr. Bernanke, the dollar incarnate, we might be witnessing yet another shade of suicide, the kind where the blade goes deep, but there’s no recognition of the damage being done. Call it an absent-minded suicide, and call it lethal.

– Jerry Bowyer is an economist, CNBC contributor, and author of the upcoming Free Market Capitalist’s Survival Guide

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