Central Banks And Socialism Are Forever Linked Together

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It is well known that socialism is a shortage economy. It is the economy of inefficiency and corruption, of indifferent workers and of bigwigs, of lacking spare parts, of lacking funds, of failure, of permanent reform needs and of constantly unsuccessful reforms. This concerns in particular total socialism, as it was realized in the Soviet Union or under National Socialism. But it is no less evident in the numerous partial socialisms that are featured in the real existing welfare state, in its numerous state “systems.” Budget deficits year in, year out despite high contributions—that is the reality in the state pension system and in the state health system. The state education system is similar: declining student performance and growing illiteracy despite sky-rocketing expenditure. No private entrepreneur could afford to let the costs get out of hand in such a way. Anyone who is in competition has to keep improving. Only those who have a legal monopoly and can make use of taxpayers’ money if necessary do not need it.

Now there is one partial socialism that stands out from the usual array of failures. Here we see gains instead of losses. Here we often find all the other signs of a successfully run company, from the private legal form to the pinstripe-filled boardroom. We are talking about central banking. The term “central bank” actually refers quite clearly to a centrally planned economy. But when people talk about the Fed, the ECB or other central banks today, hardly anyone thinks that they are talking about an offspring of the socialist spirit. On the contrary, central banks are typically viewed as particularly “capitalist.” After all, what would be more capitalist than money? And what would be more closely related to money than a bank?

Upon closer inspection, however, it appears that this connotation may not be entirely correct. In the unbridled market economy, private property and competition prevail. Central banks, on the other hand, are usually state institutions. Even those central banks that are private-law organizations (as in the United States, Japan, and Switzerland) are subject to special laws and their directors are appointed by national governments. In addition, central banks always and everywhere enjoy a legal monopoly. Their banknotes and their deposit money are largely withdrawn from free competition. The market participants are compelled to use the money of the central banks.

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