How the Fed Fuels Unemployment
by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Testimony of Dr. Thomas DiLorenzo
Professor of Economics, Loyola University Maryland
Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
2128 Rayburn House Office Building
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I thank you for the opportunity to address the issue of today’s hearing: “Can Monetary Policy Really Create Jobs?” Since I am an academic economist, you will not be surprised to learn that I believe that the correct answer to this question is: “yes and no.” Monetary policy under the direction of the Federal Reserve has a history of creating and destroying jobs. The reason for this is that the Fed, like all other central banks, has always been a generator of boom-and-bust cycles in the economy. Why this is so is explained in three classic treatises in economics: Theory of Money and Credit by Ludwig von Mises, and two treatises by Nobel laureate economist F.A. Hayek: Monetary Theory and the Trade Cycle and Prices and Production. Hayek was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Science in 1974 for this work. I will summarize the essence of this theory of the business cycle as plainly as I can.
When the Fed expands the money supply excessively it not only is prone to creating price inflation, but it also sows the seeds of recession or depression by artificially lowering interest rates, which can ignite a false or unsustainable “boom” period. Lower interest rates induce people to consume more and save less. But increased savings and the subsequent business investment that it finances is what fuels economic growth and job creation.
Lowered interest rates and wider availability of credit caused by the Fed’s expansionary monetary policy causes businesses to invest more in (mostly long-term) capital projects (primarily real estate in the latest boom-and-bust cycle), and there is an accompanying expansion of employment in those industries. But since the lower interest rates are caused by the Fed’s expansion of the money supply and not an increase in savings by the public (i.e., by the free market), businesses that have invested in long-term capital projects eventually discover that there is not enough consumer demand to justify their investments. (The reduced savings in the past means consumer demand is weaker in the future). This is when the “bust” occurs.