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The Fed has no idea what it's doing

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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

(Read caption) U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke mingles with attendees before speaking at a conference on systemic risk, at the Federal Reserve in Washington. The author argues that intervention by the Federal Reserve is only making things worse.

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In 2008, the Mises Institute printed a shirt with the words “Stabilization Is Chaos..” Yes, it’s pretty obscure but the point is that government attempts to stop market functioning in a downturn — deleveraging, bankruptcy, asset re-pricing, labor shifts — will eventually lead to more and more confusion and misallocation that we would otherwise have seen in a pure market setting.

Three years later, this is precisely what we are seeing. Traders are confused. Investors are fearful. Savers can’t find a safe home for their money. The more the government and the Fed intervene with their magic and but essentially stupid activities, the more they send the signal: we have no idea what we are doing.

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So it is with the Fed’s latest trick. It will shift $400 billion from short-term to longer-term securities. The idea is to flatten the yield curve, as if time means nothing, as if the yield curve is a fiction that is easily mashed up by the central planners. The curve responded in the same way that a body on a medieval rack eventually does indeed stretch. Traders bailed and continue to bail. The notion of a double dip is more in the air than ever.

Most commentators are clueless about the intellectual basis of the Fed’s action. If ridiculously low rates haven’t done a thing to inspire recovery yet, what possible basis is there for believing that expanding the policy out in time is going to make any difference at all? This is the question that the Fed has not answered, and for one reason only: the planners can’t bring themselves to admit that their policies are destructive. Lower rates is pretty much the only power they have. If that power produces not stability but chaos, what is the reason for their existence?

They are like fake physicians who believe that hammering people’s legs make them run faster. When that doesn’t work, they hammer their heads too. When that doesn’t work, they blame Greece.

The intellectual bankruptcy of the Fed and the entire planning apparatus has been on display as never before. Their policies are directly responsible for the current plight, which would have ended some two years ago if they had attempted to fix what they cannot fix.

Austrians are of two minds. It is sweet justice to see the planning mentality be so discredited so openly. On the other hand, the wellspring of prosperity for the world is being systematically demolished by unteachable and unreachable fools with the power to do whatever they want to the rest of us.