Government prints money to pay debts - why bad

First off please do not answer this while using circular or self referential arguments. I will elaborate on my OP.

Let’s stipulate the government owes $1 trillion in debt. The government prints $1 trillion dollars and pays its debts.

You say that this can’t be done because the money supply gets diluted by $1 trillion dollars.

So what? The money we have is not backed by gold. The money we have is just a representation of worth. You pay me $1 for a candy bar in my store and I agree to accept a piece of paper for my candy bar. The only reason this works is that you and I both agree that the exchange is even.

So please explain why (as I’ve read elsewhere) that if the money supply is increased, all money is worth less. I would agree if the money was backed by something.

Every answer I get is circular.

It amounts to a tax on cash. My money is now worth less because the gov’t printed up an extra trillion.

BTW, Cecil addressed this (lightly)

There are only a certain fixed number of candy bars, and everything else in the country, at least on a short term basis. The governemnt prints $1 trillion and distributes it (unequally) by paying off debts. All of a sudden there is much more money chasing the same number of candy bars, and one of two things will happen - all the candy bars will be bought and eaten, or the prices will rise. Experience, such as Germany 1923, suggests that price rises willl be the more common experience. People who didn’t get any money, or people who have cash savings, are much worse off.

In fact even the people whom the government paid off are left feeling cheated - since their trillion dollars isn’t worth as much as they thought it would be. So the next time the government needs to borrow money, how willing will they be to lend it to them?

Again, this type of answer speaks of money being backed by something tangible; the paper standing in for a hunk of gold.

Our system has no such backing.

Let me put it another way. What damage occurs to the economy if magically $1million dollars were to be put into my bank account?

I didn’t take it from anybody. No one is shorted. I’m not likely to buy up the world’s supply of anything with $1 million. So what’s the big deal?

Now extrapolate to a $1 Trillion. No one entity is owed that much, the debt is spread around.

Why should prices rise because there’s more money in circulation?
The implication of that explanation is that the knowledge of that money being printed makes a difference.

Then the government could lie, say it took in more tax revenue that it really did, start paying it’s debts and no one’s the wiser.

So again I ask, what am I not seeing?

To elaborate a little on what Eleusis and zimaane have said, think of it this way:

Money’s value is not best determined by the ability to exchange it for a valuable metal like gold (although you can certainly do that), but by the ability to exchange it for goods and services.

Imagine you own a candy bar store (to keep with zimaane’s example). The government pays off all its debts by printing extra money, so now lots more customers can afford your candy bars. Noticing this, you realize that you can make more money by raising your prices, so you do. In fact, you also have to, because your chocolate supplier has noticed the same thing, and raised his prices, and your wrapper supplier has also noticed and raised her prices. The amount you raise your prices is going to be proportional to how much additional money is out there. The gov’t printed a lot of money, so you are trapped in runaway inflation, and any money that people have saved up is worthless; a bank account cannot keep up with the inflation, so savings are destroyed. Lots of damage has been done to economies that way.

Alternatively, think this way:
Lots of means it's really easy to get .
The easier it is to get , the less the is worth.

Have you ever played Monopoly with the “Free Parking” house rule (where the bank puts a $500 bill under FP and a player who lands there gets the money) ?

At the beginning of the game, money is fairly scarce and $500 is considered a lot to pay for a first row (purple or light blue) property. However, as the game progresses and more money is thrown into the game (because all the money the players pay in fines isn’t thrown back into the bank; but back to the players the next time a player lands on FP), the money itself becomes less valueable. Soon $500 bills are flying around the board and every player seems to have at least five or six. So, why should I listen to an offer of $500 for a measly $60 property? I’ve (and all the other players) have plenty of money.

Try playing Monopoly both with the FP rule for a few games and then according to the real rules without it for a few games, and you’ll see the difference.

Zev Steinhardt

$1 million is nothing compared to the size of the economy. It’s like asking what the effect of putting a drop of water into Lake Superior is.

Let’s assume that $1 trillion appears in your bank account.

There will be no ill effects on the economy as long as you do not spend the money. As long as it isn’t in the money supply, it won’t matter.

Once you spend that money, it enters into the chase for goods and services and drives prices up and drive the value of savings down, damaging the economy.

Money can be thought of like another commodity, and is subject to the laws of supply and demand. The more money there is lying around, the less demand there is for each unit of money.

If you suddenly had an extra $1 million (legitimately) in your bank account, wouldn’t you go out and spend it? (I know I would!)

Now imagine that 4 million people each have an extra $1 million (my WAG is that the total US debt is $4 trillion) They are going to start spending moeny. As soon as businesses start selling out of stuff, they are going to raise their prices. The government could try to keep things a secret, but that would only delay the inevitable price rises.

You don’t need to imagine that the money is based on gold for this scencario to happen. It doesn’t matter.

think of it this way. what if our money was gold backed and suddenly there was a bunch more gold?

one thing to remember is more money does not equil more wealth.

here is colum cecil did on what happened to the spanish gold that should answer your question. the gold the spanish had impoted from the new world prett much amounts to our goverment printing money.

The more there is of something, and the easier it is to get, the less people value individual specimens. Try selling jars of random dirt and rocks and see how far you get.

Gold on the other hand, is not all that easy to get, and is so useful for making electrical contacts and jewelry that its value tends to remain high.

Actually, it just occurred to me that this is not true.

Even if you don’t spend the money, the bank will use that money to make loans and for other ventures (this being how banks make a profit), so it will still enter the money supply and harm the economy.

This part I still stand by. If $1 trillion appeared in your basement instead of in your bank account, it would have no effect as long as you didn’t spend it.

As long as no one but you knew about it being there. If it was generally known, then people would likely start speculating-- ie, raising prices.

Okay this will sound pretty stupid, but… meh

If the US Govt prints more money and gives it to say Russia to pay a debt, the fabricated money isn’t in the US anymore; it never was in circulation or available to Americans - so how does it hurt them? Or will all that money evenutally come back in due to future trading and do it’s evil de-valueing work down the road??

Bingo! Right on the money (to pardon the pun).

Zev Steinhardt

Would an extreme example make the logic clearer?

Imagine everyone had a trillion dollars.
Imagine someone trying to buy something for $5.99.
Imagine laughing.

Of course, there the money was distributed equally. But much the same thing would happen if only half of people got that money - say people the US owes debts to.

Stop thinking of prices as a number of dollars or pounds or marks, and rather as a percentage of the available buying power.

If the government cheats and simply starts running the Benjamin machine all night to create $1 trillion out of nothing, then the prices will rise to be roughly the same percentages of the new available buying power.

The really bad thing about this is that it punishes people who have savings. In Germany in the 20s, what you had was older people who were made essentially penniless, because their savings became an incredibly small percentage of the total available money, and their pensions were fixed at a number of marks a month, and that number also became a very small percentage of the available money.

A family friend visited from Brazil during their awful inflation. He said what you did was run out on payday and buy durable goods right then, because holding on to cash was equivalent to throwing part of down the sewer.

He also said that it screwed up the economy in other ways. New cars were in such short supply that people came up to him and offered him more than the new price, just standing in the street.

OP here.

wevets’ statement:
Money can be thought of like another commodity, and is subject to the laws of supply and demand. The more money there is lying around, the less demand there is for each unit of money.

This is exactly the arguement that I disgree with; I see money as standing outside of the system; just a chit system, not with any value in and of itself. You exchange it for goods and services.

It’s like saying I own $1 million of worth and the only way I can exchange any of it is thru this paper stuff floating around.

Why should the existance of more currency in circulation mean anything to me. All I should care about is who controls it.

EVERYTHING is essentially an auction. If an item won’t sell at $20, it will go on sale at $15, and then $10, and whatever it has to so that it will move.

More money in people’s hands means that the high prices not only stay high, but get higher, as the $20 items move instantly, and the store realizes that they would make more by charging $30, even if it takes five days to move the stock instead of one day.
Please read all the stuff people have said above. It’s really not that hard. Either you’re trying to be difficult, or there’s something in your question that we’re not addressing. Please try to find the crux of your argument with what we have said and state it clearly.

Well, money obtains a value “in and of itself” by being the “chit” that can be exchanged for goods and services.

You can print up a million BwanaBob chits and try to trade them for goods and services. The businesses will value them fairly for what they can get in exchange: i.e. nothing.

Your personal chit is worth nothing. The US government chit IS worth something, in that you can trade it for goods and services.