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Throughout most of history, money has been a measure of value. Everything sold had value to the buyer, and thus Gross National Product was a decent measure of how much we're getting out the
world. Thus anybody spending money was good because
there must have been an associated buyer and thus some value.
Before August 15, 1971, this held true for
governments as much as anyone, because that money was ultimately
redeemable for something physical ($35 was supposed to get you
one troy ounce of gold). Thus, supply is theoretically finite,
as there is a link to the physical world, which has important
First of all, the immediate connection between fiscal policy and the real world was severed not just for America, but most the rest of the world as well, since the dollar functions as the global reserve currency. This is somewhat analogous to a household switching from cash to credit card for managing finances - the government, and by extension the whole economy, gains the ability to use future revenues in the present. Using a credit card to pay for everything can actually be beneficial, if you still manage your finances prudently. By and large, however, Congress has done nothing the sort for the past 40 years.
The more important consequence, however, is
that, unlike with a credit card, money supply for governments is
theoretically infinite. Does this mean money has no value? Of
course not! If you disagree, go out and see if you have any
trouble giving away your dollars. So where does the value come
from? Money's value comes from people's willingness to accept
it for things they want. So no problem, we all accept dollars,
Well, not really; the catch is in how many dollars we accept for any given thing. After all, how does a government manage to pay for anything? Sovereigns have always been able to mint, and later print, money because of their ability to collect taxes by punishing those who defy the sovereign's will, a.k.a. the law. All throughout history, money has been either made of, or was redeemable for, something people actually wanted. It still is: the freedom to live as you please.
When we let Nixon sever that last link between money and the physical world, we went from a physically accountable, asset-based economy, to a credit-based economy whose only accountability is in how much the holders of the currency will stand for. That is to say, we went from a civilized world where we settle most of our differences based on the transfer of real world items, to a world where value is based more directly on one party's ability to impose its will on the counter-party.
There may be ways mitigate some of the problems inherent in fiat currency. Keeping a balanced budget is one part of the puzzle. Regardless, though, in a debt-based economy inflation is a fact of life, which makes cash a sort of hidden tax and investing excess funds almost mandatory. That is just one factor that has changed the fundamental nature of markets in recent decades. My subscription service combines real-time distribution of old-school fundamental analysis with an experienced understanding of modern markets to help individual investors at least stay of ahead of inflation as well as the new breeds of more aggressive and sometimes harmful institutional investors.