Wednesday, 8 October 2014

PAUL WARBURG, ADDRESSING THE PAN AMERICAN FINANCIAL CONFERENCE IN 1915




On May 25th 1915, Paul M. Warburg, member of the Federal Reserve Board, delivered the following address before the Pan American Financial Conference, at Washington, D. C, on May 25, 1915.  I find this speech illuminating.  The Federal Reserve had just started operations in the United States and Europe was well into the first year of World War I.  Paul Warburg after analyzing the then current “fatal conditions” presents his plan on how “a truly American banking system” can dominate the western hemisphere.  The speech makes you wonder whether we have ever lived in free-market democracies.





by what means may we hope to prevent, in the future, the recurrence of such fatal conditions?
Our sufferings originated in disturbances of three kinds—of shipping, of trade, and of credit. These three phases of our economic life are so closely interrelated that a breakdown of one immediately affects the other. A collapse of credit must interrupt trade, and therefore shipping. On the other hand, disruption of shipping and trade necessarily disorganizes credit, crippling, as it does, the banking machinery which rests on the fulfillment of contracts, remittances, and payments based on commercial transactions. ”
“… had the United States enacted and put into operation three years ago its Federal Reserve System not only could our country have weathered the storm without such far-reaching disturbances but we should have been in position to save our American sister Republics much loss and inconvenience.”
“…When the war began England occupied a most advantageous strategic financial position. She had been acting as the banker of the entire world, particularly by her system of acceptance credits, thus financing a vast majority of transactions involving the importation and exportation of goods between nations.
“… when the war broke out all countries were suddenly called upon to pay their debts and to finance their trade from that time forward wherever they could do it to their best advantage. The consequence of this situation was that England found herself in the position of a creditor calling upon the entire world for the payment of debts due at a time when shipping and trade were disorganized.”
This situation might have been avoided if “immediately upon the beginning of the disturbance, she [England] had been adequately prepared to issue without hesitation an ample supply of emergency currency.”

we [American nations] should several years ago have reorganized our financial system so as to keep our gold under our own effective control and so as to enable us to finance with our own resources our import and export transactions. We should, furthermore, have avoided borrowing abroad when we could have financed our requirements at home, even though foreign aid was had at a slight advantage in rate.”

The chief lesson which all American nations will have to learn from last years’ experience is that it is unwise for the world to place its financial dependence upon any single nation; and that those who can afford to do so, as, for instance, the United States, should from this time on adopt a policy of greater reliance upon their own resources. Those countries which cannot rely exclusively upon their own resources should adopt a policy of dividing the risks of financial dependence as evenly and widely as they possibly can.

Financial dependence expresses itself in two ways— first, in the short-term credit granted to individuals, and, second, in the long-term and corporate credit, particularly that granted to Governments.

Dealing first with the problem of individual credits, the United States may be profoundly grateful that just at this time its new banking system has been established.  The day of the opening of our Federal Reserve banks will mark the advent of our financial independence. [from the British domination] We are now able to finance our own imports and exports by the use of American acceptances.  More than that, we are in a position to finance the trade of other nations and to play in this respect the part of an international banker that has heretofore been played almost exclusively by England. 
Did he actually want for the American continent to develop in tandem with Britain or did he actually want to undermine the British position?  Given that his brother Max Warburg was a powerful agent in Germany and a shareholder of the Reichsbank, is it not reasonable to assume an alliance of US and German financial interests during the first World War?  Why did the US entered the War in 1917 and under what conditions? 
Warburg had no doubt about the future world economic order and America’s place in it.

While it is true that Germany and France during the past generation have begun to finance a large portion of their own trade by acceptances of their own banks, the bulk of the business has heretofore been handled by England. There is no doubt that upon the establishment of peace there will be a tendency on the part of many nations to emancipate themselves in this respect, and, we may add, with profound conviction, that it is precisely in this field that the United States will be destined to play a most important role.
He then goes on outlining his plan on how the Americas will achieve economic and financial independence.

First, by the readiness of our banks and bankers to enter this new field in a spirit of liberality and patriotism. … import and export transactions touching this country should in the future be financed by ourselves.
Paul Warburg calls for the enlargement of the powers of the Federal Reserve Banks and he envisions the transformation of the role of the FED into a peripheral central bank for the American continent.  The enlargement of the FED powers requires for Warburg the further centralization of the gold reserves into the hands of the Federal Reserve and the substitution of gold and gold certificates by Federal Reserve notes. 

Federal reserve act gives ample powers for the development of this business, even though these powers may have to be still further enlarged” by the acceptance of “discount of bills arising out of transactions based upon the "importation or exportation" of goods” and “that these transactions may also cover shipments between foreign countries. We shall be in position, therefore, to serve as bankers for our American sister Republics, not only in their trade with us, but even in their trade with others.”
 the American continents ought to be so organized as to form a distinct and independent unit in times of emergency—a union whose transportation and credit systems will remain unbroken, even though all Europe should go to war. An American union of this kind will prove of the greatest economic advantage for all nations concerned. If such a union be thought desirable, it must, however, be forged and riveted every day of the year. If it is to stand the test of time and stress, it must be a structure of gradual growth, carefully planned and consistently developed, and built upon a safe foundation”
The United States has a gold stock amounting to the phenomenal sum of about $1,890,000,000, of which so far only $300,000,000 in round figures have been concentrated in the Federal reserve banks. The Federal Reserve banks need only continue the process just begun of substituting Federal Reserve notes for the gold and gold certificates now in circulation in order to gain control of a vast additional financial power which now lies idle.  We may confidently expect, therefore, to find ample means to handle this business by the simple process of perfecting our organization and assembling our idle gold.” 
Wouldn’t it be true to say that the centralization of the monetary medium of exchange reduces the degree of freedom and independence of the economic agents?  Isn’t it true today that since gold has been substituted by fiat currency that is credited into existence through loans given by the commercial banks, the concentration of the banking sector reduces even further the freedom of economic agents?  How do you plan for an economic union?  Is it not that an economic or political Union is a matter of democratic decision making?  Or is it that future decisions have to be intelligently designed?  Years later his nephew Siegmund Warburg would be one of the main advocates of the same vision for the European continent.

The success of Paul Warburg’s plans depends not only upon the transformation of the credit market through the acceptance of bills in the US but central to his plan are also

discount rates that compare favorably with those of competing nations.
 This is economic and financial nationalism at its best.  It is as if nations compete for discount rates contrary to the belief that economic agents compete for markets in a free world.  For Warburg when peace comes

it will then be one of the functions of the Federal reserve banks to assist in the establishment of discount rates for these acceptances low enough to render them effective in securing business. 
Again one would have thought that according to established wisdom the discount rate or the interest rate is settled by supply and demand conditions in the money markets, yet the globalist Paul Warburg sees it as a means of “securing business” thereby creating a competitive advantage to those who have access to low discount rates. Is that the idea of a free market?

In addition and in order to lock the banks into the discounting operations of bills banks “must be assured of the rate at which [the] bill will be discounted when it reaches our country” and Federal Reserve Banks “by adopting a liberal policy in quoting … forward discount rates” are ready to give the “greatest possible assistance.”  American banks had already started to set up branches in foreign countries enabling “the development of better knowledge and understanding of local conditions and problems and the greater intimacy necessary for the development of cordial and mutually satisfactory business relations” with a view however of “facilitating the growth of a truly American banking system ramifying throughout our entire hemisphere ” !!!!!

So far Warburg’s plan was half complete as it was focused on dealing “with the problem of individual credits” but the principles

“should also apply to corporate and Government financing. It is a source of weakness when a nation depends too largely on one single or several closely interrelated foreign markets, no matter how attractive may be the terms upon which its obligations may be placed there.”
Because of the war on Europe “the United States will not only have to rely largely upon its own resources for its internal development but that we shall be called upon to provide means for absorbing the securities previously placed in Europe but now returning to us.”  Paul Warburg was very conscious of the fact that “in order to create a broad market for bonds of foreign nations it is not sufficient that our bankers alone be familiar with these countries. The prerequisite is “confidence and a sympathetic understanding concerning the borrowing country's condition.”   Again many years later Siegmund Warburg was the visionary financier to whom the creation of the vast Eurobond market is credited.

What do I draw as a conclusion out of Paul Warburg’s address?  We do not live in democracies and we probably never had in modern times.  We have surrendered our freedom to unaccountable institutions.  The so called markets are not free at all.  We live in intelligently designed oligarchic dictatorships.  Our current economic and political system system is not a free market democracy, we live in a money and banking monarchy, in a nomismarchy.


Source:

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.). [(1915, July)]. Federal Reserve Bulletin. Retrieved July 20, 2014, from FRASER: http://fraser.stlouisfed.org/publication/?pid=62