30 Jun 2021

Beyond the Fed: Shadow Banking and the Global Market for Dollars

All Posts 23 Comments

The final chapter from my book for Mises…

23 Responses to “Beyond the Fed: Shadow Banking and the Global Market for Dollars”

  1. Major_Freedom says:


    Gödel’s work may be the missing link between Ludwig von Mises’ method of economics: praxeology, and the wider philosophy of all formal systems: logic of arithmetic.

    When Hans-Hermann Hoppe stated that Mises’ method of praxeology is an underappreciated ‘bridge’ between the so called inside world, of ideas, ideology, spirit, etc, and the so called external world, of objects, means, scarcity, etc, it is possible Hoppe noticed unconsciously the presence of a ‘strange loop’, a self-referential recursive ‘language’ embedded in all formal systems, including both praxeology and logical positivism.

    “If as the logical positivists’ fundamental proposition is that ALL meaningful coherent ‘scientific’ statements are either analytic or empirical is true….THEN WHAT KIND OF STATEMENT IS THIS? It must itself be either analytical and thus merely definitional, or it must be empirical and thus merely” – Hoppe (I took poetic license here and paraphrased what Hoppe did say during that lecture, it’s not exact word for word, but I think still accurately conveys the argument Hoppe was making).

    From “Economic Science and the Austrian Method”:

    “I would like to challenge the very starting point of the
    empiricists’ philosophy. There are several conclusive refutations
    of empiricism. I will show the empiricist distinction
    between empirical and analytical knowledge to be plainly false
    and self-contradictory. That will then lead us to developing
    the Austrian position on theory, history, and forecasting.
    This is empiricism’s central claim: Empirical knowledge
    must be verifiable or falsifiable by experience; and analytical
    knowledge, which is not so verifiable or falsifiable, thus
    cannot contain any empirical knowledge. If this is true, then
    it is fair to ask: What then is the status of this fundamental
    statement of empiricism? Evidently it must be either analytical
    or empirical.”

    I love that lecture on the Austrian Method that Hoppe gave all those years ago.

    I think ‘self-referential’ philosophical techniques is itself the ‘bridge’ between analysis of Praxeology and analysis of all formal arithmetical systems.

    Gödel’s work on the logic of mathematics is I think a GREAT way for Austrian Method of Praxeology to unite with Mathematical Systems.

    And I don’t mean that to imply viewing people as numbers, only that the self-reflective logic embedded in the method of praxeology seems to have a very close analogue in the self-referential techniques that Gödel used to prove that ALL formal mathematical systems, if they are consistent (meaning the axioms and rules of inference of the system cannot output contradictory statements P and not P), Gödel proved using the language that arises out of the systems themselves that they are all NECESSARILY INCOMPLETE.

    That should be a mic drop way for every Austrian economist on the planet because there is a mathematical proof that proves Praxeology’s self-referential ‘critique’ of econometrics IS VALID MATHEMATICALLY. No matter how complex and ‘mathematical’ a system of ‘econometrics’ gets, it will ALWAYS be incomplete and be unable to prove true statements in its own language, that we as human subjects can experience as true and know as true from the perspective of looking ‘outside’ those systems…human consciousness is itself self-reflective and capable of ‘transcending’ any finite ‘axioms plus rules of inference’ formal systems, like ‘econometrics’.

    Dr. Murphy, I think Gödel’s work is where Austrian economics MUST go next. Gödel’s work is entirely logical deductive, just like Praxeology. For a self-reflective being like us to be able to notice that all sufficiently rich formal systems, even if they are constructed according to explicit axioms and explicit rules of inference, that out of such systems there will always be implicit and not stated ‘self-referential’ language of the systems talking about themselves, made possible by the presence of self-referential observers analyzing such formal systems, talk about the bridge of all bridges.

    Praxeology exposed formal ‘econometric’ systems like logical positivism as either consistent and therefore incomplete (can’t fully explain human actions), or complete and inconsistent (internally contradictory), in almost the exact same way Gödel exposed Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica as necessarily either consistent and incomplete, or complete and inconsistent.

    I say Auburn should start canvassing for logicians from mathematics departments. This can bring praxeology to the mainstream, using mathematical proofs to prove praxeology’s self-referential techniques of critiques of econometrics are TRUE.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Thanks MF. You know about this episode right?

      • Major_Freedom says:

        I do now, thanks!

      • Major_Freedom says:

        The idea to assign a unique natural number (using an infinite supply of prime numbers) to every character, string, axiom and theorem in a formal system, which then reveals statements of the formal system talking about itself, whew, mind blowing indeed.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          I know!

        • Bob Murphy says:

          btw MF if you don’t mind me asking, how’s it going? Are you a Calvinist yet? 🙂

          • Major_Freedom says:

            I’m doing well thanks, hope you are too.

            Re: Calvanism. I was raised Christian Reformed, work ethic was main driver growing up, so in a way you can say Calvanism was a big influence in who I became. I’m about your age.

            I’m no longer ‘tolerant’ of ‘militant atheism’ narrative, to me it’s all information now, and nobody is above another. I think some information no matter how we receive it and no matter how we act on it, can impact how we think and what we ‘see’ around us.

            Another Godel inspired insight: When I hear or read any statement or theorem derived from a formal system that is built on a logic that divides humanity by race, religion, sex, class, or political affiliation (free markets do not divide because it is ‘open to all’), especially Marxism, I see them as ‘inconsistent’ systems, e.g. capitalists ‘cannot help but think this’ whereas proletariats ‘cannot help but think that’.

            If a formal system presents itself as an explanation of ALL human history as it really is, e.g Marxism, yet openly asserts an inconsistent set of axioms and rules of inference (e.g. some people are meant to think and then write or say ‘P’, while other people are meant to think and then write or say ‘not P’ in the system), then I can have ‘genius level’ sourced mathematical certainty that such a system is as flawed as a mathematical system that outputs both 1+1=2 and 1+1=3.

            Another thing I remember Hoppe mentioning in a lecture is how Kant came close to linking actions with counting. If Godel revealed ‘language of languages’ using only natural numbers (countable), then maybe Austrians can be both super ‘humble’ in knowing that new deduced theorems in a consistent framework will always be incomplete (e.g. can’t know beforehand one’s own knowledge before it is learned, like nominal demand for sugar one year from now), but can be super ‘arrogant’ in knowing when a set of axioms and rules of inference do lead to consistent outputs, e.g. ‘quantity theory of money’, ‘law of marginal utility’.

            And, nobody could falsely accuse Austrians of not practising what they preach, because Austrians can acknowledge praxeology as a formal axiomatic system that cannot be ‘complete’ if consistent, and if consistent could not prove its own consistency. Every ‘formal system’, including all variants of Keynesianism, Marxism, Monetarism, since they all assert themselves as ‘complete’ explanations of economic history, oopsy then they’re all inconsistent 😊

            Career going well, focusing on that these past years, and family.

            • random person says:

              My impression of Marx’s Das Kapital is that it does not assert itself as a formal, complete system, any more than Machiavelli’s the Prince. Observations are made of the world as the Marx (in the case of Das Kapital) and Machiavelli (in the case of the Prince) sees said world, but these observations are not presented as axiomatic and applicable to any time or place in history. There are certain repeating trends, but a trend is not an axiom.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Marx’s entire program was, according to Marx himself, an ‘inversion’ of Hegel’s philosophy of ‘Geist’. Marx ‘turned Hegel’s philosophy on its head.’

                Hegel’s philosophy was a complete vision of the entire universe, seen as a ‘history’ of Geist experiencing an externalized form of ‘self’. It could be viewed as perhaps the biggest attempt at a ‘complete’ philosophy up to that point.

                Marx’s system comes with many axioms, such as ‘all of human history is class conflict’ (that’s not derived from observation, easy to see this, by just knowing that there is no class conflict between a person who pays a fixed income in exchange for labor, and a person who pays their labor in exchange for a fixed income, i.e. ‘wages’, but Marx says it is a conflict as an axiom which shaped his perception), and that socialism is the final inevitable ‘stage’ that will arrive as an ‘inexorability of a law of nature’, and that ‘profit is a deduction from wages’. There are many more that are not derived from observation.

                It comes with rules of inference as well, e.g. ‘wage labor is exploitation’ (follows from the axiom that wages are primary and that profit is a deduction of wages).

                Robert Tucker quoted Marx extensively in ‘Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx’ to show that Marx arrived at his system philosophically, which is equivalent to formalizing a system with axioms and rules of inference.

                Marx’s view that human development ‘must’ go through labelable stages, despotism, feudalism, capitalism, communism, this view is presented axiomatically. It is that and nothing else. Marx explained that humans must necessarily be in class conflict unless there is communism.

                I think to ‘invert’ a complete philosophy like Hegel’s, it is impossible to have anything other than another complete description of human life.

                The impression I get is that if there is any system of thought structured as ‘complete’, Marxism is not only a textbook example, but one of the easiest to describe as a formal system.

                Funny to notice that Marx purposefully described his system as inconsistent (human development necessarily has ‘contradictions’ until/unless communism) and as a complete description of human history (‘history’ is supposed to finally end with communism).

                Of that’s not a self-professed complete system I don’t know what is 😊

              • random person says:

                Marx didn’t start with the axiom, that, for example, “wage labor is exploitation” and proceed to make logical deductions based on that axiom, which is what we’d expect to see if he really did take it as an axiom.

                Rather, Marx observed that, so far as he could tell, every instance in which wage labor came into existence was preceded by the violent expropriation of the peasant from the land, and a great deal of violence to persuade them to accept wage labor. The conclusion he drew was an observational rule, in so far as, it was the general rule within the limits of his observation, not an axiom from which one can make logical deductions as in mathematics.

                For example, Marx goes into this topic in some detail in Das Kapital, Volume 1, Chapter 28. Here, he discusses a historical example where, after being forcibly expropriated from the land, former peasants now turned into so-called “vagabonds” (which included beggars requesting voluntary charity) were punished most harshly for refusing to accept wage labor, including whipping, imprisonment, slicing off of ears, branding, the death penalty, and ensl*vement.


                Marx’s observations on 15th century England bear a remarkable similarity to my observations of the Belgian Congo.

                In the Belgian Congo, the primary tool used to force the Congolese to accept wage labor was the “head tax”. Simply put, the colonial government demanded European money tax from people who had no European money. They were therefore given a choice between signing a contract for a job with which to acquire money to pay the tax and prison. (Both the job and the prison were forced labor, with some exceptions: in some cases the prison was effectively a death sentence.) (Also note that there were some variations on the types of forced labor demanded.) The contracts, that people were forced to sign on threat of prison, would often be enforced by the chicotte, a type of whip. Wages were sometimes so low, that deliveries of food had to be made to the forced laborers by family / tribe members to save them from starvation.

                (Further details on this system of forced wage labor can be found in Forced Labor in the Gold and Copper Mines, by Jules Marchal, and Lord Leverhulme’s Ghosts, by Jules Marchal, and I can provide you some specific quotes if you like.)

                As a more abstract example, I might observe, that, so far as I can tell, waterfalls always flow from top to bottom. In so far as this is true within the limits of my observation, I can state it as a general rule: Waterfalls flow from top to bottom.

                However, there is camera evidence that my observation does not rise to the level of an axiom: a waterfall has been caught flowing from bottom to top in Leitrim, Ireland.

                www [dot] ndtv [dot] com/offbeat/waterfall-flows-upwards-in-remarkable-natural-phenomenon-1254696#:~:text=A%20remarkable%20video%20has%20emerged,back%20up%20into%20the%20air.

                It is still reasonable to state that, as a general rule, waterfalls flow from top to bottom. Observationally speaking, this seems to be true almost all of the time, often enough that one might be forgiven for mistakenly adding the term “always”.

              • guest says:

                “However, there is camera evidence that my observation does not rise to the level of an axiom …”

                That’s the wind doing that. It’s called an updraft.

                Water still always falls from top to bottom.

                Here’s an updraft at the Hoover Dam:

                Floating Water at Hoover Dam – Water Defies Gravity – Water Bottle Experiment

                “Rather, Marx observed that, so far as he could tell, every instance in which wage labor came into existence was preceded by the violent expropriation of the peasant from the land …”

                So, socialists make no effort to do thought experiments on the nature of wage-labor, itself?

                They don’t ask what wage-labor would look like if property was *not* stolen?

                An awful lot of people have been murdered in the name of socialism for socialists to be this careless.

              • random person says:

                I was in the process of drafting a long reply to Guest’s above comment, but given that, in a related discussion, Guest deliberately strawmanned me by replacing one of my nuances with “…”, after I had already pointed out to him that his lack of reading had resulted in him strawmanning me before, I no longer see the point in finishing or publishing that reply, just so that he can again replace my nuances with “…” or some other form of strawmanning.

                So suffice it to say: Guest attacks strawmen.

                If Major_Freedom wants to engage in a nuanced discussion of Marx’s work, I am open to that.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                random you wrote:

                “Rather, Marx observed that, so far as he could tell, every instance in which wage labor came into existence was preceded by the violent expropriation of the peasant from the land”

                This is incorrect.

                Marx started with Hegelianism not observation, and the self-alienation philosophy which he projected outward into the world at war with itself, given he was an atheist he needed a vehicle to serve as a replacement for providence as used by the milleniallist communists of the middle ages.

                Marx ‘saw’ the real history of mankind as the latent content of Hegel’s philosophy of history.

                The ‘alienated labor’ originated with Marx as a philosophical concept, and it is through that lens that you seem to be attributing to Marx the notion that alienated labor derived from observation, i.e. ‘labor stripped away from its proper grounding’, ergo your claim ‘Marx observed that labor has violent origins’.

                Marx enunciated his entire philosophical view of labor well before he wrote a single word of Kapital.

                Go to Marx’s earlier writings, 1844 manuscripts, and where ‘mature’ Marxism took shape already with The German Ideology. All this was well before his ‘observations’ of factories in Britain.

                Marx took the concept of ‘proletariat’ from Lorenz Von Stein in 1842, as the key to a communist revolution.

                This is all years before Marx ever wrote about ‘observations’.

                In fact, it would be naive to believe that Marx’s already established worldview did not impact his claims on the origins of wage labor.

                One thing is for sure, Marx had already long concluded wage labor is exploitative before he started Kapital.

              • Major_Freedom says:


                “Marx didn’t start with the axiom, that, for example, “wage labor is exploitation”

                Marx wrote that wage labor is self-alienated labor before he ever researched history and ‘observed’ wage labor.

                Marx believed wages are the primary income, and that profits came later.

                That’s why he ‘saw’ ‘peasants stripped of their land’ in Kapital and why he didn’t see homesteading and homesteaders hiring labor voluntarily.

                His entire conception of wage labor is pre-observational, Marx saw wage labor as inherently exploitative because in the MCM’ money-commodity-money cycle, M’ is larger than M, and the difference is ‘exploitation’.

                In other words Marx treated wage labor as exploitative as an axiom for the same reason profits existed at all.

                If profits exist, Marx’s philosophy ‘sees’ exploitation ipso facto.

                It’s not ‘observation’ that Marx concluded wage labor is exploitation, it was his philosophy.

              • random person says:
  2. Major_Freedom says:

    “Gödel himself developed an argument against the conventionalist philosophy of mathematics of logical positivism, and of Carnap’s in particular, based on the incompleteness results (Gödel 1953/9). It is discussed in Goldfarb and Ricketts 1992; Ricketts 1995; Goldfarb 1995; Crocco 2003; Awodey & Carus 2003, 2004; Tennant 2008.”

    This is a gold mine for fields of inquiry like the ‘self-referential tolerant’ logic of praxeology.

    Human Action is what happens when a massively complex formal system like our own brains, even if you try to view people as robots behaving according to deterministic axioms and rules of inference, we as humans continually ‘loop back’ into ourselves and notice that whatever is happening within us, it is mathematically proven that even if we entertain the view of ‘materialists’ like Marxists or Econometricians of what humans really are about, whatever systems they come up with that claim to be consistent, they will necessarily be incomplete and unable to prove true statements that we humans can notice as true. And if they try to assert that their systems are ‘complete’ systems that can in principle explain all of human economic life, then it is a mathematical proven reality that there MUST be inconsistent statements in those systems.

    And here’s a crazy thing i just learned:

    If any complex rich system can by way of its own theorems output a single tuple of opposite statements, if a system can ‘prove’ that a statement is true and its negation is true, then ANY STATEMENT can be proved in that system.


    Let’s say we decide to accept the following two facts: (1) “I am a fish”, and (2) “I am not a fish”. Just keep those in mind.

    Now let’s pick any old statement, say: (3) “You can fly”. Now let’s prove that the statement is true!

    Alright, we’ve already accepted that (1) “I am a fish”. Of course, any time I have a true statement P, I can make a new true statement by making the statement “P or Q is true.” Because to check if an ‘or’ statement is true, I only need to check that one of them is true. (If I tell you “My name is Dylan OR I can spit fire,” you don’t need to wait around with a fire extinguisher to tell if that statement is true. It’s true because the first part of it is true).

    So by this logic, the statement (4) “I am a fish or you can fly” must be true (since the first part is true.)

    OK, but now let’s say, in general, I have some ‘or’ statement “P or Q” and I know for a fact that the whole statement is true. If I also know that P is false then I can conclude that Q is true. Right? Because an ‘or’ statement is true if and only if at least one of the statements inside it is true, so if I rule out one of them the other one must be true. (So if I always tell the truth and I tell you that you have a billion dollars in your bank account OR I just ate a sandwich, you can check your bank account and quickly conclude that I just ate lunch… unless you’re very wealthy.)

    Alright, so far so good. We know the statement “I am a fish or you can fly” is definitely true. But wait, we also know that the statement “I am a fish” is false (remember, it’s one of the things we assumed in the very beginning!). So that means, by what we just talked about, that the statement “You can fly” must be true.

    So voilà! Using the magic of a contradictory system, we’ve proven you can fly!

    • random person says:

      This reminds me of the following quotation:

      On two occasions I have been asked, ‘Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’ I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

      — Charles Babbage


      • Major_Freedom says:

        That reminds me of this quotation:

        Keynes’s ideas filled what perhaps the majority of economists experienced as a vital need—it gave them a way out of conflict with the rest of the intellectual world and with a good portion of their own convictions. For if Keynes were right, economists need not oppose labor legislation. Indeed, they could join in the calls for expanded government intervention. This is because Keynes also gave them arguments designed to show that the more the government spends for any purpose-even for the least valuable programs imaginable, even for pyramid building the more prosperous must the economic system become.

        — George Reisman


        • random person says:

          That reminds me of this quotation:

          The public debt becomes one of the most powerful levers of primitive accumulation. As with the stroke of an enchanter’s wand, it endows barren money with the power of breeding and thus turns it into capital, without the necessity of its exposing itself to the troubles and risks inseparable from its employment in industry or even in usury. The state creditors actually give nothing away, for the sum lent is transformed into public bonds, easily negotiable, which go on functioning in their hands just as so much hard cash would. But further, apart from the class of lazy annuitants thus created, and from the improvised wealth of the financiers, middlemen between the government and the nation – as also apart from the tax-farmers, merchants, private manufacturers, to whom a good part of every national loan renders the service of a capital fallen from heaven – the national debt has given rise to joint-stock companies, to dealings in negotiable effects of all kinds, and to agiotage, in a word to stock-exchange gambling and the modern bankocracy.

          At their birth the great banks, decorated with national titles, were only associations of private speculators, who placed themselves by the side of governments, and, thanks to the privileges they received, were in a position to advance money to the State. Hence the accumulation of the national debt has no more infallible measure than the successive rise in the stock of these banks, whose full development dates from the founding of the Bank of England in 1694. The Bank of England began with lending its money to the Government at 8%; at the same time it was empowered by Parliament to coin money out of the same capital, by lending it again to the public in the form of banknotes. It was allowed to use these notes for discounting bills, making advances on commodities, and for buying the precious metals. It was not long ere this credit-money, made by the bank itself, became. The coin in which the Bank of England made its loans to the State, and paid, on account of the State, the interest on the public debt. It was not enough that the bank gave with one hand and took back more with the other; it remained, even whilst receiving, the eternal creditor of the nation down to the last shilling advanced. Gradually it became inevitably the receptacle of the metallic hoard of the country, and the centre of gravity of all commercial credit. What effect was produced on their contemporaries by the sudden uprising of this brood of bankocrats, financiers, rentiers, brokers, stock-jobbers, &c., is proved by the writings of that time, e.g., by Bolingbroke’s. [8]

          With the national debt arose an international credit system, which often conceals one of the sources of primitive accumulation in this or that people. Thus the villainies of the Venetian thieving system formed one of the secret bases of the capital-wealth of Holland to whom Venice in her decadence lent large sums of money. So also was it with Holland and England. By the beginning of the 18th century the Dutch manufactures were far outstripped. Holland had ceased to be the nation preponderant in commerce and industry. One of its main lines of business, therefore, from 1701-1776, is the lending out of enormous amounts of capital, especially to its great rival England. The same thing is going on today between England and the United States. A great deal of capital, which appears today in the United States without any certificate of birth, was yesterday, in England, the capitalised blood of children.

          As the national debt finds its support in the public revenue, which must cover the yearly payments for interest, &c., the modern system of taxation was the necessary complement of the system of national loans. The loans enable the government to meet extraordinary expenses, without the tax-payers feeling it immediately, but they necessitate, as a consequence, increased taxes. On the other hand, the raising of taxation caused by the accumulation of debts contracted one after another, compels the government always to have recourse to new loans for new extraordinary expenses. Modern fiscality, whose pivot is formed by taxes on the most necessary means of subsistence (thereby increasing their price), thus contains within itself the germ of automatic progression. Overtaxation is not an incident, but rather a principle. In Holland, therefore, where this system was first inaugurated, the great patriot, DeWitt, has in his “Maxims” extolled it as the best system for making the wage labourer submissive, frugal, industrious, and overburdened with labour. The destructive influence that it exercises on the condition of the wage labourer concerns us less however, here, than the forcible expropriation, resulting from it, of peasants, artisans, and in a word, all elements of the lower middle class. On this there are not two opinions, even among the bourgeois economists. Its expropriating efficacy is still further heightened by the system of protection, which forms one of its integral parts.

          — Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Volume 1, Chapter 31


    • guest says:

      This reminds me of this scene from Labyrinth with the riddle of the two doors:

      Sarah’s Certain Death Riddle

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