Robert Wenzel on His Economic Policy Journal, Elite Memes and the
Expanding American Empire
by Anthony Wile
The Daily Bell
by Anthony Wile: Edwin
Vieira on His New Book, The Sword and Sovereignty, and Where the
US Went Wrong
Robert Wenzel worked on Wall Street before founding his widely read
Policy Journal. A free-market economic compendium, EPJ
presents Wenzel's wry and witty comments on a daily basis, along
with guest columnists as well. He is well known for his forecast
in real time of the Great Recession and his accurate early 2005
warning about the developing housing bubble, and has been quoted
in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes,
and many other media outlets. He has also received critical acclaim
across the political spectrum, from Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin
to Ron Paul. Wenzel has featured such guests as Jesse Ventura, Oliver
Stone and Jim Rogers on his weekly internet radio broadcast, "The
Robert Wenzel Show." He also writes the EPJ Daily Alert.
His book, The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal
Reserve, is due out in April 2013. Wenzel still consults to Wall
Street clients and others, but intends to free up more time soon
for "serious writing." Currently, he still consults to
Wall Street clients and others, but intends to free up more time
for "serious writing."
Give us some background on yourself and how you became a libertarian.
Well, like most still today, I was introduced to libertarianism
outside of my formal education. But I was introduced at a very early
age, in the early 1970s. It was through a book written by the libertarian
Harry Browne, called How
You Can Profit from the Coming Devaluation. I don't remember
exactly how old I was but probably 14 or 15. It was certainly before
I was old enough to drive. I remember having to get my father to
drive me to libertarian and hard money events. We lived, at the
time, outside of Boston. I recall attending a libertarian event
at a Chinese restaurant in Cambridge where Robert Nozick spoke.
Another time my father drove me into Boston so I could hear Gary
There was no
Mises Institute at the time so I just sent off to publishers for
the books that were listed in the bibliography section of Browne's
book. It was pretty hardcore stuff. The first book I read was Murray
Has Government Done to Our Money?, then The
Theory of Money and Credit by Ludwig von Mises, followed
by Henry Hazlitt's Economics
in One Lesson and then Human
Action by Mises. There was no messing around back then;
you pretty much had to mainline.
By the way,
Browne's book was edited by the great libertarian entrepreneur Lew
Rockwell, so I consider Lew something of my intellectual godfather.
He has always been putting product out there that I have considered
an important part of my intellectual growth. First the Browne book,
then the newsletters from the Mises Institute, then the Rothbard-Rockwell
Report, then mises.org and lewrockwell.com.
Tell us how the Economic Policy Journal came to be.
I have always been torn between a career on Wall Street and an intellectual
life. For a while I tossed around the idea of doing graduate work
in economics. In addition to absorbing Austrian economics, I read
a lot on mainstream stuff. I went so far as taking the graduate
economic placement test, or whatever it was called. I scored something
like in the in the 95th or 97th percentile. I remember the test
booklet named the three professors who were responsible for the
questions in the book. One was from the University of Chicago, one
from UCLA and the third, I think, from the University of Pennsylvania.
To this day I contend that I not only knew the answers to the questions
but also knew which professors asked which questions.
I decided to head to Wall Street. My thinking was that if I was
to go the academic route I would have to spend most of the time
studying crazed mainstream Keynesian economics and equilibrium analysis
that had very little to do with understanding the real world and
that this would mean I would have to study real economics
that is, Austrian economics on the side. So my reasoning
went, if I am going to have to study real economics on the side,
I might as well make some money at my day job, rather than waste
time studying the mainstream economic nonsense the thought
being that I would catch up with my economic writing at a later
is my first step in that direction. Via EPJ, I am having a lot of
fun blasting away at a lot of the nonsense out there. And it's helped
increase my profile substantially. My next step is to do some serious
writing. I am still doing consulting work so I can only spend part
time on the serious work, but it is coming.
What are the main points you are trying to get across?
I'm just trying to point out the problems with mainstream economic
thinking, and go beyond that by pointing out how our liberties are
being slowly taken away from of us by government. I should add that
I am not very optimistic that things are going to head in the right
direction any time soon. I just like blasting away at these guys.
How do you choose your stories?
There is so much nonsense it's not difficult to find stories to
write about or comment on. I do consider myself something of an
economic deejay at EPJ, though. I like to mix it up between deeper
thought pieces, short quick posts, jabs at major headline economists,
jabs at internal libertarian stuff. I like to keep it moving.
Has libertarianism and Austrian free-market thinking advanced in
the past ten years as a result of the Internet?
Very much so. The two most important things that have happened to
the libertarian movement over the last ten years are the Internet
and Ron Paul. I am regularly amazed at how many people I talk to
who have only learned about libertarianism in the last three or
four years, because of Ron Paul. Then, of course, there is the Internet,
which is an end run around mainstream control of news and information.
is still relatively small, compared to the population at large,
but it is now in the millions as far as those who are taking it
upon themselves to learn about libertarianism and Austrian economics.
Not that long ago, say the 1970s, the entire libertarian movement
could have fit in Murray Rothbard's living room, and probably did.
What are the forces arrayed against it?
Big government and those aligned with big government. By those aligned
with big government, I mean, especially, the mainstream educational
system and mainstream media. Big government has captured these sectors.
Those in big government are aware that they need to control these
sectors to influence the masses. The Internet chops away at this
Are they organized created by a group of people ... a banking
elite ... or are they simply the outcome of governmental inertia?
Yes, when you come down to analyzing what influences big government,
it is crony capitalists, banksters and such. And I would also include
crony leftists and, of course, the military-industrial complex.
They all want to control government for their own personal gain.
But they can only get away with it if the general public is hoodwinked
by the propaganda of why government is doing what it is doing
and so we are back to mainstream education and news that is controlled
What are some of the main areas of concern for you today?
All methods by which the government interferes with the general
public are bad but I think gun control is a major concern, as is
the requirement to register guns. The right to carry arms wasn't
put in the Constitution so that people could go on weekend duck-hunting
trips. It was put there so that the common man would have a means
to battle totalitarian government. If you study Mao, Hitler and
Stalin, you can easily see how they used gun controls to their advantage.
Gun registration is one step away from gun control for a totalitarian
dictator. Heaven forbid, but if a totalitarian ever finds himself
in control of the United States, I don't want him to know anything
about me, especially what kind of guns I have and how many guns
concern is government interference with the Internet. As I have
already mentioned, the Internet is an end run around government
controlled education and news. If the government could figure out
a way, they would certainly grab control of the Internet. Fortunately,
they haven't been able to but their "concerns" about cyber
threats are worrisome. We do know that they use and create crises
to gain control. Let's hope the Internet stays technologically ahead
of any control plans they are most assuredly contemplating.
point is how even local police are being militarized. It scares
me. If you look into how these police departments are affording
SWAT equipment etc. you see it's being funded at the federal level.
There needs to be more work, more exposes on exactly what the federal
government is funding and why, in regard to local police equipment
and training. The more militarized the police become, the easier
it will be to flip them into command and control operators when
a national "crisis" emerges. At that point, it will be
too late for us. We will then learn, on a first-hand basis, what
it means to live in a dictatorship.
Give us some specific reactions to the following environmental issues:
I have no idea how the climate is changing and neither do almost
of all those who have strong positions on climate change. I assume
to some degree climate has always changed. That said, the climate
is a very complex system. I haven't yet come across one person in
the general public who has a strong opinion on climate change that
can even explain to me how fog forms in San Francisco and that's
a fairly easy thing to understand. They are all frauds in my book.
As for the
so-called experts, I have listened to many on both sides and caught
many, on both sides, making basic methodological errors and other
errors that a non-expert such as myself can spot. My guess is there
are probably five people in the world who have a truly sound grasp
of how climate works, but I have no idea who those five people are.
You would have to be a scholar spending years reading up on the
subject to find them and know they are the ones. They are probably
as little known to the general public as Ludwig von Mises, Murray
Rothbard and Chi-Yuen Wu are in the field of economics.
Wind power ...
A lot of hot air spouted to create profit opportunities for crony
Carbon sinks and recycling ...
The entire promotion of concern about carbon sinks is a result of
big government, specifically the Kyoto Protocol. It's another crony
scam. I am quite content in believing that if we ever reach a private
property society and we need carbon sinks to be managed differently,
private property societies will come up with solutions. I say let's
move to a private property society first. Failure to do that is
a much greater danger to humanity than the way carbon sinks are
Should responsible corporations seek to lower their carbon footprint?
There shouldn't be "responsible" corporations, only corporations
seeking profits within the bounds of the law. If I ran a major corporation,
I would be as concerned about a carbon footprint as I would a dog's
footprints in the snow.
are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there who use the complexity
that is part of some sciences to scare the public about carbon emissions,
dangerous flu bugs etc. It's noteworthy that top scientists, including
Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman and F.A. Hayek, all spent time
commenting about complexity. They all said there are many things
that are very complex and difficult to understand easily, if at
all. Unless a serious scientist can explain a logical progression
as to any of these threats, and I haven't seen it done, it is absurd
to act on the shouts and screams of people who are warning about
these threats that they themselves are unlikely to understand to
any significant degree. I see them as no different than a lunatic
screaming on a corner about the planet Pluto crashing into the Earth
in a week. Yeah, maybe he is a genius who understands something
the rest of us don't, but most likely, he is just a lunatic.
Should corporations exist at all in the modern sense?
Corporations are just groups of people getting together for business
ends. In modern day, government has gotten in the middle to register
these corporations, but governments get in the middle of lots of
things, from licensing fishermen to licensing barbers. I am all
for fishermen, barbers and corporations, just not governments getting
in the middle of their operations.
Is modern Western civilization the creation of monopoly central
No, not at all. Monopoly central banking has an important influence
on modern Western civilization but I wouldn't say it is the creation
of it. Relatively free markets and free people have been responsible
for most, if not all, the advancement in the standard of living
in Western civilization.
Would it look different without such monetary stimulation?
Yes, without central bank money printing things would look much
different. There would be no business cycles. It would be much easier
to invest, without having to worry about price inflation and general
market collapses. Prices would be in a general down trend the way
only cellphones, flat screen televisions and personal computer prices
fall now. Generally falling prices and the lack of business cycles
would create much more incentive for people to save. More capital
would mean a higher standard of living. It would be a wonderful
environment in which to live.
What do you think of bitcoin?
Bitcoins have some use value for anonymous transactions and also
as a method for quick, safe transactions. But it is not money at
this time. Anyone using bitcoins in a transaction is converting
bitcoin values in their head to dollars. Thus, a bitcoin is closer
to a digital American Express travelers check (with a fluctuating
value), then a stand-alone currency.
If people ever
stop the calculation from bitcoins into dollars and just start thinking
in terms of bitcoin buying power, then it would become money.
This is not
impossible. If there is ever a major crackdown on the economy and,
say, price controls and major black market activity develops, bitcoins
could become an alternative currency.
Thus, I am
not saying bitcoins won't become money, but they are not now. And
I don't see it occurring in the short term at all. In the long term,
there is a slim chance. More likely, bitcoin could become a popular
method to facilitate safe, secure transactions, rather than become
What is money?
Money is a medium of exchange. It is the most liquid commodity.
You accept it in payment because you know everyone else will be
willing to take it from you for goods and services you want.
Where will money be in the next 10 or 20 years?
If the dollar still circulates as money, it will be much devalued,
thanks to Federal Reserve money printing. If the Fed does serious
damage to the value of the dollar, gold and silver may emerge as
money for everyday transactions.
Will the world turn back to a gold standard?
It could. More and more central banks don't trust the dollar. Even
Germany is pulling its gold out of the United States. If countries
start demanding gold, we could ultimately end up back on a gold
Is it possible that IMF SDRs could be the next world currency?
Global banksters would love that because it would mean they would
still control printing of the money supply, but they would have
to muscle a lot of governments that are getting pressure from their
citizens to go toward gold. It's a drama being played out on one
level behind the scenes by banksters, at another level by people
in the streets.
Give us some reaction to the IMF and World Bank. What do you think
of them and what they do?
They are the enforcers that make sure global banks get paid. They
will squeeze every penny they think they can get away with from
the citizens of any country, to get banksters paid. They are totally
How about the United Nations? It seems less relevant but we have
noticed it is more militarized of late and participating in more
The UN is the puppet of the United States. The US uses it as cover
for its wars and empire building. The sooner the UN is disbanded
And speaking of wars what is going on in Northern Africa?
The US is conducting numerous operations in North Africa under various
covers. According to a recent report, President Obama, behind closed
doors, gave his counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, carte blanche
to run operations in North Africa and the Middle East, provided
he didn't do anything that would end up becoming an exposé
in The New York Times and embarrassing the administration. This
stuff will continue. Brennan has been rewarded by Obama for carrying
out the secret wars by being nominated to head the CIA.
What about Syria and Libya why the wars there?
In Libya, it was about oil. In Syria, it's about pipelines that
run through Syria. Syria's geographic location on the old caravan
route between Turkey and Arabia or as it used to be known
in the days of old, between Constantinople and the Hijaz
still holds the same strategic importance today as it did in the
days of the caravan trains. It's all about the transportation, currently,
hard goods, gas and oil.
Then, of course,
there is Syria in relation to Israel. Most of these interventions
have more than one reason, but oil is usually at the top of the
Are these resource wars or wars for Western control?
Resources first. But this desire for resources means we want control
because of the resources.
Is Africa being consolidated by the West for purposes of creating
an African union?
They are trying but these things are very tough to pull off. You
might see a union of some African nations but it won't be like the
EU. You are still going to see battles between AU members. It won't
be a peaceful union.
Is world government in the offing?
The crony globalist would like to see it but, again, it's very difficult
to pull off. The world is very complex. As Humphrey Bogart said
to a German officer in the movie "Casablanca," "Well,
there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise
you to try to invade."
The US can't
even hold down Iraq and Afghanistan. The overseas adventures are
keeping the US government, to a significant degree, occupied as
far as money, equipment and personnel. I am not for US military
being deployed anywhere but from a very personal perspective
and the Afghans would certainly have a different view I would
much rather see US government enforcers hunkered down in Afghanistan
than wearing a slightly different uniform harassing Americans in
Where does China fit into all this? Is the Chinese miracle going
to continue or was it due to a central banking money bubble?
China growth to a significant degree is a myth. It's the Chinese
government building poor quality apartments and office buildings
that stand empty but are recorded on the books as super growth.
At the same time, there are pockets of free-market activity. So
it's a mixed bag. The two biggest problems are the degree to which
those in the Chinese government have a central planning mentality
and the degree to which the People's Bank of China prints new money.
Will China have a hard landing?
Yes, I am afraid so. What happens from there will be dependent on
how the government reacts. If it attempts to prop up the crashing
phony facade, we may end up with lost decades. The best thing that
could happen is for free-market proponents to gain influence; then
the country could develop a more stable boom and a century of prosperity
could be in the cards.
I am nowhere
near an expert on the internal workings of Chinese politics so I
won't even guess how things might turn out long term. But from a
short-term economic perspective, we are likely looking at a hard
landing maybe the worst of all worlds, a serious stagflation.
What about Europe? Is the euro doomed?
Europe is doomed because of the insane regulations, which make it
nearly impossible for new businesses to start or old businesses
to hire new people. On top of that everybody quite simply wants
to be on the dole with others paying the tab. Ludwig von Mises warned
about this. He called it the exhaustion of the reserve fund. Governments
just run out of money they can squeeze out of the productive sector.
countries free up commerce and stop handouts that remove incentive
for people to be productive, eurozone countries are going to look
like Third World basket cases.
Where do you stand on austerity? Is it necessary for, say, Greece?
Austerity is a bankster plot to squeeze as much as they can out
of every citizen of every broke country to shore up government debt
held by the banksters. Greece should forget austerity, declare bankruptcy
and let the banksters eat the losses. Let Blankfein sell his new
summer house if he needs to. Greece should then drastically cut
taxes, eliminate all regulations, end payouts to those on the dole.
You would have a Greek economic miracle that would rival the German
What about the US? Does the US need a stiff dose of austerity?
My advice for the US would be the same. Stiff those holding Treasury
debt. They are the monsters that have been financing US military
interventions around the world. They should be taught that there
can be great losses by financing such adventures. It would be great
for the peace movement. I would also recommend cutting taxes for
everyone, as a modest start, by 90%. I would cut government spending
Are you hopeful about the US's future?
No. There are no indications that anyone in government is serious
about cutting government down to size. Which means natural forces
will take it down. Interest rates will soar. And if the Fed tries
to print even more money than it is now doing to keep rates lower,
we will see more price inflation and ultimately rates climb even
higher. We could experience a tiger by the tail situation: Higher
interest rates followed by higher price inflation followed by higher
interest rates and so on.
Is the US in a depression or a recession?
We are coming out of the Great Recession as a result of Bernanke
money printing but it is a manipulated new boom that will eventually
result in much higher price inflation and an even worse recession,
Was the re-election of Obama a good thing? Was he re-elected or
was the voting rigged?
Romney would have been just as bad. As California Governor Jerry
Brown once put it when he ran for president, the presidential election
is a Gong Show for the rich. The crony capitalists have their claws
into anyone who gets close to the presidency.
Obama is especially
bad when it comes to domestic issues. He really has no understanding
of basic economics and doesn't care. He's a crony Marxist. Which
means he'll launch his social planning schemes but there will also
be someone in the backroom pocketing big time money.
Is the US an empire?
A declining one.
Can it be sustained?
No. We are already starting to pull back in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Under Obama, the drone strikes will continue and there will be special-ops
and black-ops activities but you can't control countries this way.
The US is going to be like the guy in the Allstate commercials.
It will be creating mayhem everywhere but that's about it.
What will happen to the US in the next few years?
There will be much higher price inflation and much higher interest
rates. Potential civil unrest and the quality of healthcare is going
What should people do?
Stay healthy. Buy gold, silver and a gun.
This will be
brief because Robert Wenzel doesn't leave us a lot to comment on.
That's because we pretty much agree on a lot of fronts.
One place we
might have a tiny disagreement involves why Western powers recently
invaded Libya and Syria (and other Middle East and Northern African
countries). Now, Wenzel as we do doesn't believe for
a moment that these are internal affairs. The West has attacked
Africa once more using a variety of pretexts.
But we think
one such pretext is the idea of resource control. Money Power uses
resource scarcity as a way to justify any one of another of actions
the putative reasons to invade Africa and other countries during
Colonial times. But in our view, these are wars for control. Or
as in the present era for the re-establishment of
control. Resources are entirely a secondary issue.
From what we
can tell, the forces of globalism are moving fast. One can almost
see the slotting of increased internationalism.
The West has
been brought down, the BRICs are rising. Africa is being repacified.
Something is going on. Wenzel, in his writing and in this interview,
understands these events, and his analysis is always informative.
His summation, we thought, was especially apt:
healthy. Buy gold, silver and a gun."
it up ...
with permission from The
Wile is an author, columnist, media commentator and entrepreneur
focused on developing projects that promote the general advancement
of free-market thinking concepts. He is the chief editor of the
popular free-market oriented news site, TheDailyBell.com.
Mr. Wile is the Executive Director of The Foundation for the Advancement
of Free-Market Thinking – a non-profit Liechtenstein-based foundation.
His most popular book, High
Alert, is now in its third edition and available in several
languages. Other notable books written by Mr. Wile include The
Liberation of Flockhead (2002) and The Value of Gold (2002).
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