Why can't we just print more money, since it really isn't representative of anything of value?


So, my question might be more philosophical than economical, but it's wracking my brain and I can't seem to find an answer.

It is about currency and how our money is no longer backed by "gold." Money (i.e. coins and bills) in essence is the same as chips at a casino. At the end of the day, if I choose, I could cash in my chips and get something of value for them. MONEY.

Back in the day, before Jimmy Carter, it was the same way, that, at any time, I could cash in my MONEY for GOLD. (which although has no intrinsic value, is determined to HAVE value.)

So, here is my question.....and I hope I explain it well. A lot of people out there are asking "why can't we just print more money and solve the poverty problem?" Terms like "inflation" and the "devaluing of the dollar" are the usual buzz answers to that question. Also, people give the example that if the government were to print more money and just give everyone $50,000, then everyone would go out and buy things, thus making THINGS more in short supply, thus driving up the price of things. (simple supply/demand economics) But this is where I'm curious. With TRUE unemployment probably somewhere around 15% in this country, if DEMAND rose, then companies would WANT to hire more people and build more processing plants to keep up with demand and raise their profits. So, the influx of cash (printed money) would seem to solve the unemployment problem.

So, here is where I'm confused.....if I apply the same idea of "printing more money and handing it out to the public" to my casino example, then that would be like the casino giving everyone at the poker table an extra $100 in chips to play with. But here's the catch. I understand the PROBLEM with doing that at the casino, because if you give people all these extra chips, then at the end of the night, when people CASH OUT, there will not be enough money in the vault to pay for all the chips. Hence the problem.

But how does that relate to American economics since there is no "cashing out" procedure. If the government gave everyone a bunch more money, there is no "checks and balances" since no one, at the end of the day, goes to the cashier station and exchanges their "chips" (money in this case) for something of value.

Exchanging your chips at the end of the day for MONEY back (which has value in our eyes) makes sense, hence why you can't give out more chips than the money you have in the vault. But it seems the American dollar is not a paper representation of the "money in the vault" no one goes to cash in their money in America.

So I don't understand how currency works and why we can't just print more money since it really isn't representative of anything of value.

Please explain, as I cant find a good answer anywhere online.

(I hope this question wasn't convoluted.)

Thank you so much for your time


Let me try to remove some of the confusion. Imagine the only good in the economy is corn and corn costs $1 a pound, and imagine you and all others earn $100 a month. Each month you buy 100 lbs of corn exchanging $1 for 1 lb of corn; so the real value of $1 is 1 lb of corn. Now suppose the government simply prints more dollar bills and gives you (and imagine everyone else) an additional hundred dollars. If you want to eat more than 100 lbs of corn a month, now you can do so but presumably, since others like you also want to do the same, the demand for corn in the economy would go up and very likely its price as well. Now you would have to give up, say $1.50 for each lb of corn. This, roughly speaking, is inflation, and it is eroding the real value of your dollars -- you are getting less corn for every dollar than you used to.

You ask, won't firms rush to meet this extra demand caused by everyone having an extra hundred dollars? Yes, they would but they'd have to hire people to work in the farms and the higher demand for workers would likely raise their wage. Also, workers will see the inflation around them and want higher dollar wages so they can continue to buy as much corn as before. In short, wages in real terms would rise and this would erode profits and as such, farms will not hire as many workers as you'd think. So yes, there can be a short-lived stimulative effect of printing money.

Bottom line is, no government can print money to get out of a recession or downturn. The deeper reason for this is that money is really a facilitator of exchange between people, a middleman in a trade. If goods could trade with goods directly, without a middleman, we would not need money. If you print more money you simply affect the terms of trade between money and goods, nothing else. What used to cost $1 now costs $10, that's all, nothing fundamental or real has changed. It is as if someone overnight added a zero to every dollar bill; that per se, changes nothing. Just as giving every student 10 extra points on a test changes nothing fundamentally.

Last updated on
March 9, 2018

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