Friday, November 12, 2010

Euphemisms for "printing money"

The world is not overall better off when someone just "makes money out of thin air".  Nobody thinks that if a counterfeiter prints money the world is better off.  When money is printed some people become better off and some become worse off.  Let's call the people who become worse off "suckers".  The more people who do not understand what is going on the easier it is to have a good supply of suckers.   So the powers that be often try to keep people confused.  One way is talking about "making new money" using lots of different and confusing terms.   To try to help clear things up I am collecting euphemisms for "printing money".  I also have a video with these euphemisms. Here is my collection so far.
  1. accommodative monetary policy 
  2. achieving price stability 
  3. acting to the detriment of creditors
  4. adding to bank reserves
  5. adding liquidity
  6. aggressive monetary policy
  7. ample liquidity 
  8. acquiring Treasury securities on the open market and only on a temporary basis
  9. asset purchase plan 
  10. asset swap
  11. bailouts (*) 
  12. banana republic
  13. Bernanke's toolkit 
  14. bond-buying by the U.S. central bank 
  15. central bank financing of government deficits
  16. cheapen the currency 
  17. collecting an inflation tax
  18. conjuring money up from the ether with black magic Fed spells
  19. creating inflation 
  20. creating money 
  21. creating money electronically
  22. creating excess reserves 
  23. creating reserves ‘ex nihilo’ 
  24. crediting bank reserve accounts
  25. CTRL+P
  26. currency intervention 
  27. currency manipulation 
  28. dangerous experiments with our currency  
  29. default by stealth
  30. deficit accommodating
  31. deficit spending *
  32. dovish monetary policy 
  33. debasing the currency
  34. debasement
  35. destroying the value of the dollar
  36. devaluing the currency 
  37. disbursing currency
  38. dollar conjuring  
  39. driving the dollar down 
  40. dump more dollars onto the market
  41. easing credit 
  42. easing credit conditions
  43. easing monetary policy
  44. easy monetary policy
  45. easy money
  46. ensuring sufficient liquidity
  47. expansionary monetary policy
  48. expanding high powered money
  49. expanding liquidity
  50. expanding the Fed's balance sheet
  51. expanding the global supply of dollars
  52. Fed purchasing debt
  53. Fed’s purchase program
  54. fighting deflation 
  55. free money
  56. fully sovereign in its own currency
  57. funding the deficit
  58. government thievery
  59. helicopter drop 
  60. helping exports with cheaper dollars 
  61. imagineering money
  62. imposing an inflation tax
  63. increasing the money supply
  64. inflating away the debt
  65. inflation
  66. inflation targeting
  67. implementing alternative monetary policy
  68. increasing the monetary base 
  69. injecting money into the economy 
  70. issuing fiat currency 
  71. issuing reserves
  72. just monetary policy  (Bernanke)
  73. keep the short-term interest rate at exceptionally low levels
  74. Keynesian economics
  75. liquidity enhancement  
  76. liquidity injection 
  77. liquidity management operations
  78. liquidity operations
  79. loose monetary policy
  80. lowering interest rates 
  81. low-rate monetary policy
  82. making money
  83. marvelous monetary sweetener
  84. modern monetary theory (MMT)
  85. monetizing the debt
  86. monetization
  87. monetary diarrhea
  88. monetary expansion
  89. monetary policy tools 
  90. money out of thin air
  91. money rains
  92. mortgage security purchase program 
  93. no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society
  94. nontraditional policies 
  95. not monetizing the debt 
  96. not printing money
  97. open market operations 
  98. outright monetary transactions (OMT)
  99. papering over problems 
  100. playing god with the economy
  101. plucking money from a money tree
  102. policy of dollar depreciation 
  103. preventing the currency from strengthening
  104. printing money 
  105. promiscuous easing
  106. promoting price stability
  107. providing additional accommodation
  108. providing liquidity
  109. pump-priming 
  110. pumping money into the banking system
  111. pushing inflation upward
  112. pushing up inflation to levels consistent with our mandate (Bernanke) 
  113. qualitative and quantitative easing
  114. quantitative easing
  115. quantitative counterfeiting
  116. QE
  117. QE1
  118. QE2
  119. QE3
  120. QE Infinity
  121. QE to infinity and beyond 
  122. QE Tapering
  123. recipe for financial disaster 
  124. retiring Treasuries
  125. ruinous monetary insanity
  126. run the printing presses
  127. seigniorage
  128. solution to the credit crunch 
  129. sowing the seeds of future inflation
  130. spending without borrowing
  131. stemming disinflationary pressures
  132. stimulus (*) 
  133. supplying banks with extra cash 
  134. supporting the economic recovery
  135. surreptitious transfer of wealth 
  136. the punch bowl
  137. the US can always meet its financial obligations that are denominated in US dollars
  138. throwing money out of helicopters
  139. trick people into working for lower real wages - See page 9 of  Keynes "The General Theory"
  140. unconventional policy tools 
  141. unconventional monetary policy
  142. unsterilized intervention
  143. weakening the dollar
If you know other euphemisms for "printing money"  please post them them in the comments.

Some people try to make a big deal out of the fact that often money is represented on computers and not actually printed.  First, the Fed would print paper money if banks wanted delivery from their account.    From Bernanke's helicopter paper we know he understands this equivalence from his comment, "But the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost."  Also, from Bernanke's fantastic video we can see the electronic and paper money are essentially the same. 

A few of the above terms can also theoretically be used when reducing the money supply but that hardly ever happens.

The point of a euphemism is to make something not sound as bad as it really is.   Most of these are trying to hid the badness of "printing money".  However, some like "monetary diarrhea" are clearly used by people who are not happy with money printing. 

This reminds me of the idea that Eskimos who spend a lot of time on snow would have a lot of words for snow.  Seems like Americans spend a lot of time printing new money.

(*) In the case of the starred terms the government is deficit spending, which will lead to more money printing, but it is arguably not a true euphemism for "printing money".


  1. Bailouts and stimulus are usually counted as "fiscal policy" but since these will clearly lead to more money printing I have added them with a (*) and explanation.


  2. open market operations
    adding liquidity
    currency intervention
    dovish monetary policy

    The list goes on and on. I could do this all day.


  3. my all time favorite...drum roll..

    liquidity enhancement

  4. POMO
    debt securitization
    inflation targeting

    Liquidity enhancement is still my all time favorite.


  5. targeting asset prices


  6. MBS rollover


  7. asset purchases
    money rains
    monetary policy tools
    Bernanke's toolkit

    homebuyer tax credit * ?
    cash for clunkers * ?


  8. Thanks folks! We are at 45 after less than 12 hours. Keep them coming!

  9. monetary policy beyond the zero bound
    creating excess reserves


  10. unsterilized intervention


  11. increasing the monetary base
    implementing alternative monetary policy
    disbursing currency
    distributing new wealth


  12. funding the deficit


  13. easing monetary policy
    easy monetary policy
    expansionary monetary policy
    expanding liquidity
    providing liquidity
    easing credit conditions (perhaps more of an intended effect)


  14. fighting deflation

    oh, this is my favorite right up there with liquidity enhancement


  15. unconventional policy tools


    I'm finally starting to run a little thin on ideas.

  16. achieving price stability


  17. promoting price stability
    providing additional accommodation


  18. stemming disinflationary pressures


  19. how about "bending over my saved dollar"

  20. how about just "cheating"

  21. After 6 days we have 83! I think we will be past 100 soon.

  22. I think "monetary diarrhea" is my new favorite!

  23. You forgot plain old:

    deficit spending *

    You suggest it in the footnote, but it really should be right there in the list directly (starred of course)

    Also -- in your footnote you're missing an "r" in the word "starred"

    (my favorites: "fighting deflation" and "liquidity enhancement")

  24. Thanks much for both of those. Fixed them.

  25. Wow! Impressive. Thanks Vince.


  26. You have a duplicate -- "helicopter drop" and "throwing money out of helicopters"

  27. "The world is not overall better off when someone just "makes money out of thin air". Nobody thinks that if a counterfeiter prints money the world is better off."

    These two sentences are where you go wrong!

    Actually, sometimes the world IS better off when a counterfeiter prints money!

    Money is the "lubricant" of the economy. When there isn't enough in circulation among ordinary people, productive activity grinds to a halt. Printing money and getting it into the hands of the lower and middle classes alleviates this problem and gets everyone back to work. *It doesn't matter whether counterfeiters do it or whether the government does*. There is strong evidence that in Victorian England, there were periods where over 20% of the money was counterfeit, and it seems to have actually helped the economy (because monetary policy from the Bank of England was way too tight). Counterfeiters were supplying something the economy needed.

    So, yeah, lots of euphemisms for printing money. But printing money, while sometimes bad, is sometimes an unequivocally good thing. Take for the extreme example a society with NO money, a barter society. You print the money, you help the society.

  28. Um, one further, crucial note to what I just wrote about how valuable printing of money is:

    It matters who you give the printed money to. It matters a lot.

    It only helps if it's going to people who are "cash flow constrained", who can't get people to trade with them because of lack of money.

    It doesn't help at all if the printed money is going to banks, who can actually print money on their own just as effectively as the government (start thinking about how they operate and what a "check" really is -- it's money -- you'll figure it out).

  29. The Fed is not printing money and giving it to the lower and middle class people, they give it to the banks. Can we agree that what they really do does not help then?

  30. I added "CTRL+P" which people have started using. I like it.

  31. I think "QE to infinity and beyond" may be my current favorite. It seems funny that Mish, a deflationist, has said this one.

    We are now up to 132!


    Tell it like it is.

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Looking for polite debate on ideas. Never attack a person. Be nice.