Ron Paul and the Martian Atmosphere Machine
The feisty Texas congressman has had his share of ideological head-butting with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, but if these encounters have generated a few amusing sound bites, they have failed to generate any meaningful economic debate.
This is unfortunate.
Whereas Congressman Paul's economic views are often condensed to a single concept: gold standard -- the question that is not being discussed is whether or not an inflationary or deflationary economic system is better for society as a whole.
Of course, these concepts have a relationship: an economy based on a fixed money supply will likely suffer a secular decrease in prices (deflation); an economy based on an ever-increasing money supply will likely experience rising prices (inflation).
The U.S. has pursued the latter (inflationary) course while a deflationary monetary policy -- regarded by most as a not-to-be-named evil -- has been relegated to the dustbin of history (perhaps, most famously villainized by Bernanke in a 2002 speech: Deflation -- making sure "it" doesn't happen here).
But if deflation is a scary machination of the past, there remains a sect of believers who see it as a path to salvation -- and this invites an interesting pop culture parallel: Total Recall.
In the film, a wealthy industrialist controls the air supply on the planet Mars; he attempts to quash a rebel movement to activate an ancient "atmosphere machine" that would make free air available to the entire planet. Obviously, the industrialist has a financial interest in suppressing the rebel movement, but in the end, it's revealed that the air-monopolist truly believes that the machine will destroy the world.