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Why GDP Is Useless and Deceptive: There Was No Recovery

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Wed, 06/29/2011 - 18:55 | 1413734 blindman
blindman's picture

voodoo ,
i'll say no more

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 07:52 | 1411119 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

Good piece Econophile

GDP includes consumptive spending, including Government spending. It is as you and the likes of Peter Schiff say, a useless measure of pretty much anything

The true measure of the health of an economy is wealth creation, private company profits and as you astutely mention, savings.

Once you have a measure of wealth you could then see how much it requires to service the debt load and indeed the consumption (or destruction) of wealth, as all Govt spending is, in the economy. 

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 05:59 | 1410955 falak pema
falak pema's picture

Interest rate increases ARE coming, when BB stops ruling the world!

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 05:02 | 1410928 KickIce
KickIce's picture

Amazing the the Ponzi continues to move forward without an major increase in interest rates.  I guess when 1 nation does ala Germany it gets punished but when they all move in concert with the devaluation no one gets checked, especially true because currencies are measured against other fiats rathar than gold.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 01:50 | 1410837 tony bonn
tony bonn's picture

as good an article as any.....gdp is a synthetic number with many implicit values....it is a bureaucrats's and tyrant's dream...it can be shaped and manipulated at will as john williams at shadow stats has testified.

the united states has been in an economic implosion for 3 decades....the pace of implosion has accelerated....we face nothing but disaster and calamity but larry the cable fart is riding his skittle shitting unicorn at warp speed to make pixie dust a substantive reality...

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 23:44 | 1410703 blindman
blindman's picture

is a mcdonald's hamburger part of industrial
production? how about fries?

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 23:55 | 1410714 cosmictrainwreck
cosmictrainwreck's picture

Don't know about "production" but sure as hell measured in GDP. Seriously, I heard a few years ago BLS or somebody wanted to count burger-making in "manufacturing". For all I (we) know, it's there....

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 08:05 | 1411149 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

Agriculture is one of mans major wealth streams so the base (agricultural) content of a Big Mac meal is productive but like all restaraunts you're paying through the nose for that base produce so the answer is 'both' ...part productive but mainly consumptive

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 23:41 | 1410696 dolly madison
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It is interesting to see how in the last 4 recessions the unemployment periods seem to be getting longer each time. 

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 23:46 | 1410704 cosmictrainwreck
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yup. that and the subsequent "structural" unemployment higher or definition of "full employment" lowered. all of these merely de facto and empirical, never official

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 22:38 | 1410599 zorba THE GREEK
zorba THE GREEK's picture

 Yeah, and pussy had hair around it.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 04:15 | 1410909 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

Nothing better than a bearded clam, especially fresh and clean.

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 22:42 | 1410597 zorba THE GREEK
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 Yeah, and pussy had hair around it.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 04:10 | 1410908 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

Ahh...when Women were Women and yet to be brainwashed by the Gillete/Shick/Shaving creme triumverate.

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 22:19 | 1410562 Goldtoothchimp09
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The worthlessness of GDP can be demonstrated by the fact that 40 years ago only one spouse had to work a middle class job to be able to afford a home and household.



Tue, 06/28/2011 - 22:34 | 1410587 BORT
BORT's picture

Don't forget that the average home was 1100 square feet, there were four channels on TV, One car per family, the only marble was at the museum, there were no cell phones or cable bills, If you had cancer you died, medical care was rudimentary, etc. etc.


Debt got us the rest, and we can no longer fund our standard of living.  Tell that to people today

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 01:00 | 1410792 NOTaREALmerican
NOTaREALmerican's picture

Re: Debt got us the rest, and we can no longer fund our standard of living.  Tell that to people today


Good point.   And, as long as the people of tomorrow can borrow like the people of today then everybody will be happy.   If not, the people of tomorrow are screwed.   

I know my generation got rich off the real-world socialism of Big-Mic, Big-Ag, Big-SocSec, Big-OldFartHealthCare, Big-House, Big-Ed, Big-AntiDrug, and Big-PoliceState.   Here's hoping the future generations can enjoy the same scams we did.   

Debt!   To infinity and beyond. 

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 22:50 | 1410616 Goldtoothchimp09
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i suspect people were happier or more content then too.

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 22:20 | 1410557 Stares straight...
Stares straight ahead's picture

Nice post.

With an acknowledgement to Mises' idea that one can not comment on a nation's net worth, does that mean trying to interpret the solvency of a nation whose debt seems to exceed all reasonable estimates of such, is also non-sensical?

This paper I found on the net seems to imply that.  http://www.nber.org/chapters/c11688.pdf

Some help here from the ZH community?


Wed, 06/29/2011 - 02:24 | 1410857 LudwigVon
LudwigVon's picture

I believe that there is no valid aggregation of economic activity. This does not mean that we do not use easy math to find whether or not a sovereign can cash flow the interest on outstanding debt or the simple deficit.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 11:34 | 1411949 Stares straight...
Stares straight ahead's picture





The paper I cited offered this formula as a way to determine ability to pay on debt: 

"A useful way of understanding the problems that arise in evaluating the


ability of the borrower to repay a loan is to look at the basic balance of trade identities. If D is total debt, AD repayment of debt, r the interest rate, and B the trade balance then in any period AD+rDB. (8)  If S is private savings, I domestic investment, T tax revenue and G government spending, another identity is that AD(SI)+(T--G). (9) Thus debt service is related both to the trade surplus and to private and government savings. If domestic product Y is independent of T, an unconstrained government could in theory set T = Y, and G = I = 0, in which case S = - rD and AD + rD = Y. Though eqs. (8) and (9) are nothing more than identities, they provide a framework for understanding possible sources  of problems in a country's meeting its foreign debt obligations."

But as far as I can tell, this is just an arguement to raise taxes.

BTW Krugman is cited in the paper too.





Tue, 06/28/2011 - 23:19 | 1410655 gwar5
gwar5's picture

Interesting note: article was co-written by Stiglitz, an Obama advisor now at the IMF. Stiglitz, along with Summers, also privately said in 2009 the USA would have 10% unemployment for years. He's a NWO, and socialist truther type, with another Nobel prize made of plaster, like Krugman, Gore, and 'Bam.

Last couple of lines of the paper's abstract basically says it all, in so many words;  in international lending, a nation's net worth and their debt are meaningless if the international lenders can't collect. 

little OT/

The US army is pretty strong, which might explain Obama's election. Maybe he's just the Manchurian bank collector sent here to collect from inside the White House...... #Winning! 

All those meaningless wars make perfect sense to the bankers. Mel was right.  Also might explain why the US has the peculiar history of putting former Secretaries of Defense people, like Paul Wolfowitz, in charge of the World Bank -- just having them there is an implied threat.




Tue, 06/28/2011 - 21:50 | 1410517 michigan independant
michigan independant's picture

Wolves, sheep, sheepdogs, meanwhile a friend who was retrained years ago from nafta defined job loss monitors the ongoing assault on the economy. Namely the war on full time employees. The current push "assault" is being waged as we speak to get as many forced until collapse of there business unit to "seek" new part time status of the full time employees. Ruthless war on American workers for decades. No scruples but relentless drive to failure to enhance long term shareholder value.

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 22:18 | 1410567 Goldtoothchimp09
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shareholder value - more like executive pay value.  Shares aren't really much of anything.


It's amazing to me that in our screwed up society -- the stock market is supposed to pay for everything.  Pay for our retirements, pay for pension obligations.  Pretty much pay for everything long term.  Yet, common stock has very little real value.  Most stocks pay a pittance in dividends.  So what does stock ownership "get you".  Not any real voting rights.  Not much for dividend payments to compensate you for your ownership.  Basically, a stock certificate shows you've got some "honorary" ownership.  Doesn't matter how profitable a company is...common stockholders get nothing.  AAPL at $320 "gets you" the same as AAPL at $220, $120, or $20 per share.  A certificate showing honorary ownership.  Why anyone pays any real money for an honorary certificate stupifies.  It's just a cultural thing.  Invest in stocks, it's what people do.  I have a feeling it's going to end up just like investments in beanie babies.  People will ask "What was i thinking".  They weren't thinking.  Just herding a cultural trend.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 04:10 | 1410906 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

You either got junked for casting aspersions on stocks or the junk magnet of saying anything not glowing and sparkly about the new religion that is AAPL.

A majority of the population asked themselves "what was I thinking?" in late 2008 after 20-30 years of listening to the drones from the Wall Street hive (Financial Advisors).

Luckily (for the Wall Street hives and FA's) the FED and CONgress came to the rescue of everyone but their constituency. 

Hey, it only cost $14 Trillion and two generations of blood, sweat, tears, and trust (read: NO TRUST NOW), but they have the MIB to back them up so...what will we do?

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 01:04 | 1410796 NOTaREALmerican
NOTaREALmerican's picture

Re:  Invest in stocks, it's what people do.  I have a feeling it's going to end up just like investments in beanie babies.  People will ask "What was i thinking".  They weren't thinking.  Just herding a cultural trend.


Not to worry...  When we privatize SocSec then everybody will be able to get above average returns in the stock-market because everybody grew-up being above-average children of somebody.  American exceptionalism to the rescue! 

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 21:38 | 1410503 dvp
dvp's picture

My suspicion is the Federal Reserve has engaged in quantitative easing and other FINANCIAL stimuli because the US productive economy has eroded to such an extent, the only way in which GDP can "grow" is by expanding the financial sector.  Industrial production exhibits a great deal of economic "friction," investment costs, whereas financial "production" exhibits little economic "friction."  Indeed, after computer programs are designed, little labor input is necessary to generate financial exchanges, which can return profits at a rapid rate as numerous exchanges can occur in a day.  As for investment in productive production, overlooked by Econophile is the fractured socio/political environment in the U.S.  Being so, little public and political support can be expected for any investment program.  Thus, it is not so much as the "pain" to be expected in the interim of an investment program, it is the practical impossibility of implementing such a program.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 06:13 | 1410969 Escapeclaws
Escapeclaws's picture

The "fatten the parasite" school of economic thought.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 04:02 | 1410905 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

Yes, so many of our best and brightest aspire to jigger markets or write apps.

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 21:28 | 1410485 bigmikeO
bigmikeO's picture

Seems pretty straightforward to me:

1.5 trillion deficit spending per year vs. $284 billion GDP growth (14.2 trillion x .02 = $284 billion)

Means that the USA spent $5 for every $1 returned.

Isn't that a good investment?

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 21:25 | 1410481 bill40
bill40's picture

Fine GDP is a lousey measure. Your assumption that government spending is bad is also flawed. Keynes and Hayak are dead find a new hero who thinks of today.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 02:25 | 1410854 LudwigVon
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thinks of today.


Yuh, truth, TODAY, is good. Mises.org

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 08:14 | 1411160 Zero Govt
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Bill40  -  all Govt spending is the consumption (destruction) of (other peoples) wealth. Period

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 21:45 | 1410508 nmewn
nmewn's picture

"Your assumption that government spending is bad is also flawed."

Where does government pocket change come from?

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 21:26 | 1410478 Mr. E
Mr. E's picture

"Austrian theory economics rejects the notion of  "national accounts" "


As far as I can tell, Austian economics is anti-scientific, and its most hardcore supporters are proud of that fact.  


Wed, 06/29/2011 - 14:39 | 1412843 Econophile
Econophile's picture

Not true. Science is good. Fake science, i.e., econometrics, is bad. It's just another way for the PTB to rule the masses through central planning. If you really wish to understand the Austrian theory on this, please see Hayek's Nobel lecture: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economics/laureates/1974/hayek-lecture.html

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 05:56 | 1410957 Escapeclaws
Escapeclaws's picture

How can you say that economics is not scientific? The following example of the rigorous economic reasoning is pulled from Bruce Krasting's latest post (no criticism of Bruce--he was arguing a different point, but I found this a fascinating illustration of how economics is "applied" in practice):

"Republicans have drawn a line in the sand on the debt limit with their position of “No New Taxes”. The Democrats have said pretty much the opposite with, “No spending cuts”.

Neither side appears to be giving an inch. There is no common ground. Yet, to go to August 2 without a resolution is just a dumb move. Both sides of this big debate know that the next presidential election is riding on the outcome. If the US is to default; one side or the other will shoulder the blame. The “side” that gets the blame will lose the election. And both sides understand this. So where’s the compromise?

The solution is inflation. The government has got to get out of its inflation indexed obligations. You don’t have to raise tax brackets to raise revenues or cut expenses. You can mess with inflation adjustments to achieve these ends. Both sides can appear to win if this is accomplished. "

This is exactly how highly trained physicists come to their conclusions in analyzing data from their sophisticated experiments.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 03:57 | 1410900 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

Keynesian economics - you can spend as much as you feel you can spend, and if that doesn't work bludgeon a frugal taxpayer over the head for more taxes to pay for your fantasy.

Austrian economics - spend only what you make, and if you spend more you need to make more or spend less, and if you do neither you will be taken to the wood shed.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 03:02 | 1410883 hound dog vigilante
hound dog vigilante's picture

austrian econ. can certainly claim more scientific credibility than any professed mainstream school of economics.


economics is a "social" science at best.  at least austrians are honest about it.


Tue, 06/28/2011 - 22:17 | 1410553 foofoojin
foofoojin's picture

in America there is no such thing as a A.S. or B.S. in Economics. It is not a science here either.

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 20:55 | 1410445 narnia
narnia's picture

the worthlessness of the GDP statistic can be demonstrated very easily:

the allocation of $1 billion in funds by a US politican to build a bomb to ship to ship ti Korea to deter an economically crippled North Korea is deemed to have the same economic benefit as 10,000 farmers grossing $100,000 each selling food at a local farmers market.

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 21:20 | 1410474 nmewn
nmewn's picture

"the worthlessness of the GDP statistic can be demonstrated very easily"

Or, alternately, simply, the worthlessness of including 30% of Gross Domestic Product that is counted twice...once when it comes into being formally, then yet again after its confiscation and reallocation via government transfer payments.

You can do amazing things with a ledger and a criminal mind ;-)

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 23:56 | 1410718 narnia
narnia's picture

transfer payments are not double counted, actually.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 19:16 | 1413819 nmewn
nmewn's picture

Thanks for the reply and sorry for the late response...someone has to work ;-)

Actually they are currently, because government expenditures on salaries are counted as a contributive number, when in fact it should be treated as a negative...and certainly not counted twice.

The GDP was adopted as a gauge of national prosperity during the Keynesian revolution...which should be as deep in the weeds as we need to go...LOL. 

Mr.Kuznets, who is widely recognized for inventing what we call the GDP model in his own words;

"the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income as defined by the GDP."

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 03:55 | 1410899 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

I think what he means is that once the transfer payments are spent, they affect the GDP - and Food Stamps and Welfare is not money being spent by people who have jobs producing something other than welps - but I could be wrong.

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 20:31 | 1410407 IQ 145
IQ 145's picture

 Very nice post. basic, but can't be presented too often; GDP is just another propaganda effort.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 04:00 | 1410902 DutchZeroPrinter
DutchZeroPrinter's picture

If the amount of money in a country would be a constant and production increases, prices will tend to fall.


If the amount of money in a country would be a constant and production decreases, prices will tend to rise.

GDP shouldn't change very much. GDP represents inflation.


Tue, 06/28/2011 - 20:21 | 1410391 Corn1945
Corn1945's picture

This was obvious to anyone paying attention quite a while ago. The government is borrowing and spending 12% of GDP. Subtract the 12% out plus the compounding effects for every year you did it. Run the numbers and tell me what the real GDP number is.

Then for more fun, use the calculated GDP number and find the true debt/GDP ratio!

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 05:30 | 1410941 Escapeclaws
Escapeclaws's picture

Perhaps there's an analogy with the following video, if we assume that the good Dr. Bernanke has diagnosed the economy to be suffering from "liquidity disease". Watch the following funny video on "skidmark disease" and I think you'll get the point.


Wed, 06/29/2011 - 02:55 | 1410879 Michael
Michael's picture

I wonder how GDP valued in ounces Gold has faired over the years. A chart would be nice.

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