Austrian School of Economics
Patrick Byrne, the embattled CEO of Overstock.com, had plenty to say in a recent Fortune interview. The outspoken CEO, whose company recently became the first US retailer to accept Bitcoin (beginning later next year) aligns his beliefs with Ron Paul, holds enough gold that if "zombies walked the Earth," he'd be taken care of. Byrne believes "the long-run value of all fiat money is zero," adding that,"we're not going to get rid of the Federal Reserve any time soon, so bitcoin is a step in the right direction."
How could such a monetary disaster happen in a civilized and advanced society, leading to the total destruction of the currency? Many explanations have been put forward. It has been argued that, for instance, that reparation payments, chronic balance of payment deficits, and even the depreciation of the Papermark in the foreign exchange markets had actually caused the demise of the German currency. However, these explanations are not convincing. Looking at the world today - in which many economies have been using credit-produced paper monies for decades and where debt loads are overwhelmingly high, the current challenges are in a sense quite similar to those prevailing in the Weimar Republic more than 90 years ago. Now as then, a reform of the monetary order is badly needed; and the sooner the challenge of monetary reform is taken on, the smaller will be the costs of adjustment.
Time is nearly up for Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve who supposedly applied his scholarly knowledge of the Great Depression to steer the U.S. to safety after the financial crisis. In truth, Bernanke navigated a monetarist course that favored intensive intervention, following in the footsteps of many mainstream economists who grossly misunderstood the lessons of the Crash of 1929 and the ensuing malaise. That lesson is that when corrective crashes occur, intervention is far from the cure — it is the cause.
As Detroit begins to sort through the ill-begotten public liabilities that have driven it to bankruptcy, an important opportunity is at hand to revitalize the city that was once the epicenter of American entrepreneurship and manufacturing, while setting an example for other municipal governments that appear to be headed toward a similar fate. Here is an “Austrian moment” in the making, a potential libertarian awakening guided by the market-oriented, non-interventionist principles of the Austrian school of economics. For years, Detroit’s expenditures vastly exceeded its revenues. But, as long as investors were willing to purchase risky bonds, neither politicians nor unions would admit how unsustainable Detroit’s situation was. Detroit’s bankruptcy is thus exactly what the financial system needs.
We discuss legitimate credit vs. counterfeit central bank credit, the concepts of marginal time preference and productivity, speculation, and finally resonance.
Earlier this month, in an article for “Project Syndicate” famous American economist Nouriel Roubini joined the chorus of those who declare that the multi-year run up in the gold price was just an almighty bubble, that that bubble has now popped and that it will continue to deflate. Gold is now in a bear market, a multi-year bear market, and Roubini gives six reasons (he himself helpfully counts them down for us) for why gold is a bad investment. His arguments for a continued bear market in gold range from the indisputably accurate to the questionable and contradictory to the simply false and outright bizarre. But what is most worrying, and most disturbing, is Roubini’s pathetic attempt to label gold bugs political extremists. It is evident from Roubini’s essay that he not only considers the gold bugs to be wrong and foolish, they also annoy him profoundly. They anger him. Why? – Because he thinks they also have a “political agenda”. Gold bugs are destructive. They are misguided and even dangerous people.
Neil Macdonald of the CBC recently did an investigative piece on central bankers and what they’re doing to the world’s economies. Mark Carney was featured heavily. He told Macdonald, “there is no secret cabal orchestrating things,” despite CBC’s own findings earlier in the program. Central bankers around the world meet in Basel, Switzerland for secretive meetings. Of course, central banks have – and have always had – enormous power that remained more-or-less hidden until 2008. A paradigm shift is occurring where a large number of people (particularly young people) are questioning their assumptions. Some of them are even beginning to read economists like Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard. The “economics” of central bankers can now be revealed for what it truly is: statistical propaganda. Not only is the “Keynesian school” of economics unsound – the entire social science is bunk. Only the Austrian tradition can explain economic phenomena in such a way that makes common sense, scientific. Carney is asking us to trust him. This cannot be done. He is not speaking truth; he is speaking nonsense.
As virtual fantasy worlds go, Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo 3 is particularly foreboding. Within this fairly straightforward gaming framework, virtual “gold” is used as currency for purchasing weapons and repairing battle damage. Over time, virtual gold can be used to purchase ever-more resources for confronting ever-more dangerous foes. But in the last few months, various outposts in that world have borne more in common with real world places like Harare, Zimbabwe in 2007 or Berlin in 1923 than with Dante’s Inferno. A culmination of a series of unanticipated circumstances has over the last few weeks produced a new and unforeseen dimension of hellishness within Diablo 3: hyperinflation. Considering the level of planning that goes into designing and maintaining virtual gaming environments, if a small, straightforward economy generating detailed, timely economic data for its managers can careen so completely aslant in a matter of months, should anyone be surprised when the performance of central banks consistently breeds results which are either ineffective or destabilizing? The Austrian School has long warned of the arrogance and naïveté intrinsic to applying rigid, quantitative measures to the deductive study of human actions and the events of the last week provide a stark reminder of the power and inescapability of the laws of economics.
“There can be no doubt that besides the regular types of the circulating medium, such as coin, notes and bank deposits, which are generally recognised to be money or currency, and the quantity of which is regulated by some central authority or can at least be imagined to be so regulated, there exist still other forms of media of exchange which occasionally or permanently do the service of money. Now while for certain practical purposes we are accustomed to distinguish these forms of media of exchange from money proper as being mere substitutes for money, it is clear that, other things equal, any increase or decrease of these money substitutes will have exactly the same effects as an increase or decrease of the quantity of money proper, and should therefore, for the purposes of theoretical analysis, be counted as money.”
Nathan Lewis proposes a "gold standard" which is not based on gold. He argues that since gold's only job is to regulate the quantity of paper, we can just tweak the policy of the Fed. Instead of buying bonds to control the rate of interest, they can buy bonds to control the gold price. This is like trying to steer a car by opening and closing the windows.
The Real Bill is quite different from the bond. It isn’t lending at all. It is a clearing instrument that allows the goods to move to the gold-paying consumer before said consumer pays with gold.
Salma Hayek is beautiful, rich and famous. Friedrich Hayek is a deceased Austrian economist. He wasn’t very good looking, certainly not wealthy but he did become famous – but only 20 years after his death and then only within the make believe world of nerdy economists. Fortunately for the World today, if we are lucky, Friedrich Hayek may become the most famous Hayek of them all. Until then, the World remains firmly trapped in an economic hell created by Friedrich’s (and therefore Salma’s) arch enemy – John Maynard Keynes. IceCap's Keith Dicker points out that, as most politicians and central bankers view the World in very short time frames, to truly understand the devastation wreaked by Keynesian economics, one has to take a step back and see how the financial destruction accumulated over time. It is true that these policies initially provided sugar highs for the economy – but the 3 step cycle of cutting interest rates, cutting taxes and borrowing money to create growth has finally reached its end point. If Mr. Keynes was alive today, we are confident he would be embarrassed that his lifelong work had been so severely distorted.
Rand Hated Libertarians ... and Many Libertarians Despise Rand
A free market is composed of people who produce and trade the products of their efforts in exchange for the products of others. The free market is able to coordinate the activities of everyone, and enable everyone to optimize his results. Unfortunately, governments interfere in the free market. They do so by the use of force. The government always justifies its intrusions on the grounds of helping people. Government officials and voters are not aware of the lessons of Frederic Bastiat. The attempt of all to live at the expense of all is doomed. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Rather than helping people, the government’s interference inevitably causes distortion. As destructive as government interference is in the area of production, it is that much worse in the area of money and credit. Every aspect of production and trade depends on money, so distortions in this area are magnified. Unfortunately, the government has distorted the monetary system so badly that both are accelerating towards destruction. The solution, and the only hope for civilization, is to rediscover the principles of free markets, particularly on the monetary realm, and begin returning to a gold standard.