While everyone's attention was focused on details surrounding the household sector in the recently released Q1 Flow of Funds report (ours included), something much more important happened in the US economy from a flow perspective, something which, in fact, has not happened since December of 1995, when liabilities in the deposit-free US Shadow Banking system for the first time ever became larger than liabilities held by traditional financial institutions, or those whose funding comes primarily from deposits. As a reminder, Zero Hedge has been covering the topic of Shadow Banking for over two years, as it is our contention that this massive, and virtually undiscussed component of the US real economy (that which is never covered by hobby economists' three letter economic theories used to validate socialism, or even any version of (neo-)Keynesianism as shadow banking in its proper, virulent form did not exist until the late 1990s and yet is the same size as total US GDP!), is, on the margin, the most important one: in fact one that defines, or at least should, monetary policy more than most imagine, and also explains why despite trillions in new money having been created out of thin air, the flow through into the general economy has been negligible.
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While eugenicists and Keynesians make correct descriptive observations — like the fact that certain qualities and traits are inheritable, or more simply that children are like their parents — their attempts to use the state as a mechanism to control these natural systems often turns out to be drastically worse than the natural systems that they seek to replace. As Keynes seems to admit when — in the German language edition of his General Theory — he noted that the conditions of a totalitarian state may be more amenable to his economic theory, the desire for control may be the real story here. Keynesianism brings more of the economy under the control of the state. It is a slow and creeping descent into dependency on the state. As we are seeing in Europe today, cuts in state spending in a state-dependent economy can cause deep economic contraction, providing the Keynesian more confirmation for his idea that the state should tax more, and spend more. That is, until nature intervenes. Just as a state-controlled eugenics program might well spawn an inbred elite suffering hereditary illnesses as a result of a lack of genetic diversity, so a state-controlled economy may well grind itself into the dirt as it runs out of innovation as a result of a lack of economic diversity. Such a situation is unsustainable — no planner is smarter than nature.
What is a black swan event, or tail event, in the stock market?
- It depends on who’s asking.
- To those familiar with Austrian capital theory, the impending U.S. stock market plunge (of even well over 40%)—like pretty much all that came before in the past century—will certainly not be a Black Swan, nor even a tail event.
- Nonetheless, the black swan notion is paramount—in perception: Market participants’ failure to expect a perfectly expected event—that is, they price in only Anglo swans despite the Viennese bird lurking conspicuously in the weeds—much like what is happening today, brings tremendous opportunity.
At various stages in the last two years everyone from China, to Germany, to the Fed to the IMF, to Martians, to the Imperial Death Star has been fingered as the latest saviour of the status quo. And so far — in spite of a few multi-billion-dollar half-hearted efforts like the €440 billion EFSF — nobody has really shown up. Perhaps that’s because nobody thus far fancies funnelling the money down a black hole. After Greece comes Portugal, and Spain and Ireland and Italy, all of whom together have on the face of things at least €780 billion outstanding (which of course has been securitised and hypothecated up throughout the European financial system into a far larger amount of shadow liabilities, for a critical figure of at least €3 trillion) and no real viable route (other than perhaps fire sales of state property? Sell the Parthenon to Goldman Sachs?) to paying this back (austerity has just led to falling tax revenues, meaning even more money has had to be borrowed), not to mention the trillions owed by the now-jobless citizens of these countries, which is now also imperilled. What’s the incentive in throwing more time, effort, energy and resources into a solution that will likely ultimately prove as futile as the EFSF?
The trouble is that this is playing chicken with an eighteen-wheeler.
NBER's Martin Feldstein Bashes The Deplorable US Economy, Says Bernanke Has Engineered Another Stock BubbleSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/02/2012 11:51 -0400
That the market is merely yet another transitory sugar high bubble creation of the Chairsatan and his central planning colleagues in various marble buildings around the world is no surprising to anyone, at least not anyone who maintains a pretense of objectivity, is not desperate to sell a weekly newsletter, and has a frontal lobe. What however is not only surprising, but outright shocking, is that such embedded members of the aristocratic status quo elite as Martin Feldstein - a professor of economics at that bastion of Keynesianism Harvard as well as president emeritus of the NBER - the folks who tell us when recessions start and end, are starting to get it. To wit: "The economy is slow and weak. We are not doing very well. The economy is just coming along at a snail's pace. The first quarter numbers that we just got last week were not very good at all" and warns "if we are going to see that jump in taxes, that is going to push the economy next year into a serious recession" but the punchline: "The stock market is, I think, responding to the Fed. I think the real danger is that this is a bubble in the stock market created by low long-term interest rates that the Fed has engineered....The danger is, like all bubbles, they burst at some point" Well, uh... if it is now common knowledge that everything is manipulated, and that the economy is collapsing, and would be outright imploding if it weren't for the Fed's goosing of the stock market, does that mean it is time for Zero Hedge to hang up our hat?
This Is the First Time In History that All Central Banks Have Printed Money at the Same Time … And They’re Failing MiserablySubmitted by George Washington on 05/01/2012 18:44 -0400
Simultaneous Global Printing Is Failing Miserably
Forget Competing Theories … What Do the Facts Say about Quantitative Easing?
Krugmann fails to address even a single one of the arguments forwarded by Spitznagel. This is no surprise, as he has often demonstrated he does not even understand the arguments of the Austrians and moreover has frequently shown that his style of debate consists largely of attempts to knock down straw men. After appraising us of his economic ignorance (see the idea that time preferences can actually 'go negative' implied by his argument on the natural interest rate above), he finally closes a truly Orwellian screed by claiming that everybody who is critical of the Fed and the financial elite is guilty of being 'Orwellian'. As we often say, you really couldn't make this up.
The symbiosis between the Keynesian expansion of the economy and the growth of suburbs in US cities has been ably discussed by Beauregard (2006). Sprawl was driven by the flow of money, the "American dream" of owning a home in the suburbs, and facilitated by the widespread ownership of cars. The suburbs were designed with cars in mind. The growth of suburbs fulfilled two roles. Lots of houses were available for new buyers, which kept prices down; and city governments discovered that developer's fees and the new land taxes initially exceeded the maintenance cost of the new roads and infrastructure built to support them,. Unfortunately, as time passed and the infrastructure aged, soon maintenance costs exceeded tax revenues, necessitating another round of growth. Suburbs were able to maintain the required level of growth for a few decades, but we are reaching the point everywhere (it seems) where there cannot be enough new growth to maintain our crumbling infrastructure. The mindset of the "ownership society" really drove demand for housing, and the best places to expand were in the southwest, so that cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas really grew. Low interest rates plus easy money led to a bubble in house prices and an explosion of sprawl. The Austrian school of economics teaches us that easy money leads to malinvestment. Suburban growth certainly seems to qualify. Our urban sprawl malinvestment has left us with the interwoven problems of unlivable cities, financial crisis, and increased death and destruction from natural disasters.
I often wonder who is worse: George W. Bush — the man who turned a projected trillion dollar surplus into the greatest deficits in world history, who bailed out the profligate Wall Street algos and arbitrageurs, who proceeded with two needless, pointless and absurdly costly military occupations (even though he had initially campaigned on the promise of a humble foreign policy), who ignored Michael Scheuer’s warnings about al-Qaeda previous to 9/11, who signed the Constitution-trashing PATRIOT Act (etc etc ad infinitum) or his successor Barack Obama. The answer, by the way, is Richard Nixon. Nixonianism has been the corporate aristocracy’s crowning achievement. And to some extent, this period of free lunch economics was a banquet, even for middle class Americans. The masses were kept fat and happy. But now the game is up — like Nixon’s Presidency — its days are numbered.
Hayek, while a brilliant mind, was not right on everything. He saw the welfare state is legitimate, a need for regulation into private industries such as education and food, and the necessity of the state in providing for individual and national defense. Yet even he was able to distinguish how political power attracts those who will use in the worst manner. The Secret Service agents who procured prostitutes may be relieved of their duty but it will only serve as a cautionary tale for the rest to keep their off-duty exploits better concealed in the future. The waste and graft will go on despite a pledge from Obama for a “rigorous” probe and his potential successor’s promise to “clean house.” These promises are just political theater used to conceal the playground like mentality which possesses the attitudes of all those who wield the guns of the state.
In our daily scouring of the markets we run across a plethora of charts, many of them boring, some interesting, and a few select ones, exponential, and thus completely unsustainable. The US debt load is of course one of them, global central bank assets is another, as is pretty much everything associated with Europe these days. However, the following exponential chart is one we had never encountered before: it shows the number of major "disturbances", read power outages, in America's power grid in the last decade. The chart is, well, disturbing.
Before even taking into account the aftermath of the “unexpected” NFP result, it has been amazing to see over these past few months the number of experts, especially those that reside solely within the “science” of economics, proclaiming a successful engineering of the long sought-after recovery. That this has been the third such claim in as many years is lost in the noise of confusing “headwinds” that are somehow beyond the control of those that now control most everything within the financial arena. Stock speculators are beneficial components to the healthy financial transmission mechanism into the real economy (even when all they are supposed to do is provide liquidity 20,000 times per second), but anybody that dares speculate in the far more vital energy sector (or any real commodity) is the pure incarnation of evil. That these two apparently disconnected speculative classes are really one and the same shows just how obtuse (not always intentionally) economists and the pandering classes really are.
Paging Paul Krugman ... Paging Professor Krugman to the White Courtesy Telephone ...