We are now approaching the fourth Christmas of the great debate between the benign supporters of Santa Keynes and the walnut-hearted acolytes of the Hayekian Grinch. Or at least that’s how Keynesians seem to see it. Far from being a success, Keynesian policies have retarded recovery and extended the downturn, just as they did in the 1930s and the 1970s. They’re the “moral” policy present that keeps on taking, supported by those who claim that their opponents have hearts “two sizes too small.”
While parts of the world experience economic hardship, a team of Portuguese, UK, Japanese, Italian and Dutch astronomers has found an even bigger slump happening on a cosmic scale. In the largest ever study of its kind, the international team of astronomers has established that the rate of formation of new stars in the Universe is now only 1/30th of its peak and that this decline is only set to continue. The team, led by David Sobral of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, publish their results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society… Dr Sobral comments: “You might say that the universe has been suffering from a long, serious “crisis”: cosmic GDP output is now only 3% of what it used to be at the peak in star production!”
In the fall of 1996, John Cassidy arranged to interview Paul Samuelson in his office at M.I.T. for an article he was writing on the state of economics. He began by asking Samuelson whether he was still a Keynesian: "I call myself a post-Keynesian," Samuelson replied. "The 1936 Model A Keynesianism is passé..." He recalled attending an event that was held in Cambridge, England, in 1986 to mark the one-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of Keynes's birth. "Everybody was there. And they all stood up and said, 'I am still a faithful Keynesian. I am still a true believer.' I was a bit rude. I said, 'You remind me of a bunch of Nazis saying, I’m still a good Nazi.' It’s not a theology: it’s a mode of analysis. I think I am a different Keynesian than I was ten years ago."
I attempt to craft something that has a chance of working.
If there is one thing better than Marc Faber providing a free, must-watch (and listen) 50 minute lecture on virtually everything that has transpired in the end days of modern capitalism, starting with who caused it, adjustable rate mortgages, leverage, why did the Fed let Lehman fail, why was AIG bailed out, quantitative easing, Operation Twist, where the interest on the debt is going, which bubbles he is most concerned about, a discussion of gold and silver, and culminating with his views on a world reserve currency, is him saying the following: "The views of the Keynesians like Mr. Krugman is that the fiscal deficits are far too small. One of the problems of the crisis is that it was caused by government intervention with fiscal and monetary measures. Now they tells us we didn't intervene enough. If they really believe that they should go and live in North Korea where you have a communist system. There the government intervenes into every aspect of the economy. And look at the economic performance of North Korea." Priceless.
The institutional crazies, village idiots and knee-jerk opportunists who bought shares yesterday following a Fed announcement of yet more monetization seem not to have been paying attention, at least initially, to the nasty sell-off in T-Bonds. Well before yesterday, any sentient being would have surmised that easing’s impact on the economy had reached the point of diminishing returns. With administered rates pegged at zero and mortgage loans near historical lows, how much more boost are we to expect from yet another gaseous effusion of bank-system credit?
Own Physical Gold Now - While You Still Can!
“Farther from care than danger…”
The title above is a quote from Sir Thomas More’s classic, Utopia, describing a people’s overconfidence in their capacity for navigation given the compass for the first time.
Regular readers are aware that one of our favorite data series when it comes to demonstrating the quality aspect of the American "recovery" (the quantity is sufficiently taken care of with part-time workers filling in positions without benefits and job security in the New Normal) is that showing the annual average hourly earnings growth in nominal terms, which in November posted the tiniest bounce from its all time low print of 1.2%, rising to 1.3%. The problem as noted above, is that this is nominal wage growth. It therefore excludes the impact of inflation which according to the CPI, rose by 2.2% in October, or, in other words, wage growth was negative in real terms. But it wasn't negative only in October and November. When one takes the Y/Y change in average hourly earnings and subtracts the Y/Y change in CPI one gets a very troubling picture: wages have risen below the rate of inflation for 22 consecutive months, with real wages printing their last positive number back in January 2011 and negative ever since!
Bloomberg's Joshua Zumbrun has released a much overdue, MSM apocryphal, somewhat realistic outlook on the endspiel of Bernanke's central planning: i.e., the unwind of the Fed's balance sheet that from just under $3 trillion will reach $5 trillion by the end of 2014. We say "somewhat" because the conclusion in the article is that there is some hope still for an orderly wind down of the Fed's assets without a complete market collapse. The reality is that there is no such hope.
Isaac Newton, the father of classical mechanics and progenitor of nearly every technology we use today, was easily one of the top 10 most influential minds in all of human history... Yet as accomplished as he was, Newton credited the brilliant scientists and philosophers who came before him, acknowledging that his insights would not have been remotely possible without the foundations laid by great thinkers– Archimedes, da Vinci, Descartes, etc. No doubt, all great ideas flourish by expanding upon the works of others. Unfortunately, so do terrible ones. And one of the worst ideas in history that continues to play out today is the grand experiment of fiat money. The idea is simple. Rather than allowing money to be scarce and have intrinsic value, our fiat system grants power to a tiny elite to conjure money out of thin air. Presumably, if the ones in control are smart, honest guys, then everything should be fine. Fiat was a total failure right from the beginning... and yet the economic engines deep below are steered by people who worship at the cult of bad ideas.
In about five years the wheels will fall off the cart.
Many politicians and commentators such as Paul Krugman claim that Europe's problem is austerity, i.e., there is insufficient government spending. The common argument goes like this: Due to a reduction of government spending, there is insufficient demand in the economy leading to unemployment, which means aggregate demand falls even more, causing a fall in government revenues and an increase in government deficits. European governments pressured by Germany then reduce government spending even further, lowering demand by laying off public employees and cutting back on government transfers. This reduces demand even more in a never ending downward spiral of misery. First of all, is there really austerity in the eurozone? One would think that a person is austere when she saves, i.e., if she spends less than she earns. Well, there exists not one country in the eurozone that is austere. Public austerity is a necessary condition for private flourishing and a rapid recovery. The problem of Europe (and the United States) is not too much but too little austerity — or its complete absence. The reduction of government spending makes real resources available for the private sector that formerly had been absorbed by the state.
In a recent article at the NYT entitled 'Incredible Credibility', Paul Krugman once again takes aim at those who believe it may not be a good idea to let the government's debt rise without limit. In order to understand the backdrop to this, Krugman is a Keynesian who thinks that recessions should be fought by increasing the government deficit spending and printing gobs of money. Moreover, he is a past master at presenting whatever evidence appears to support his case, while ignoring or disparaging evidence that seems to contradict his beliefs. Krugman compounds his error by asserting that there is an 'absence of default risk' in the rest of the developed world (on the basis of low interest rates and completely missing point of a 'default' by devaluation). We are generally of the opinion that it is in any case impossible to decide or prove points of economic theory with the help of economic history – the method Krugman seems to regularly employ, but then again it is a well-known flaw of Keynesian thinking in general that it tends to put the cart before the horse (e.g. the idea that one can consume oneself to economic wealth).
Foreign money is flowing heavily into US real estate markets. Now some think that foreign money is going to prop up the entire market but this is simply not the case. The money flowing in from abroad is going specifically into targeted markets. This isn’t necessarily a US trend only. Canada is experiencing a massive housing bubble from money flowing in from China in particular. Here in Southern California many cities are seeing solid money flowing in from Asian countries. You have this occurring while big fund domestic investors are buying up low priced real estate cross the country as investments. What occurs then is the crowding out of your typical home buyer. I get e-mails from local families looking to buy saying they were outbid by $50,000 or $100,000 for properties that had nothing special. Even after the crash, why does it seem hard for domestic buyers to purchase a home?
You've probably noticed the cookie-cutter format of most financial media "news": a few key "buzz words" (fiscal cliff, Bush tax cuts, etc.) are inserted into conventional contexts, and this is passed off as either "reporting" or "commentary" depending on the number of pundits sourced. Correspondent Frank M. kindly passed along a template that is "officially deny its existence" secret within the mainstream media. With this template, you could launch your own financial media channel, ready to compete with the big boys. Heck, you could hire some cheap overseas labor to make a few Skype calls to "the usual suspects," for-hire academics, hedge fund gurus, etc. and actually attribute the fluff to a real person.