Amid all of this messy thinking we miss the simple truth behind our material wealth: It has been achieved through the accumulation, by us and inherited from our forefathers, of a stock of highly configured and embedded tools that make human effort more effective and things possible that never were before. And we turn our backs on this truth when we turn more and more of these tools over to government bureaucrats. Profits are but an intermediate end of capital investment. Its ultimate end, in fact, is the material progression of our civilization. How easily we lose sight of this, at our and our progeny's peril. We all want more economic growth, but we ignore the means to get there: the onerous choices and commitments made along the round-about path to those ends. We even confuse the means with the ends.
In the short run (and this is what is so insidious about the Fed’s artificially low interest rates), all we are seeing is an illusion of economic progress. The choice for the status quo made in last week’s presidential election was an uninformed one—at no fault of the voters—made in the fog of monetary distortion and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s continuous campaign of disinformation. Thus, investment in this illusory economy is malinvestment, or investment that always unravels with the intervention’s inevitable end, due to either untenable credit levels (such as today’s corporate debt-to-asset ratio, still at historic highs) or a resource crunch (rising commodity prices) that eliminates any advantage from printing money; and one or both of these scenarios is unavoidable. This is our grievous position in the United States today, trapped in the status quo by first consequences, by what we can see, due to a cause that we cannot even see. And so we are left to learn from experience, an eventual tragic unfolding of our collective malinvestment. As Bastiat said, “Experience teaches effectually, but brutally.”
To some, Paul’s stubborn persistence in the campaign has been just that: a stubborn unwillingness to lie down and die despite evidence of sure defeat. But what they have missed is a common misperception of a subtle yet powerful age-old strategy at play - the archetypal shi (pronounced “sure”) strategy expounded and employed by Chinese philosophers and military strategists for thousands of years. More than anything else, we can see Paul’s greatest shi advantage in his outsized support among the young. In this society of immediate gratification and winning right now at all cost we need to ask ourselves: why should future elections and platforms matter so much less than the current ones? There are powerful cognitive biases at work - among them the temporal myopia of hyperbolic discounting, or excessively undervaluing the future, while focusing on the nearer term - which make fuzzy in our minds the importance of victories in the years ahead (a view that is promulgated by the media). The ultimate war is against intrusive, burgeoning government, in the ongoing insurgencies of the battles yet to come—Ron Paul’s grand shi strategy.
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.
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.
Krugman Rebutts (sic) Spitznagel, Says Bankers Are "The True Victims Of QE", Princeton-Grade Hilarity EnsuesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/21/2012 15:54 -0400
At first we were going to comment on this "response" by the high priest of Keynesian shamanic tautology to Mark Spitznagel's latest WSJ opinion piece, but then we just started laughing, and kept on laughing, and kept on laughing...
- Cotton prices jump as India bans exports (FT)
- Goldman’s Asia Unit Lost Money First Time Since 2008 on Soured Stock Bets (Bloomberg)
- Meet Mark Spitznagel, Ron Paul's L.A. hedge-fund guy (SPCR)
- U.S., Israel Pull Closer on Iran (WSJ)
- IBM’s Watson Gets Wall Street Job After ‘Jeopardy’ Win (Bloomberg)
- US Senate OKs Bill Aimed at China Subsidies (Reuters)
- Czech Banks May Need More Funds in Crisis (Bloomberg)
- Banker Bonus Limits Sought by EU Lawmakers (Bloomberg)
- Volcker Rule Needs Extensive Revisions Amid Feedback, SEC’s Gallagher Says (Bloomberg)
Today, Rand’s fictional world has seemingly become a reality – endless bailouts and economic stimulus for the unproductive at the expense of the most productive, and calls for additional taxation on capital investment. The shrug of Rand’s heroic entrepreneurs is to be found today within the tangled ciphers of corporate and government balance sheets. The US Federal Reserve has added more than $2 trillion to the base money supply since 2008 – an incredible and unprecedented number that is basically a gift to banks intended to cover their deep losses and spur lending and investment. Instead, as banks continue their enormous deleveraging, almost all of their new money remains at the Fed in the form of excess reserves. Corporations, moreover, are holding the largest amounts of cash, relative to assets and net worth, ever recorded. And yet, despite what pundits claim about strong balance sheets, firms’ debt levels, relative to assets and net worth, also remain near record-high levels. Hoarded cash is king. The velocity of money (the frequency at which money is spent, or GDP relative to base money) continues to plunge to historic lows. No wonder monetary policy has had so little impact. Capital, the engine of economic growth, sits idle – shrugging everywhere.
In a must read Op-Ed in the WSJ, Mark Spitznagel, founder of "fat tail" focused hedge fund Universa, where Nassim Taleb has been known to dabble on occasion, explains the fundamental flaw with central planning, and specifically why "moral hazard" or the attempt to avoid the destructive part of natural cycles, is the greatest unnatural abomination ever conceived by man. His visual explanation should be sufficient for even such grizzled academics who have no clue how the real world works, as the Chairsatan, to comprehend why what he is doing is an epic abomination of every law of nature: "Suppressing fire, creating the illusion of fire protection, leads to the wrong kind of growth, which then invites greater destruction. About 100 years ago, the U.S. Forest Service took a zero-tolerance approach to forest fires, stamping them out at the first blaze. Fast forward to 1988 when a massive wildfire at Yellowstone National Park wiped out more than 30 times the acreage of any previously recorded fire." Another way of calling this, is what we have been warning about for years: delaying mean reversion does nothing but that. And when the Fed finally fails to offset the inevitable, and it will - it is a 100% certainty - the collapse and destruction will be unprecedented. Ironically, the only way the system could have been saved would be by letting it fail in 2008. Now, we are sorry to say, it is too late.
I've been meaning to write a piece on Ludwig von Mises, the greatest economist who ever lived, and, if you will, a hero of mine. This is a piece on Mises from the Op-Ed page of the Wall Street Journal by Mark Spitznagel. Spitznagel is the head of Universa Investments and is a protege and partner of Nassim Taleb of Black Swan fame. Those of you who have been following my blog know of my admiration of Mr. Taleb. He and Mr. Spitznagel were also "right," and Universa made a lot of money for their investors from our economic crisis.