s it any wonder Marin Le Pen's Front National Party is a) leading in the polls, and b) pushing for an EU in/out referendum? Whatever it is that France (and/or Europe) is doing, is not working. Despite all the promises, French unemployment has risen practically non-stop for 4 years and just hit a new all-time record...
Many activists are clamoring for a higher minimum wage. That's an admirable goal, but is that where the worst problem is? Even at the abysmally low wages of the present moment, we still have 938,000 people being turned away from McDonald's because there aren't enough McJobs. The real problem is the lack of meaningful work. In a world of machines and social alienation, meaningful work is as scarce as water in the drought-stricken California Central Valley.
We have rich people, poor people, right-wing economists, left-wing economists and even revolutionaries, all contesting Piketty’s argument. It seems we the People do have a point against him. But will it prevail? We’re not optimistic on this one. It is far more likely that Piketty's ideas will gain traction rather than fade away. Why? Because it gives politicians and their Keynesian consorts yet another framework and justification as to why the state should be the key allocator of resources in society.
How this will not end badly and ugly is hard to see. As we quoted in an earlier article, the number of foodbanks in Britain went from 66 to 421 in the first 5 years of Cameron rule. How many more need to be added before people start setting cities on fire? Or even just: how much more needs to happen before the Scots have had enough? Very much like the Greeks, the Scots unambiguously voted down austerity. And in very much the same fashion, they face an entity that claims to be more powerful and insists on forcing more austerity down their throats anyway. It seems inevitable that at some point these larger entities will start to crack and break down into smaller pieces. As empires always do. Now, the EU was of course never an empire, there’s just tons of bureaucrats dreaming of that, and Britain is a long-decayed empire.
"The War on Cash is the attempt by governments to phase cash out of their economies. Governments hate cash because they hate the financial privacy cash makes possible. And they prefer that you keep your money in a bank to help prop up an unsound fractional reserve banking system." As Ron Paul warned, “The cashless society is the IRS’s dream: total knowledge of, and control over, the finances of every single American.”
Overnight we got the latest proof that there is nothing worse for an economy than to be run by a bunch of central planning academics who get "advice" from Paul Krugman. The reason: Japan's retail sales which crashed by 9.7% Y/Y, the biggest annual drop in history. To be sure, the biggest reason for the annual drop was the base effect with the surge in demand last March ahead of the April 2014 consumption tax hike, but the drop was bigger than what consensus had expected, as expectations were for a -7.3% drop. And confirming that things are getting worse on a sequential basis as well, was the 1.9% drop in sales in March compared to a 0.7% increase in February. In fact, as the chart belows show, on an indexed basis, the March retail sales print was one of the worst since last year's tax hike.
"An alternate, more sophisticated approach to explaining why QE may not work to stimulate aggregate consumption is, perhaps, because the demographic mix of the U.S. (and most parts of the developed world) has shifted toward older people. Unlike 30 or 40 years ago, the enormous baby boomer generation, and even retirees, are much wealthier (including human capital) than in the past, and they are wealthier than current generations earlier in their life cycle. So the wealth effect does not lead to an increase in consumption and, potentially, has the opposite outcome."
- Robert Merton
Here we are, just barely into our first earnings season without the incessantly added fuel provided by QE and the markets are stumbling. At times on Friday the indexes were hovering near the possibility of posting 2% losses going into the weekend. In today’s media mindset of “everything is awesome.” That’s near – unthinkable. No Fed speaker saved the day; no HFT-induced ramp came to the rescue... Maybe it’s because all ammo (and there has been no silver bullet more powerful of late than a Central Banker press conference) is being reserved for a much larger crisis looming on the horizon (i.e. Greece and all its tenuous implications calling for an “All hands on
printing presses deck, battle stations” response).
In his recidivist attacks on the gold standard Prof. Krugman tediously resurrects and refutes straw man arguments drawn from marginal thinkers. Prof. Krugman sets his phaser on stun and points it at the ghost of Ayn Rand rather than tangling with his peers. But boiled to its essence, Krugman's sciencefictiononomics is a tug of war between believers in mathematical modeling and believers in common sense. One also can cast this as a war between elitists (i.e believers in the ability of an elite to manage society’s affairs better than can the society itself) and populists (i.e. believers in the ability of society to manage its own affairs better than an elite can do so for it).
Although rarely cast as such this is a “War of the Worldviews” in the political and policy sector. This war is about the nature of reality. This war, not mere partisanship, is an underlying cause of political gridlock, at least for economic policy. Paul Krugman long ago left the twilight zone of Neo-Keynesianism to boldly go where no man has gone before. There isn’t a better “sciencefictionomist” than Prof. Krugman. That said, a coin has two sides. Sciencefictionomics has far from won its war on common sense.
In a new study, the IMF asks whether there's a global slump in real private investment (spoiler alert: yes there is and it's broad-based and endemic in advanced economies) and also suggests that productivity growth across the globe is likely to remain constrained for the foreseeable future.
At this point calling Japan a failed Keynesian banana republic is an insult to banana republics everywhere.
Who knew that the revolution would start with those radical Icelanders? It does, though. One Frosti Sigurjonsson, a lawmaker from the ruling Progress Party, issued a report today that suggests taking the power to create money away from commercial banks, and hand it to the central bank and, ultimately, Parliament.
Krugman wants his US readers to believe that all proper economists now agree that cutting deficits was a bad mistake, and it’s only self-interested finance types and ideologically-motivated politicians and think-tankers that take a different view. But that’s nonsense. Just think about it: “Everyone agrees that austerity was a mistake”… apart from every government in Europe except the Greeks, and the economists and many of the civil servants that advise them. Krugman and his fan-club do not constitute all serious opinion, much as they might like to regard themselves that way. It’s all very nice sitting in a US university office preaching to the Europeans (or, indeed, preaching in the New York Times)