Take Everything You Know, And Burn It: A "New Normal" Recantation In Six Simple Lessons

Tyler Durden's picture

From Charles Gave of GaveKal.com

A Recantation

Over the years a number of economists and political scientists have seen the error of their ways and come clean with a reasoned recantation. The mid-19th century British thinker John Stuart Mill famously changed his mind on the divisive question of industrial wages. My contribution to political economy hardly matches Mill’s, but I have spent my adult life pondering the linkages between economics and markets. However, in recent times I have come to realize that I was wrong in my most basic understanding of these relationships. So for the edification of younger readers, and possibly future generations, I have composed a single document to explain my about-face; to my tormentors I hope this proves that I have left behind impure thoughts and incorrect reasoning!

My recantation will take the form of key lessons learned:

Lesson #1 Government agencies allocate capital better than the private sector

We have moved into a new world where it is no longer necessary to have the market decide short rates, long rates or, for that matter, the currency  exchange rate. This happy state of affairs started with euro’s adoption in 2000 and intensified in 2002 when US real interest rates were driven negative. Given the massive successes of these policies, the authorities have expanded their horizon to seize control of other troublesome prices such as salaries, either by fixing them (minimum wages and the capping of financial professionals’ bonuses), taxing “excessive” remuneration (think anything above the minimum wage, especially in France). Even more creatively, new regulations such as Basel III or Solvency II have compelled savings to be invested in government securities rather than financing private sector capital spending. This properly “guided” financial system means a portfolio invested 50/50 in US and German bonds since 2000 has outperformed pretty much all assets with the exception of gold (we expect a directive banning the use of the “barbarous relic” anytime soon). Such a portfolio of government securities, I am told, will continue to outperform for the foreseeable future, and I, of course, believe it. Moreover, the next step will be to control the price of disorderly markets that still exist for traded goods and salaries. And the perfectly dreadful free movement of capital will soon be brought to heel through foreign exchange controls. Hence, a portfolio of securities issued by such enlightened authorities will surely outperform for the foreseeable future.

Lesson #2 Central banks should control asset prices and prevent them from falling

The problem with capitalism (a most disruptive and chaotic economic paradigm as anyone with a proper historical understanding knows) is that asset prices can jump around depending on financial market participants’ reading of "the expected marginal rate of return on capital". For this reason, central banks will soon act to phase out numerically inexact "expectations" since serious decision makers operate only in an environment of full certainty. This means that asset prices will henceforth only go up, and those market participants who disagree will be dissuaded through a restriction that makes “anti-social” trading activity prohibitively expensive (the Tobin tax on financial transactions). Unhealthy volatility will be removed by banning short sales. Another factor supporting prices is the punitive taxation of capital gains as very few wealthy people will now sell anything. And since such benign interventions must expunge risk from the economic system, it is only fair (and logical) to tax capital at the same rate as labor—France is, of course, leading the world.

Lesson #3 Darwin & Schumpeter were wrong, creationists are right; there is such a thing as a free lunch

I once thought that economic growth emerged from the unplanned process of "creative destruction" identified by a charlatan Austrian-American economist named Schumpeter. This was a misunderstanding since wealth and economic growth are both created "ex nihilo" by a benevolent god called "the state," whose role is to stimulate demand by buying goods and services that nobody needs with money that does not exist. This process, of course, leads to an ever rising standard of living.

Such truth was revealed by a great prophet named "Keynes" who some years ago endowed a new church and its clergy of "civil servants" who obey the orders of their economist cardinals. Such fellows are beyond criticism as they selflessly strive to improve the lives of lesser mortals. For their service and their abnegation, they are usually very well paid (as the clergy class always is when it supports the dominant political power). They deserve their stipend, or at least this is what they say, and, of course, unnecessary questioning of settled truths can be a bad career move.

Lesson #4 Towards a new orthopraxy

The promise of this religion is that compliance with the clergy’s edicts will ensure a happy and prosperous life. How do the new economic clergy measure whether its followers’ actions meet divine approval? By using a quantitative measurement called "the GDP"—a central feature of the Keynesian catechism that mixes added values created by the private sector through voluntary transactions and costs incurred by the public sector. (see GDP As A Concept: Misleading If Not Downright Criminal) These public sector costs are funded from taxes (the ignorant might assume such deductions would reduce incomes, but miraculously they do not) and through borrowings. It is an article of faith that any damage to the national balance sheet from the resulting debt will not be recognized. Hence, I will incant in a lusty fashion "glory to the GDP," even if my recidivist inner-self mutters a little like Galileo, "et pur si muove.”

Lesson #5 Wondrous tools used by the clergy to grow GDP

The new clergy uses two tools to guarantee that GDP always gets bigger. It prints "money" which is used to buy government debt and in turn allows the clergy to purchase goods and services on behalf of a needy population. For sure, some citizens may crave worldly vices bought with their own money, but mercifully the good shepherds know best. In order to secure economic control the new clergy needed to capture the central bank(s). Of course, in any reformation there will be apostates; in this case the unreconstructed German central bank which continues to resist the doctrinal shift propagated by Pope Heli I, a brilliant theoretician from the new world who has even promised to dispense money from the skies. Pope Heli I, together with leading cardinals in Europe and Japan, detests the old elite and their quaint belief in monetary orthodoxy. Why this backward-looking ancien regime clings to its old fashioned "market fundamentalism" is beyond me. Looking back, I wonder how I ever supported a group that did not promise happiness on earth for all.

Lesson #6 How to finance infinite needs

This is where the miracle promised by the new faith manifests itself. The elected government issues debt in unlimited amounts to pay for the politicians promises. Hey presto! The old malediction of penury has disappeared as the ability to pay has been unshackled from any worldly constraint. This new debt is bought by the central bank on the most pious orders of Pope Heli I.

Heli I’s omnipotence is revealed by his ability to part the sea of market turmoil and set interest rates on the new debt at zero. Even if the government issues an infinite amount of debt the fact that it pays zero interest means the service cost will remain zero. Truly, water into wine! Only a small and increasingly marginalized group of deficit hawks fail to appreciate the beauty of the new construction. The true believers, who proudly proclaim themselves "deficits deniers'" have seen the light and promise to lead their flock into a promised land of unlimited borrowing with no downside (see Deficit Deniers Of The World Unite).

I am puzzled that no one has thought of such an idea before, but then again what need have I for reading history—especially economic history— when, like Heli I, I can rely on my models. After all, these new revelatory tools of science have passed all tests of statistical significance. It does not matter that their forecasts have been consistently faulty—the model is compliant with the Keynesian sacred books.

In summary my new faith can be understood as follows:

  1. Government allocates capital better than the private sector, and should use interest rates, exchange rates, price fixing, price controls or whatever artifice it deems fit to ensure that capital goes to where it is properly directed.
  2. The alpha and omega of the central bank’s proper role is to finance government spending.
  3. Money belongs to the government, as we have seen properly demonstrated this week in Cyprus.
  4. Property rights, the antediluvian obsession of the market fundamentalists, have been subject to a doctrinal revision “the template” as also shown this week in the eastern Mediterranean.
  5. As a result of this new paradigm, asset prices must rise for the foreseeable future so long as Heli I decrees that the money printers keep printing. How can asset prices fall while the US central bank is printing more than $80bn a month? Even the unreformed Bundesbankers will surely grasp that if the European Central Bank did the same thing, the euro's problems would disappear overnight and prosperity would swiftly return to southern Europe, (Really, Germans should not be allowed into politics until they have had a primer indoctrination at either Cambridge or Princeton.)
  6. More money creates more wealth, and more wealth, especially in real estate, creates more jobs—evidence to the contrary in Spain only represents a small setback on this road to happiness. As we all know, a rise in real estate prices leads to a massive increase in productivity, a prerequisite for an increase in the standard of living.
  7. Services or goods provided to the population by the government, borrowing money from the central bank to pay the fellows who produce the goods that nobody needs with money that does not exist, will add tremendously to the GDP. This is a sure sign that the right policy is being pursued.
  8. These goods and services anyway have a higher moral value than the ones produced in the private sector. One should simply compare the "social usefulness" (a favorite notion of Lenin and Stalin) of a nurse versus a hedge fund manager to be convinced. I rest my case.

So from now on, I will buy what the US, UK, French, Spanish, or for that matter Greek governments and central banks tell me to buy. I cannot afford to offend the new clergy. As a market “intellectual” the risks to my social standing, not to mention career prospects, are too high. One day if I keep my nose clean and my thoughts pure, I may just be admitted to the College of Cardinals.

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Death and Gravity's picture

Reading the headlines only:


Wait, too early.

DJ Happy Ending's picture

The bullet points look like a garden variety Krugman NYT column.

McMolotov's picture

Here, though, the people leaving comments don't line up to tongue his Keynesian butthole.

NotApplicable's picture

But if he posted this over at HuffPo, they'd claim him as their god.

francis_sawyer's picture

"Here, though, the people leaving comments don't line up to tongue his Keynesian butthole..."


Au contraire...

Ms Creant ~ the other day [though well intentioned], gave a PERFECT example as to, at least, HOW, people 'line up', whilst abberantly aligning themselves amongst the 'FIGHT CLUB do~gooders'...

Let's roll... :-)

redpill's picture

The western world is lurching into tyranny and people think its just an economic recession.

Hard to watch.

francis_sawyer's picture



redpill ~ I don't want to lure you into the francis_sawyer 'web of sin', [but I'm serious about this]... I became so frustrated [the other day], that it finally dawned on me that the only way to interact with people might be to go to the CHAT ROOMS [on ZH] to articulate my views... [thus, the aforementioned 'invite']...

Now ~ consider this... If the ONLY way to hope to establish legitimate conjecture on a subject is to dismiss yourself to secrecy [outside of the public eye]... Well ~ you're already, likely, immersed into deep shit...

Supernova Born's picture

The religion is greed, the false idol is baseless fiat, the high priests are the central bankers and the sacrificial offering is the middle class.

Raymond K Hessel's picture

ZH has chat rooms?


So this is what Cato must have felt like watching the Republic turn into the Empire.  

So this is what Padmé must have felt like watching the Republic turn into the Empire.

So this is what Snowball must have felt like watching the Animal Farm turn into the Manor Farm.

So this is what Raymond must have felt like watching the American republic turn into the United States of America.

TruthInSunshine's picture

I have approx 38 requests that I accepted, yet can't interact with via zchat.

I think it might have something to do with the adblockplus, https everywhere and ghostery (along with some other privacy plugins and settings).

Anyone else have this issue?

Manthong's picture

trying to figure this out, too.

TruthInSunshine's picture

I just accepted your request, FWIW.

I have no idea if people think I'm ignoring them since I only get requests and no follow up messages or whatever the chat thing is supposed to do.

TruthInSunshine's picture

Lesson #7: Buy The Fukkin' (Non) Dip!**


** "Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."

kaiserhoff's picture

Lesson  #8

Economists can, in fact, divine chicken guts,

and from that science tell you exactly how you should live, whom you should marry, how many children to have, whether you are a cat or dog person, etc, etc, ad nauseum ,foreveh.  You are a SLAVE.  GET OVER IT.

billhilly's picture

Lesson  #9

Don't EVER try to short MY market !

Ben Bernank

Cdad's picture

Lesson #10

Do not forget your daily devotional, offered up to Big Brother whom you love.

zorba THE GREEK's picture

The silver market sure is behaving in contradiction to everything I know.

In fact it just spiked down 2% in a minute and back up again. Turn your

head SEC, you don't want to see this.

zorba THE GREEK's picture

And there it goes again. It looks like the PM surge protection team is working overtime.

LongBallsShortBrains's picture

Friday humor came without warning. On a Thursday......

McMolotov's picture

Central planning for the muthafuckin' win. The Soviets were rank amateurs compared to Uncle Ben.

Cdad's picture

Each and every day it is amazing to see The Federal Reserve Bank in action, now printing $85 billion per month to keep both the nation and the banks liquid in the face of insolvency, as it rationalizes its actions as defending job creation [as the labor pool in America continues to collapse], while denying that inflation exists [as processed food makers include horse meat, exploding butt "tuna" and now dog meat in their products to mitigate inflationary effects] while the masses hardly say peep.

Toss in a DOJ that thinks it can blow you up from altitude unmanned style without due process, and a DHS [never mind that it actually exists] stocking up on billions of rounds of ammo and thousands of armored vehicles...and add a pinch of "accounting is now discouraged/illegal", and a whiff of your deposits are no longer "safe assets"....oh...and should the govt not like the look on your face, a blanket of indefinite detention without redress of any kind.

It is one thing to have been out in front on The Fed issue, having had your epiphany closer to 1913 than to 2013 let's say...but what is going on now is so brazen, so obviously "in your face average Joe" that it has all actually become stupefying.  Daylight robbery of trillions has apparently been legalized in modern America.  Yeah!  Now that is one hell of an economic model right there, I tell you.

Which way to the next planet?



McMolotov's picture

"You have committed thought-crime. Go directly to FEMA Camp #9. Do not pass GO and do not collect your chocolate ration."

Cdad's picture

No...really...I love Big Brother.  Truly, I do.

ToNYC's picture

FED lies and their winners won't survive.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

He wrote GDP.  I kept seeing GDR.  What's up with that?

DirkDiggler11's picture

I don't know which reminds me of "The Planet of the Apes" more, this bizarro world we seem to be living in, or the current occupants in the White House.....

Diogenes's picture

Too long. Let's simplify.

1) Work is for suckers.

2) The government can borrow money every year and never pay it back.

3) If anything goes wrong don't panic. All you need is the slick trick, the quick fix and the gimmick.

blu's picture

Okay! So the problem is ... what?

Diogenes's picture

"Okay! So the problem is ... what?"


Eventually you run out of other people's money.

blu's picture

"Eventually you run out of other people's money."

Then just print moar moneez and spend them. Seriously.

People around here kinda don't get it. It's not actually about money. It never was about money. Not even a little bit.

Kobe Beef's picture

You're right. It's about controlling the issuance of money. Doesn't matter how broke, dysfunctional, and debased countries, industries, and people become, so long as the cartel controls issuance, oligarchical collectivism survives, and they win.

JR's picture

The miracles of Keynes…

Eleven states now have more residents dependent on the government than they have people with jobs in the private sector. These are:

Ohio, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, South Carolina, New York, Maine, Alabama, California, Mississippi and New Mexico.

“Last month, the Senate Budget Committee reported that in 2011, between food stamps, housing, child care, Medicaid and other benefits, the average U.S. household below the poverty line received $168 a day in government support. To put this into perspective, the median household income in America is just over $50,000, which averages out to $137.13 a day.

Welfare now pays the equivalent of $30 an hour for a 40-hour week, while the average job pays $25 an hour.” -- AFP - March 25, 2013

espirit's picture

Wow! I do need to move out of Florida.

Raymond K Hessel's picture

What is the source for this claim?  I need to look at it.  It's so fantastical that the govt would admit it that I can't believe it.

JR's picture

"Poor" Households Getting $168 in Welfare Per Day from Taxpayers by Katie Pavlich, news editor, Town Hall

With charts…

“It's official. Taxpayers are no longer simply helping the poor, they're subsidizing the lives of welfare recipients at a better rate than their own. The Senate Budget Committee has released a report showing households living below the poverty line and receiving welfare payments are raking in the equivalent of $168 per day in benefits which come in the form of food stamps, housing, childcare, healthcare and more. The median household income in 2011 was $50,054, totaling $137.13 per day. The worst part? Welfare payments are equivalent to making $30 per hour for 40 hours a week. The median wage for non-welfare recipients is $25 per hour but because they pay taxes, unlike welfare recipients, the wage is bumped down to $21 per hour. From the report:

“For fiscal year 2011, CRS identified roughly 80 overlapping federal means-tested welfare programs that together represented the single largest budget item in 2011more than the nation spends on Social Security, Medicare, or national defense. The total amount spent on these federal programs, when taken together with approximately $280 billion in state contributions, amounted to roughly $1 trillion. Nearly 95 percent of these costs come from four categories of spending: medical assistance, cash assistance, food assistance, and social / housing assistance. Under the President’s FY13 budget proposal, means-tested spending would increase an additional 30 percent over the next four year…”


JR's picture

It turns out that welfare elects presidents. Of the welfare states…  

Obama won Ohio, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Maine, California and New Mexico.

 Mitt Romney was victorious in Kentucky, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi.

If the electoral votes of those welfare states were switched, Romney would be president with a total of 309 electoral votes and Obama with 197.

Out of Obama’s 332 electoral votes, those states represented 135 votes. Out of Romney’s 206 electoral votes, the 4 of those states that he won represented 32 electoral votes.

Here are the Obama states and number of electoral votes cast: Ohio -18, Hawaii - 4, Illinois - 20, New York- 29, Maine - 4, California - 55 and New Mexico - 5, for a total of 135 votes.

Here are the Romney states out of the 11: Kentucky - 8, South Carolina - 9, Alabama - 9, and Mississippi - 6, for a total of 32 votes.

It's money for votes; you get people to vote for you and then you pay them. And if it turns out they need money, i.e., jobless, illegal immigrant, already on welfare, it's easier to buy their vote. And if it doesn't add up to enough votes to buy the election, you always can open the borders wider and sue states who try to protect their borders.

johnnynaps's picture

I agree 95%! Legitimate work is for suckers......unless you like paying for welfare recipients, welfare bankers, corrupt politicians, the MIC, TBTF....oh Z'Hers are too smart to go on!!!!!

NotApplicable's picture

The only thing I see missing is my ration of soma.

Bastiat's picture

You'll have to settle for Prozac.

jimmytorpedo's picture

Prozac is mostly flouride, you (probably) already get your fair dose.

go ahead, NSA, i mean, google it

Bastiat's picture

Carbon filter is my friend.  Before that, 20 years of artesian.

drink or die's picture

The status quo sacrifices everyone who doesn't believe the above 6 steps first before finally consuming itself.  Glad to see Charles has figured it out.

stant's picture

yes it is a glorious failure!! one we will never afford again

MrNude's picture

You forgot the timeless classic: DON'T BUY GOLD.

And I say to thee, for the very fact it pisses people like Paul Krugman off that you should buy as much physical as you can get into your actual hands. Don't listen to the fairy tales those clowns tell you about how it will be worthless to hold onto and you will not be able to buy anything with it.

How can they suddenly change history and thousands of years of Gold being the ultimate store of value. Just look at what happened to the USSR after it collapsed, the barter system came back because people had no money, do you want to be the schmuck trying to bargain and barter for food with thin air and food stamps or the person who sleeps with a full belly thanks to forward planning, still think it can't happened today? wakey wakey look around you and what is happening right now.

Bastiat's picture

It is forbidden, of the devil.

LongBallsShortBrains's picture

We need all of the help we can get. And the real devil doesn't have time for this shit. We're fucked.

blu's picture

Everyone liked the free market until the free market ran out of cheap oil.

Wakanda's picture

Astute observation of the state as a savior religion.  We're living in a "theocrostate"? where critical thinking is heresy.

When I am burned at the stake, would someone please pop a joint in my mouth?