Originally posted at Monty Pelerin's World blog,
When Suckers Finally Realize
The fleecing of the American public continues.
The theft takes different forms, but it all serves one purpose — to transfer wealth from the average Joe to the crony corporatists and their political lackeys. Here are but a few examples of how this has been accomplished:
- Bailouts for the wealthy and well-connected are paid for by the unconnected middle class.
- Subsidies are provided for unworkable schemes submitted by political donors and favorites. These schemes inevitably fail and the tax-payer is left holding an empty bag.
- Laws are routinely ignored when “friends” need help. In identical circumstances, would you receive the same treatment as Jon Corzine?
- Despite the biggest theft in world history, no one was prosecuted. The Savings and Loan crisis in the 1980s was trivial in comparison to the recent financial crisis. More than a thousand S&L executives were prosecuted.
- Ever-increasing sacrifices in the form of higher taxes from the productive sector are demanded to continue the plush living of the ruling class.
Capitalism and free markets depend upon trust, integrity, property rights and the rule of law. Without these, there are no advantages to free markets. Nor are there any incentives to create wealth. Instead, an economy becomes little more than a massive plunder scheme where the powerful exploit the weak. No economic recovery is possible under such circumstances.
When Suckers Revolt
As people recognize what is happening, they alter their behavior. Three reactions are to be expected:
1. Some will become discouraged when they realize the game is stacked against them. They will diminish their efforts to succeed, even perhaps dropping out of the game altogether. Given the enhanced returns to not working, it should not be surprising that this alternative has become popular.
2. Others will adopt the same behavior as the ruling class. They will exploit those lower on the food chain than themselves. Justice Brandeis warned of the implications of government misbehavior:
In a government of laws, the existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipotent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. If government becomes a lawbreaker it breeds contempt for law: it invites every man to become a law unto himself. It invites anarchy.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan described the process of declining moral values as “defining deviancy down.”
3. Others may resort to acts of violence. These reactions could be isolated domestic terrorist acts against government and corporations seen as the exploiters. Or the acts might be broader based where the poor see fit to attempt to take from the wealthy. They also could manifest in wide civil unrest against the government if it is seen as the cause of misery or if it is seen as intending to default on promises made.
All of this behavior is anti-social and it is unproductive. It reduces the output of the economy, further exacerbating the problems.
How Does This End?
It is difficult to know how the current condition ends. Here are a few possibilities, with some opinion added:
- Will our ruling class alter its behavior? That is very unlikely. History provides no examples where power is willingly relinquished.
- Will our economy collapse? That is a likely outcome, although the process could take years or decades.
- Will social unrest occur? Probably. The government, at some point will be unable to honor its promises. It is broke and left with the printing of money as its primary source of funds. Stopping the printing means dishonoring promises and likely plunges the country into civil unrest.
- Will hyperinflation occur? If the government continues to print, that seems to be the inevitable result.
Issues That Need To Be Solved
We are too far into this economic disaster to escape without an economic collapse of some sort. Return to normal economic times is impossible without a complete and thorough purging of the economic distortions and capital mis-allocations produced from decades of government interventions.
The following issues prevent a recovery:
- No economy can prosper without a strong middle class. They are the productive class in society. They are the small businesses and job creators. Without them, society does not produce. Without production, there is only poverty.
- Inflation, the cruelest tax of all, is driving up prices while wages and salaries do not keep pace. For those without wealth, there is no way to protect against this theft. For those with wealth, they can rearrange investments to take advantage of inflation, particularly if they are privy to what is coming next.
- The economy is dysfunctional. It no longer functions efficiently as a result of the burdens it is forced to labor under. The price system has been made less efficient as a result of inflation, manipulated interest rates, subsidies, penalties and other impediments. It no longer provides the information needed by economic actors to make proper decisions.
- Regime uncertainty discourages action. When economic actors are unable to judge the future, they pull back. Money goes to the sidelines or out of the country.
- US economic policy and the uncertainty of what comes next has been a great job creator for other countries.
- Economic growth cannot be forced by central diktats. It occurs only in a climate that is receptive and friendly to risk-taking. It is hard to imagine a worse environment than the current one. That is why there is no investment and no hiring.
What Is The Outlook?
There should be no optimism regarding government changing its ways. History suggests it never does.
The recent plunge in the gold market suggests government has gone all in in its attempt to continue exploitation. Chris Martenson commented on this event:
I am very disappointed by, but not surprised at, the latest transfer of weath to the bankers from everyone else. The most recent gold bear raid has vastly enriched the bullion bankers, once again, at the expense of everyone trying to protect their wealth from global central bank money printing.
Gold is considered a safe-haven against government plunder. It is one of the few escapes from fiat currency debauchery that the small investor has. Whether this latest attack on gold was to make the bullion bankers better off or to scare those trying to protect themselves against government exploitation is irrelevant. When government intervenes (assuming it did, and the circumstantial evidence is pretty strong) in markets in such a manner, it is no longer a referee. It has chosen a side and is a participant in the game. There can be no fair competition when one team owns the referee. That is what happens when government participates in markets.
Historians judge that it took Rome almost two hundred years to die. That determination depends very much upon what you mean by “die.” Arguably Rome died much earlier than historians acknowledge. Rome was dead-man walking before the couple of hundred years it took for it to fall down.
The US is in similar position. Unless you believe in the miracle of sovereign resurrection, the US is over. The coroner-historians have not pronounced death yet, but they, like with Rome, are behind the curve. This dead man too will eventually fall down.