How does $45 a barrel oil and $2 a gallon gas sound? Expect $45 oil in the future of this renaissance.
Keynesian economists believe, regardless of logic and data, that economies can be managed from the top down. In their world, economies are little different than machines. Change some inputs here, speed them up over there, add some lubrication, etc. and the machine will respond in the fashion desired. Output can be “managed” to whatever level needed purely by adjusting the parts of the machine. Austrian economists on the other hand do not see a machine. They see millions of individuals all making decisions to improve their own lives. The price system provides the coordination among these separate pieces, performing a function no human, supercomputer or government could ever accomplish. For Austrians, economics is a bottom up approach. To effect change, you must change the incentives and disincentives that individual decision makers are afforded. “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana. Ideology is powerful, capable of masking unpleasant facts. Whether we recognize it or not, we are all slaves to ideology.
For the fourth year in a row we continue our tradition of summarizing what you, our readers, found to be the most relevant, exciting, and actionable news of the year, determined simply by the number of page views. Those first eager for a brief stroll down memory lane of prior years can do so at their leisure, by going back in time to where the top articles of 2009, 2010 and 2011 are recapped. With that out of the way, here is what readers found to be the most popular posts of the past 365 days..
The politicization of central banking continues unabated. The resurrection of Shinzo Abe and Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party – pillars of the political system that has left the Japanese economy mired in two lost decades and counting – is just the latest case in point. He argued that a timid BOJ should learn from its more aggressive counterparts, the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. But will it work? Unfortunately, it appears that Japan has forgotten many of its own lessons – especially the BOJ’s disappointing experience with zero interest rates and QE in the early 2000’s. Not only is QE’s ability to jumpstart crisis-torn, balance-sheet-constrained economies limited; it also runs the important risk of blurring the distinction between monetary and fiscal policy. Massive liquidity injections carried out by the world’s major central banks – the Fed, the ECB, and the BOJ – are neither achieving traction in their respective real economies, nor facilitating balance-sheet repair and structural change. That leaves a huge sum of excess liquidity sloshing around in global asset markets. Where it goes, the next crisis is inevitably doomed to follow.
A broken safety net is no safety net at all.
The holiday week saw the dollar consolidate against most of the major currencies. The yen was the main exception as its losses were extended under the aggressive signals coming from the new Japanese government.
At the end of the week, the other key consideration, the US fiscal cliff made its presence felt. The recent pattern remained intact. News that gives the participants a sense that the cliff may be averted encourages risk taking, which means in the foreign exchange market, the sale of dollars and yen.
News that makes participants more fearful that the political dysfunction failed to avert the cliff and send the world's largest economy into recession, generally see the dollar and yen recover. This is what happened in very thin markets just ahead of the weekend as Obama's ling last ditch negotiating stance seemed to reflect a retreat from his earlier compromises.
Selling nuclear and industrial secrets and know-how to China in order to conclude a deal that had been “aborted”...
Despite the fact that myself and everyone else acting like they know what lays ahead are proven wrong time and time again, we continue to make predictions about the future. It makes us feel like we have some control, when we don’t. The world is too complex, too big, too corrupt, too lost in theories and delusions, and too dependent upon too many leaders with too few brains to be able to predict what will happen next. This is the time of year when all the “experts” will be making their 2013 predictions - but few will address where they were wrong in previous predictions. I’m more interested in why I was wrong. It seems I always underestimate the ability of sociopathic central bankers and their willingness to destroy the lives of hundreds of millions to benefit their oligarch masters. I always underestimate the rampant corruption that permeates Washington DC and the executive suites in mega-corporations across the land. And I always overestimate the intelligence, civic mindedness, and ability to understand math of the ignorant masses that pass for citizens in this country. It seems that issuing trillions of new debt to pay off trillions of bad debt, government sanctioned accounting fraud, mainstream media propaganda, government data manipulation and a populace blinded by mass delusion can stave off the inevitable consequences of an unsustainable economic system. Will 2013 be the year it all collapses in a flaming heap of rubble? I don’t know. Maybe you should ask an “expert”.
In the spirit of the holidays and hope for a more prosperous 2013, we thought readers might appreciate a little humor to partially offset the relentless 'cliff' doom and gloom. So please, don’t take this too seriously. But if you happen to stumble across a ‘paperbug’ or two over the holidays, perhaps you could share some of the points made here. Humor sometimes helps people realize just how hopelessly misguided they are... Quantitative easing changes nothing. Remember, the PhDs are in charge of our economies and they know exactly how much our money should be worth. Those of us concerned that our money might lose purchasing power are just being paranoid. Choice is dangerous. Think Adam and Eve and you’ll get my point. Those arguing in favour of monetary freedom, of choice in money, of repealing legal tender laws, they’re just like that nasty snake Lillith in the Garden of Eden, the source of all trouble I tell you. ‘Tis the season to borrow and spend folks, as indeed it has been since 1971.
Much has been made of newly appointed uber-easer Abe's plans to weaken the JPY by any means possible. Since the global financial crisis began in early 2008, USDJPY has tracked remarkably closely with the ratio of Federal Reserve assets to Bank of Japan assets - as the currency wars escalated. Assuming the Fed proceeds with its planned QE3/4 $1tn expansion, then BoJ assets would need to expand by around JPY100tn to meet this target. The current BoJ holdings of JGBs just crossed JPY100tn - so this new printing is double the current holdings and considerably more than double the planned JPY44tn purchases for the year. Good luck with that given the expected JGB issuance this year is only around JPY44tn and good luck persuading anyone that the BoJ is not directly funding the government in the ultimate reacharound. As the Fed monetizes 1 year of Treasury issuance so the BoJ has to monetize over 2 years of JGB issuance - sustainable?
Enjoy your job in North Dakota while you can as in four years, those shale oil projects are no longer sustainable.
The U.S. federal deficit is now exceeding $1 trillion dollars every year —up from $161 billion in 2007, the last year before the financial crisis. Spending is up some $1 trillion, as outlays for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements have increased by an amount equal to the entire 2013 military budget – a budget which may again surpass the combined military expenditure of every other nation in the world. U.S. unfunded liabilities are now estimated at between $50 trillion and $100 trillion and by the end of the decade (in less than just 7 years), runaway entitlement spending will require shutting down the military or crippling many other vital domestic spending programs to head off massive deficits that will likely lead to a dollar crisis and significant inflation. No matter what deal is eventually agreed, whether before or after the new year, it will at best nibble at the edges of the trillion dollar annual deficits that are being piled up. While all the focus has been on the so called U.S. ‘fiscal cliff’, amnesia has taken hold and many market participants have forgotten about the far from resolved Eurozone debt crisis – not to mention looming debt crisis in the UK and Japan.
The US Fed is playing a very dangerous game by purchasing as many Treasuries as it is. But that game can last much longer than anticipated.
Two interesting infographics were published recently that make it so easy to see the decline of the West, even a caveman can do it. Both of these infographics point to the same conclusion: the west is living far beyond its means and is struggling with pitifully anemic growth. This is a long-term trend, and one that is only going to accelerate. Yet as obvious as the indicators may be, few people will actually do anything about it.