Connecting the dots between my anecdotal observations of suburbia and a critical review of the true non-manipulated data bestows me with a not optimistic outlook for the coming decade. Is what I’m seeing just the view of a pessimist, or are you seeing the same thing? A few powerful men have hijacked our economic, financial and political structure. They aren’t socialists or capitalists. They’re criminals. They created the culture of materialism, greed and debt, sustained by prodigious levels of media propaganda. Our culture has been led to believe that debt financed consumption over morality and justice is the path to success. In reality, we’ve condemned ourselves to a slow painful death spiral of debasement and despair.
“A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, and fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.” – Chris Hedges
Well, my fellow Slope-a Dopes, your favorite intrepid seafaring Frenchman got blown out of the water by Benjamin Moby-Dick Bernanke once again. I have to hand it to captain grey beard, for a guy with a curiously quivering lower lip, who seems so utterly unsure of himself every time he opens his moronic mouth, he sure does have some pair of ballistic brass balls. Not only did he delivered on his QE3 promise, but he actually turbo charged it into a terrifying trifecta! Boatswain BDI was left for dead, desperately drowning in a sea of red DOOMs (Deep Options Out of the Money). So now that Moby Dick has breached and surged the equity waves to new highs, where do we sail from here?
From Egan-Jones, which downgraded the US for the first time ever last July, two weeks ahead of S&P: "Up, up, and away - the FED's QE3 will stoke the stock market and commodity prices, but in our opinion will hurt the US economy and, by extension, credit quality. Issuing additional currency and depressing interest rates via the purchasing of MBS does little to raise the real GDP of the US, but does reduce the value of the dollar (because of the increase in money supply), and in turn increase the cost of commodities (see the recent rise in the prices of energy, gold, and other commodities). The increased cost of commodities will pressure profitability of businesses, and increase the costs of consumers thereby reducing consumer purchasing power. Hence, in our opinion QE3 will be detrimental to credit quality for the US."
"Everything will collapse" is the consequence Gloom, Boom, & Doom's Marc Faber sees from the Fed's latest 'stimulus' (and the fallacy and misconception of how money-printing can help employment). In a wondrously clarifying interview on Bloomberg TV this morning, Faber explained why he was 'happy', since "the asset values of his holdings will go up" but as a responsible citizen he is worried because "the monetary policies of the US will destroy the world." It truly is class warfare under a veil of 'its good for you' as he notes: "the fallacy of monetary policy in the U.S. is to believe this money will go to the man on the street. It won't. It goes to the Mayfair economy of the well-to-do people and boosts asset prices of Warhols." Congratulations, Mr. Bernanke.
“Hit the road, rich idiot”
The almighty Dollar is looking less mighty these days. By almost every measure, the purchasing power of the US Dollar is in precipitous decline. The following infographic, whose contents should be well-known to our readers, visualizes the sad state of affairs that the average American seems to have ignored for far too long. And since the whole world is now engaged in the 4th year of all out currency debasement one can safely channel Lester Burnham and say it's "all downhill from here."
The unremitting deterioration of the eurozone’s sovereign debt landscape continues to fuel uncertainties about the longevity of the euro as a hard currency. Such uncertainties are not only leading to capital flight from the EMU’s periphery to the core and destabilizing markets worldwide, but they are also beginning to frighten southern European savers into seeking refuge outside their 10-year-old currency. Such is the case of Spain – the latest tumbling economy to threaten the euro’s survival. As the crisis deepens, there is still a window of opportunity for Spaniards to turn to gold as a means to protect their wealth against the risks of increased foreign exchange volatility, forced re-denomination, or even a total currency collapse.
It’s easy to be pessimistic over the future prospects of liberty when major industrialized nations around the world are becoming increasingly rife with market intervention, police aggression, and fallacious economic reasoning. The laissez faire ideal of a society where people should be allowed to flourish without the coercive impositions of the state is all but missing from mainstream debate. In editorial pages and televised roundtable discussions, a government policy of “hands off” is now an unspeakable option. It is presumed that lawmakers must step up to “do something” for the good of the people. Thankfully, this deliberate false choice will slowly but surely bring the death of itself. Illogical theories can only go on for so long before the push-back becomes too much to handle. For those who desire liberty, it’s a joy that the statist economic policies of the Keynesians become even more irrational as the Great Recession drags on. The two following examples will illustrate this point.
There is only one event on pundits and traders minds today: the ECB's press conference, during which Draghi will announce nothing material, as the substance of the bank's message has been leaked, telegraphed and distributed extensively over the past three weeks before just to gauge and test the market's response as every part of this latest "plan", which is nothing but SMP-meets-Operation "Tsiwt" was being made up on the fly. And not even a weaker than expected Spanish short-term auction in which €3.5 billion in 2014-2016 bonds were sold at plunging Bids to Cover, sending yields paradoxically spiking just ahead of what the ECB should otherwise announce will be the buying sweet spot, can dent the market's hope that Draghi will pull some final detail out of his hat. Or any detail for that matter, because while the leaks have been rich in broad strokes, there has been no information on the Spanish bailout conditions, on how one can use "unlimited" and "sterilized" in the same sentence, and how the ECB can strip its seniority with impairing its current holdings of tens of billions in Greek bonds without suddenly finding itself with negative capital. Elsewhere, the Swedish central bank cut rates by 25 bps unexpectedly: after all nobody wants to be last in the global currency devaluation race. Ironically, just before this happened, the BOJ's Shirakawa said that he won't buy bonds to finance sovereign debt: but why? Everyone is doing it. Finally, in news that really matters, and not in the "how to extend a ponzi by simply diluting the purchasing power of money" category, Greek unemployment soared to 24.4% on expectations of a rise to "just" 23.5%. This means there was an increase of 1.3% in Greek unemployment in one month.
The cheek of it! They raised the price of our favorite ice cream. Actually, they didn't increase the price; they reduced the container size. Raising prices is one thing. We understand raw-ingredient price rises will be passed on. But underhandedly reducing the amount they give you… that's another thing entirely. It just doesn't feel… honest. You've noticed, we're sure, how much gasoline is going up. Food costs too are edging up. Kids' college expenses, up. Car prices, insurance premiums, household items – a list of necessities we can't go without. Regardless of one's income level or how tough life might get at times, one has to keep spending money on the basics. According to the government, we're supposedly in a low-inflation environment. What happens if price inflation really takes off, reaching high levels – or worse, spirals out of control? That's not a rhetorical question. Have you considered how you'll deal with rising costs? Are you sure your future income will even keep up with rising inflation? If your monthly expenses are about $3,000/month, you need 45 ounces of Gold to cover two years of high inflation.
It’s perhaps no co-incidence that the trend towards persistent deficits started around the final collapse of the last link to a quasi-Gold standard back in August 1971. As Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid notes, in a world of the Gold Standard or equivalent, those countries loosening policy too much would have seen a rush to convert their currencies into Gold thus destabilising their economic policy framework. Multi-year (let alone multi-decade) deficits and the GFC could not have occurred under a gold standard. So with the shackles off and with nothing backing paper money, the post-1971 period has seen a uniquely long period of fiat currencies globally with a beggar-thy-neighbour rolling period of credit creation. Never before in observable history have so many countries been off a precious metal type currency system for so long. So after 41 years of global fiat currencies and an unparalleled amount of debt that is proving very difficult to shift, we really are venturing into the unknown.
With a price hovering around $1,600 an ounce and the prospect of "additional monetary accommodation" hinted to in the latest meeting of the FOMC, gold is once again becoming a hot topic of discussion. Krugman, praising 'The Atlantic's recent blustering anti-Gold-standard riff, points to gold's volatility, its relationship with interest rates (and general levels of asset prices - which we discussed here), and the number of 'financial panics' that occurred during gold-standards. These criticisms, while containing empirical data, are grossly deceptive. The information provided doesn’t support Krugman’s assertions whatsoever. Instead of utilizing sound economic theory as an interpreter of the data, Krugman and his Keynesian colleagues use it to prove their claims. Their methodological positivism has lead them to fallacious conclusions which just so happen to support their favored policies of state domination over money. The reality is that not only has gold held its value over time, those panics which Krugman refers to occurred because of government intervention; not the gold standard. Keynes himself was contemptuous of the middle class throughout his professional career. This is perhaps why he held such disdain for gold.
Monopolies contribute to many problems - the record of evidence illustrates the potential inefficiency, waste and price fixing. Yet the greatest trouble with monopolies is what they take away - competition. Competition is a beautiful mechanism; in exercising their purchasing power and demand preferences, individuals run the economy. If we are for competition in goods and services, why should we disclude competition in the money industry? Would competition in the money industry not benefit the consumer in the manner that competition in other industries does? Why should the form and nature of the medium of exchange be monopolised? Shouldn’t the people - as individuals - be able to make up their own mind about the kind of money that they want to use to engage in transactions? Earlier, this year Ben Bernanke and Ron Paul had an exchange on this subject. It is often said in Keynesian circles that Bernanke is too tame a money printer, and that the people need a greater money supply. Well, set the wider society free to determine their own money supply based on the demand for money.
The discussion over the GOP's gold standard proposals continues in spite of the fact that everybody surely knows the idea is not even taken seriously by its proponents – as we noted yesterday, there is every reason to believe it is mainly designed to angle for the votes of disaffected Ron Paul and Tea Party supporters, many of whom happen to believe in sound money. As we also pointed out, there has been a remarkable outpouring of opinion denouncing the gold standard. Unfortunately many people are misinformed about both economic history and economic theory and simply regurgitate the propaganda they have been exposed to all of their lives. Consider this our attempt to present countervailing evidence. The 'Atlantic' felt it also had to weigh in on the debate, and has published an article that shows, like a few other examples we have examined over recent days, how brainwashed the public is with regards to the issue and what utterly spurious arguments are often employed in the current wave of anti-gold propaganda. The piece is entitled “Why the Gold Standard Is the World's Worst Economic Idea, in 2 Charts”, and it proves not only what we assert above, it also shows clearly why empirical evidence cannot be used for deriving tenets of economic theory.
The causal relationship between scarcity, demand, and price is intuitive. Whatever is scarce and in demand will rise in price; whatever is abundant and in low demand will decline in price to its cost basis. The corollary is somewhat less intuitive, but still solidly sensible: the cure for high prices is high prices, meaning that as the price of a commodity or service reaches a threshold of affordability/pain, suppliers and consumers will seek out alternatives or modify their behaviors to lower consumption. Much of the supposedly inelastic demand for goods is based on the presumptive value of ownership. For many workers, there simply won’t be enough income to indulge in the ownership model. The cost in cash and opportunity are too high. This leads to a profound conclusion: What will be scarce is income, not commodities.