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.
The empirical data is in. And it turns out that as we have been suggesting for a very long time — yes, shock horror — helicopter dropping cash onto the financial sector does disproportionately favour the rich. Here are four simple questions to the venerable Bank of England (just as applicable to any and every Central Banker); and sadly, we expect to see the announcement of more quantitative easing to the financial sector long before we expect to see answers to any of these questions.
Debt offers a compelling fantasy: there is no need for difficult trade-offs or sacrifices, everything can be bought and enjoyed now. If income is flat and interest rates already near zero, then where is the leverage for additional debt going to come from? The answer is the game of relying on ever-expanding debt is over. You can claim phantom assets and income streams as collateral for a while, but eventually the market sniffs out reality, and the phantom assets settle at their real value near zero. Once the collateral is gone, the debt is also revalued at zero, and the debtor is unable to borrow more. This is the position Greece finds itself in; the collateral and income steams have been discounted, the credit lines have been pulled, and so the reality of living within one's means is reasserting itself. Living within one's income (household or national income) requires making difficult trade-offs and sacrfices: either current consumption is sacrificed for future benefits, or the future benefits are sacrificed for current consumption. You can't have it both ways once the collateral and credit both vanish.
The purpose of the list is to expose current partisan debate as corrupt and off-point. Economic policy makers across the political spectrum, including some commonly labeled “extreme” by more centrist politicians, are unwilling to acknowledge that fractionally reserved banking systems are the true source of the past generation’s credit build-up, the economic malaise it necessitated, the growing economic hardship it is creating, and the inescapability from deteriorating economic conditions through conventional policy means. The list challenges American policy makers to publicly identify and make illegal fractional-reserve banking, and further challenges them to lead the world in adopting sound money and credit practices that returns economic power to global economic actors following commercial rather than financial incentives.
It may come as a surprise to some of our younger readers, that the Eurozone, and its associated currency, is merely the latest in a long series of failed attempts to create a European currency union and a common currency. Three of the most notable predecessors to the EUR include the Hapsburg Empire, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia. Obviously, these no longer exist. Just as obvious, all of these unions, having spent time, energy, money, and effort to change the culture and traditions of member countries and to perpetuate said unions, had no desire, just like Brussels nowadays, to see these unions implode. The question then is: what happened after these multi-nation currency unions fails. VOX kindly answers: "they all ended with disastrous hyperinflation."
The deleveraging trap is a catch-22; while debt remains excessive, economic activity remains subdued, and while economic activity remains subdued, generating more production than consumption to pay down debt is extremely difficult. As we have seen in Japan — where the total debt load remains above where it was 1991 — fundamentals can remain depressed for years or even generations. Certainly, the modern debt jubilee isn’t going to cure the culture that led to the excessive debt. Certainly, it won’t wash away the vampiristic TBTF megabanks who caused the GFC and live today on bailouts and ZIRP. Certainly, it won’t fix our broken political or financial systems where whistleblowers like Assange are locked away and fraudsters like Corzine roam free to start hedge funds. And certainly it won’t wash away the huge mountain of derivatives or shadow intermediation that interconnect the economy in a way that amplifies small shocks into greater crises.
Like all systems that follow an S-curve of growth and decay, financialization cannot return to its growth phase. But there is another dynamic at play: a self-destruct sequence triggered by central bank and Central State efforts to reflate asset and credit/leverage bubbles. All central bank and State policies aimed at driving capital into risk assets boil down to reflating phantom assets purchased with debt by issuing more debt that is based on newly issued phantom assets. Phantom assets purchased with debt cannot be reflated by issuing more debt that is based on newly issued phantom assets. Piling more debt/leverage on a sandpile of phantom assets (CDS, bonds that cannot possibly be paid back, empty condos in the middle of nowhere, etc.) only heightens the probability that the unstable pile will collapse. The implicit Central Planning campaign to trigger "mild" inflation is part of the self-destruct sequence. Central planners metaphorically fight the last war, or at best the last two wars, and so they remain blind to any dynamics that did not exist in their case studies.
41 Years After The Death Of The Gold Standard, A Look At "How We Ended Up In This Economic Purgatory"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 08/15/2012 20:53 -0400
As we await the latest developments out of the Eurozone and Washington, JPMorgan's Kenneth Landon takes a moment to look back on this very important day in history. If you want to understand current events, then you first have to understand history. How did we get here? More specifically for financial markets, how did we end up in this mess -- this economic purgatory? This being August 15, 2012, students of the history of monetary economics no doubt are aware that this is the 41th Anniversary of the breakdown of Bretton Woods. It was on this day 41 years ago that President Nixon defaulted on the promise to exchange gold for paper dollars presented for exchange by foreign central banks. The crisis in confidence that we observe today resulted from cumulative effects of those measures.