Austrian Economists Understand Why There Is A Commodity Glut

In response to The Wall Street Journal's article on confused policymakers dealing with a glut of capital, Mises Canada' Patrick Barron briefly summarizes their errors...

The worldwide commodity glut is not a surprise to Austrian school economists.


It is a wonderful example of the adverse consequences of monetary repression to drive the interest rate below the natural rate.


Longer term projects, such as expansion of mineral extraction, appear to become profitable. But such is not the case for the simple reason that printing money does not represent an increase in real, saved resources.


Eventually it will be clear that capital has been wasted, what Austrian school economists call “malinvested”.



No amount of further monetary repression can cure this problem, although I am certain that the Keynesian school economists in charge of central banks and governments all over the world will give it a good try. Akin to bleeding the patient until he recovers, we may not survive this Keynesian medicine.

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Simply out - Austrian economists understand full well why there is a commodity glut but what they don't understand won't stop them...

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As we concluded previously, in the end, central banks will continue to keep conditions loose, seemingly oblivious (or perhaps willfully ignorant) to the fact that low rates and booming equity markets are contributing to the supply glut without effectuating a concomitant increase in demand. Meanwhile, producers — such as heavily indebted US shale companies — are forced to keep producing in order to keep what little revenue is still coming in flowing, a dynamic which is exacerbated when companies take on debt (and thus more interest expense) to stay alive:

Even if governments have the capacity for more fiscal stimulus, few have the political will to unleash it. That has left central banks to step into the void. The Federal Reserve and Bank of England have both expanded their balance sheets to nearly 25% of annual gross domestic product from around 6% in 2008. The European Central Bank’s has climbed to 23% from 14% and the Bank of Japan to nearly 66% from 22%...


Producers have their own share of the blame. In a lower commodity price environment, producers typically are reluctant to cut production in an effort to maintain their market shares.


In some cases, producers even increase their output to make up for the revenue losses due to lower prices, exacerbating the problem of oversupply.

Here is the vicious cycle visualized:

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For those wondering how this will play out, consider that sooner or later, in order to avoid liquidation and stave off severe disinflationary pressures, someone will have to call in "Helicopter Janet" and once the cash paradropping begins well, we'll see you in the Weimar Republic.