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Showing posts with label Friedrich von Hayek. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Friedrich von Hayek. Show all posts

Friday, May 3, 2013

"Fear the Boom and Bust" a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem is a place to learn about the economic way of thinking through the eyes of creative director John Papola and creative economist Russ Roberts.

In Fear the Boom and Bust, John Maynard Keynes and F. A. Hayek, two of the great economists of the 20th century, come back to life to attend an economics conference on the economic crisis. Before the conference begins, and at the insistence of Lord Keynes, they go out for a night on the town and sing about why there's a "boom and bust" cycle in modern economies and good reason to fear it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Anatomy of the End Game


About a month ago, in the third-quarter report of a Canadian global macro fund, its strategist made the interesting observation that “…Four ideas in particular have caught the fancy of economic policy makers and have been successfully sold to the public…” One of these ideas “…that has taken root, at least among the political and intellectual classes, is that one need not fear fiscal deficits and debt provided one has monetary sovereignty…”. This idea is currently growing, particularly after Obama’s re-election. But it was only after writing our last letter, on the revival of the Chicago Plan (as proposed in an IMF’ working paper), that we realized that the idea is morphing into another one among Keynesians: That because there cannot be a gold-to-US dollar arbitrage like in 1933, governments do indeed have the monetary sovereignty.
Is this true? Today’s letter will seek to show why it is not, and in the process, it will also describe the endgame for the current crisis. Without further ado…
After the fall of the KreditAnstalt in 1931, with the world living under the gold-exchange standard, depositors first in central Europe, and later in France and England, began to withdraw their deposits and buy gold, challenging the reserves of their respective central banks. The leverage that linked the balance sheet of each central bank had been provided by currency swaps, a novelty at the time, which had openly been denounced by Jacques Rueff. One by one, central banks were forced to leave the gold standard (i.e. devalue) until in 1933, it was the Fed’s turn. The story is well known and the reason this process was called an “arbitrage” is simply that there can never be one asset with two prices. In this case, gold had an “official”, government guaranteed price and a market price, in terms of fiat money (i.e. schillings, pounds, francs, US dollars). The consolidated balance sheets of the central bank, financial institutions and non-financial sector looked like this before the run:

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Broken Window Fallacy

This short video explains one of the most persistent economic fallacies of our day.

Made by Sam Selikoff and Luke Bessey.
See Luke's page:
See Sam's blog:

Against the Hurri-Keynesians


It seems that we may never rid ourselves of the broken-window fallacy.
Hurricane Katrina certainly did not stop economists from proclaiming the silver lining of natural disasters. On September 9, 2005, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao told USA Today that demand could create a labor shortage that could push up wage rates and that "We're going to see a tremendous boom in construction." On December 3rd, 2005, Nigel Gault, chief domestic economist at Global Insight, said, "We are now at the point where Hurricane Katrina's effects are adding to job creation rather than detracting from it."
And it's not only that disasters just have a silver lining: economists have long believed that natural disasters and wars are actually good for the economy! Until recently they have not made any attempt to empirically test their views. However, in 2002 Mark Skidmore and Hideki Toya published a paper where they found a positive correlation between disasters and human capital, productivity, and GDP growth.

Your Vote Still Doesn’t Matter

By Douglas French

I hit a nerve whenever I write about voting and democracy.

Point out the sheer lunacy of the civic religion and a certain group of readers will blow their stacks, sending back long emails stuffed with long words, calling me things like “intellectually vacuous” and insisting I’m full of “self-aggrandizement.”

Such is the case with an email from Laissez Faire Today reader B.R., who says he doesn’t normally like to start his criticisms with name-calling but believes the idea of not voting is “so astounding” that it “requires an equally strong tactic to stop its momentum in its tracks.”

I hate to break it to B.R., but the nonvoting train left the station a long time ago. For the last 50 years, 40-50% of eligible voters have chosen to stay home on presidential Election Days. President Obama’s campaign in 2008 actually pumped life into the election process.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle

Compiled by Richard M. Ebeling
The Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle
Ludwig von Mises source :

Nowadays it is usual in economics to talk about the Austrian theory of the trade cycle. This description is extremely flattering for us Austrian economists, and we greatly appreciate the honor thereby given us. Like all other scientific contributions, however, the modern theory of economic crises is not the work of one nation. As with the other elements of our present economic knowledge, this approach is the result of the mutual collaboration of the economists of all countries.
The monetary explanation of the trade cycle is not entirely new. The English "Currency School" has already tried to explain the boom by the extension of credit resulting from the issue of bank notes without metallic backing. Nevertheless, this school did not see that bank accounts which could be drawn upon at any time by means of checks, that is to say, current accounts, play exactly the same role in the extension of credit as bank notes. Consequently the expansion of credit can result not only from the excessive issue of bank notes but also from the opening of excessive current accounts.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fraud, Why The Great Recession Happened

"Fraud. Why The Great Recession Happened" is a crowdfunded documentary.

The Great Recession has not been fault of the free market. On the contrary, it´s origin should be sought for in the State´s and central bank´s deep intervention in the economy, causing in a fraudulent way, recurrent cycles of artificial expansion, the" bubble effect" and economic recession that all citizens end up paying for.The great depression is what happens when the government sticks their hands in everyone's business. How come we still haven't learned? America was created to have less government control. and it worked amazingly. Then Roosevelt stuck his hands into everything and we spent twelve years with 25% unemployment. But we continue to try it that way.So many people are dependent on the government giving them money. What is going to happen when they run out of other peoples money to give?

Finally, the root of the Great Recession is found at the end of WW2 when were created World Bank, and first and foremost IMF. Illuminati, the majority of them being bankers, have planned since more than two hundred years ago these events (1773), and mainly IMF, next with the Hebrew Banks, had and have a vital role in today's global depression and into the enslavement of the populations of the world in these huge debts. Their final goal is a new economic, social, politic, cultural order obtained through a war: WW3 or "The Final Social Cataclism".

Have you seen Robert Triffin?

 By Joe Yasinski and Dan Flynn 
source : bullioninternational

"It was the outcome of an unbelievable collective mistake, which, when people become aware of it, will be viewed by history as an object of astonishment and scandal"  - Jaques Reuff 1972 .

The obscure Belgian economist Robert Triffin is not only very dead he also isn't exactly a household name, yet. Triffin, who died in 1993 studied at Harvard, taught at Yale, worked at the Federal Reserve, the IMF, and was a key contributor to the formation of the European monetary system. Triffin exposed serious flaws in the Bretton Woods monetary system and perfectly predicted it's inevitable demise yet his work remains largely ignored and unstudied by today's mainstream economists. This "flaw" became known as the Triffin dilemma, and many believe Triffin's dilemma has as serious implications today as it did 50 years ago. In short, Triffin proposed that when one nations currency also becomes the worlds reserve asset, eventually domestic and international monetary objectives diverge. Have you ever wondered how it's possible that the USA has run a trade deficit for 37 consecutive years? Have you ever considered the consequences on the value of your Dollar denominated assets if it eventually becomes an unacceptable form of payment to our trading partners? Thankfully for those of us trying to navigate the current financial morass, Robert Triffin did. Prior to the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement, central banks used gold as the asset to back their currencies. By the end of World War II, the United States had established itself as the world's creditor and largest holders of gold. Under the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement, the US Dollar was fully backed by gold at a fixed value of 1/35th an ounce per dollar, and foreign Central Banks could use US Dollar assets as reserves backing their currency, in lieu of gold. This agreement avoided the inevitable deflationary pressure a return to pre-war gold/currency ratios would have forced just as Europe was beginning to rebuild, and allowed US debt held abroad to be used as an asset by central banks against their local currencies.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

To Tax Is to Destroy

The landmark Supreme Court decision McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) has had wide impact on the powers of the federal government. In fact, this decision, more than any other, is responsible for the incredible growth of federal authority throughout the years. Today, Washington has a tight grip on every aspect of our lives, and much of this federal intrusion is due to the "implied powers" doctrine that emanated from this court decision.
In the case, the clerk of the Bank of the United States, James McCulloch, brought action against the state of Maryland. In opposition to the national bank, Maryland had imposed a tax on the Bank of the United States — hoping to tax it out of existence. McCulloch took the position that such a tax was an unconstitutional interference with the activities of the federal government by a state — in this case Maryland. Therefore, McCulloch brought action to stop Maryland from taxing the national bank out of existence.
Pleading the case on behalf of McCulloch, the eminent jurist Daniel Webster argued that Maryland had no authority to tax the bank. The essence of his argument was quite simple: "An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy."
The court agreed. Speaking for a unanimous court, Chief Justice John Marshall echoed Webster's words. He wrote, "The power to tax implies the power to destroy. If the States may tax one instrument, may they not tax every other instrument…? This was not intended by the American people."
Consequently, with the help of these two highly esteemed jurists, we have conclusively settled a point of contention among many scholars — that the unlimited power to tax is the power to destroy, clear and simple. And without question, the government has an unlimited power in this respect.
Let us now examine some of the many ways in which the power to tax destroys.

The Fed and the ECB: Two Paths, One Goal

by Philipp Bagus
 Both the Federal Reserve (Fed) and the European Central Bank (ECB) are owners of the printing press. They produce base money. On top of the base-money production, the fractional-reserve-banking system can produce money out of thin air. Both central banks produce money in order to finance their respective governments. As a result of their money production, prices will be higher than they would have been otherwise. All money users indirectly pay for the government deficits through a reduction in purchasing power and the reduced quality of their money.Download PDF
While the ECB's and Fed's functions (to provide liquidity to the banking system in times of crisis and to finance the government together with the banking system) are the same, there exist small differences between them. In the so-called open-market operations (another term for active manipulation of the money supply) the central banks produce or destroy base money.
There are two ways central banks produce base money. By tradition, the Fed uses the produce-money-and-purchase approach (PMP). Normally, the Fed produces money in their computers and uses it to buy US Treasuries from the banking system. In exchange for the US Treasuries, the Fed creates money on the account that the selling bank holds at the Fed.
The ECB, in contrast, uses the produce-money-and-lend (PML) approach. It produces money and lends it to the banking system for one week or three months. The preferred collateral for these loans to banks is government bonds.[1] As a result of PMP and PML, banks receive new base money. They hold more reserves at their account at the central bank. The additional reserves mean that they can now expand credit and create even more money.
For governments, the mechanism works out pretty well. They usually spend more than they receive in taxes, i.e., they run a deficit. No one likes taxes. Yet, most voters like to receive gifts from their governments. The solution for politicians is simple. They promise gifts to voters and finance them by deficits rather than with taxes. To pay for the deficit, governments issue paper tickets called government bonds such as US Treasuries.
An huge portion of the Treasuries are bought by the banking system, not only because the US government is conceived as a solvent debtor, thanks to its capacity to use violence to appropriate resources, but also because the Fed buys Treasuries in its open-market operations. The Fed, thereby, monetizes the deficit in a way that does not hurt politicians.
But what about the interest paid on the Treasuries? The US government has to pay interest on the bonds to their new owner, the Fed. The Fed receives the interest, which increases the Fed's profit. Who receives the Fed's profit? The bulk of the Fed's profit is remitted back to the US government at the end of the year.
But what about the principal on the bonds? What happens when the bond must be paid back? At the end of the term of the bonds, the government would have to pay its holders. The trick here is just to issue a new bond to pay for the maturing one. Thus, the debts must never be paid but keep getting monetized. Figure 1 shows how the Fed finances the US deficit:
Figure 1
Figure 1: How the Fed finances the US government
The ECB finances deficits in a more subtle way. Only in the sovereign-debt crisis did it start to buy government bonds outright. Normally, the ECB lends to banks against collateral. Banks buy government bonds because they know it is preferred collateral at the ECB. By pledging the bonds as collateral at the ECB, banks receive new reserves and can expand credit. As the government bonds are still owned by banks, governments have to pay interest to banks. Banks, in turn, pay interest on the loans they receive from the ECB, which remits its profits back to governments.
Thus, the system is similar to the Fed, with the difference that normally some of the interest payments leak out to the banking system that pays lower interest rates on its loans than it receives on the bonds. Another important difference is that there may be a redistribution between governments if eurozone governments run deficits of different sizes. In my book The Tragedy of the Euro I explain that the Eurosystem resembles a tragedy of the commons. Several independent governments can use one central-banking system to finance their deficits and externalize the costs in the form of a loss of purchasing power of the Euro onto all users of the currency. The incentive is to have higher deficits than other eurozone governments in order to profit from the monetary redistribution. The flow of the new money is shown in figure 2.
Figure 2
Figure 2: How the ECB finances Euro area governments
Is the difference between the Fed's and the ECB's manipulation of the money supply essential? The Fed buys government bonds outright, while the ECB accepts them as collateral for new loans to the banking system. Economically, the effects are identical. The money supply increases when the Fed buys government bonds. When the ECB grants a loan with government bonds pledged as collateral, the money supply increases as well. In the case of the Fed, the money supply increases until the Fed sells the bond. In the case of the ECB, the money supply increases until the ECB fails to roll over (renew) its loan to the banking system.
There exists a legal difference. The Fed integrates the government bonds on its balance sheet. The ECB does not do so as bonds remain legally the ownership of the banks. Because the ECB does not publish the collateral provided for its loans, we do not know how many Greek government bonds, for example, are provided as collateral for ECB loans. The Fed is more transparent in this respect.
In both cases, government deficits are effectively monetized. That means that the ECB was bailing out Greece even before May 2010. It did not have to buy the Greek bonds outright; it only had to accept them as collateral. If the ECB had not accepted Greek bonds, Greek debts could not have mounted to such an extent. The Greek government would have had to default much earlier.
Aside from this more direct monetization, there is also a monetization going on that is often neglected. Market participants know that central banks buy government bonds and accept them as the preferred collateral. Banks buy the bonds due to their privileged treatment ensuring a liquid market and pushing down yields.
Knowing that there is a very liquid market in government bonds and a high demand by banks, investment funds, pension funds, insurers, and private investors buy government bonds. Government bonds become very liquid and almost as good as base money. In many cases, they serve to create additional base money. In other cases they stand as a reserve to be converted into base money if necessary. As a consequence, new money created through credit expansion often ends up buying liquid government bonds, indirectly monetizing the debt. (Another main holder of government debts is other foreign central banks.)
Imagine that the government has a deficit and issues government bonds. Part is bought by the banking system and used to get additional reserves from the central bank, which buys the bonds or grants new loans, accepting them as collateral. The banking system uses the new reserves to expand credit and grant loans to, for example, the construction industry. With the new loans, the construction industry buys factors of production and pays its workers. The workers use part of the new money to invest in funds. The investment funds then use the new money to acquire government bonds. Thus, there is an indirect monetization. Part of the money created by the fractional-reserve-banking system ends up buying government bonds because of their preferential treatment by the central bank, i.e., its direct monetization.
The process is shown in figure 3:
Figure 3

While it is an intricate system at the first sight, one that many common citizens fail to understand, the system boils down to the following: The government spends more than it receives in taxes. The difference is financed by its friends from the financial system, accommodated by central banks. Money production sponsors politicians' dreams, thereby destroying our currencies. The population pays in the form of a lower purchasing power of money.
For governments it is the perfect scheme. The costs of their deficits are externalized to the users of the currency. The debt is never paid through unpopular taxes but simply by issuing paper that says, "government bond."

[1]  Traditionally central banks have used both ways to finance government debt. America's Federal Reserve System places emphasis on the purchase of government bonds in its open-market operations. It also accepts government bonds as collateral in repurchase agreements. Repurchase agreements and other loans in which government bonds were accepted as collateral rose in importance during the financial crisis of 2008. The European Central Bank, on the contrary, has put more emphasis on accepting government bonds in collateralized loans in its lending operations to the banking system. Only during the sovereign-debt crisis of 2010 did the ECB started buying government bonds outright. On these central-bank policies in the wake of the financial crisis, see Bagus and Howden (2009)Download PDF and Bagus and Schiml (2010).Download PDF

Hyperinflation Watch - Cyclical or Structural?

by James Turk - Goldmoney

The US federal government spent $369 billion in August, but only received $179 billion in revenue. The resulting $190 billion deficit was a record for any August and the third highest monthly deficit in the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30th.

Looking at this deficit another way, the federal government borrowed 51.6% of the dollars it spent in August. Consequently, the growth of the national debt continues to accelerate, as illustrated by the green bars in the following chart.

This chart also illustrates that the deficit – the gap between expenditures (red line) and revenue (blue line) – is not narrowing to any significant extent, which is a critically important observation. A persistent gap that is barely shrinking has never happened before.

Normally economic activity revives after a recession, which in turn leads to increased revenue for the federal government, like it did from 2004-2008 when the more rapid growth in revenue almost eliminated the deficit. But not this time. Revenue is increasing, but so are expenditures at almost the same rate.

Consequently, the deficit is not shrinking, which confirms a point I have made repeatedly for two years. The US is confronting a structural problem. It is not a cyclical one that will go away with improved economic activity. Importantly, the failure to address this problem will eventually lead to hyperinflation and the destruction of the dollar.

Mr. Bernanke sees it differently. Here is what he said in his well-publicized Jackson Hole speech on August 31st.

“In light of the policy actions the FOMC has taken to date, as well as the economy's natural recovery mechanisms, we might have hoped for greater progress by now in returning to maximum employment. Some have taken the lack of progress as evidence that the financial crisis caused structural damage to the economy, rendering the current levels of unemployment impervious to additional monetary accommodation. The literature on this issue is extensive, and I cannot fully review it today. However, following every previous U.S. recession since World War II, the unemployment rate has returned close to its pre-recession level, and, although the recent recession was unusually deep, I see little evidence of substantial structural change in recent years.” [emphasis added]

Note how Mr. Bernanke relies on precedent to defend his point of view. He believes that economic activity will grow just like it has after “every previous U.S. recession since World War II” because unemployment will fall as it always has, even though unemployment remains stubbornly high. Not only does he thereby imply that so-called black-swans – which are rare events – exist, he clearly refuses to believe that we may already be in one. To see the “evidence of substantial structural change” he says is missing, all Mr. Bernanke needs to do is look at the deficit gap so clearly illustrated in the above chart.

It is not the first time Mr. Bernanke has relied on ‘what is supposed to happen’ instead of what is actually happening. The following is from a CNBC interview on July 1, 2005.

“INTERVIEWER: Tell me, what is the worst-case scenario? We have so many economists coming on our air saying ‘Oh, this is a bubble, and it’s going to burst, and this is going to be a real issue for the economy.’ Some say it could even cause a recession at some point. What is the worst-case scenario if in fact we were to see prices come down substantially across the country?

BERNANKE: Well, I guess I don’t buy your premise. It’s a pretty unlikely possibility. We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.” [emphasis added]

Just a few months before, Doubleday published The Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit From It, the book I co-authored with John Rubino. Here is what we said on page 164 after providing our analysis of the housing market: “To put it bluntly, by virtually every measure, today’s housing market is a classic financial bubble.” The housing bubble was apparent not only to John and me, but also the dozens of others who understand the fundamental economic principles of the Austrian School. Apparently, that does not include Mr. Bernanke.

In conclusion, don’t put your faith on the pronouncements of any central planner. Rely instead on your own common sense, which hopefully has been well grounded by insights from parents or grandparents who lived through the collapse of the German Reichsmark, Serbian dinar, Argentine austral or any of dozens of other currency collapses. If you did not have that opportunity to learn from relatives who experienced a currency collapse firsthand, then I recommend that you read Mises, Rothbard and the other Austrian School scholars published at

Once you do, then decide for yourself whether the problem facing the US is cyclical or structural. Common sense and experience are telling me that it is structural.

Sadly, policymakers are doing little if anything about it. So we need to prepare for the consequences. The best way to do that of course is to own physical gold and silver.

Gold is Good Money - Dr. Ron Paul, U.S. Congressman

Last year the Chairman of the Federal Reserve told me that gold is not money, a position which central banks, governments, and mainstream economists have claimed is the consensus for decades. But lately there have been some high-profile defections from that consensus. As Forbes recently reported, the president of the Bundesbank (Germany's central bank) and two highly-respected analysts at Deutsche Bank have praised gold as good money.

Why is gold good money? Because it possesses all the monetary properties that the market demands: it is divisible, portable, recognizable and, most importantly, scarce - making it a stable store of value. It is all things the market needs good money to be and has been recognized as such throughout history. Gold rose to nearly $1800 an ounce after the Fed's most recent round of quantitative easing because the people know that gold is money when fiat money fails.

Central bankers recognize this too, even if they officially deny it. Some analysts have speculated that the International Monetary Fund's real clout is due to its large holdings of gold. And central banks around the world have increased their gold holdings over the last year, especially in emerging market economies trying to protect themselves from the collapse of Western fiat currencies.

Fiat money is not good money because it can be issued without limit and therefore cannot act as a stable store of value. A fiat monetary system gives complete discretion to those who run the printing press, allowing governments to spend money without having to suffer the political consequences of raising taxes. Fiat money benefits those who create it and receive it first, enriching government and its cronies. And the negative effects of fiat money are disguised so that people do not realize that money the Fed creates today is the reason for the busts, rising prices and unemployment, and diminished standard of living tomorrow.

This is why it is so important to allow people the freedom to choose stable money. Earlier this Congress I introduced the Free Competition in Currency Act (H.R. 1098) to permit people to use gold as money again. By eliminating taxes on gold and other precious metals and repealing legal tender laws, people are given the option between using good money or fiat money. If the government persists in debasing the dollar – as money monopolists have always done – then the people would be able to protect themselves by using alternatives such as gold that are both sound and stable.

As the fiat money pyramid crumbles, gold retains its luster. Rather than being the barbarous relic Keynesians have tried to lead us to believe it is, gold is, as the Bundesbank president put it, "a timeless classic." The defamation of gold wrought by central banks and governments is because gold exposes the devaluation of fiat currencies and the flawed policies of government. Governments hate gold because the people cannot be fooled by it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Interest Rates Are Prices

by Ron Paul - Daily Paul

One of the most enduring myths in the United States is that this country has a free market, when in reality, the market is merely the structural shell of formerly free institutions. Government pulls the strings behind the scenes. No better illustration of this can be found than in the Federal Reserve's manipulation of interest rates.

The Fed has interfered with the proper function of interest rates for decades, but perhaps never as boldly as it has in the past few years through its policies of quantitative easing. In Chairman Bernanke's most recent press conference he stated that the Fed wishes not only to drive down rates on Treasury debt, but also rates on mortgages, corporate bonds, and other important interest rates. Markets greeted this statement enthusiastically, as this means trillions more newly-created dollars flowing directly to Wall Street.

Because the interest rate is the price of money, manipulation of interest rates has the same effect in the market for loanable funds as price controls have in markets for goods and services. Since demand for funds has increased, but the supply is not being increased, the only way to match the shortfall is to continue to create new credit. But this process cannot continue indefinitely. At some point the capital projects funded by the new credit are completed. Houses must be sold, mines must begin to produce ore, factories must begin to operate and produce consumer goods.

But because consumption patterns have either remained unchanged or have become more present-oriented, by the time these new capital projects are finished and begin to produce, the producers find no market for their goods. Because the coordination between savings and consumption was severed through the artificial lowering of the interest rate, both savers and borrowers have been signaled into unsustainable patterns of economic activity. Resources that would have been used in productive endeavors under a regime of market-determined interest rates are instead shuttled into endeavors that only after the fact are determined to be unprofitable. In order to return to a functioning economy, those resources which have been malinvested need to be liquidated and shifted into sectors in which they can be put to productive use.

Another effect of the injections of credit into the system is that prices rise. More money chasing the same amount of goods results in a rise in prices. Wall Street and the banking system gain the use of the new credit before prices rise. Main Street, however, sees the prices rise before they are able to take advantage of the newly-created credit. The purchasing power of the dollar is eroded and the standard of living of the American people drops.

We live today not in a free market economic system but in a "mixed economy", marked by an uneasy mixture of corporatism; vestiges of free market capitalism; and outright central planning in some sectors. Each infusion of credit by the Fed distorts the structure of the economy, damages the important role that interest rates play in the market, and erodes the purchasing power of the dollar. Fed policymakers view themselves as wise gurus managing the economy, yet every action they take results in economic distortion and devastation.

Unless Congress gets serious about reining in the Federal Reserve and putting an end to its manipulation, the economic distortions the Fed has caused will not be liquidated; they will become more entrenched, keeping true economic recovery out of our grasp and sowing the seeds for future crisis.
source :

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Government Default: Yes or No?

 It is not often that readers get a clear-cut choice between two forecasts. Most forecasts have wiggle room. Not the following.

1. The United States government will default.
2. The United States government will not default.

I hold the first position. John T. Harvey holds the second. He wrote a piece for Forbes defending his position: "It Is Impossible For The US To Default".

I regard this as the most fundamental economic issue facing the U.S. government. I regard it as the most fundamental economic issue facing Americans under age 60.

Mr. Harvey begins.

With so many economic, political, and social problems facing us today, there is little point in focusing attention on something that is not one. The false fear of which I speak is the chance of US debt default. There is no need to speculate on what that likelihood is, I can give you the exact number: there is 0% chance that the US will be forced to default on the debt.

That is the kind of forthrightness that I appreciate. Here is my response. With so many economic, political, and social problems facing us today, it is crucial that we focus attention on something that is both catastrophic and inescapable. The fear of which I speak is the chance of U.S. debt default. There is no need to speculate on what that likelihood is, I can give you the exact number: there is 100% chance that the U.S. will be forced to default on the debt.


Why do I believe this? Because I believe in the analysis supplied by Professor Lawrence Kotlikoff of Boston University. Each year, he analyzes the statistics produced by the Congressional Budget Office on the present value – not future value – of the unfunded liabilities of the U.S. government. The latest figures are up by $11 trillion over the last year. The figure today is $222 trillion.

This means that the government needs $222 trillion to invest in private capital markets that will pay about 5% per year for the next 75 years.

Problem: the world's capital markets are just about $222 trillion. Then there are the unfunded liabilities of all other Western nations. These total at least what the U.S. does, and probably far more, since the welfare state's promises are more comprehensive outside the USA.

Conclusion: they will all default.

Mr. Harvey thinks that the U.S. government could choose to default, but it won't.

We could choose to do so, just as a person trapped in a warehouse full of food could choose to starve, but we could never be forced to. This is not a theory or conjecture, it is cold, hard fact. The reason the US could never be forced to default is that every single bit of the debt is owed in the currency that we and only we can issue: dollars. Unlike Greece, we don't have to try to earn foreign exchange via exports or beg for better terms. There is simply no level of debt we could not repay with a keystroke.

There are a lot of people inside the camp of the gold bugs who also believe this. They are probably wrong. They are wrong for the same reason why Mr. Harvey is wrong. They do not understand Ludwig von Mises.


Mises was a senior advisor to the equivalent of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce after World War I. He understood monetary theory. His book on money, The Theory of Money and Credit, had been published in 1912, two years before the war broke out.

In the post-War edition of his book, he wrote of the process of the hyperinflationary breakdown of a currency. He made it clear that such a currency is short-lived. People shift to rival currencies.

The emancipation of commerce from a money which is proving more and more useless in this way begins with the expulsion of the money from hoards. People begin at first to hoard other money instead so as to have marketable goods at their disposal for unforeseen future needs - perhaps precious-metal money and foreign notes, and sometimes also domestic notes of other kinds which have a higher value because they cannot be increased by the State '(e.g.the Romanoff rouble in Russia or the 'blue' money of communist Hungary); then ingots, precious stones, and pearls; even pictures, other objects of art, and postage stamps. A further step is the adoption of foreign currency or metallic money (i.e. for all practical purposes, gold) in credit transactions. Finally, when the domestic currency ceases to be used in retail trade, wages as well have to be paid in some other way than in pieces of paper which are then no longer good for anything.

The collapse of an inflation policy carried to its extreme - as in the United States in 1781 and in France in 1796 does not destroy the monetary system, but only the credit money or fiat money of the State that has overestimated the effectiveness of its own policy. The collapse emancipates commerce from etatism and establishes metallic money again (pp. 229-30).

In 1949, his book Human Action appeared. In it, he discussed hyperinflation. He called this phase of the business cycle the crack-up boom.

The characteristic mark of the phenomenon is that the increase in the quantity of money causes a fall in the demand for money. The tendency toward a fall in purchasing power as generated by the increased supply of money is intensified by the general propensity to restrict cash holdings which it brings about. Eventually a point is reached where the prices at which people would be prepared to part with "real" goods discount to such an extent the expected progress in the fall of purchasing power that nobody has a sufficient amount of cash at hand to pay them. The monetary system breaks down; all transactions in the money concerned cease; a panic makes its purchasing power vanish altogether. People return either to barter or to the use of another kind of money (p. 424).

Later in the book, Mises discussed the policy of devaluation: the expansion of the domestic money supply in a fruitless attempt to reduce the international value of the currency unit.

If the government does not care how far foreign exchange rates may rise, it can for some time continue to cling to credit expansion. But one day the crack-up boom will annihilate its monetary system. On the other hand, if the authority wants to avoid the necessity of devaluing again and again at an accelerated pace, it must arrange its domestic credit policy in such a way as not to outrun in credit expansion the other countries against which it wants to keep its domestic currency at par (p. 791).Mt. Harvey has described just such a policy. He concluded that the United States government can never go bankrupt. It can print its way out of every obligation.

No, it can't.


The expansion of the monetary base can go on until such time as commercial banks monetize all of the reserves on their books. Prices then rise to such levels that transactions no longer take place in the official currency unit. The division of labor contracts. The output of capital and labor falls. At some point, people adopt other currency units. They no longer cooperate with each other by means of the hyperinflated currency.

Professor Steve Hanke has co-authored an article on the worst 56 hypernflations. He discovered that most of these in industrial nations were over in a couple of years. The crack-up boom ended them.

No nation can long pursue a policy of hyperinflation. It destroys the currency and destroys the division of labor. The result is starvation. The policy of hyperinflation ends before this phase. Members of society shift to other forms of money.

This is why the policy of hyperinflation is useless in dealing with the 75-year obligations of the federal government to support old people through Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and federal pensions. These obligations are inter-generational. Hyperinflation lasts for months, not decades. When the government ends its policy of hyperinflation, it finds that it is still saddled with these obligations.

If the Federal Reserve resorts to hyperinflation, its retirement portfolio will reach zero value unless it shifts to foreign currencies, gold, or other hyperinflation hedges. It will publicly announce that the U.S. dollar is a failed currency, as manipulated by the FED.

If it refuses, then it will oversee Great Depression 2, monetary deflation, and the contraction of the division of labor. The U.S. government will go bankrupt.

If Congress nationalizes the FED, then it will pursue hyperinflation. The crack-up boom will end the experiment.

At that point, all of the obligations to retirees will still remain. But the government will not have the money to pay them. The $222 trillion of present valued unfunded liabilities will still remain unfunded.

The government's obligations are inter-generational. Hyperinflation is not. The latter in no fundamental way reduces the former.

This means that the government will default. This is 100% guaranteed.


Mr. Harvey cites the experts. "Don't take my word for it. Here are just a few folks from across the political spectrum and in different walks of life saying the same thing." Then he gives a series of quotations from these men: Alan Greenspan, Peter Zeihan, Erwan Mahe, Mike Norman, Monty Agarwal, L. Randall Wray. Other than Mr. Greenspan, I had heard of none of them. He concludes:

Mind you, that doesn't mean there might not be other economic or political consequences. Inflation and currency depreciation, for example, are possibilities.

Yes, they surely are, since they are the same thing. But they do not solve the problem of the inevitable default. They merely add to the misery before the default.

Indeed, we have seen neither hide nor hair of inflation or high interest rates during the current run up of the debt. It is critical to bear in mind, too, that these deficits are not a result of the government trying to buy something it cannot otherwise afford (as would be the case for you or me). Rather, they are setting out to generate sufficient demand for goods and services to employ all those willing to work (that said, not every kind of government spending does this effectively, but that's a different question). As there is no limit to how much debt we can successfully carry, we should be aggressively pursuing the latter goal rather than talking about being "fiscally responsible." There is nothing responsible about leaving over 12 million Americans out of work.

We have plenty of problems in the world. No point in making one up.


This appeared in Forbes. The article cited a list of supposed experts, with Alan Greenspan at the head of the list. Somehow, the author expects us to take his argument seriously. We are also supposed to take his cited experts seriously, beginning with Alan Greenspan. We are supposed to imagine that debts are forever, that they need not be repaid, that credit is eternal, that the Baby boomers are not retiring by the millions, that digits can overcome economic theory, that Medicare is solvent, that Social Security is solvent, and that hyperinflation is always available as a way for the government not to default.

The nation is run by people who share his views. So is every Western nation.

This is a very good reason to prepare for a catastrophe, if we are lucky, or possibly several: (1) mass inflation, stabilization, deflation, depression, and government default, or (2) hyperinflation followed by a default. Take your pick.
source :

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents--The Definitive Edition

An unimpeachable classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, The Road to Serfdom has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century. Originally published in 1944—when Eleanor Roosevelt supported the efforts of Stalin, and Albert Einstein subscribed lock, stock, and barrel to the socialist program—The Road to Serfdom was seen as heretical for its passionate warning against the dangers of state control over the means of production. For F. A. Hayek, the collectivist idea of empowering government with increasing economic control would lead not to a utopia but to the horrors of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

First published by the University of Chicago Press on September 18, 1944, The Road to Serfdom garnered immediate, widespread attention. The first printing of 2,000 copies was exhausted instantly, and within six months more than 30,000 books were sold. In April 1945, Reader’s Digest published a condensed version of the book, and soon thereafter the Book-of-the-Month Club distributed this edition to more than 600,000 readers. A perennial best seller, the book has sold 400,000 copies in the United States alone and has been translated into more than twenty languages, along the way becoming one of the most important and influential books of the century.

With this new edition, The Road to Serfdom takes its place in the series The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek. The volume includes a foreword by series editor and leading Hayek scholar Bruce Caldwell explaining the book's origins and publishing history and assessing common misinterpretations of Hayek's thought. Caldwell has also standardized and corrected Hayek's references and added helpful new explanatory notes. Supplemented with an appendix of related materials ranging from prepublication reports on the initial manuscript to forewords to earlier editions by John Chamberlain, Milton Friedman, and Hayek himself, this new edition of The Road to Serfdom will be the definitive version of Hayek's enduring masterwork.

Author Biography : Friedrich August Hayek (1899-1992), recipient of the Medal of Freedom in 1991 and co-winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1974, was a pioneer in monetary theory and the principal proponent of libertarianism in the twentieth century. He taught at the University of London, the University of Chicago, and the University of Freiburg. His influence on the economic policies in capitalist countries has been profound, especially during the Reagan administration in the U.S. and the Thatcher government in the U.K.