On Politics

     

 

 

Regret and Suffering

BALTIMORE – Victoribus spolia

So far, the most satisfying thing about the Trump win has been the howls and whines coming from the establishment. Each appointment – some good, some bad from our perspective – has brought forth such heavy lamentations.

 

Oh no! Alaric the Visigoth is here! Hide the women and children! And don’t forget the vestal virgins, if you can find any…

 

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Monster or Mozart?

BALTIMORE – Investors seem to be holding their breath, like a man hiding a cigarette from his wife. It’s just a feeling, and it’s not the first time we’ve had it… but it feels as though it wouldn’t take much to send them all running.

 

Actually, they’re not going anywhere yet… but there is a lot of overconfidence by those who were very worried when prices were a lot better – click to enlarge.

 

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Thirty Year Retread

What will President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talk about when they meet later today? Will they gab about what fishing holes the big belly bass are biting at? Will they share insider secrets on what watering holes are serving up the stiffest drinks? [ed. note: when we edited this article for Acting Man, the meeting was already underway]

 

Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe, a dyed-in-the-wool Keynesian and militarist, meets America’s new CiC in the somewhat ostentatiously appointed Trump Tower. They look happy.

Photo credit: Reuters

 

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Swamp Critters

BALTIMORE – The Dow is back above the 20,000-point mark. Federal debt, as officially tallied, is up to nearly $20 trillion. The two go together, egging each other on. The Dow is up 20 times since 1980. So is the U.S. national debt. Debt feeds the stock market and the swamp.

What’s not up so much is real output, as measured by GDP. It’s up only 6.4 times over the same period. Debt and asset prices have been rising three times as fast as GDP for 36 years! Best bet: Sell stocks and bonds (debt). Buy GDP. How? To be addressed in due course.

 

SGG! The “something’s gotta give” chart: total US credit market debt, federal debt, the Wilshire Total Market Index an GDP. Unless something gives, we will need a microscope in a few years in order to detect GDP on this chart. Consider also that GDP has been “upgraded” numerous time in recent decades, most recently less than two years ago (these upgrades involve adding hundreds of billions of dollars to economic output no-one has ever spent or received – they are merely statistical artifacts. It is slightly different with debt; we can simply count that) – click to enlarge.

 

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Alien Economics

There was, indeed, a time when clear thinking and lucid communication via the written word were held in high regard. As far as we can tell, this wonderful epoch concluded in 1936. Everything since has been tortured with varying degrees of gobbledygook.

 

One should probably not be overly surprised that the abominable statist rag Time Magazine is fulsomely praising Keynes’ nigh unreadable tome. We too suspect that this book has actually lowered the planet-wide IQ – in fact, similar to Marx’ Das Kapital, it has done permanent damage. We have to admit that we have read it ourselves (and what a slog it was!) – contrary to Keynes himself, who once published a scathing critique of Mises’ Theory of Money and Credit without reading even one word of it, we prefer to actually read what those we criticize have published. In the first German edition of the book, Keynes freely admitted that his policy recommendations were probably more useful for a totalitarian State than a free society (i.e., it would be easier to implement them, because of their coercive nature). The biggest problem is though that most of the book is a rehash of hoary inflationist ideas that were already long refuted by the time of its publication. The handful of original ideas Keynes contributed didn’t constitute good economic theory either. Moreover, the book is riddled with contradictions and is an extremely tedious read to boot. At best we can recommend it as symptomatic treatment for insomnia. However, it did provide the State with a pseudo-scientific fig leaf for central planning and interventionism, which in turn provides thousands of mediocre economists with an income. This is the reason why it was and continues to be praised to the rafters by assorted etatistes. It is at this point that we are often reminded by people (who usually haven’t read it) that “not all the ideas in the book are bad”. Well, you don’t have to take our word for it. If you don’t want to go through the painful effort of reading it, you might want to look at Henry Hazlitt’s detailed critique instead, which is available for free here: The Failure of the “New” Economics (pdf). It is the only way to have fun reading Keynes’ book. Hazlitt is taking it apart mercilessly with impeccable logic. In addition, he provides the reader with a few enlightening excursions, such as e.g. a disquisition on mathematical economics that is one of the best take-downs of this barren, physics envy-driven, pseudo-intellectual wanking we have ever seen.

 

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Popular Narrative

India has been the world’s favorite country for the last three years. It is believed to have superseded China as the world’s fastest growing large economy. India is expected to grow at 7.5%. Compare that to the mere 6.3% growth that China has “fallen” to.

 

India’s quarterly annualized GDP growth rate since 2008, according to MOSPI (statistics ministry) – click to enlarge.

 

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A Simple Formula

MIAMI – How do we know if new programs will make the economy better… or worse? Here’s a simple formula:

 

W = rv (w-w – w-l)

 

That is, wealth is equal to the real value of win-win exchanges minus the loss from win-lose exchanges. Yes, dear reader, it’s as simple as that. Like a whittler working on a piece of wood, we’ve shaved so much off, there is nothing left of it… except the essential heartwood.

 

When devising a win-win, be careful not to let it go bad-bad.

 

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Rekindling the Dollar Debasement Strategy

The U.S. dollar, as measured by the dollar index, has generally gone up since mid-2014. The dollar index goes up when the U.S. dollar gains strength (value) against a basket of currencies, including the euro, yen, pound, and several others. Conversely, the dollar index goes down when the U.S. dollar loses value.

 

The US dollar has been quite strong since retesting its previous lows in 2011 (note that it has been even stronger against many currencies not included in DXY). Politicians and central bankers never seem to be content with a strong currency. This is quite bizarre, as a strong currency greatly benefits consumers, i.e., everyone. Politicians seem to believe it is better to create currency-related benefits for what is really only a small sector of the economy – which proves how deeply ingrained mercantilist fallacies are. Ironically, even these beneficiaries only ever see a temporary bump in their income and as a rule tend to suffer great harm in the long term. Just ponder US car companies in this context. Over many decades, no other sector has been whining more persistently about the allegedly unfair weakening of the yen by Japan’s government. The reality is this: in 1965, the yen stood at nearly 360 to the dollar. 30 years later, it had risen to 80, a gain of 350% – or putting it differently, the dollar declined by 78% against the yen in three decades. Have US car companies conquered the world as a result? Have Japan’s car makers lost market share in the US or elsewhere? The exact opposite has in fact happened (two of the US “big three” even went bankrupt and had to be bailed out). Ultimately, the magic elixir of currency debasement achieves none of the results promised by its promoters – click to enlarge.

 

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Long March

BALTIMORE – Last week, Team Trump made its triumphant march into Washington. The president-elect paid his respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, admired his new hotel in Washington, and quipped that his cabinet had the highest IQs of any on record.

 

We’re over here! Too brainy for our skulls! We don’t know whether the new cabinet’s proximity to Einstein has actually been measured, but from experience we caution that seemingly high intelligence often doesn’t keep people from being morons (there is a long  list of high IQ morons considered to be members of the intelligentsia). That said, the Donald himself is certainly a lot sharper than many people give him credit for; his judgment on the matter should probably be given the benefit of the doubt… – click to enlarge.

 

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Impossible Bills

BALTIMORE – The tweet was never sent and never received:  “Lying Otto von Bismarck set us up for bankruptcy! What was he thinking? Sad!!” Instead, Mr. Trump said last weekend that, far from trying to curb the promises and cut the costs of the welfare state, he was nearly ready to unveil a plan to replace Obamacare with something better: a plan that would provide “insurance for everybody.

 

The “iron chancellor” Otto von Bismarck, wearing the type of helmet one shouldn’t leave lying around on a chair. Bismarck was responsible for the unification of Germany, which he achieved by engineering several wars as prime minister and foreign minister of Prussia. Prussia waged war against Denmark, Austria and France, and defeated all of them. Bismarck then unified the independent German states, city-states, bishoprics and principalities partly by annexation and partly by negotiation. Once Germany was unified, he was appointed “chancellor of the empire”. It was as though he was finally promoted to a post beyond his competence, in line with the Peter principle. First he embarked on the so-called Kulturkampf, aiming to undermine the power of the Catholic Church. The Church fought back by entering into a powerful political alliance with the Center Party. Bismarck abandoned the effort when he realized that secularists were using it to attack religion in general and that he would need the Center Party’s cooperation. Shortly after Germany’s unification, Europe was struck by an economic depression (incidentally, the term “crash” was coined when stocks cratered on the Vienna stock exchange in 1873). Bismarck immediately ensured that the depression would get worse by introducing tariffs in order to “protect” German industry. As the economic downturn predictably intensified, the popularity of socialism increased markedly. Bismarck responded by banning all socialist organizations and literature in 1878, which utterly failed to quell the rise of the socialists. In a renewed effort to undermine support for them, Bismarck introduced the welfare state in the 1880s, which 140 years later is in the process of bankrupting all of Western civilization. Do we have anything good to say about the man? Yes, we do. In contrast to his time as Prussia’s prime minister, he eschewed war as chancellor of the empire. In fact, he did everything in his power to preserve peace in Europe – it was by far his greatest concern. One year before his death he darkly predicted: “One day a great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.

 

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India’s Currency Ban – Part IX

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on 8th  November 2016 that Rs 500 (~$7.50) and Rs 1,000 (~$15) banknotes would no longer be legal tender.

 

Sadly, the despondency visible in the old man’s facial expression has become a widespread phenomenon since the currency ban, particularly among India’s poor

Photo credit: Aayush Goel

 

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Pledges for Trump

 

You boys know what makes this bird go up?  Funding makes this bird go up.  That’s right.  No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

– Gordon Cooper and Gus Grissom, The Right Stuff (film)

 

Things are looking up for the United States economy in 2017.  You can just feel it.  Something great is about to happen.

 

Sam Sheppard in “The Right Stuff” –  a 1983 docudrama about the Mercury 7 program and “the seats-of-the-pants approach of the people involved in the space program” (according to IMDB).

Photo credit: Ladd Company

 

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