Central Banks

     

 

 

Good Intentions

One of the unspoken delights in life is the rich satisfaction that comes with bearing witness to the spectacular failure of an offensive and unjust system. This week served up a lavish plate of delicious appetizers with both a style and refinement that’s ordinarily reserved for a competitive speed eating contest. What a remarkable time to be alive.

 

It seemed a good idea at first… [PT]

 

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Seeing Things for What They Are

Picture, if you will, a group of slaves owned by a cruel man. Most of them are content, but one says to the others, “I will defy the Master”. While his statement would superficially appear to yearn towards freedom, it does not. It betrays that this slave, just like the others, thinks of the man who beats them as their “Master” (note the capital M). This slave does not seek freedom, but merely a small gesture of disloyalty. Of course, he will not get his liberty (but maybe a beating).

 

Hayek’s Road to Serfdom illustrated (via www.fee.org). An arrant conceit that remains fashionable in the face of veritable mountains of theoretical and empirical evidence arrayed against it, is the idea that benevolent philosopher-kings can somehow improve humanity’s well-being by centrally planning the economy, or at least important aspects of it. The notion is based on a fundamental error: It is held that social sciences are no different from natural sciences, that the actions of thinking and purposefully acting human beings can be expressed and foreseen by mathematical equations and should be steered in “desirable” directions by experts; that theoretical models which have their uses in explaining economic laws should somehow serve as templates for the planning of an “ideal” real world economy. Since money is the sine qua non of a modern, rational economy – without it, economic calculation and the division of labor would not be possible – it is of considerable importance that money has been handed over completely to a central planning bureaucracy. Keeping the state’s management of money one step removed from the political class by ostensibly “independent” central banking may well be preferable to giving politicians completely free rein in the coin-clipping business, but that doesn’t change the fact that central economic planning remains literally impossible. The benevolence, the intelligence and education of the planners, what information they have at their disposal – none of it matters one whit. Whatever they try, the outcome will always be inferior to that an unhampered free market would have produced. But no matter how many socialist economies collapse for everyone to see, central planning continues to be pursued with great vigor. Note that the downfall of command economies lately often seems to be driven by monetary chaos, which is a rather strong hint.  The most recent examples were Zimbabwe and Venezuela, which went down in hyperinflation conflagrations.  Argentina escaped a similar fate by a mere hair – its socialist leaders allowed the population to vote them out of office, so the country’s citizens got lucky. Why are nominally capitalist free market countries not ditching such failing strategies? To answer this, just ponder how many people in positions of substantial social prestige, influence and power would have to look for real jobs (i.e., would be forced to make a living by offering something people want to pay for voluntarily in the market); how many people depending on their favors would have to do the same; and the extent to which social and economic power in society would therefore shift. The existence of the excessively powerful and overbearing welfare-warfare State of today is predicated on the economic system that is in place now: one that still allows the generation of a sizable amount of real wealth, but at the same time has the capacity to create money from thin air in theoretically unlimited amounts, which inter alia allows it to amass enormous mountains of debt. However, this arrangement is not workable forever. The fiat money system continually fosters capital consumption and leads to a creeping breakdown in both morals and morale in society. There is an unknown threshold that will prove to be a tipping point when crossed. There is much to suggest that we are currently in a period of transition close to this tipping point. Both negative and positive outcomes remain possible. [PT]

 

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Son of the Imperial City

What are the chances of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell being wrong?  The chances he’ll be wrong on the economy’s growth prospects, the direction of the federal funds rate, and inflation itself?  Our guess is his chances of being wrong are quite high.

 

The new central planner-in-chief. Central banks are facing a special case of the socialist calculation problem pertaining to the financial system. Like the comrades in the former Eastern Bloc, who tried to adjust their plans based on prices they were able to observe in the capitalist West, their best bet is to simply follow market rates. Unfortunately market rates – especially at the short end of the yield curve – are subject to an observer-participant feedback loop with the Fed, so the dilemma cannot be entirely avoided. The   ritual pouring over reams of “data” may feel like a sensible activity, but ultimately it cannot solve the problem either. [PT]

 

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Fake Responses 

One month ago we asked: What kind of stock market purge is this?  Over the last 30 days the stock market’s offered plenty of fake responses.  Yet we’re still waiting for a clear answer.

 

As the party continues, the dance moves of the revelers are becoming ever more ominous. Are they still right in the head? Perhaps a little trepanation is called for to relieve those brain tensions a bit?  [PT]

 

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A Finite Life Span

We have been promising to get back to the topic of capital destruction, which we put on hiatus for the last several weeks to make our case that the interest rate remains in a falling trend. Today, we have a different way of looking at capital destruction.

 

A Soviet propaganda poster extolling the virtues of the plan… a succession of such plans ultimately ended in economic collapse – eventually, not even basic staples could be supplied to the population anymore. It was easily the biggest bankruptcy in history.  [PT]

 

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Ridiculous Minutia

Jerome Powell, the new Chairman of the Federal Reserve, just completed his third week on the job.  He’s hardly had enough time to learn how to operate the office coffee maker, let alone the all-in-one printer.  He still doesn’t know what roach coach menu items induce a heinous gut bomb.

 


The perpetually slightly worried looking new Fed chairman Jerome Powell, here seen warily inspecting the Rose Garden at the White House. Everybody wants to know if he has a “better plan” – but there is no better plan, thus no-one has one. [PT]

Photo credit: A. Brandon / AP

 

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Contradictory Palaver

The recent hullabaloo among President Trump’s top monetary officials about the Administration’s “dollar policy” is just the start of what will likely be the first of many contradictory pronouncements and reversals which will take place in the coming months and years as the world’s reserve currency continues to be compromised.  So far, the Greenback has had its worst start since 1987, the year of a major stock market reset.

 

A modern-day reenactment of the famous “our currency, your problem” play that went over so extremely well in the 1970s… [PT]

 

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Something for Nothing

The world is full of bad ideas.  Just look around.  One can hardly blink without a multitude of bad ideas coming into view.  What’s more, the worse an idea is, the more popular it becomes. Take Mickey’s Fine Malt Liquor.  It’s nearly as destructive as prescription pain killers.  Yet people chug it down with reckless abandon.

 

Looking at the expression of this Mickey’s Malt Liquor tester one might initially get the impression that he is disappointed. We assure you that is not the case – this is actually his happy face, he is probably just about to enter Nirvana. Countless taste tests prove it, see this comparison of the “entire bottom shelf” of malt liquors, or these cost-conscious routiniers. Not to forget, it comes either in cans or in shatterproof plastic bottles. [PT]

 

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FOMC Strategy Revisited

As readers know, investment and trading decisions can be optimized with the help of statistics. One way of doing so is offered by the FOMC meeting strategy.

 

The rate hikes are actually leading somewhere – after the Wile E. Coyote moment, the FOMC meeting strategy is especially useful [PT]

 

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Controlled Inflation

American consumers are not only feeling good.  They are feeling great. They are borrowing money – and spending it – like tomorrow will never come.

 

After an extended period of indulging in excessive moderation (left), the US consumer makes his innermost wishes known (right). [PT]

 

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Remarkable and Extraordinary Growth

Good cheer has arrived at precisely the perfect moment. You can really see it. Record stock prices, stout economic growth, and a GOP tax reform bill to boot. Has there ever been a more flawless week leading up to Christmas?

 

Here’s what really happened: the government’s minions confiscated everything Santa had on him when he crossed the border and then added it to GDP. You know how it is… if something feels too good to be true… [PT]

 

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Bogus Jobs Pay Big Bucks

The political differences of today’s two leading parties are not over ultimate questions of principle.  Rather, they are over opposing answers to the question of how a goal can be achieved with the least sacrifice.  For lawmakers, the goal is to promise the populace something for nothing, while pretending to make good on it.

 

The short and sweet definition of democratic elections by eminent American wordsmith and political philosopher H.L. Mencken [PT]

 

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