It's Failing All Over the Show – So Let's Do More of It!
The insanity that has gripped policymakers all over the world really is a sight to see. There was a time when central bankers were extremely careful not to do anything that might endanger the currency's value too much – in other words, they were intent on boiling the frog slowly. And why wouldn't they? After all, the amount by which the citizenry is plucked via depreciation of the currency every year is compounding, so that the men behind the curtain extract more than enough over time. That they thereby retard economic progress by decades over time as well is not something anyone would notice after all, since we cannot engage in a controlled experiment that proves it to all and sundry beyond doubt. We only know that it is so if we employ sound economic theory. Since sound economic theory is by its nature not statist, it is not employed by the mainstream, and so most citizens are successfully shielded from the truth.
The latest example for the growing chutzpa of these snake-oil sellers is provided by Lord Adair Turner in the UK. To give you a little bit of background: the UK is about to fall into its third recession in a row (a 'triple dip', something that has never before happened) not in spite, but because the Bank of England has monetized a cool quarter of all outstanding gilts, which has allowed the zombie TBTF banks to remain on artificial life support.
However, that is not Turner's conclusion. The policy is evidently failing, so he naturally concludes that there should not only be more of it, but it should become more brazen by veering off into the 'Weimaresque'. After all, we will be able to stop in time, right? We just need a 'little bit of it'. Although Turner for some reason also thinks it is 'not appropriate for the UK' (why not? The UK for some reason 'does not respond to demand and price signals', which would really be a first in economic history…where do they find these people?), he thinks everybody else should do it. According to the FT, under the heading “Print Money to Fund Spending”:
“Lord Turner, the departing chairman of the Financial Services Authority has defended financing government spending by printing money arguing that, within limits, it “absolutely, definitively [does] not” lead to inflation.
Speaking before a farewell speech in London on Wednesday, Lord Turner, who applied unsuccessfully to be the next Bank of England governor, called for “intellectual clarity” in economic policy, including breaking a taboo that permanently printing money to pay for government services is always bad.
“I accept entirely that this is a very dangerous thing to let out of the bag, that this is a medicine in small quantities but a poison in large quantities but that there exist some circumstances, in which it is appropriate to take that risk,” he told the Financial Times.
The tool should have been used in 1930s Germany and 1990s Japan, he said. It should be considered across the world, he added, at a time when banks, companies and households are trying to pay down debts and seeking to return to growth by borrowing more is seen as perverse.
In a direct challenge to the German authorities who shudder at the memory of the hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic, Lord Turner suggested that the absence of monetary financing in the early 1930s, which led to depression, falling prices and the rise of the Third Reich, had been a greater disaster.
“Is [monetary financing] desperately dangerous because every pound of money financed turns into inflation? Absolutely definitively not. There is no coherent rigorous bit of economics that takes you in that direction,” he said.
He did add, however, that the country where monetary financing was least likely to be needed was the UK. There he accepts that more stimulus might lead to higher inflation as the underlying health of the economy is weak and could not “respond to demand and price signals”.
Let's count the ways in which this is misguided nonsense. It begins with the title already. 'Money' cannot 'fund' anything. What is required for funding economic activities are real savings and real capital. You could drop $10 trillion in the middle of the Sahel zone and still wouldn't be able to 'fund' anything. Money is merely a medium of exchange and as such indispensable to economic calculation, but it is not a means of 'funding'.
Now to the assertion that “printing money does not lead to inflation”, which is at the heart of Turner's argument. First of all, it may take many years, even decades, before a broad-based inflationary effect becomes noticeable. For example, the US and others 'printed money' and engaged in deficit spending throughout the 1950s and 1960s. There also seemed to be no problem, until the problem suddenly became noticeable in the 1970s.
Moreover, 'inflation' in the sense of an increase in CPI is in any case a problem of secondary importance. Money printing most definitely distorts prices all across the economy – it is relative prices that change, as money is not neutral. This hampers rational economic calculation and therefore leads to capital malinvestment. Scarce capital is therefore wasted, and although there may be a 'feel good phase' (the boom), all the accounting profits generated in the boom will eventually disappear again in a bust. They are an inflationary illusion.
The appeal to the 1930s and Hitler is quite amusing in a way, as Hitler himself was a major inflationist. We already mentioned it: A war on the scale of WW2 would not have been possible without massive inflation and employment of precisely the methods his Lordship recommends. Moreover, the reason for Hitler's rise is ultimately to be sought in the successive abandonment of the gold standard in order to finance WW1. This made it impossible to return to sound money without upheaval, and the 1920's boom ensued when the US attempted to help the misguided policymakers of the UK by leaving interest rates too low, so they could to push through their return to gold at par. This brought on the credit and asset boom of the 1920s, which ultimately led to the Great Depression.
To blame the rise of Hitler on the “refusal to inflate” is especially piquant if one considers that Germany was in the throes of a hyperinflationary conflagration in the year when Hitler was first heard about (he attempted a coup in 1923). Lastly, the 'argument from history', a specialty of Marxists and German historicists, is inappropriate when discussing points of economic theory.
Finally Turner asserts that “we should take the risk” because allegedly, “Is [monetary financing] desperately dangerous because every pound of money financed turns into inflation? Absolutely definitively not. There is no coherent rigorous bit of economics that takes you in that direction,”
This is at best a half-truth. Since money is not neutral, an outbreak of consumer price inflation may or may not happen, that depends largely on many other factors influencing peoples' inflation expectations. However, as noted above, there is no way a sound economic theory can regard inflation of the money supply as 'harmless' or even 'necessary'. Turner is just another snake oil seller.
As an aside, the Knappists, i.e., the , think highly of Turner since he came out with this crazy argument. Enough said.
Another snake oil seller pops up: Adair Turner
(Photo via telegraph.co.uk)
Dear readers, we are greatly honored by your readership and sincerely hope that our special mixture of entertainment and education continues to add a little value to your lives. As you can probably guess, our blog is not really a giant commercial enterprise, for that its readership is too exclusive and small. Nevertheless, running it involves not only time and effort, but also monetary costs. We are therefore starting another fundraising drive. You can help us reach our funding goal by either donating directly via Paypal or via Bitcoin.
Thank you for your support!Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke
One Response to “Another Snake Oil Seller Pops Up”
Most read in the last 20 days:
- The Stock Market in Trouble - How Bad Can it Get?
A Look at the Broader Market's Internals We have previously discussed the stock market's deteriorating internals, and in light of recent market weakness want to take a brief look at the broader market in the form if the NYSE Index (NYA). First it has to be noted that a majority of the stocks in the NYA are already in bearish trends. The chart below shows the NYA and the percentage of stocks above their 200 day and 50 day moving averages, which is 39.16% and 33.77% respectively. When...
- Gold Stocks – Update on a Tricky Situation
It's Never Easy... Readers may recall that in one of our recent updates on the gold sector – which we believe is at an interesting juncture that may at the very least provide a good trading opportunity – we presented the chart of the 1992-1993 low in order to illustrate how extremely tricky the sector can be in the vicinity of turning points. Specifically, the sector made every imaginable move in late 1992 to convince market participants that a durable rally was nigh impossible....
- Gold Stocks: A Playable Rally May Be Beginning as Junk Bonds Crater
Gold Stocks Jump and Retrace 50% Last week we discussed the potential for a rally in the gold sector (see: “Gold Stocks at an Interesting Juncture” for details). Gold stocks jumped early in the week and then retraced almost precisely 50% of the initial move higher, in the process closing a gap that was left behind on Wednesday. Image credit: dreamstime.com Interestingly, for the first time in many months, there were three up days in a row prior to the...
- A new Multi-Year High in Buying by Gold Sector Insiders
Latest Data from INK Show A Huge Surge in Insider Buying As our friends at INK Research in Canada have pointed out to us, insiders at gold companies have made use of the recent sell-off in the sector to load up on shares to an extent not seen in many years. Image source: bidness etc The INK insider buy/sell indicator for gold stocks has peaked just one day after China's initial devaluation announcement at nearly 1,200%: INK's gold insider sentiment...
- Is Crude Oil Close to a Low?
Panicky Headlines Everybody knows that there is a never-ending glut in crude oil, right? Who knew about it a year ago? Not everybody, that much is certain. The problem with what everybody knows is of course that it is often not worth knowing. Photo credit: Alamy Today a friend pointed two articles out to us that have been published yesterday and today. Their headlines say it all. The Wall Street Journal writes “No End in Sight for Oil Glut” - and proceeds to...
- The Stock Market's Panic Potential
The Odds Favor a “Warning Shot” Scenario - but there is a “But” As regular readers have probably noticed, we have upped the frequency of our “caution is advised” posts on the stock market in recent weeks in light of the market's increasingly deteriorating internals. Although one never knows when exactly such warning signs may begin to matter, it is always a good bet that they eventually will. Last week the market delivered a little wake-up call to the hitherto rather...
- The Donald and China, or The Fallacy of Protectionism
Not Every Populist Topic is Worth Exploiting For reasons that will forever remain a mystery to us, mercantilism and protectionism actually hold enormous popular appeal. The best explanation we can come up with for this phenomenon is that the support for such policies is based on a mixture of economic ignorance and relentless propaganda by vested interests over the past, say, four centuries. Still, it is almost comical that people are so vociferously clamoring for policies that can actually...
- Real Wealth and Phantom Wealth – Secular Boom and Bust
The Things that Produce Real Wealth vs. Phantom Wealth Our friend Michael Pollaro, the keeper of long-term data on the true money supply and author at Forbes as well as occasionally a guest author on this site, recently sent us the following chart of a relationship he keeps a close eye on. It depicts the annual change rate in new orders for non-defense capital goods and compares this series to the Wilshire total market index. Photo via...
- Jackson Hole – Meeting of the Physics Envy Brigade
Planners Meet to Discuss the Impossible The Jackson Hole pow-wow takes place this weekend. A more revolting get-together of actual and armchair central planners (i.e., the advisors to the planners, many of whom see themselves as planners-in-waiting) could hardly be imagined. One has to wonder how much more damage they will be allowed to inflict before someone finally says “enough!”. The parlous state of the global economy and the series of booms and busts we have experienced over the...
- The Stock Market After the Mini Crash
A Post Mortem – the Influence of Black Box Systems Here is a brief update on the recent market action and what we think one should watch out for now. First of all, we already noted in our last market update that something about the recent “mini crash” was quite unusual. For one thing, it started to get serious in an options expiration week, which happens only rarely. One rather scary precedent is actually the 1987 crash: on that occasion the market declined sharply during expiration...