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 happy to report that we have reached our turn-of-the-year funding goal and want to extend a special thank you to all of you who have chipped in. We are very grateful for your support! As a general remark, according to usually well informed circles, exercising the donation button in between funding drives is definitely legal and highly appreciated as well.
Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke
One Response to “Another Snake Oil Seller Pops Up”
Most read in the last 20 days:
- Alan “Bubbles” Greenspan Returns to Gold
Faking It Under a gold standard, the amount of credit that an economy can support is determined by the economy’s tangible assets, since every credit instrument is ultimately a claim on some tangible asset. […] The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit. — Alan Greenspan, 1961 He was in it for the power and the glory... Alan Greenspan gets presidential bling...
- End of an Era: The Rise and Fall of the Petrodollar System
The Transition “The chaos that one day will ensue from our 35-year experiment with worldwide fiat money will require a return to money of real value. We will know that day is approaching when oil-producing countries demand gold, or its equivalent, for their oil rather than dollars or euros. The sooner the better.” Ron Paul A new oil pipeline is built in the Saudi desert... this one is apparently destined for the Ghawar oil field, one of the oldest fields in Saudi Arabia...
- Writing on the Wall
Time to Sell... Maybe BALTIMORE – Yesterday, the S&P 500 hit a new all-time high. And the Dow just hit a new record close as well. If you haven’t sold yet, dear reader, this may be one of the best times ever to do so. It's still flying... sorta. Meet Bill Bonner's tattered crash flag Image credit: fmh We welcome new readers with a simple insight: Markets are contrary, pernicious, and downright untrustworthy. Just when the mob begins to bawl most loudly...
- A Fully Automated Stock Market Blow-Off?
Anecdotal Skepticism vs. Actual Data About one month ago we read that risk parity and volatility targeting funds had record exposure to US equities. It seems unlikely that this has changed – what is likely though is that the exposure of CTAs has in the meantime increased as well, as the recent breakout in the SPX and the Dow Jones Industrial Average to new highs should be delivering the required technical signals. The bots keep buying... Illustration via...
- The Central Planning Virus Mutates
Chopper Pilot Descends on Nippon Readers are probably aware of recent events in Japan, the global laboratory for interventionist experiments. The theories of assorted fiscal and monetary cranks have been implemented in spades for more than a quarter of a century in the country, to appropriately catastrophic effect. Amid stubbornly stagnating economic output, Japan has amassed a debt pile so vast since the bursting of its 1980s asset bubble, it beggars the imagination. A...
- Destination Mars
Asset Price Levitation One of the more preposterous deeds of modern central banking involves creating digital monetary credits from nothing and then using the faux money to purchase stocks. If you’re unfamiliar with this erudite form of monetary policy this may sound rather fantastical. But, in certain economies, this is now standard operating procedure. The “Tokyo Whale” Haruhiko Kuroda explains his asset purchase madness with a few neat little slides. Photo credit:...
- America Has Become a “Parasitocracy”
Dread and Denial So, let’s return to the discussion you can’t have with your congressman, your mailman, or your barmaid. It’s the important one. It concerns what the Fed is really up to. Eight years after achieving independence, a State modeled after the British merchant state was established in the US. It took a while for the Deep State to consolidate itself within it, a process that was accelerated greatly in the run-up to and aftermath of WW I. Illustration by Ana...
- Fat People for Trump!
Alphas and Epsilons BALTIMORE – One of the delights of being an American is that it is so easy to feel superior to your fellow countrymen. All you have to do is stand up straight and smile. Or if you really need an ego boost, just go to a local supermarket. Better yet, go to a supermarket with a Trump poster in the parking lot. The protest vote attractor with the funny hair. Image credit: Liberty Maniacs Trigger warning: In the following ramble, we make fun of...
- Long Term Market Perspectives
Methuselah Tree When looking for a good theme for this post I pondered for a while and then decided to use a picture of a bristlecone pine, which are widely considered to be the oldest living trees in the world. Ye olde bristlecone Photo credit: Kosta Konstantinidis You can find them near the Nevada/California border and if you wind up traveling in the area then I strongly recommend that head over to Bishop and from there head up high up into the White...
- EU Sends Obsolete Industries Mission to China
“Tough Negotiations” The European press informs us that a delegation of EU Commission minions, including Mr. JC Juncker (who according to a euphemistically worded description by one of his critics at the Commission “seems often befuddled and tired, not really quite present”) and European Council president Donald Tusk, has made landfall in Beijing. Their mission was to berate prime minister Li Keqiang over alleged “steel dumping” by China and get him to cease and...
- The Real Reason the “Rich Get Richer”
Time the Taskmaster DUBLIN – “Today’s money,” says economist George Gilder, “tries to cheat time. And you can’t do that.” It may not cheat time, but it cheats far easier marks – consumers, investors, and entrepreneurs. Tempus fugit – every action humans undertake has to take time into account. In the economy, interest rates serve as the signal and regulator of the inter-temporal structure of capital. In an unhampered free market economy, they tell...
- Gold is not Going to $10,000
One Cannot Trade Based on the Endgame The prices of the metals were down again this week, -$15 in gold and more substantially -$0.57 in silver. Stories continued to circulate this week, hitting even the mainstream media. Apparently gold is going to be priced at $10,000. Jump on the bandwagon now, while it’s still cheap and a bargain at a mere $1,322! All aboard... or maybe not? It all depends on what one wants to achieve – there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the...