Let’s Do More of What Doesn’t Work
It is the Keynesian mantra: the fact that the policies recommended by Keynesians and monetarists, i.e., deficit spending and money printing, routinely fail to bring about the desired results is not seen as proof that they simply don’t work. It is regarded as evidence that there hasn’t been enough spending and printing yet.
Photo credit: Yuya Shino / Reuters
At the Bank of Japan this mantra has been gospel for as long as we can remember. Japan has always exhibited an especially strong penchant for central planning. We still recall that many Western observers were beginning to wonder in the late 1980s whether the Japanese form of state capitalism administered by the powerful Ministry of Trade and Industry and the BoJ wasn’t a superior economic system after all. Then this happened:
The Nikkei Index from 1989 to 2003. Japan’s seemingly never-ending boom coupled with forever rising stock prices, carefully administered by Tokyo’s powerful bureaucrats, suddenly became an intractable bust – click to enlarge.
This sudden change in fortunes should perhaps have been taken as a hint that central planning of the economy wasn’t such a good idea after all. That was not the conclusion of Japan’s movers and shakers though (or anyone else’s, for that matter). Instead it was decided that what was required were better planners, or at least a better plan.
For decades Japanese policymakers have been inundated with well-meaning advice by prominent Western economists. Even Ben Bernanke famously admonished them to just print more. According to Bernanke, holding interest rates at zero and implementing several iterations of QE were indicative of “policy paralysis” – after all, these efforts were obviously just not big and bold enough!
Going Big and Failing Again
After the reelection of Shinzo Abe and the installation of Haruhiko Kuroda as BoJ governor, the BoJ decided to simply continue doing what it has always done – more than 20 years of utter failure notwithstanding. However, in deference to the admonitions of the Bernankes and Krugmans of this world, it increased the size of its meddling by an order of magnitude:
In short, over the past four years the BoJ has thrown all remaining caution to the wind, with the declared goal of reviving Japan’s economy and creating an annual “inflation” rate of 2%. However, it seems now that even that was not enough just yet!
As an aside to this: no-one knows or can sensibly explain what lowering the purchasing power of one’s currency by exactly 2% p.a. is supposed to achieve. There exists neither theoretical nor empirical evidence that could possibly support the notion that it is a desirable goal. It is just another Keynesian mantra. Central bankers have basically pulled the 2% figure out of their hats.
The BoJ has certainly succeeded in devaluing the yen’s external value and impoverishing Japan’s citizens accordingly. It has also created a short term windfall for people buying Japanese stocks. To give you a rough idea how its “success” has manifested itself otherwise, here are a few charts illustrating the situation. The first one shows the quarterly annualized growth rate of Japan’s machinery orders (note the most recent figure, which has been released only last week):
And here is the monthly growth rate in manufacturing production – a sector that due to its export prowess was supposed to be an especially great beneficiary of Kuroda’s destruction of the yen:
Japan’s manufacturing production, monthly annualized growth rate – the December data haven’t been released yet, but in light of last quarter’s machinery orders, production growth will likely be back in negative territory – click to enlarge.
In light of the enormous decline of the yen’s exchange rate since 2012, one would normally expect that the BoJ has at least succeeded in achieving its bizarre goal of raising the consumer price inflation rate to 2%. Well, it did – for exactly one month. However, that was mainly due to a hike in the sales tax, so it can actually not be attributed to the BoJ. Japan’s consumers have been very lucky so far – the planned assault on their wallets has turned out to be a complete dud as well:
The Time for More Insanity has Come
Stock markets around the world have recently swooned, with the Nikkei delivering an especially weak performance. After assuring everyone that the BoJ saw no need to add to its already enormous debt monetization program, Mr. Kuroda seems to have been convinced by recent market volatility that is was time to move on from an insane monetary policy to even more insane monetary policy. As Reuters reports:
“The Bank of Japan unexpectedly cut a benchmark interest rate below zero on Friday, stunning investors with another bold move to stimulate the economy as volatile markets and slowing global growth threaten its efforts to overcome deflation.
Global equities jumped, the yen tumbled and sovereign bonds rallied after the BOJ said it would charge for a portion of bank reserves parked with the institution, an aggressive policy pioneered by the European Central Bank (ECB).
“What’s important is to show people that the BOJ is strongly committed to achieving 2 percent inflation and that it will do whatever it takes to achieve it,” BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda told a news conference after the decision.
Obviously, the BoJ cannot allow Draghi to get away with imposing policies that are even more crazy than its own. So it has now caught up with the lunatics running the monetary asylum in Europe. It is actually quite amusing that this admission of the complete failure of the policies implemented to date apparently caused stock markets to rally. JGB yields declined by more than 56% (!) on the day to a mere 10 basis points, and the yen got kneecapped, surrendering much of the gains it has achieved in recent weeks.
As to the BoJ’s commitment to “achieve inflation”, it may well end one day with price inflation going from zero to infinity in the space of a few months. Kuroda should be thankful that Japan’s citizens haven’t lost confidence in the currency yet in spite of his efforts; one of these days they will, and then it will probably be “game over” in a flash.
We should also point out that there is actually no deflation in Japan. There never has been and very likely, there never will be. Here is a chart of Japan’s narrow money supply M1, which consists of currency and demand deposits:
Reuters then unquestioningly parrots the official “reasoning” for why falling prices are allegedly “dangerous” (never mind that prices haven’t really fallen in Japan anyway – at best they were stable for a number of years) – readers are evidently supposed to just accept these unproven assertions as if it were perfectly obvious that they are true:
“In adopting negative interest rates Japan is reaching for a new weapon in its long battle against deflation, which since the 1990s have discouraged consumers from buying big because they expect prices to fall further. Deflation is seen as the root of two decades of economic malaise.”
This shows how utterly divorced from reality today’s mainstream economists and central bankers are – not to mention how lazy financial journalists are, who never seem to question this nonsense. The above assertion even flies into the face of economics 101. People buy less when prices decline? Since when? In what universe? Japanese consumers are allegedly waiting since the 1990s for “prices to fall further”? To call this utter bullsh*t feels almost like an insult to bullsh*t.
We guess the billions of people in the world who keep buying smart phones, computers, TV sets and all the other things that are continually falling in price in spite of the ministrations of central bankers must represent the “exception from the rule”.
In his press conference Kuroda uttered the following:
“Kuroda said the world’s third-biggest economy was recovering moderately and the underlying price trend was rising steadily.
“But there’s a risk recent further falls in oil prices, uncertainty over emerging economies, including China, and global market instability could hurt business confidence and delay the eradication of people’s deflationary mindset,” he said.
“The BOJ decided to adopt negative interest rates…to forestall such risks from materializing.”
Perhaps Kuroda should instead have pondered what risks are likely to materialize on account of the imposition of negative interest rates. We have already discussed this topic extensively in the context of the ECB’s decision to introduce negative rates, but here is a brief reminder:
Neither zero nor negative originary interest could possibly exist in an unhampered free market economy. Time preference cannot become zero or negative. Conceivably it could become zero if one were to fall into a black hole (it is theorized that no time passes there), or if scarcity were completely eliminated one day and no economic or technological progress would be seen as possible anymore. Neither of these hypothetical cases will ever be of practical importance.
Other than that, the only thing artificially imposed negative rates will achieve is to destroy what is left of the economy – they will slowly but surely transform prosperity into poverty. As Ludwig von Mises has warned:
“Not the impossible disappearance of originary interest, but the abolition of payment of interest to the owners of capital, would result in capital consumption. The capitalists would consume their capital goods and their capital precisely because there is originary interest and present want-satisfaction is preferred to later satisfaction.
Therefore there cannot be any question of abolishing interest by any institutions, laws, and devices of bank manipulation. He who wants to “abolish” interest will have to induce people to value an apple available in a hundred years no less than a present apple.
What can be abolished by laws and decrees is merely the right of the capitalists to receive interest. But such laws would bring about capital consumption and would very soon throw mankind back into the original state of natural poverty.”
As we have always said in these pages, the cunning plan of the mad hatters running the world’s central banks seems to consist of making people richer by making them poorer. One can safely assume that they haven’t really thought this one through.
It appears to us that the ever more desperate monetary policy measures adopted by the BoJ are coming closer and closer to crossing a point of no return. In other words, the BoJ seems to be entering what is popularly known as the “Keynesian endgame”. Once the threshold beyond which confidence is finally lost is crossed, the long maintained sophisticated fiat money Ponzi scheme and the associated three card Monte played between central banks, commercial banks and government treasuries will come to a screeching halt.
Naturally, we cannot tell you where this threshold precisely lies or how quickly said “endgame” will be playing out. Nor do we know with any precision what gyrations we may yet see as the situation evolves. We do however know that Kuroda’s decision has brought the world another step closer to the end. It would be a dangerous error to believe that such policies can be adopted without inviting severe consequences.
Kuroda is a member of a small coterie of central planners running the worlds currency systems, who are completely divorced from reality and are playing with the savings and lives of millions. They are implementing extremely risky experiments and evidently haven’t even the faintest inkling of what the ultimate outcome will be.
Unfortunately, none of us can do anything to stop them. It is therefore vitally important that one make a plan for oneself. It is quite ironic actually: the very people the economy depends on the most with respect to wealth creation are also most likely to be terrified by these developments. Consequently they are likely to withdraw more and more from genuine wealth creation activities. They will simply be far too busy trying to save themselves while it’s still possible.
Charts by: StockCharts, St. Louis Federal Reserve Research, TradingEconomics, Bloomberg
You may have noticed that our so-called “semiannual” funding drive, which started sometime in the summer if memory serves, has seamlessly segued into the winter. In fact, the year is almost over! We assure you this is not merely evidence of our chutzpa; rather, it is indicative of the fact that ad income still needs to be supplemented in order to support upkeep of the site. Naturally, the traditional benefits that can be spontaneously triggered by donations to this site remain operative regardless of the season - ranging from a boost to general well-being/happiness (inter alia featuring improved sleep & appetite), children including you in their songs, up to the likely allotment of privileges in the afterlife, etc., etc., but the Christmas season is probably an especially propitious time to cross our palms with silver. A special thank you to all readers who have already chipped in, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Regardless of that, we are honored by everybody's readership and hope we have managed to add a little value to your life.
Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke
3 Responses to “The Bank of Japan – Ringing in the Endgame?”
Most read in the last 20 days:
- Gold - Ready to Spring Another Surprise
Sentiment Extremes Below is an update of a number of interesting data points related to the gold market. Whether “interesting” will become “meaningful” remains to be seen, as most of gold's fundamental drivers aren't yet bullishly aligned. One must keep in mind though that gold is very sensitive with respect to anticipating future developments in market liquidity and the reaction these will elicit from central banks. Often this involves very long lead times. Blackbeard's...
- Modi’s Great Leap Forward
India’s Currency Ban – Part VIII 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. Linked are Part-I, Part-II, Part-III, Part-IV, Part-V, Part-VI and Part-VII, which provide updates on the demonetization saga and how Modi is acting as a catalyst to hasten the rapid degradation of India and what remains of its institutions. India’s Pride and Joy Indians are...
- Global Recession and Other Visions for 2017
Conjuring Up Visions Today’s a day for considering new hopes, new dreams, and new hallucinations. The New Year is here, after all. Now is the time to turn over a new leaf and start afresh. Naturally, 2017 will be the year you get exactly what’s coming to you. Both good and bad. But what else will happen? Image of a recently discarded vision... Image by Michael Del Mundo Here we begin by closing our eyes and slowing our breath. We let our mind...
- The Great El Monte Public Pension Swindle
Nowhere City California There are places in Southern California where, although the sun always shines, they haven’t seen a ray of light for over 50-years. There’s a no man’s land of urban blight along Interstate 10, from East Los Angeles through the San Gabriel Valley, where cities you’ve never heard of and would never go to, are jumbled together like shipping containers on Terminal Island. El Monte, California, is one of those places. Advice dispensed on Interstate...
- A Trade Deal Trump Cannot Improve
Worst in Class BALTIMORE – People can believe whatever they want. But sooner or later, real life intervenes. We just like to see the looks on their faces when it does. By that measure, 2017 may be our best year ever. Rarely have so many people believed so many impossible things. Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for...
- Pope Francis Now International Monetary Guru
Neo-Marxist Pope Francis Argues for Global Central Bank As the new year dawns, it seems the current occupant of St. Peter’s Chair will take on a new function which is outside the purview of the office that the Divine Founder of his institution had clearly mandated. Neo-Papist transmogrification. We highly recommend the economic thought of one of Francis' storied predecessors, John Paul II, which we have written about on previous occasions. In “A Tale of Two Popes” and...
- Trump’s Trade Catastrophe?
“Trade Cheaters” It is worse than “voodoo economics,” says former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. It is the “economic equivalent of creationism.” Wait a minute - Larry Summers is wrong about almost everything. Could he be right about this? Larry Summers, the man who is usually wrong about almost everything. As we have always argued, the economy is much safer when he sleeps, so his tendency to fall asleep on all sorts of occasions should definitely be welcomed....
- Where’s the Outrage?
Blind to Crony Socialism Whenever a failed CEO is fired with a cushy payoff, the outrage is swift and voluminous. The liberal press usually misrepresents this as a hypocritical “jobs for the boys” program within the capitalist class. In reality, the payoffs are almost always contractual obligations, often for deferred compensation, that the companies vigorously try to avoid. Believe me. I’ve been on both sides of this kind of dispute (except, of course, for the “failed”...
- Money Creation and the Boom-Bust Cycle
A Difference of Opinions In his various writings, Murray Rothbard argued that in a free market economy that operates on a gold standard, the creation of credit that is not fully backed up by gold (fractional-reserve banking) sets in motion the menace of the boom-bust cycle. In his The Case for 100 Percent Gold Dollar Rothbard wrote: I therefore advocate as the soundest monetary system and the only one fully compatible with the free market and with the absence of force or fraud...
- Silver’s Got Fundamentals - Precious Metals Supply-Demand Report
Supply-Demand Fundamentals Improve Noticeably Last week was another short week, due to the New Year holiday. We look forward to getting back to our regularly scheduled market action. Photo via thedailycoin.org The prices of both metals moved up again this week. Something very noticeable is occurring in the supply and demand fundamentals. We will give an update on that, but first, here’s the graph of the metals’ prices. Prices of gold and silver...
- Trump’s Plan to Close the Trade Deficit with China
Rags to Riches Jack Ma is an amiable fellow. Back in 1994, while visiting the United States he decided to give that newfangled internet thing a whirl. At a moment of peak inspiration, he executed his first search engine request by typing in the word beer. Jack Ma, founder and CEO of Alibaba, China's largest e-commerce firm. Once he was a school teacher, but it turned out that he had enormous entrepreneurial talent and that the world of wheelers, dealers, movers and...
- Side Notes, January 14 - Red Flags Over Goldman Sachs
Red Flags Over Goldman Sachs Just to prove that I am an even-handed insulter, here is a rant about my former employer, Goldman Sachs. The scandal at 1MDB, the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund from which it appears that billions were stolen by politicians all the way up to the Prime Minister, continues to unfold. The main players in the 1MDB scandal. Irony alert: apparently money siphoned off from 1MDB was used to inter alia finance Martin Scorcese's movie “The Wolf of...