The new Incrementum Chartbook – Should Recessions be Feared and Avoided?

Back in 1969, a monograph by Murray Rothbard was published as a small booklet. Its title was “Economic Depressions: Their Cause and Cure” (readers unfamiliar with the essay can download the pdf version below). The booklet achieved enormous circulation at the time and remains a timeless, trenchant and rigorous analysis of the essence of the business cycle accessible to everyone.

 

man-great-depressionA photograph showing a man leaning against a wall next to an empty shopfront during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Photo credit: Archive Holdings Inc.

 

A towering intellect, as gifted as an economist as he was as a historian and political and ethical philosopher, Murray Rothbard never lost sight of Ludwig von Mises’ famous admonition:

 

“Economics must not be relegated to classrooms an statistical offices and must not be left to esoteric circles. It is the philosophy of human life and action and concerns everybody and everything. It is the pith of civilization and of man’s human existence.”

 

We may leave physics and chemistry to experts, but economics is a different matter. Every citizen should at least acquire passing knowledge of economic theory, so as to avoid being bamboozled by ideologues, politicians and their empty promises.

 

Unfortunately, today most of the economics profession itself has been bought off by the technocratic ruling elite and its central planning agencies. But the powers-that-be have underestimated the internet. Today it is possible for people to access information that has been repressed by the mainstream for decades. The intellectual heirs of Mises and Rothbard can once again make themselves heard.

The new Incrementum chart book (which can be downloaded below) looks at the growing probability of a US recession and asks: how can we recognize whether a recession is likely well ahead of the belated official acknowledgments? Should we actually fear a recession? What, if anything should be done about it? And how can investors safely navigate it?

 

NBER recession dating-2Investors cannot afford to wait for the government to declare that there is a recession; by the time it does, the recession is usually over, or almost over – click to enlarge.

 

As to the question “what should be done about it?” we will let Murray Rothbard speak:

 

[Thus], what the government should do, according to the Misesian analysis of the depression, is absolutely nothing. It should, from the point of view of economic

health and ending the depression as quickly as possible, maintain a strict hands off, “ laissez-faire” policy.

Anything it does will delay and obstruct the adjustment process of the market; the less it does, the more rapidly will the market adjustment process do its work, and sound economic recovery ensue.

The Misesian prescription is thus the exact opposite of the Keynesian: It is for the government to keep absolute hands off the economy and to confine itself to stopping its own inflation and to cutting its own budget.”

 

(emphasis added)

Indeed, there is no reason to fear recessions or to intervene in them. They represent a healing process. Only by liquidating the malinvestments of the boom and rearranging the economy’s structure of production as quickly as possible to the actual wishes of consumers can a sound recovery be achieved.

Even if one knows nothing about economic theory and the debate between those advocating the free market approach and those in favor of central planning by the bureaucracy, one should by now have realized that the approach pursued by our vaunted policymakers has failed. In Japan this has been demonstrated for 26 years running: no amount of Keynesian deficit spending and monetarist money printing has brought about the desired results.

We believe the snake oil sellers should finally be forced to look for real jobs. We’d be very interested in seeing them serving consumers in the free market rather than forcing their failing prescription on entire populations. It is high time to try a different approach.

Here is a pertinent quote from the conclusion to Rothbard’s essay:

 

“The time is ripe—for a rediscovery, a renaissance, of the Mises theory of the business cycle. It can come none too soon; if it ever does, the whole concept of a Council of Economic Advisors would be swept away, and we would see a massive retreat of government from the economic sphere.

But for all this to happen, the world of economics, and the public at large, must be made aware of the existence of an explanation of the business cycle that has lain neglected on the shelf for all too many tragic years.”

 

Amen.

 

rothbardsmileMurray Rothbard, the irrepressible champion of liberty

Photo via Mises Institute

 

Downloads

Incrementum Chartbook #4: Who’s Afraid of Recession?

Murray Rothbard: Depressions, Their Cause and Cure

 

Chart by: Incrementum

 

 

 

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25 Responses to “Who’s Afraid of Recession?”

  • Hans:

    “Hans ……. What rationale do you use to say that PM’s can’t reduce and/or eliminate recessions ? Recessions can be deduced to a lack of liquidity, liquidity that is currently associated with debt. an overabundance of debt is what clogs the system.”

    Dear Rooster: The business cycle (aka economic cycle) is not a fiat nor PMs cycle. Neither of the two have
    a direct impact on the duration of economic growth. It shall always remain, in general, an issue of
    supply and demand, short of a very large shortage of liquidity. A form of currency only serves to
    to facility the the business cycle and does little to change the course of events.

    Recessions are unavoidable and will always be a normal course of any business cycle. Neither monetary policy(ies) nor other means of intervention will alter this course.

    As much as I appreciate the importance of PMs, they in themselves are not an end all to economic
    ills or disputations. Economies remain independent of any transaction based medium.

    I do not see how precious metals add liquidity to the market place. Furthermore, if you remove
    debt and credit from the economy there will also be an associated decline in growth levels – just
    as you have suggested “small amplitudes in the cycles”. That not withstanding, the business cycle
    shall remain intact, albeit alter in either length and size.

    Greasing the wheels of trade with precious metals would undoubtedly create a new set problems
    not envisioned by proponents.

    Malinvestment, will too always exist irregardless of what economic system or what form of
    exchanged is used. Even successful business have some form of malinvestments, as any
    business plan or execution is based on the come. Woodsbp, has clearly articulated this!

    Let me add, that all articles that we value are driven by faith.

    • therooster:

      Hans …. the added liquidity afforded by adding PM’s into circulation support more transactions than not adding them. Simple enough. When we turn the page and consider how this new form of “grease” (debt-free) would create a new kind of demand (new application) , it gets a little more interesting because gold has never been used as a popular currency while also enjoying the benefit of real-time trade values as measured in USD/oz. The leverage on the increasing bullion price is promising considering that enhanced liquidity and/or the ability to purge existing debt are directly related to gold mass in circulation and the trade value of that mass.

      Greater things, we will do. :-)

  • therooster:

    What you don’t seem to understand, Dwain, is that what I’m describing is a working model in the marketplace, brought to us by a publicly traded company in Toronto called BitGold. The system embodies all the principles and concepts that I’ve been talking about where gold mass is the only unit of account. It’s stands on the shoulders of e-Gold if you remember e-Gold. The mass denominated currency is fully backed 100% and callable for delivery on demand.

    This is a market model. Gold CANNOT , regardless of intention, be introduced from the top-down by law or decree of by fiat if gold is going to have real-time trade values as a currency. A top-down approach would be far too abrupt a change and would likely crash debt currency and debt markets in an immature and reactive “rush to judgement”

    We must be as wise as serpents, yet as gentle as doves.

    http://BitGold.com/r/0UZxqF

  • therooster:

    You’re ignoring the reality that we price things in fiat currency. When marketing and moving people in any direction, you must always relate to “where they are at” and fiat based pricing is “where we are at”. This is where the bankers and entrepreneurs have excelled over all of us. In practical terms, there needs to be a contrast between the medium of exchange (bullion) and the price model (dollars) if you want to have debt-free trades while also enjoying fully scalable liquidity.

    Your thinking is an example of classical thinking. The age of information is very young. You cannot pour new wine into old wineskins ….. it’s so very true.

    Gold’s true value is as a currency for exchange and as the money. Think upon this carefully because gold as an investment or a store of value is absolutely meaningless to an economy until such time that it moves. The value is ultimately in the movement which translates to ultimate value being in the application of currency. Let’s not discount the importance of the economy here because that’s the way you’re drifting. Gold that is static provides no more economic benefit to the economy than a sacred calf might in the middle of an exodus through the desert. We need solutions for the economy. We need liquidity and liquidity can be debt based and/or asset based. The problem with having it too oriented with debt is that it will eventually cave under its own weight. Debt currency needs gold to share the burden and allow debt to be retired, thus salvaging a new structure in the form of a healthy yin-yang of real-time liquidity.

    Note : It is darkness that comes out of light in the proper order of creation.

    We need some yang to go with the existing yin, just like darkness needed light to complete the idea of a full day. Symbiosis

    https://33.media.tumblr.com/99c1448caada384261a40db55c1c7957/tumblr_nc4x67d9vi1tjsogwo1_500.gif

    • therooster:

      Correction on my last post….

      I wrote “Note : It is darkness that comes out of light in the proper order of creation. ”

      It should have read : Note : It is light that comes out of darkness in the proper order of creation.

    • rooster…

      I’m sorry but the majority of what you’re saying reads like something a doper would conjure up while high, words and concepts strung together that don’t fit together, it’s mostly nonsense.

      What we need is to outlaw fractional reserve banking and credit being used as if it were money.

  • therooster:

    Dwain ……

    Never mind the history of any gold standard of the past where gold was fixed in price. Today’s emerging market standard for gold currency is built on real-time values for gold where weight is now the unit of account.

    Based on your comment that embodied “returning the economic system to the 18th or 19th century”, I can see that you’ve either missed this pinnacle point or the concept of the floating gold trade value or it has not yet sunk in.

    I’m now sorry to have confused you with some facts that you were not ready for. I won’t trouble you anymore, but in summery, we now have debt-free currency with totally expandable liquidity on the basis of demand. History has never had such a currency that operated in real-time, was debt-free, seamless on a global basis and had fully scalable liquidity on the basis of market demand.

    • rooster…..

      You’re still not grasping the concept of gold as money. If an ounce of gold as money has a value of anything other than an ounce of gold, then it is not the money, whatever is giving it that external value, is the money. Money has no value other than its acceptance as a medium of exchange, a unit of measure and a unit of account. It is the medium in which all other values are derived. The only price money has, is in the interest charged for its borrowed use.

      And you’ve made it abundantly clear, I’m not the one confused here.

  • therooster:

    Dwain … That’s nice when you play with the numbers and the numbers alone, but when it comes to the practical application, power is still being governed and manipulated at the apex. There’s a structural issue here.

    We don’t see the US notes circulating. Technically, both the US notes and the FED RES notes can be over-produced. This becomes an extreme issue of trust.

    When market gold circulates, we essentially wean out the apex as being a focal point for power and decentralize that influence to the market. As long as we use weight as the unit of account, gold based currency belongs to the market and forms a “yin-yang” of liquidity with what already comes from the apex of power. We need some yang with our existing yin.

    Backing a currency with real wealth doesn’t do a great deal if the market cannot call for the “real thing” and calling for the “real real” doesn’t accomplish much if the liquidity sucks. Liquidity is really the prime issue here and should be, IMO. Numbers are important but they stand second in line. What good is backing a currency with real-estate and calling for the real-estate and expecting the real-estate to satisfy your liquid needs of everyday living ? We have to place the liquidity and thus the economy as being of prime interest.

    I never confuse wealth with what makes for a good currency.

    • Federal Reserve notes are U.S. legal tender notes, owned by the U.S.G., and serving the same function as U.S. notes would serve.

      rooster, I don’t know where you get the notion that returning the economic system to the 18th or 19th century, of real government indebtedness necessitating taxing and borrowing, where most of the populations lived in near penury with debt their only currency, would be an acceptable outcome from making gold and silver, that the vast majority of people don’t have and couldn’t get, the money. Money that will inevitably end up in banker’s vaults, with bankers issuing notes that will, more than likely, end up fractionally reserved.

      Do you know why gold and silver as money are considered wealth? It is because they can be hoarded in a manner that deprives others of their use as a medium of exchange. Do you know what constitutes the true ‘intrinsic value’ of any money, regardless its material construct? It is its acceptability as a medium of exchange, its use as a measure of value and a unit of account. That’s it, that’s the only true intrinsic value of money. An ounce of gold as money, is worth an ounce of gold. An ounce of silver as money, is worth an ounce of silver. A legal tender note as money, is worth a legal tender note. Same, same, same.

      That’s why it puzzles me as to why anyone would want to take a near universally valued commodity, that can be used to store wealth and as a true gage of the value of all currencies, and strip it of that value by making it money. It’s nonsensical to me.

  • therooster:

    US legal tender (USD) is created from debt and enters circulation as a result of a loan created from “pen and ink”. It is NOT debt-free. If it was, the country would not have the massive debt overhang that it does.

  • therooster:

    Dwayne …. PM’s are debt-free !!! They add to existing liquidity without the energy loss that debt suffers. When you add this kind of liquidity, it allows debt (fiat currency) to be safely purged. The numbers that the market places on this application represent a new use for PM’s on the basis of its saving role for the economy.

    The key is grasping the debt-free contribution. The market will set the numbers.

    • The economy already has a debt free currency and with few exceptions, hardly anyone uses it. The U.S. legal tender is issued into circulation debt free.

      For the life of me, I can make no sense of people wanting to take a commodity with value and destroy that value by making it money.

  • therooster:

    Dwayne …. You’re thinking hard now and on the right track for this tiny bit of input , IMO. It’s the circulating medium that must be looked at. Assets (and/or their fully backed derivatives) have to actually circulate in order to supplement debt based liquidity for the sake of the economy , while also allowing existing debt to be purged. There’s no way to safely purge debt without this market displacement taking place unless we want to continue on the karmic wheel of boom-bust.

    On the basis of using PM’s for the added medium of exchange, the unit of account must also be mass (weight). Derivatives must be denominated by mass and fully backed by mass. The liquidity in the sense of the “economic reach/coverage” is now two-fold. It comes down to the total purchasing power (in USD’s) that the bullion warrants. This factors in mass and unit purchasing power (USD/gm) or USD/oz) if you prefer. DEBT-FREE

    We can easily price widgets in fiat currency and settle trades with mass in real-time now. The contrast was essential and thus we can now see that the depegging of the gold price to set gold free was also essential.

    Liquidity is directly proportional to the product of (Mass x USD/gm) , not simply mass alone as it was when the gold price was static. ($35 /oz)

    • My first paragraph was stating the obvious. My second paragraph was rhetorical.

      Do you know what gold and silver are worth as mediums of exchange?

      They are only worth what they can buy, just like any other medium.

  • The problem is, we have a 45 year buildup of debt based credit induced malinvestment and an economic system that runs on asset backed, debt based credit with actual legal tender money barely utilized and with the majority of U.S. industrial capacity residing offshore. The only thing currently holding the asset backed, debt based credit system together, is the Fed pumping debt based credit into the banks and Wall Street in an attempt to maintain and hopefully elevate asset values that support all previous debt based credit expansions, and provide enough headroom to expand debt based credit even more. As we all know, it’s not working.

    What do you suppose would happen if we were to take a laissez-faire approach and allow the markets to make the needed corrections under our current circumstances? How deep would the depression be and would there be a recovery? Or, will the entire country be reduced to impoverished 3rd world status while 10’s of millions starve to death?

  • therooster:

    woodsbp …… Whatever success Inca’s achieved in the development of a balanced economy, they did over the course of time. I think we can be certain that they did not leap into the economic conditions that they eventually enjoyed …. nor will we. Currency was likely part of the journey.

    People rarely leap. They creep. It’s a shame but alas, very true. It an opening chapter in Marketing 101.

    I’ll wager that they were very patient people too. Good for them !

    • woodsbp:

      “People rarely leap. They creep.” Yep, I believe the Inca stood on the shoulders of the Moche, who stood on the shoulders of … ? Amazing stuff.

      As an aside, I read that Murray Rothbard piece. Its badly dated – full of holes; poorly structured self-referential arguments and a few bad mistakes. Reads like a Puritan or Calvinist religious tract. Do folk actually believe economic stuff like that? Very odd.

  • woodsbp:

    “Economics must not be relegated to classrooms an statistical offices and must not be left to esoteric circles. It is the philosophy of human life and action and concerns everybody and everything. It is the pith of civilization and of man’s human existence.”

    This is philosophy – not an action plan. Attempting to replace one piece of metaphysical political economic snake-oil junk (neo-classical) with a doppelganger (Misian) alternative may look and sound wonderful to your disciples – but it reads and sounds like ideological junk to the rest of us.

    The Inca were a (500 year?) modestly successful Native American empire – and they had no currency. Now what did the Inca figure out about economics that the Europeans and their North American cousins have persistently failed to comprehend and understand? Gold? Nope. Their only good use for gold was for personal adornment and public display. Clever folk those Inca. Pity they left us no written or pictorial records as to how they did it. Their stone-masonry, architectural and construction technology were quite something else. And important messages were delivered by foot – at approx 7 mph, 24/7. And they had no currency!

  • All-Your-Gold-Are-Mine:

    Yes… the rooster is correct and it is easy to explain why.

  • therooster:

    Hans ……. What rationale do you use to say that PM’s can’t reduce and/or eliminate recessions ? Recessions can be deduced to a lack of liquidity, liquidity that is currently associated with debt. an overabundance of debt is what clogs the system.

    I hope you understand that my reference to gold (and silver) is in the currency application …. movement ….. circulation. It’s useless to the economy if it doesn’t grease the wheels of trade.

  • No6:

    The Rooster is correct i believe.
    In a true free world market there would be no misalignment between creditors and debtors. Malinvestment would not be a generalised phenomenon, would be far less frequent and evenly spread in time. Of course if some countries continue to use fiat and pump prime their economies distortions will still take place.

  • Hans:

    Of course, Murray Rothbard, is correct. Recessions are a very important
    component of any business cycle. If you remove this element, you will wind
    up with economies such as USSR and North “Ill” Korea.

    And no rooster, PMs will not reduce nor eliminate recessions now or ever.

  • therooster:

    Recessions should not only be avoided, but will be avoided once we have cultured ourselves in the simple use of debt-free precious metals , as currency.

    As market osmosis takes hold in the economy and in financial markets, the added liquidity (without debt) will allow existing fiat based debt to be removed and thus the business cycles of boom and bust will “soften” in such a degree that we will see smaller amplitudes in the cycles, until the waves are non-existent and we break out into ….. what can we call it …… “eternity”, perhaps ?

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