Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Keynesians steal from the aspiring middle classes

You might have noticed the price of gold skyrocketing in the past year or so.  You might wonder if this is a bubble that is going to pop, spectacularly.  Well, it might, but there is a reason why gold (and to a lesser extent silver and platinum) are becoming preferred investments, it is because of fears about the alternatives.  Those fears are because of the abject failure of the Keynesians to deal with a financial crisis that started with a fiat money fueled credit bubble, exacerbated by perpetual government deficits and "saved" by printing money.

You see the real bubble which is being manufacted is inflation.  Central bankers and governments invented the euphemism "quantitative easing" to hide what they are really doing - because most kids at school learnt in economics why printing money doesn't make any sense.  However, quantitative easing is printing money.  It is the easy solution of dictators who don't know how to pay their soldiers, civil servants and the like.  Now it is the easy solution of elected governments who are afraid to let prices collapse in those parts of their economies subject to the credit bubbles, and who are afraid of being forced with the full reality that they have been engaging in fiscal child abuse for decades.   The French government for example, started running deficits in the mid 1970s, so it was borrowing off of people who are now in their 30s and facing either higher taxes or less "benefits", so that their parents and grandparents could have an easier life.

Investors are moving into gold because inflation mean that a whole host of typically "safe" investments no longer are.  Conventional bank deposits (even ignoring the risk of some banks that face sovereign debt risks)
will now not pay enough to cover inflation.  Furthermore, government bonds are now seen as significantly riskier than they once were because of the default of Greece and the near defaults of many others.  Those without such risks are paying such low rates of interest (for demand is so high), they are insufficient to compensate for inflation, so investors diversify their "safe" investments.

Of course what this means is that the vast bulk of the population, who put their savings in "the bank" in some form or another, are losing their money.   In effect, their government is stealing from them by printing money in order to avoid the consequences of others facing devaluations in their businesses, property or other assets.

To put it simply, the Keynesians, who can be seen in both government and opposition in most major governments, are stealing from the vast bulk of the population, by stealth, in order to avoid the fallout of letting some selected businesses and assets from collapsing in value to correct the years of the credit bubbles.   Who does that hurt?  It hurts the young and those on relatively lower incomes who do not have property or do not have any other savings mechanisms.   Don't expect the politicians on the centre-right to have an answer, because they'd rather stay in power, like those on the centre-left.  Those on the far-left want to put their heads in the sand completely, and pretend inflation isn't an issue.

It is - the evidence is seen in gold.

One alternative to gold are to buy shares, which of course many have been doing, although the sheer volatility and complexity of it means that it works well for larger investors and institutional investors who have the in-house expertise to spread risk and seek opportunities for bargains, particularly looking at more robust foreign shareholdings.  The other is property, which of course has been the source of part of the problem in the first place.

The property conundrum is that there have clearly been significant property bubbles in many countries facing the crisis, such as Ireland, Spain, the US and the UK.  Australia has a bubble, but that is commensurate to its own commodity led economic buoyancy.  New Zealand's one is more volatile.   However, we may yet see the spectre of property prices easing up as investors see less risk of losing value in property than in inflation.

Now Central Bank governors and governments may claim that if inflation takes off (we are talking around 5% now, so it's hardly dead) then interest rates will be increased, and the usual monetarist solution to inflation will be applied.  Except, of course, what happens with stagflation?  Will the Keynesians insist that when economic growth is nascent that there should be more and more money printed, and forget inflation?  In which case, batten down the hatches for that battle wont be won.  Or will the monetarists tighten the screws on credit and interest rates, and strangle what little growth there is to kill off the bubble of inflation created by the Keynesians?

For Barack Obama, David Cameron or indeed John Key, the hope is that this doesn't come to pass.   None would swallow what they would have to do to ride things out, which is to give up on printing money, let a significant correction in asset prices occur (including a major slump in property prices and share prices), stop deficit spending and begin the long slow road towards economic recovery based on setting businesses free.

Instead for all of their weasel words, they will continue to steal from the vast bulk of the public by creating inflation, devaluing their own public debt, and creating cheap credit to save themselves from facing voters with the reality of many years of boom and bust economics based on fiat money.

Keynesianism failed before, and it is failing now.  It is about time that both it, and monetarism were consigned to history and a serious investigation begin as to how to reform monetary policy with free banking.   If you think that sounds absurd or frightening, then reflect on the past three years and give a better solution.

1 comment:

Richard McGrath said...

Hi Scott, not sure if you saw the news item, but some time back, before the price of gold started to rocket, Theresa Gattung sold her stake in Telecom and bought gold bullion from the Perth mint.

She'll be smiling now!