Categories
Economics

Will there be Another Economic Crisis Like 1929 or 2008?

Yes and soon. Because the Federal Reserve inordinately expands credit and hence purchasing power, according to the Austrian business cycle theory, this distorts the capital structure by achieving growth unconnected to real savings. In 2020 the economy will start its descent down. This will specifically be triggered because the Federal Reserve Bank has kept the Fed Funds Rate too low to too long. They try to match it with R* an empirical proxy for the natural rate of interest. However, this econometrically estimated rate is incorrect and creates systemic distortions in the capital structure.

Therefore, the current boom is unsustainable.

Buckle your seatbelt Dorthy because Kansas is going bye-bye.

Matrix

Prognosticators and writers perpetually forecast doom and gloom to make the news.

Live every day as it were your last – and someday you will be right.

One of my favorites is:

https://www.youtube.com/user/TheMoneyGPS/videos

However, let us look at the real economics of a business cycle. The underlying premise is when the pricing mechanism fails, markets will be in disequilibrium. The price of money or its derivative credit is the interest rate. This is the key price we are talking about here.

What causes an economic crisis, collapse or panic?

Prices mean something. The Interest rate is the own rate on money. It is a price of money in one sense. Because this is controlled by a central bank rather than the free market then, any overestimation or underestimation will create a disequilibrium that will manifest through either the price level or malinvestment in the capital structure.

The Wicksellian natural rate of interest is the rate of interest that would exist if barter ratios were used. That is if money did not exist. Fed Policy tried to match the natural rate with the market rate. When there is a divergence there is a cumulative process of price or capital distortions.

This happens because disequilibrium in a singular market like potatoes mostly affects the potato market. But disequilibrium in the money market works its way out across all markets.

From another perspective, it is because financial assets in a particular sector are valued above their natural value. Natural value is the value they would have if expansion is fueled by real savings rather than artificial stimulus by monetary or fiscal policy.

This means some part of the financial sector is mis-priced. What this really means is a set of prices in a particular market have departed from the trend or their natural intrinsic value.

After this divergence between the aggregate nominal price and the natural price, eventually, that sector tries to adjust itself because investors see the difference. When the financial correction of price or valuation comes, it subsequently sends a shock wave that affects the real economy, that is factors like production and employment.

Therefore, the cause of a crisis is the wrong aggregate market prices in a particular financial sector. It could be technology stocks or mortgage-backed securities or it could be the bank interest rate (the price borrowing money). However, some aggregate price in the financial markets is incorrect. The entire financial sector is not always mis-priced, but usually one particular sector. The reason people do not see the next crisis is the sector out of equilibrium is usually different in every crisis, further, information is imperfect.

However, it starts with the interest rate.

What is a Natural Price?

If the nominal price is what you see quoted in the market, determined by supply and demand. The natural price is some valuation of what the financial asset should be priced at. This is a theoretical price and it is open for debate and have been debated by the great economics from Hayek to Keynes. Even if there is not perfect determinate model for natural value, It is a theoretical concept that provides a framework for understanding cycles. I am only giving examples to illustrate.

For example in a Wicksellian or Austrian economic model of business cycles, the natural rate of interest might be equated to the marginal productivity of capital. While the nominal price is the interest rate you see at the bank. If you are looking at real estate prices, the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices is a good index to follow in relation to the 200-year trend in real estate prices. For stock market valuations some people use book value as the long-run indicator of where a stock should be priced. Again the natural or true valuation is purely hypothetical because of the marginal revolution in economics correctly model prices as subjective.

If natural price were as observable as market price, there would be no business cycle.

Why do prices get valued wrong?

The issue is the economic world is always changing and factors like expectations weigh heavy into the equation. It is realistic expectations that cause the divergence. Expectations are based on imperfect information about the future, and social trends. Prices are the equilibrium clearing point, but they have expectations about the future embedded into them. This is what makes economics a social science.

No person can predict the actions of another – Mr. Spock

  • Therefore – A crisis or panic is caused by an expectational price bubble in the financial sector, playing out when prices are inflated in relation to natural value. When this becomes manifest to the majority of investors the spark ignites a collapse. Rarely is real sector disequilibrium a factor in a crisis.

This is in contrast to long-term structural problems that come gradually, crashes are swift because there is a temporary disequilibrium between supply and demand. Disequilibrium between supply and demand is caused by financial disequilibrium that spread to the real sector.

Think about it, a farmer is less likely to miss-price a bushel of wheat when he brings it to market than people who speculate on MBS securities or stocks in the financial world because the values of these financial assets derive their value from another underlying set of asset in a complex, convoluted relationship that even the rating agencies miss.
Warren Buffet was wrong when he said:

The stock market is the perfect weighing machine.

In reality it is an imperfect weighing machine based on imperfect information.

My premise is every financial market is imperfect. When the imperfections grow there becomes a metaphorical crack in the system that spreads and damages the structure of the economy.

  • Therefore, it is when price departs from natural value, then an imperfection is caused. If price and natural value are too large in aggregate, there will be a correction. if the correction is large there is a displacement of money that spreads to the real sector.

So how can we predict where and when the next crisis will be?

Do not listen to an Economist who is looking at large demographic tends, politically motivated or are selling a book writing about baby Boomers and Millennials. Rather always focus on prices of financial assets that deviated from the long-run trend in an unnatural way. I do not have the time analysis balance sheets or like Dr. Micheal Bury did in predicting the housing market crash, however, you can look at trend lines.

What are the main markets to watch that trigger an economic collapse:

  1. Interest rate market – The federal reserve bank interest rank to the marginal productivity of capital.
  2. Stock market by sector – historical valuations of a particular sector and deviations from the long term trend.
  3. Housing market – prices that are well above the long term inflation adjusted long term trend.
Do valuations look strange to you?

How you know a crisis is coming?

Above I gave you the economic explanation. But a common-sense way is this, take a look around do people live like they are rich and decadent? Think of the roaring 1920s or the years before 2008 and how people were living and compare this to today. I think people have a subdued caution and many people are scraping by. This in my opinion does not feel like a bubble. Since 2008 was in our recent member we are more diligent and watchful, this adds to a conservative feel about how we conduct our economic lives. We all feel poorer rather than inflated with money.

Forget the news, look around you. Are we booming or trudging along? If we are trudging there is no speculative bubble.  Are people eating at McDonald’s and chain restaurants in your area or spending a lot or gardening more? Where are people going on vacation? Europe or hiking in Asheville? Do people have multiple homes they are renting for investments or barely paying the bills for one?

Economic theory aside, the best way to determine if we are in a bubble is look around you. Do your surroundings look like a Great Gatsby party or a scene out of the Waltons? In 2017 I think it looks more like the latter. If there is no boom there will not be a bust.

There are weaknesses in the economy but these are mostly long term structural problems that the next administration may or may not fix, I think Trump will couple with some favorable supply shocks like the discovery of new Texas oil fields. No one knows, but again take the common sense test of looking around you and see if people look and act like they are in the 1920s or just coming out of the 1930s? I tend to think the latter.

Besides the theory of prices, expectations and business cycle, what are the weights on the US economy?

The structural decline is not the same as a crisis and rarely triggers anything but a slow painful relative decline in wealth. A collapse happens in a year or less.

  • Other factors that might feed into a crisis are as follows, they cause both structural and potential for cyclical issues
    Excess Federal State and local debt – http://www.misgovernment.us/ – The federal debt has exceeded national income. The amount is increasing every day. Politically motivated writes will tell you that debts and deficits are not issues because the US can always repay with taxes. Translation, your money. They write this because Obama created the largest deficient in history and they supported the former President. The truth is government debt might not cause a panic yet, but it suppresses the economy to such a level that it eventually will. Government spending crowds out private investment decreases family income and will cause an economic crisis unseen before when the US can no longer pay its obligatory payments. The debt has a dampening effect on the US
  • Economic factors for an economic collapse rated from biggest factors to least.
  • Excess consumer debt
  • Low savings rates
  • Real wages are not increasing
  • Housing bubble – http://www.jparsons.net/housing bubble/
  • Rates are so low for so long that a small increase could affect the economy
  • Excess money created through central bank policy could cause inflation
  • Banks are unstable – facing the light of regulatory justice has weakened their capital adequacy.
  • Socialist policies of Obama administration have cause market distortions
  • European problems spread to the US markets
  • Unforeseen – Each economic crisis is caused by something that did not cause the last.
  • Austrian business cycle – Difference between the marginal productivity of capital (lets say the profit rate) and the bank lending rates causes a cumulative process of disequilibrium.
  • Fraud continues – Regulators penalties amounted to a fraction of the perpetrator’s profits. Few, really only one person responsible for the last crisis, went to prison, thousands of executives who engendered the fraud that caused the last crisis are free. The message from the government regulators is, crime pays if you do a cost-benefit analysis. This is unfair and will bring a new generation of greed motivated Wall Street cowboys to who will do the same. The regulators were too easy.
  • Big banks know they were bailed out last time and the message is they will be bailed out again. If they were left to fail, a more efficient honest banking system would have developed, even if there was short-term pain.
    If you don’t remember anything else I say today, please remember this: Only about 20 financial institutions perpetrated this crisis. These 20 failed in every respect, from business practices to ethics. Greed and malfeasance were their modus operandi. There was no excuse for their behavior, and they should be punished thoroughly, perhaps even criminally. Richard Kovacevich, the former chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo.
  • Monetary policy is still being directed by the Federal reserve, rather, than the market. Therefore, the supply and demand for money is not efficiently brought to equilibrium.
  • Fear – It is a strong human motivator
  • World event – that triggers a shock
  • Weather pattern changes causing an economic shock in the primary sector. This theory was populated among economists who tried to explain the Great Depression starting with the Dustbowl.

Positive structural fixes to the economy

  • Cheap unlimited oil discovered in Texas
  • Trump economic reforms on par with Reagan
  • Innovation creates a positive supply curve shift.

What if there is an economic collapse?

Do not worry. I lived in Poland much of my life in a post-communist country. People survived and thrived, educated themselves and had magical lives with literally no money. In fact, in many ways, it was a richer life. You will adjust the way you spend your time and money. You might grow your own food and read the book and discover there is more to life than slaving away at a career and spend more time with your family.

Categories
Economics

Is Capitalism Over

Government, although not perfect, helps correct and protect us from the deficiencies of capitalism. Markets are prone to fail and unregulated markets lead to speculative bubbles. The thought is thought an economic evolution, the paradigm of free-market capitalism will yield to the managed economy.

For example, the government saved us during the Great Depression and the 2008 crisis. It helps to curb and in some cases correct injustices, particularly inequality, by giving the underdog the same opportunities as the rich and entitled.

This trend is politically seen in the rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders.

I understand 100% of the discontent with capitalism. From my perspective, big pharmaceuticals have created an opiate crisis, military spending on undeclared wars takes advantages of people’s patriotism. Inequality is perpetuated as the rich get richer and the poor, even with money spend, seem to get poor, by any measure including the Gini coefficient.

I am American and European and in Europe, the general consciousness is the government should promote the greater good. Look at countries like Norway or Sweden, they have a mixed market and social economy, yet they seem to do well.

  • So the question is, has a history not proven that capitalism is an ideology, that is less socially optimal than a mixed market economy?
  • My answer is unequivocally Capitalism leads to prosperity and equality and any honest researcher would check the facts of history will see the evidence.

Arguments for Capitalism

It will look at this question mostly from the perspective of a moral issue in society, as I believe the war waged for and against capitalism is largely fueled by people’s moral sentiment. When you clarify this issue, the answer to the question is capitalism over will be clear.

Here are some arguments for Capitalism people ignore:

  • If you look at the here: freedom index or here: freedom index map there is a strong statistical correlation between freedom and wealth. In fact, it is perhaps the strongest indicator. There is a reason for that.
  • The government created and worsened the Great Depression and the Great Recession. If you understand that FDR and the new dedal helped and eventually WWII got us out of the Depression, you should check your facts. If it was not for government action, we would have been better off. The Depression would not have been a decade but could have been two years, which was the average length of the business cycle before Fiscal and Federal Reserve action.
  • Fiat currency and the Federal Reserve are responsible for much of the inequalities created because there are always first and last receivers of money. Big banks and government get the money first and the people get it last. This exacerbates the Gini coefficient. Note the increase after we went off the gold standard.
  • Government spending makes us poorer
  • Norway, they got rich because of oil, not socialism, and Sweden escaped the damage of WWII by supplying the Germans with strategic metals. There is always more to the story than simply saying, look at this country or that.
  • Ireland got rich because of free markets.
  • When people take advantage of the system it is the example rather than the rule. This is what people look to. Capitalism with all its shortcomings better than social engineering.
  • The Grand Failure by Zbigniew Brzezinski details the loss of 100 million lives from humanity’s experiment with planned economies in the 20th century. When you see people as inputs in your design, the intention is paradoxically nullified by the practical implication of the system. How can you argue with that?
How inequality is exacerbated is because of our lack of freedom in the market for money

What is capitalism

Capitalism is the free movement of labor and capital where goods and services are exchanged at an arm-length transaction on both sides to satisfy needs and both parties derived utility from the exchange and greater happiness. Productive and allocative efficiency results.

Would you want postal employees running Google?

People meet other people to trade something they have to something they want. What people can trade is not only physical tangible goods but intangibles goods. This includes intellectual goods and services and work. I go to work someone gives me something for this.

The name Capitalism comes from the word capital.  There is intellectual capital and physical capital. You as a free human can choose to trade in either.

An unintended consequence of individual action will result in an optimal equilibrium than a planned economy.

Is Capitalism from God

No. Many people connect America, God, and capitalism as closely related ideas.  Capitalism is just the way people trade goods and services. It has nothing to do with Christianity or religion. In fact, the Puritans came to America to set up a Utopian commonwealth where the wealth was shared based on Christian values.  So to mix these ideas of capitalism, God and America will alienate some people for do not believe in one of those three.

For example, I am Catholic and I am generally a capitalist.  However, my friend is a non-believer and a capitalist.  Another friend of mine is a believer, but more socialistic.  Therefore, to try to connect capitalism with God in my mind is wrong.  God is about transforming your life to be a light for others in this world, not about some abstract economic theory in the aggregate.

Further, Politicians that mix these two ideas in my mind are wrong. When a Politician says ‘God bless you all’ for me it is selling God for votes. If a Politician wants to quietly pray for others this is fine but to broadcast it to get votes is low. If people want to know what a Politician believes they can find it out.

Many Politics on the right and the left try to equate some economics system with values as a whole.  They imply that free markets are somehow close to capitalism, republicans do this. Democrats somehow connect capitalism with an evil to be limited.  I do not like it.  Economics and religion do not mix.

Economics is the study of markets that is it. Capitalism is the system of free movement of labor and capital. Since God himself has not proclaimed one system of economics or politics better than the other, it is we humans that need to determine for our time and society which type of political economy we choose. Therefore, economics does have a social value component, like politics does, but it is not always clear which is optimal for social well being.

What is the free market about

Adam Smith, in fact, was a moral philosopher. He wanted to describe a system of government and the economy, which is the political economy that would result in the optimal happiness for society as a whole.  In his mind that was free-market capitalism.

If you try to restrict people from acting on their own enlightened self-interest, society as a whole will be harmed. Further, the converse is true. That is if a government can facilitate people to act on their own enlightened self-interest society as a whole will benefit.

The problem with capitalism – The problem with capitalism is people do not act on in an enlightened way and greed rules over social values.

The problem with restricting capitalism- Governments and politicians are worst than a few greedy bad individuals.

Is capitalism over in the world

No. It is just the beginning.  Between the abuse of governments as seen in the history (I live in post-communist Poland, destroyed by national socialism and communist socialism) compared to greedy individuals in corporate America, I think the latter is an exception rather than the rule and the lesser of two evils.

Most people are enlightened. Most people in my experience are hard-working moral people.  Do not watch CNN, but look at your neighbors and yourself. Most people are moral and do act on enlightened self-interest. Most people would like to simply work and be free.

Globalization and capitalism China and India are not becoming world players. There is no way they will give up capitalism. It is too efficient. Anything the government does, the free market will do more efficiently.  The USA can give up capitalism (it would be foolish in a world economy), with its 240 million people, but the  2.4 billion Chinese and Indians are not going to any time soon.  They need it to enrich their people.

Therefore, capitalism is not over. It is just the beginning.  People in the USA and the world will stop all the CNN fueled hysteria that we are all doomed because of capitalism.  Capitalism is not over and you should just focus on how you can be of value to others personally, rather than hoping for social engineering and the fall of this system as described by Adam Smith.